Conservative media critics have been adamant this week in accusing news organizations of ignoring the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with killing seven babies and a mother. According to the grand jury report, Gosnell was running a "house of horrors" in which he performed illegal late-term abortions by delivering live babies who were then killed by his staff, all under unsafe conditions. Convinced the liberal media is censoring the story because of its alleged support for abortion, critics have been lamenting the lack of coverage and demanding the disturbing local trial be treated as big national news.
On Fox News' Special Report yesterday, contributor Jonah Goldberg complained that "the media is not covering" the story. Fox News employee Kirsten Powers penned a USA Today column criticizing the country's leading newspapers for not putting the Gosnell story on "the front page." (Powers singled out the New York Times and the Washington Post for allegedly downplaying the Philadelphia trial.)
And on Thursday, Rupert Murdoch's flagship American newspaper, The New York Post, weighed in with an unsigned editorial, "Dead Silence," which condemned the supposed "media blackout" surrounding the story.
Like most of the conservative attacks, the Post's editorial saw a clear case of media bias [emphasis added]:
The trial is receiving intensive coverage in Philadelphia and across the conservative press and Web sites. But national networks and newspapers? Not so much.
The reason seems obvious: Much of our press corps skews to one side on abortion. So even though what Gosnell is charged with is closer to infanticide - an unlicensed abortionist profiting mightily by killing the newborn babies of poor, minority women - somehow it's not news.
Isn't that a scandal, too?
Here's the thing: Up until Thursday's editorial condemning the so-called liberal media for not covering the Gosnell trial, the New York Post hadn't covered the Gosnell trial. Not only hadn't the Post put the story on its front page, where Powers demanded it belonged, but Murdoch's Post hadn't covered the story at all*. Meaning, the Post had been part of the media "silence" surrounding the story; the same silence the Post yesterday condemned.
Note that Murdoch's Wall Street Journal also has not covered the Gosnell trial, according a search of the paper's archives, via the Factiva database.
Breitbart.com and National Review Online (NRO) are using today's Equal Pay Day holiday to misinform about gender wage inequality. Right-wing media have routinely downplayed and obscured legitimate concerns about wage inequality.
Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. According to a White House proclamation released on Equal Pay Day in 2012, "National Equal Pay Day represents the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day's pay for an equal day's work."
Breitbart.com and NRO both posted a video today that claims the gender wage gap is a myth, positing that the gap fails to account for women's choices, which are primarily responsible for any discrepancies in salary. The video comes from the conservative Independent Women's Forum, a group The New York Times described as "a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women."
Although the wage gap has decreased since the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act, women's earnings remain far below that of men. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that "in 2011, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent." According to the National Women's Law Center, the wage gap for minority women is even worse: African-American and Hispanic women make 64 and 55 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earn. The claim that personal choice is responsible for the gender wage gap has also been debunked, mostly recently in the AAUW's 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report.
Breitbart.com and NRO's misleading claims about gender wage inequality follow a long trend of right-wing media's misinformation on equal pay. Here are just a few examples since 2012:
After promoting anecdotes from a firefighter to claim that polar bears are "doing just fine," Fox News has ignored new research that confirms they are still existentially threatened by climate change. This divide in coverage is illustrative of what University of Alberta scientist Dr. Ian Stirling called a "new element" of media -- "the deliberately misleading, and sometimes downright dishonest, treatment of the science around polar bears when it relates to climate warming." In conversations with Media Matters, Stirling and other leading polar bear scientists outlined eight tips for media outlets seeking to accurately cover the plight of the polar bears.
In February, Fox News repeatedly promoted a book by firefighter Zac Unger on his time in Churchill, Manitoba to claim that "the polar bears are doing just fine." Even though bears in that region are actually among the subpopulations in decline, Fox News suggested that the book undermined climate science. Dr. Andrew Derocher, a scientific advisor to Polar Bears International, called that premise "flawed" and told Media Matters that "scientific literature shows very clearly the loss of sea ice in the satellite record and the projections (many many scientific papers) show that the future will be particularly challenging for polar bears as the sea ice disappears." He added, "I've worked on polar bears for 30 years and the changes are incredibly easy to see but as scientists, we don't just look at bears, we measure them and analyze the data."
Stirling criticized Unger for "a very sad piece of deliberately misleading and dishonest writing" that "tells only parts of the story that suit him." Similarly, Derocher said it was "unfortunate" when "someone who clearly doesn't understand a subject well botches up the science." Furthermore, media should not rely on anecdotal information when there is "a lot of data" on sea ice and polar bear body condition. He added:
The book you mentioned was written by someone who spent a few months in 1 place with his family talking to people. What I did on my last trip to Kentucky doesn't qualify me to rewrite the history [of] the eastern US. I've worked on polar bears for 30 years. Many of my colleagues for even longer. You don't go to a plumber for heart surgery but when it comes to polar bears "everybody is an expert". In science, an expert has to demonstrate expertise. Hanging around in Churchill for a few months talking to the locals doesn't qualify as an expert. Our last paper on polar bears in Conservation Letters had something like 200 years of cumulative polar bear expertise. How it can be that media put the scientific perspective on par with a casual observer is beyond me.
In fact, some reports that rely on polar bear sightings to conclude they are doing "fine" may be unwittingly underscoring the urgency of sea ice melt. As lost habitat drives bears from their hunting grounds, they sometimes wander into towns and garbage dumps. This may lead to more contact with humans, and an overall impression that polar bears are abundant, even to the point of being a nuisance. In fact, as Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, a former polar bear project leader at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), told Media Matters, a bear sighting in a new place "probably means the bears are having a hard time making a living where they used to make a living."
Unger promoted the popular media claim that polar bear populations have increased -- or are even "exploding" -- since the 1960s or 1970s, but those reports omit necessary context. Many of the starting-point estimates are based on a Russian calculation from the 1950s -- 5,000-8,000 bears -- that has never been broadly accepted by scientists. Amstrup told Media Matters that "we really don't know how many polar bears there were in the 60s [or 70s]" and it is "important to set the record straight." In 2008, Stirling told then-CNN Executive Producer for Science Peter Dykstra that the estimate was "almost certainly much too low."
In some places, thanks to conservation efforts like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and a subsequent international agreement, it does appear that polar bear populations have increased. According to Amstrup, Alaskan populations are a good example of such managed recovery. But in other areas, such as western Hudson Bay and the southern Beaufort Sea, populations are thought to be declining. And as Derocher pointed out, conservation biology is concerned with the future, normally examining issues three generations down the road. By this measure, polar bears are indeed in trouble, and looking back to the 1960s or 70s makes no sense:
What climate deniers like to pull out is that there are more polar bears now than in the 1960s. That doesn't matter and just because we've corrected excessive harvest rates (commercial hunting for example) in the 1960s doesn't make this argument any more relevant to the conservation of the species today moving forward in time.
Amstrup echoed this point, saying "the population on the Titanic was doing just fine until just before it slipped beneath the waves." Overall, the USGS has projected that changes in Arctic ice conditions could result in "loss of approximately 2/3 of the world's current polar bear population by the mid 21st century."
There's no shortage of enthusiasm among conservatives to move past the 2012 election and fix the manifold problems facing the conservative movement. However, this eagerness on the part of conservatives for a Republican resurgence isn't matched by a willingness to actually alter the self-destructive behaviors that have marginalized the right. Liz Cheney joined up with this "cry change but do nothing" crowd in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that counsels conservatives to move past 2012 and start fighting President Obama... with the exact same arguments and talking points used by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Put them side-by-side, and the daylight between Cheney's op-ed and the Romney-Ryan campaign just about disappears.
|Liz Cheney: "[Obama] believes that more government borrowing and spending are the solution to every problem."||Romney-Ryan: "The president has the same old answers as in the past: he wants another stimulus, he wants more government workers, and he wants to raise taxes." -- Mitt Romney|
|Liz Cheney: "[Obama] seems unaware that the free-enterprise system has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system devised by man."||Romney-Ryan: "Redistribution of wealth undermines the true sources of America's prosperity and progress: our entrepreneurial people and our free enterprise system. Mitt Romney understands that. He knows that American free enterprise has lifted more people out of poverty than any government program in history." -- Romney campaign surrogate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)|
|Liz Cheney: "Perhaps [Obama's] ignorance of that fact explains his hostility toward the private sector."||Romney-Ryan: "The fact is every time they attack Mitt Romney for his experience in the private sector, they reinforce the idea that President Obama is hostile to the private sector." -- Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie|
|Liz Cheney: "[Obama] has launched a war on religious freedom."||Romney-Ryan: "President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith." -- Romney campaign ad|
|Liz Cheney: "[Obama] has launched a war on fossil fuels."||Romney-Ryan: "Obama wages war on coal while we lose jobs to China." -- Romney campaign ad|
|Liz Cheney: "[Obama] doesn't believe in creating a bigger pie with more opportunity for all. He believes in greater redistribution of a much smaller pie."||Romney-Ryan: "Our job is not to fight over a shrinking pie in redistributed slices, our job as leaders is to grow the pie so that everybody has a better shot at the American dream, and everybody can pick themselves up." -- Paul Ryan|
|Liz Cheney: "If you're unsure of what this America would look like, Google 'Cyprus' or 'Greece.'"||Romney-Ryan: "We've gone from $10 trillion of national debt to $16 trillion of national debt. If the president were re-elected, we'd go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. This puts us on a road to Greece." -- Mitt Romney|
The Wall Street Journal has repeatedly supported the conservative call for states to cut income taxes in order to foster economic growth, ignoring a large body of evidence that shows cutting or eliminating income taxes is economically damaging.
In recent months, The Wall Street Journal has published opinion pieces in support of Republican governors' push to reduce or eliminate state income taxes.
A January 30 editorial claimed that eliminating state incomes taxes "makes sense," arguing that it would spur economic growth and bolster state revenues. Economist Art Laffer and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore reiterated that thinking in a March 28 opinion piece titled "The Red-State Path to Prosperity," which argues for - among other measures - "pro-growth tax reform" that hinges upon a reduced reliance on income taxes.
Both pieces ostensibly rely on research conducted by the corporate-funded, right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Both Laffer and Moore have published research jointly with ALEC, and the January 30 editorial directly references Laffer's ALEC research. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), ALEC's studies on state-based tax reform are heavily biased toward states with low taxes and often do not comport with broader research findings:
ALEC's studies and reports claim that its agenda would boost economic growth and create jobs, but they are disconnected from a wide body of peer-reviewed academic research on public finance.
In addition, the preponderance of mainstream research refutes core elements of ALEC's argument, showing that state tax cuts or lower state taxes generally do not boost the economy, state tax cuts do not pay for themselves in the form of higher economic growth that generates more revenues, progressive taxes and corporate taxes do not inherently damage the economy, and taxes generally do not cause people to flee a state. (emphasis added)
Indeed, a recent review conducted by CBPP reinforces the lack of validity in ALEC and WSJ's claims -- of the eight peer-reviewed studies on the effect of state-level personal income taxes on the economy since 2000, six have found insignificant effects, and one had internally inconsistent results. CBPP also found that in states that cut taxes the most in the 1990s, average annual job growth fell far below the national average in the following economic cycle.
Fox News is promoting a Wall Street Journal column by Bjorn Lomborg to claim that electric vehicles are "even worse" for the environment than conventional gasoline cars. But experts say Lomborg's assumptions are out of step with reality and that the environmental benefits of electric vehicles will only grow in the near-future.
Lomborg, a prominent critic of environmentalists, claimed that because producing an electric car is more carbon-intensive, it could produce more carbon dioxide over its lifetime than a conventional car, citing a study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology:
If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles.
Fox News hosted Lomborg on Wednesday to expose what it called the "dirty little secret" of electric vehicles. Seizing on Lomborg's figures, Fox Business' Stuart Varney claimed that "the battery powered cars are just as bad for the environment as your average sedan -- even worse!" And Fox Business host Gerri Willis suggested electric cars are not "contributing less to global warming" than conventional cars:
But Lomborg's assumption of a 50,000 mile lifetime "seems too low," according to University of California at Los Angeles' Dr. Deepak Rajagopal, an environmental economist who focuses on life cycle assessments. Indeed, the study Lomborg cites "assumes almost twice that lifetime," according to co-author Guillaume Majeau-Bettez. It estimates a 20-24 percent reduction in emissions from electric vehicles driven 90,000 miles and powered by average European electricity. The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, the two most popular electric cars in the U.S., both have 100,000 mile battery warranties.
And as the Natural Resources Defense Council's Max Baumherner noted, the study used estimates for production emissions that are three times higher than those from Argonne National Laboratory, which perhaps explains why other studies have found greater environmental benefits from electric cars. A life-cycle analysis overseen by Dr. Rajagopal found that battery-electric vehicles (BEV) powered by California's electricity mix produce significantly fewer emissions compared to conventional vehicles (CV):
The Wall Street Journal and Fox News are suggesting that President Barack Obama's nomination of Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a sign that he is acting like a "dictator," using an "end-around" to regulate carbon emissions that drive climate change. But they failed to mention that efforts to curb this greenhouse gas through the EPA are not an invention of the Obama administration -- they were given the go-ahead by a George W. Bush-era Supreme Court decision.
Earlier this week, the president nominated McCarthy, a former official for then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, to succeed Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator. McCarthy is likely to play a major role in the administration's presumptive plans to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants.
But News Corporation's Fox News and Wall Street Journal are launching a preemptive attack on these efforts, claiming they are "antidemocratic" by once again ignoring a Supreme Court decision that all but required action. Monday, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly incorrectly suggested that action through the EPA is unprecedented, saying "It used to be that if you wanted to make a major change or have a major impact on climate change or green energy regulations in this country, you went through Congress" but the president "has found an end-around, and as a result this EPA is extremely powerful right now." The next day, a Wall Street Journal editorial smeared McCarthy as "antidemocratic," adding, "Mr. Obama has been going around saying that the problem is that he's a President, not an 'emperor' or 'dictator,' but on carbon regulation this is a distinction without much difference."
Both failed to note that a 2007 Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases fit the definition of an "air pollutant" and could be regulated under the Clean Air Act if they were determined to be harmful. A subsequent "Endangerment Finding," privately authored during the Bush administration but suppressed until 2009, stated that this was the case due to their contribution to climate change. Stephen Johnson, then the EPA Administrator, told President Bush in early 2008 that the Supreme Court decision "combined with the latest science of climate change requires the Agency to propose a positive endangerment finding," adding "the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research." The Bush administration reportedly refused to open the email containing the Endangerment Finding, leaving it to the next president to take action. As noted by Legal Planet, the environmental law and policy blog of the University of California Berkeley and UCLA law schools, regulation of carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act is not undemocratic. In fact, "[T]here's nothing here that's an end-run around Congress. EPA is (as bureaucracies should do) implementing the orders of the legislature through duly enacted laws." If the president has "given up getting Congress to agree" to regulate emissions by other means, as the Journal argued, it is only because Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation doing so, thus compelling the executive branch to act.
Media ignored economists in their reports leading up to the initiation of the economically damaging across-the-board spending cuts commonly known as sequestration.
If Congress fails to act by midnight, across-the-board spending cuts of up to $85 billion in 2013 alone will take effect. While sequestration is inherently an economic issue, media are ignoring the last chance to have economists weigh in on the consequences.
Media Matters reviewed news coverage leading up to the sequestration deadline, specifically the February 28 evening news broadcasts; March 1 reports from The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times; and the March 1 morning news programs on the major cable and broadcast networks. We found that economists have been almost completely shut out. Of 122 total guests and quoted figures appearing in a total of 43 articles or television segments, one lone economist was mentioned, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner in a report from the Journal.
A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that there is no longer a need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that states and jurisdictions with a history of discriminating against minority voters obtain preclearance from the federal government before changing their voting laws. But evidence shows that Section 5 has successfully prevented discriminatory voting law changes in those jurisdictions.
A group named Donors Trust has been funneling far more money than ExxonMobil ever did to climate denial groups, but because the source of the funds remains largely hidden, the public has been unable to pressure the donations to stop as they did with Exxon. A small portion of Donors Trust's funding was recently revealed by the Center for Public Integrity, yet even that small portion has significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests.
Between 2008 and 2011, Donors Trust doled out over $300 million in grants to what it describes as "conservative and libertarian causes," serving as "the dark money ATM of the conservative movement." Donors Trust enables donors to give anonymously, noting on its website that if you "wish to keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues," you can use it to direct your money.
One of the "controversial issues" that Donors Trust and its sister organization Donors Capital Fund have bankrolled is the campaign to cast doubt on the science of climate change and delay any government action to reduce emissions.* The following chart created by The Guardian based on data from Greenpeace shows that as ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations have reduced traceable funding for these groups, donations from Donors Trust have surged:
Several of these organizations have sown confusion about the science demonstrating climate change. The Heartland Institute, which The Economist called the "world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change," received over $14 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, making up over a quarter of Heartland's budget. in 2010. In 2012, Heartland launched a billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate science to The Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro. Several corporate donors distanced themselves from the organization, but Donors Trust made no comment. Heartland removed the billboard soon afterward but refused to apologize for the "experiment."
Meanwhile, The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) received over $4 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, accounting for over 45 percent of CFACT's budget in 2010. The highest-paid member of CFACT's staff is Marc Morano, who runs a website that pushes misleading attacks on climate science. Morano defended Heartland's billboard and said that climate scientists "deserve to be publicly flogged." Despite Morano's sordid background, CNN twice hosted him to "debate climate change and if it is really real" without disclosing that he has no scientific training and is paid by an industry-funded organization. CFACT lists the Forbes columns of Larry Bell, who calls global warming a "hoax," as "CFACT research and commentary." The organization is advised by several prominent climate misinformers, including Lord Christopher Monckton and Willie Soon.
The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has revealed the sources of approximately $18.8 million of Donors Trust's funding from 2008 to 2011, culled from Internal Revenue Service filings. That leaves over $281 million in anonymous funds during that period, assuming that the organization gives out approximately as much as it takes in each year.
While the individuals and corporations funding Donors Trust remain largely hidden, we know that at least five separate foundations connected to Koch Industries have given over $3.8 million to Donors Trust in recent years. Koch Industries, owned by brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, is the largest privately owned company in the U.S. and controls several oil refineries and pipelines.
Right-wing media outlets have advanced a number of myths regarding automatic across-the-board spending cuts -- commonly called the sequester -- in order to hide the facts behind an inherently harmful economic policy.
As the State Department nears a decision on whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the media is exaggerating its economic benefits and downplaying environmental risks to advocate for the project. Here, Media Matters takes on five of the prevailing media myths about Keystone XL.
The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel is claiming that newly-minted Interior secretary nominee Sally Jewell is part of the "environmental fringe," suggesting she is hostile to business and was chosen by President Obama to "kill traditional jobs." In fact, she boasts a wealth of business experience, and her support of national parks conservation bolsters a multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry that sustains millions of jobs.
Strassel dismissed Jewell as an "activist" who will "Lock up land, target industries, [and] kill traditional jobs," which she exemplified as mining, logging and farming. Strassel pointed to REI as an example of a company "on the radical extreme" because it has supported rules such as the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which safeguards National Forest lands from road construction and logging, and criticized the National Parks Conservation Association, on whose board Jewell serves, for its "efforts to kill jobs."
But Jewell's conservation efforts have helped support the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry. According to a 2012 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, an industry trade group, Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in annual consumer spending, or nearly twice as much as the pharmaceuticals industry. According to the group's analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, outdoor recreation spending directly supports some 6.1 million jobs -- from retail jobs to park rangers to lodging operators -- nearly three times as many as the American Petroleum Institute claimed from the oil and gas industry in 2007:
A Wall Street Journal editorial downplayed the economic consequences of looming across-the-board government spending cuts and even claimed they will "help the economy." But the Journal's own MarketWatch agrees that the cuts, commonly referred to as the "sequester," would greatly harm the economy: it could halve U.S. economic growth and lead to one million lost jobs.
The Journal editorial, headlined, "The Unscary Sequester," claimed that "[t]he most disingenuous White House claim" about the sequester is that it "will hurt the economy." The editorial continued, "Reality check: The cuts amount to about 0.5% of GDP," and went on to claim that the sequester will actually help the economy "by leaving more capital for private investment."
Yet the Journal's own MarketWatch noted on Tuesday that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the sequester "will halve U.S. growth in 2013." MarketWatch explained:
U.S. economic growth in 2013 will be 1.4%, the Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday, up from a previously estimated decline of 0.5% pinned on the so-called fiscal cliff. CBO said however that growth would be about 1.5 percentage points faster in 2013 if not for fiscal tightening including the so-called budget sequester.
The Bipartisan Policy Center has also estimated that the full sequester would cause approximately one million job losses.
The editorial also supposes that the sequester would help economic growth, which ignores the fact that the 2012 fourth-quarter decline in GDP was largely due to a steep drop in government spending. While the report on the GDP decline showed that private sector investment had increased, it was not enough to lift GDP growth into positive territory because of the large drag on the economy imposed by lowered government spending. This discredits the Journal's claim that if government spending were decreased through the sequester, private capital would be able to sustain positive economic growth.
Indeed, while the Journal editorial dismisses the effects of the potential cuts by claiming that affected programs "are hardly starved for money," the threat of the sequester alone has already contributed to economic slowdown and negatively impacted government agencies. Experts have noted that the decline in government spending -- particularly in defense -- that contributed to the recent economic contraction was likely due to uncertainty caused by the sequester.
Multiple Fox News personalities have suggested the Justice Department's lawsuit against Standard & Poor's is 'political retribution,' either papering over or outright ignoring the facts behind the suit. However, the S&P investigation began well before U.S. credit was downgraded, and a raft of internal emails suggest the company may have knowingly inflated securities ratings.