In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (joined by a coterie of Senate Republicans) spoke on the Senate floor for about 21 hours in opposition to funding the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." Cruz's speech was not a filibuster, it had to end before today's scheduled vote on the Senate's bill to continue funding the government, and was never a threat to derail legislation that was passed and signed into law three years ago.
As such, much of the media coverage of Cruz's speech has focused on the political circus Cruz has whipped up. Since he couldn't actually alter the legislative process and has few supporters on either side of the aisle, it's not unreasonable to think that Cruz is doing this for his own benefit. Washington Examiner political writer Timothy Carney has sensed this tone in the media coverage of Cruz's fake filibuster and sounds the familiar "LIBERAL BIAS" klaxon, arguing that Texas state senator Wendy Davis' (D) filibuster to halt passage of a restrictive anti-abortion rights bill this past summer was similar to Cruz's but "the media spin was different."
The circumstances surrounding Cruz's and Davis' speeches, however, are pretty different. "Davis's filibuster was no more likely than Cruz's to change the law," Carney wrote. Perhaps so, but Davis' filibuster was an extraordinary measure taken in response to extraordinary measures deployed by Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican-dominated legislature. Davis' filibuster came at the end of a special legislative session convened by Perry specifically to pass the abortion law, and after it failed to pass Perry had to call yet another special session to pass the bill, and a third after that to deal with the business the legislature couldn't attend to because it was wrapped up in the abortion debate. Cruz was operating within the regular business of the Senate and there was a hard deadline on how long he could continue.
Politically, Davis' filibuster became a flashpoint in the national abortion debate because it split activists along the well-established lines, and abortion rights supporters worked doggedly to elevate Davis' profile while opponents worked to marginalize her. It also helped to highlight the intense state-level fights over abortion rights that had not registered on the national media's radar. With Cruz, that dynamic doesn't exist. He has a few supporters in the Senate, and most Republicans -- including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn -- aren't backing him. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board dismissed his anti-Obamacare campaign with more than a whiff of contempt: "The supposedly intrepid General Cruz can view the battle from the comfort of HQ while the enlisted troops take any casualties."
And Cruz is relitigating a fight that has long since been resolved. Most of the country already knows of and has an opinion of Obamacare. It was a central theme of the 2012 election and the guy who was for it won easily. The only thing Ted Cruz has brought to the table is Ted Cruz. Steve Benen put it just right: "Cruz seems to be generating quite a few headlines for himself. But as a qualitative matter, was Davis' speech a more important, consequential, and impressive display? I don't consider it a close call."
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard writes today that the Republican National Committee is looking to "scrap the old model of having reporters and news personalities ask the questions at candidate forums" for the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. Apparently the RNC is weighing the idea of replacing those debate moderators with "heavyweight" conservative radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. Given that this is all based on anonymous sourcing and that this is coming from Paul Bedard, who will print pretty much anything, I encourage you to please accept this grain of salt. However, the prospect of Hannity or Limbaugh in the debate moderator's chair has already received favorable reactions from the highest levels of the RNC, to include chairman Reince Priebus, who called it "a very good idea."
It's possible that Priebus et. al. are just humoring the supporters of this idea, but if they are in fact considering a debate format moderated by talk-radio blowhards, that's a pretty clear sign that the much-ballyhooed Republican "rebranding" document that the committee put out earlier this year is, for all intents and purposes, defunct. And it was the talk-radio blowhards who killed it.
The RNC's 2012 postmortem, wryly titled the "Growth & Opportunity Project," attempted to take stock of what went wrong in the Republican effort to evict Barack Obama from the White House, and why it was that so much of the party had convinced themselves that Mitt Romney was headed toward a landslide victory. The diagnosis? Epistemic closure:
The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.
Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a Party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us. We need to remain America's conservative alternative to big-government, redistribution-to-extremes liberalism, while building a route into our Party that a non-traditional Republican will want to travel. Our standard should not be universal purity; it should be a more welcoming conservatism.
"Our standard should not be universal purity." If that's not the standard anymore, then inviting Rush Limbaugh to moderate a GOP debate would be a funny way of showing it. The man has built his empire and influence by evangelizing pure conservatism and blasting everyone to the left of Antonin Scalia as a despicable liberal. Sean Hannity doesn't attract or persuade new Republican voters; he preaches to the converted and makes a handsome living by ginning them up to spittle-ejecting levels of outrage.
Sean Hannity promoted a claim that dangerous "global cooling" is coming, adding sarcastically on his radio show, "I thought all scientists agreed on this -- apparently not." Sadly for Hannity, the claim did not come from a scientist -- in fact, it came from John Casey, a man that even climate "skeptics" labeled a "scam artist."
Here's a helpful list for Hannity to refer to next time he is looking for support:
When 97 percent of climate scientists accept manmade global warming, it's no wonder that those in denial are getting desperate for an "expert."
The Washington Examiner is promoting a press release from a man predicting "global cooling" who even a climate "skeptic" has called a "scam artist."
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard writes that the "war between former Vice President Al Gore and his critics over global warming is about to hit the boiling point" with a "new claim" from John Casey that "global cooling" is coming. Who is John Casey? The Examiner says that Media Matters called Casey a scam artist "[b]ecause his predictions go against the mainstream." In fact, in 2010 Media Matters quoted blogger Tom Nelson -- who calls climate change a "hoax" -- warning that he thinks Casey is "a scam artist" trying to trick the "skeptic community" into bankrolling him.
Casey created the "Space and Science Research Corporation" (SSRC), which boasts that "it has a dedicated list of 'Supporting Researchers' who have committed their name and assistance to the mission of the SSRC." Four of these seven researchers are also listed as experts on Casey's other website, the "International Earthquake and Volcano Prediction Center," perhaps because they make no claim of expertise in climate change, instead stating that they study earthquakes and volcanoes.
Casey also has no background in climate science, possessing only an undergraduate degree in physics and math and a master's in management. Since we pointed that out in 2010, Casey has pumped up his biography, adding that he is "one of America's most successful climate change researchers and climate prediction experts," even though he does not appear to have ever published a single peer-reviewed paper on the subject.
Instead he wrote a self-published book on climate change "put together" with the help of an astrologer-cum-thoroughbred horse-racing advocate who claims to be the illegitimate daughter of Ernest Hemingway. He claims his book, Cold Sun, is "internationally acclaimed," citing one of his own volcano-specialist "Supporting Researchers" and an anonymous Amazon.com review. In it, Casey predicts that there will be "catastrophic shortages in the world's food supplies" from "global cooling," and that the first indicators of this will "be felt at any time and certainly by December 2012" (2012 was actually one of the 10 warmest years on record globally and the warmest year on record in the U.S.). Despite his claims of international prominence, neither Skeptical Science nor DeSmogBlog -- which maintain extensive records on the industry of faux-experts sowing doubt on climate change -- have ever written a single word about him.
The Washington Examiner relied on a dishonest chart from a nativist organization to push the myth that undocumented immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes in the United States would receive a reprieve from repercussions under immigration reform legislation.
The Washington Examiner used a chart from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist hate group -- which details the criminal repercussions for those seeking legal status, as well as for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. According to the chart, undocumented immigrants who commit certain crimes would face less dire consequences than U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who commit the same offense:
Furthermore, the following chart published June 21 by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit organization that opposes liberalization of immigration law, compares the consequences for an array of crimes and discovered that while illegal immigrants might be exonerated and legalized, U.S. citizens and legal immigrants face years of incarceration or temporary expulsion from the country.
Both FAIR and the Examiner are misleading about the repercussions of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The chart makes it seem as if there are no criminal repercussions for undocumented immigrants who commit these crimes under the Senate's immigration reform legislation, but undocumented immigrants who are arrested for a crime must go through the criminal justice system just like U.S. citizens, and if convicted, can serve jail time or pay fines.
Right-wing media outlets cherry-picked data from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the Senate's immigration reform proposal to incorrectly claim that the bill would hurt American workers. In fact, the CBO report found that the Senate immigration reform bill would have temporary and small negative effects but over the long term would greatly benefit both American workers and the economy, which is reinforced by past studies.
Breitbart.com is promoting the theory that Hitler was secretly gay, playing into one of the most extreme and damaging anti-gay smears in right-wing politics: that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust.
In a May 9 post, Breitbart.com touted "new evidence" that Hitler was gay, citing a Washington Examiner article that highlighted notes taken from interviews with several of Hitler's doctors. The "evidence" of Hitler's alleged homosexuality includes the claims that Hitler took female hormones and did not sleep in the same bedroom as his girlfriend and eventual wife, Eva Braun:
There is new evidence that Adolph Hitler was gay. Doctors who treated Hitler were interviewed by the U.S. Army after World War II, and the notes from those interviews have now been made public.
Army interrogator Herman Merl, who was a medical technician who interviewed Hitler's doctors, Karl Brandt and Hitler's primary physician, Theodor Morell, wrote "Homosex" in the space provided for Hitler's sexuality. The doctors told Merl that Hitler did not sleep with girlfriend Eva Braun in her bedroom, and he himself received female hormones. Merl wrote, "Eva Braun = separate rooms" and "female hormone - injection 50,000 units." He added, "His sexual life and intercourse with Eva Braun was told to me."
The theory that Hitler was secretly gay isn't new in right-wing circles - anti-gay extremists like Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association have been making similar claims for years. In fact, the "Hitler was gay" claim is part of a broader anti-gay smear which posits that gay men were responsible for the Holocaust and that Hitler intentionally sought out homosexuals for his "inner circle" because their "unusual brutality" made them well-suited to carry out mass genocide.
That myth has been widely debunked, of course, and the reality is that gay people were the victims, not the perpetrators, of the Holocaust.
Breitbart.com's post, with its blaring headline and ominous picture, continues a long tradition in right-wing media of grasping at straws to suggest some link between homosexuality and one of worst human rights atrocities in history.
Right-wing media have seized on a study of Medicaid recipients to attack the program by focusing on certain parts of the findings while health care experts point out that the program successfully expanded access to care and eased health-related financial problems, the primary focus of Medicaid.
In 2008, the state of Oregon held a lottery to expand Medicaid coverage to 10,000 people. Because the selection was random, researchers began a controlled study on how the coverage affected the participants. After the results were posted in The New England Journal of Medicine, right-wing media seized on the findings to attack both Medicaid and health care reform. On May 2, Fox Nation posted a Washington Examiner article on the study under the headline "Landmark Study Shatters Liberal Health Care Claims." In the article, Examiner senior editorial writer Philip Klein noted that the study's authors found that enrollment in Medicaid led to "lower rates of depression," but Klein wrote that "the study suggests that expanding Medicaid ... does not improve" the health of recipients. On Your World, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, used the findings to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
On May 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the Medicaid study "[b]ad news for Democrats who support Obamacare." On-screen text during the segment stated that the study found that Medicaid is "ineffective":
But while Fox used the study as an opportunity to attack various aspects of health care reform, experts have pointed out that the study's findings, while not entirely positive, show that the program aided the new enrollees in several ways. In a Health Affairs blog post, Dr. John Lumpkin, who served for 12 years as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, wrote that the study showed that "coverage alone will not necessarily lead to good health," but also pointed to the "big impact on family finances" and the fact that "expanding Medicaid was shown to substantially reduce depression." Dr. Lumpkin concluded:
So far, the Oregon Health Insurance Study shows us that people who obtained Medicaid coverage received more health care services in the first two years--especially needed preventive care--and had less depression and financial worries. Their health outcomes weren't significantly better, but at least they are now participating in the health care system and getting the care they need, without plunging their families deeper into poverty. From this vantage point, the glass seems more than half full.
Washington Examiner senior political columnist Tim Carney is using the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell to demonize an exceptionally rare type of legal abortion that is used to save the life of a mother.
Gosnell has been charged with eight counts of murder, horrific acts committed under the guise of women's health services that are detailed by a grand jury report and which an expert on reproductive health explained are not in line with legal abortion procedures.
In an April 16 Examiner column, Carney fixated on remarks made by Dr. Tracy Weitz, a reproductive health professor at the University of California, during a conference call with pro-choice group RH Reality Check. Carney highlighted her descriptions of a particular abortion procedure to imply that the only difference between Gosnell's methods and legal abortions was whether or not the procedure was performed "when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered."
But as Dr. Weitz explained in her response to Carney, the procedures Gosnell is alleged to have done have "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States" and his actions are "nowhere in the medical literature." Similarly, Salon's Irin Carmon explained that "[n]o one who supports the provision of safe abortion care to women excuses any of what Gosnell is accused of, from willfully gruesome conditions to sadistic treatment to infanticide."
Carney's bogus analogy of legal abortion procedures to the Gosnell case further ignores the fact that legal "late-term" abortions -- which is not a medical term -- are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions in the United States, and are significantly restricted by law. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, the vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetus "viability," which occurs at approximately 20 to 24 weeks, prior to the third trimester. Some states provide an exception, allowing a medical professional to perform a late-term abortion when the life of the mother is threatened, and in even fewer states, cases of "fetal abnormality."
Furthermore, contrary to Gosnell's alleged actions, legal abortion is very safe. As Carmon reported, a medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
But these life-saving procedures are under threat as right-wing media figures such as Carney continue to demonize legal, affordable, safe, and rare abortions by implying that they are similar to Gosnell's horrors. As Salon's Carmon further noted, many women went to Gosnell "because they felt they had no alternative." The case is an indictment of the anti-choice movement, revealing the need for safe, affordable, and legal abortion services that protect the health of women.
A misleading NPR report has become fodder for a right-wing media campaign to scapegoat federal disability benefits, despite the fact that the rise in disability claims can be attributed to the economic recession and demographic shifts, and that instances of fraud are minimal.
NPR reported that the rise in the number of federal disability beneficiaries was "startling" and claimed it was explained by unemployed workers with "squishy" claims of disability choosing to receive federal benefits rather than work. Right-wing media called the report "brilliant," and used it to further the myth that the increase in the number of individuals receiving disability benefits reveals fraud in the system.
Breitbart.com's Wynton Hall wrote that NPR's "eye-opening" piece uncovered a disability program "fraught with fraud." Fox Nation promoted the piece with the headline, "Every Month, 14 Million People Get a Disability Check from the Government..." The National Review Online's blog called the piece "brilliant," while the Washington Examiner's editorial offered it as evidence that disability benefits provide "a voluntary life sentence to idle poverty." The Drudge Report linked to the NPR story and to the Breitbart.com article:
But as Media Matters previously noted, these reports failed to include crucial facts that explain the rise in disability benefits. The recent financial crisis and the rising rate of child poverty have made more children eligible to receive benefits through the Supplemental Security program, while the growth in the number of adults receiving benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance since the 1970s is largely explained by increases in the number of women qualifying for benefits. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, as women have joined the workforce in greater numbers over the past few decades, more women are eligible for disability benefits, resulting in higher numbers of beneficiaries.
Furthermore, in a report published in March 2012, the Government Accountability Office found that improper payments of disability benefits are not a widespread problem, and accounted for less than four percent of total improper payments made by federal agencies in fiscal year 2011.
Right-wing media fabricated a conspiracy that "pro-Obama groups" will be able to steer health care reform insurance applicants to register to vote as Democrats, ignoring a 1993 law that requires programs offering public assistance to include questions about voter registration.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and The Washington Times reported that a draft application for health insurance through the health care reform law twice asked if an applicant wished to register to vote. They claimed that organizations who may register Americans for health insurance through health care reform may steer applicants "to register with the Democratic Party."
On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson similarly fearmongered over "the bigger concern" for health care reform insurance applicants that "pro-Obama groups...would steer them to register as Democrats":
In fact, such voter registration questions on the draft application are required under law. A portion of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, otherwise known as the "Motor Voter Act," requires that programs that offer public assistance benefits, like the Medicaid benefits and tax credits contained in the draft health care reform insurance application, must offer voter registration:
Section 7 of the Act requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities. Each applicant for any of these services, renewal of services, or address changes must be provided with a voter registration form of a declination form as well as assistance in completing the form and forwarding the completed application to the appropriate state or local election official.
National Review Online (NRO) and The Washington Examiner distorted last month's jobs report, which found the economy added 236,000 jobs in the month of February, to inaccurately claim more people left the labor force than found employment.
NRO and the Examiner contrasted February job creation totals with the change in the labor force -- a meaningless comparison -- in order to downplay the good news from the job creation figures. The Washington Examiner declared in an editorial titled "False hopes in the new employment numbers," "[M]ore Americans gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force last month (296,000) than took new jobs (260,000)." Similarly, NRO's blog, The Corner, wrote of the new jobs report:
By most historical measures, the jobs picture remains bleak. Sure, the unemployment rate ticked down. But as I noted Friday, if today's unemployment rate were measured against the same labor participation as when President Obama took office, it would be 10.7 percent.
But wait a minute, say Obama supporters, 260,000 jobs were created in February! Yes, seems encouraging. Until you realize that even more people -- 296,000 -- dropped out of the labor market entirely.
NRO and the Examiner are misleadingly comparing numbers from two different surveys. Indeed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy added 236,000 jobs in the month of February. This figure comes from BLS' Current Employment Survey, a survey of over 400,000 worksites to determine the total number of jobs gained or lost during the month. In addition, BLS conducts a Current Population Survey of approximately 60,000 households to determine the unemployment rate. "There are a number of differences in how employment is counted in the two surveys," BLS clarified, and so often the surveys' findings differ.
So when the NRO and the Examiner compare the number of those who "dropped out of the labor force," a stat from CPS, to the monthly job creation, a stat from CES, the comparison is meaningless, as the surveys use different methodologies. In addition, they imply that the 296,000 not in the labor force is the number of people who were seeking work but have stopped looking for jobs. But retirees and teenagers not seeking work are included in the BLS' definition of those "not in the labor force," so this number includes people who had no intention of seeking work in the month of February:
Not in the labor force (Current Population Survey)
Includes persons aged 16 years and older in the civilian noninstitutional population who are neither employed nor unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching.
Conservative media are in the middle of a concerted push to claim that a government report confirms their longstanding claim that the federal government wastes tax money on employees whose sole duty is "union work," but ignore key content of the report in question that undermines their misleading narrative.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney made that claim on the February 28 edition of Fox & Friends. But Varney's oversimplified version of the conservative case ignores the content of the report in question, and the more sophisticated version of the case made elsewhere falls apart under minimal scrutiny of the evidence these outlets offer.
During a discussion on federal expenditures for union activity, Varney said that the recipients "worked full-time on union business," and "did not work for the taxpayer." When host Steve Doocy noted that's not how private-sector unions tend to work, Varney replied "Well I don't want to be cynical, Steve, but you've never worked for the federal government, now have you?" Watch:
The report Varney cites from the Office of Personnel and Management directly contradicts his blanket assertion that this money goes to full-time union reps in the introduction. OPM explains that "voluntary membership in Federal sector unions results in considerable reliance by unions on the volunteer work of bargaining unit employees, rather than paid union business agents." In the next paragraph, OPM adds that these hours of pay go to "Federal employees performing representational work for a bargaining unit in lieu of their regularly assigned work. It allows unions to satisfy their duty of fair representation to members and non-members alike."
Varney's presentation of this misinformation on a flagship Fox News program may prove an inflection point for a piece of misinformation that's percolated through other, smaller conservative media outlets since the OPM report came out in mid-February. On February 19, Fox Nation hyped a Washington Post story that noted some of the contextual information OPM provided. That same day, a Washington Examiner editorial writer highlighted the report. RedState.com put its own write-up on the front page on February 21, beneath an image of brass knuckles atop a pile of cash. On the February 27 edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox Business' Liz MacDonald made the same set of claims, and numerous other op-eds and blog posts from conservatives have accused the government of this same misspending of taxpayer dollars. Conservative gripes about "official time" expenditures are not new, however, as this 2011 Heritage Foundation testimony on the subject indicates.
Many of these other instances cite Freedom of Information Act requests by the conservative Americans for Limited Government to back their claims. According to ALGFOIAFiles.com, the group requested information from four departments on employees who perform "official time" labor representation work full-time. All four -- the Environmental Protection Agency, National Labor Relations Board, Small Business Administration, and the Department of Transportation -- responded between September and November of 2012. While conservatives like Trey Kovacs, a labor analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, point to the EPA (which found 17 full-time union reps) and DOT (which found 38) responses as proof of a widespread "problem" whereby taxpayers fund work that does not benefit them, the reality of these four FOIA responses is not nearly so convenient for conservatives.
The data expose this claim for what it is: ideology masquerading as empiricism. As the table below shows, according to the most recent data available the four departments ALG successfully FOIA'd have as many as 0.19 percent of their employees doing union representation work full-time. And those employees do not account for all of the billed "official time" hours in any department, confirming that there are indeed many public servants (in the conservative sense of the phrase) who pitch in to bargaining and other representational efforts as needed.
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.