Conservative media figures are attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's plan to revitalize coal communities by deceptively claiming Obama administration environmental policies that Clinton supports are responsible for "destroying" and "crippling" coal country in the first place. But these media figures are downplaying -- or outright ignoring -- more significant factors that have led to the coal industry's decades of decline, such as competition from natural gas and renewables, depletion of easily recoverable coal reserves, and advances in mining technology.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to protect Alaska's Bristol Bay, home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, from the adverse environmental impacts of a proposed mineral excavation project called the Pebble Mine. Proponents of the mine have been pushing an array of falsehoods, many of which are being propagated in the media as the EPA's process for evaluating the project was scrutinized in a November 5 Congressional hearing. Here are the facts.
During the October 28 Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) contested moderator John Harwood's statement that Rubio's tax reform plan disproportionately favors the rich over the middle class. Conservative news outlets rushed to defend Rubio, despite the fact that Harwood was correct.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, cited information from the CIA to debunk the claim that Hillary Clinton compromised national security by revealing the name of a CIA source in an email sent from her private account. The claim originated from the Republicans serving on the U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi and was amplified by right-wing media, but now the CIA has informed the Select Committee that the e-mail did not contain any classified information, according to a letter released by Cummings.
Numerous conservative media outlets are parroting the misleading conclusions of a September 2015 report by an anti-immigrant nativist group, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which claims that "immigrant households use welfare at significantly higher rates than native households." Like previous flawed CIS studies, these findings have been called into question by immigration experts for failing to account for the economic hardship of some immigrant families, lumping American-born beneficiaries into "immigrant household" categorizations, and conflating numerous anti-poverty programs with so-called "welfare."
On August 12, FoxNation.com republished portions of a post by The Gateway Pundit headlined, "Letter to Editor PREDICTED COLORADO EPA SPILL One Week Before Catastrophe So EPA Could Secure Control of Area." Fox Nation highlighted the portion of the Gateway Pundit post in which author Jim Hoft wrote: "The letter detailed verbatim, how EPA officials would foul up the Animas River on purpose in order to secure superfund money. If the Gold King mine was declared a superfund site it would essentially kill future development for the mining industry in the area. The Obama EPA is vehemently opposed to mining and development."
Examiner.com also cited the letter in an August 12 post claiming "[e]vidence suggests that the EPA's Animas wastewater spill was purposeful for gaining Superfund money." The conspiratorial letter was also republished in The Wall Street Journal, although The Journal described the spill as an "accident" and only cited the letter to suggest further EPA action "may make the situation worse."
There has been a lot of media discussion lately about the "winners and losers" from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which will fight climate change by placing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. But with all of their focus on the political, financial, and legal ramifications of the carbon pollution standards, reporters are frequently overlooking the biggest winner of all: public health, particularly that of children, seniors, low-Income communities, people of color, and anyone with heart or lung disease.
As the American Lung Association (ALA) has put it, the Clean Power Plan "will directly save lives." The EPA estimates that its plan will result in up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths every year -- not to mention 90,000 fewer asthma attacks and 1,700 fewer heart attacks -- once it is fully implemented in 2030.
But the landmark policy will be even more important for certain communities that are particularly vulnerable to air pollution and the effects of climate change. According to the ALA, those most at risk include "infants, children, older adults, people with lung disease, people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works outdoors." These Americans face some of the greatest risks associated with unchecked climate change, such as worsened ozone and soot pollution.
People of color are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Green for All Executive Director Nikki Silvestri have explained. According to a report by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), nearly three-quarters of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. The NAACP has also noted that African-Americans, who are more likely than whites to live in urban and coastal areas, are particularly at risk from climate impacts such as rising sea levels, food insecurity, and heat-related deaths. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to die from asthma-related causes.
Similarly, Latinos are 60 percent more likely than whites to go to the hospital for asthma and 40 percent more likely than whites to die from asthma, according to HHS. Meanwhile, the 2014 National Climate Assessment stated that new Hispanic immigrants are particularly "vulnerable to changes in climate," due to "[l]ow wages, unstable work, language barriers, and inadequate housing," all of which are "critical obstacles to managing climate risk."
For all these reasons and more, the Clean Power Plan will help address what the Natural Resources Defense Council calls "the disproportionate health impacts of dirty, coal-fired power generation on low-income communities and people of color."
So while there will be plenty of time to discuss whether cap-and-trade programs or climate science denial are politically "toxic," there should also be room in the conversation for the role the Clean Power Plan will play in making the air we breathe cleaner and safer.
Image at top via Flickr user Mike Licht using a Creative Commons License.
Conservative media are likening Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email use as secretary of state to retired Gen. David Petraeus' illegal mishandling of confidential information, claiming a "double standard" because Petraeus was convicted of a misdemeanor, while Clinton is not under criminal investigation. But that comparison ignores the central fact that Petraeus knowingly handed over classified materials to his biographer, while Clinton followed State Department rules concerning private email use and was unaware of any classified information in her unmarked email correspondence.
Media are citing a flawed poll claiming majority opposition to the Iran nuclear deal conducted by Secure America Now (SAN) and Pat Caddell's Caddell Associates, without acknowledging that it contains a misleading question that falsely equates the Iran deal to the failed nuclear agreement with the North Korea agreement. Experts have explained that the Iran deal and North Korea agreement are vastly different, and SAN and Caddell have a history of advocacy polling and shady conservative advocacy campaigns.
Conservative media defended Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's recent claim -- that President Obama's negotiated agreement with Iran over its nuclear program will take Israelis "to the door of the oven" -- by praising the Holocaust comparison as "absolutely true" and "an accurate description."
Conservative media's false claim that Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases is back in the news after being repeated by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Following the mass shooting at Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard facility in 2013, conservative media sought to pin blame on President Clinton by seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation that they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under George H.W. Bush that became "effective immediately" in February of that year. (The Bush directive actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances and military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.)
Although this falsehood led to the National Rifle Association's news show issuing a rare correction, it's been given new life after being repeated by Trump and subsequently trumpeted by the right-wing media echo chamber.
In a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump was asked (emphasis original), "Would you have a problem allowing our military bases to set their own polices with regard to personal weapons and do away with the 'Gun Free Zones' death trap?"
In his response, Trump said, "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases" (emphasis and brackets original):
"[gun free zones] No, not optional. As Commander-in-Chief, I would mandate that soldiers remain armed and on alert at our military bases.
President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases. America's Armed Forces will be armed.
They will be able to defend themselves against terrorists. Our brave soldiers should not be at risk because of policy created by civilian leadership. Political correctness has no place in this debate."
Trump's false claim about Clinton was then repeated in conservative media. The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported,"Pistol-packing GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump ripped a policy implemented by former President Bill Clinton making military bases 'gun free zones,' declaring that as president bases would no longer be defenseless against terror attacks."
The NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, praised Trump's vow that he would change military base policies in a July 14 post that excised Trump's false claim about Clinton.
This is not the first time that Trump has campaigned on falsehoods invented by conservative media. During a July CNN appearance, Trump falsely claimed that there are 34 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, a vastly overstated and false figure that had previously circulated in conservative media.
Right-wing media are mocking proposed legislation that would make the language in the federal marriage code gender-neutral, following the Supreme Court's decision earlier this month making same-sex marriage legal in every state.
Since 2010, Fox News' hosts and analysts have kept up a steady drumbeat of dire warnings that the United States is on a road to financial and economic ruin and could meet the same fate as Greece if it doesn't implement draconian cuts to social safety net programs as a way to cut the debt and deficit. But Greece, which pursued such cuts, accelerated its economic deterioration, while the United States has rejected extreme austerity measures and enjoyed six years of continuous economic recovery.
A poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 20 percent of women who attended college in the past four years were sexually assaulted, contrary to claims in the right-wing media that the problem of campus sexual assault is overblown.
The poll of 1,053 men and women, conducted by phone between January and March, found that 20 percent of women and five percent of men reported being sexually assaulted either by force or while incapacitated. A further 11 percent of women reported an attempted assault.
The poll also underlined the problem of under-reporting in sexual assault cases, with three-quarters of victims saying they told someone else, but only 11 percent saying they told the police or college authorities. 89 percent said no one was held responsible or punished for the incident.
Men and women in the poll were sharply divided on what they perceive to be the rate of campus sexual assault, too: "58 percent of men believe the share of women sexually assaulted at their school is less than 1 in 5. An identical majority of women believe the share assaulted is 1 in 5 or greater."
The Post story highlighted the stories of some of the women who were given follow-up interviews:
A 21-year-old at a public university in the Southeast who participated in the poll said she was raped by a male student who escorted her out of a nightclub after she suddenly became woozy and separated from a group of friends. Someone, she suspects, had slipped a drug into her rum drink.
"In the morning, I woke up and my lip was so swollen," the woman said. "I just remember sobbing and sobbing and sobbing the next day. You learn a lot of lessons."
Like most who said they had been assaulted, the woman did not report the incident to university officials or police. She said she worried about whether she would ruin the man's future and wondered what to make of what had happened: Had there been a misunderstanding? Should she have been more vehement in saying no? She remembers clearly crying during the attack. She knew it was rape. But how would others see it?
Many in the right-wing media have downplayed concerns about college sexual assault. Previous studies with similar findings caused widespread outrage among right-wing media figures when the White House cited them in its campus sexual assault strategy launch, with the Daily Caller describing a Centers for Disease Control study that found one in five women is sexually assaulted in college as "bizarre and wholly false." On an NRA News show, The Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow claimed that the "one in five myth" was driving "hysteria" on campuses. And Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the issue of college sexual assault "fake" and "made up."
Last year, the Post's own George Will described efforts to combat such assaults as an attempt to "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege," calling a 20 percent assault rate "preposterous." Not long after the poll's publication, the Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted that he was removing the single "Pinocchio" that he had given President Obama for his citation of the one-in-five statistic.
The National Rifle Association is falsely characterizing a legislative proposal from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) that would allow felons to petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for restoration of their gun ownership rights, saying the option would only be available to "non-violent felons."
In fact, any felon could apply to have their right to own a firearm restored under Buck's proposal, which is why the ATF program that used to provide that option was defunded in the early 1990s -- research showed that even violent felons had won their appeals, and in some cases went on to commit new violent crimes.
For the past 23 years, standard language in appropriations legislation -- first inserted by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) -- has prohibited the ATF from using budget money on a program that allowed people who had lost their legal right to buy or own a gun because of a felony conviction to apply for restoration of that right. That longtime prohibition was challenged on June 2, however, when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives adopted by voice vote a rider introduced by Buck that would re-fund the program.
During a floor speech, Buck argued for support by citing an example of a man who is prohibited from owning a gun because he wrote a bad check 40 years ago. He declared, "This bill does not intend in any way shape or form to allow a violent criminal to possess a firearm, only those non-violent criminals that ATF deems are not a danger."
But in fact, there is no language in the proposal that limits the right to appeal to non-violent felons. Buck's rider merely reverses the prohibition on funding, changing the words "none of the" funds to "such" funds in the following line: "Provided, That such funds appropriated herein shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code."
Despite this, the NRA and some conservative media outlets have run with the blatantly false talking point that the program would only apply to "non-violent felons" in coverage trumpeting Buck's proposal.