Taking their cues from the Drudge Report, right-wing media are echoing a London Telegraph columnist's false claim that scientific agencies intentionally adjusted years of weather station data to show a global warming trend that isn't really there, which the author dubbed the "biggest science scandal ever." But far from being a scandal, historical temperature records are routinely subject to peer-reviewed adjustments to account for changes to measuring instruments, the time of day measurements are taken, and other factors -- and they do not negate a global warming trend.
Conservative media haven't had the best luck in recent years when choosing which fringe protests or figures to elevate into the national conversation, often mistakenly tying themselves to extremism and bizarre conspiracy theories. In 2013, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Drudge, and other conservatives helped promote a rally of truckers planning to clog the Beltway to protest the government. The protest -- which eventually fizzled -- turned out to have been organized in part by someone who thinks President Obama and Osama bin Laden are literally the same person.
This year, conservatives threw their weight behind a Nevada rancher fighting against the federal government over grazing fees, only to be burned when he was videotaped giving his thoughts on "the Negro." 2014 also featured an unhinged conspiracy about President Obama trying (and apparently failing) to spark a domestic Ebola outbreak and a staggering amount of outlandish comments from Fox News contributor Allen West.
Media Matters looks back at the year on the fringe.
From the November 10 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent weighed in on the Texas governor's race in his column for conspiracy website WND, attacking the "America-hating" campaign of Democratic candidate Wendy Davis.
In his October 29 column, Nugent wrote, "Thank God there are still way more Texans that stand in defiance of the lying, scamming, America-hating, Texas-hating scammers and scoundrels that infest and steer the Wendy Davis campaign of deception."
In February, Nugent set off a lengthy controversy when he appeared at a campaign event with Republican candidate Greg Abbott and called him his "blood brother." Abbott was criticized for appearing with Nugent after the NRA figure had recently called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" and because of Nugent's history of demeaning attacks on women.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator Ted Nugent suggested that President Obama is not a Christian and touted Republicans as "the only chance we have" to kill "the wolf at the door" during the 2014 midterm elections.
In an October 8 column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent, claiming to speak on behalf of "we the people," also conspiratorially questioned how unaccompanied children are arriving at the U.S. - Mexico border and wrote that the "vast majority" of those in poverty have "every imaginable luxury known to man":
Now more than ever, we the people are painfully aware that those subject to the separation of powers have become nothing more than a conspiratorial gang against us.
We refuse to believe that all those children showing up at our southern border just happen to make that near impossible journey all on their own.
We don't believe that our president is a Christian.
We can't believe our government squawks about so many living in so-called poverty when the vast majority of such poor people have cellphones and every imaginable luxury known to man.
Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama for sending the U.S. military to help address the public health crisis posed by Ebola in Africa, ignoring experts who explain the critical need for assistance to contain the outbreak and the military's unique capability to support in those efforts.
A columnist for conspiracy site WND asked whether the Obama administration has "orchestrated" Ebola and other crises in order to declare "martial law" and seize everyone's guns.
In recent weeks, conservative media figures have used the Ebola story to attack the Obama administration with twisted criticism, with radio host Michael Savage going so far as to suggest the administration was hoping to "infect the nation." Now Morgan Brittany, actress and host of conservative online show PolitiChicks, ponders in her WND column, "What If The Conspiracy Theories Are True?"
Writing about a dinner party she attended in "the heart of Los Angeles" with a crowd that "would never want to be thought of as conservative," Brittany describes how the attendees were skeptical of recent government statements about Ebola and other issues, and claimed "everything that has come out of Washington has been misleading or an out and out lie."
According to Brittany, the attendees questioned "Why is there no urgency to stop the disease from entering the U.S.?" She explains the conversation then "veered into conspiracy territory," including concerns about what Brittany called "$1 billion worth of disposable FEMA coffins":
Upon hearing this latest evidence of the incompetence permeating our government, the conversation veered into conspiracy territory. One of the men brought up the fact that Washington has known for months if not years that we were at risk for some sort of global pandemic. According to a government supplier of emergency products, the Disaster Assistance Response Team was told to be prepared to be activated in the month of October for an outbreak of Ebola. Hmm, that's just like the fact that they knew 60,000 illegal children were going to be coming across our southern border eight months before it happened.
Questions were then brought up about the stockpiling of ammunition and weapons by Homeland Security over the past couple of years and the $1 billion worth of disposable FEMA coffins supposedly stored in Georgia. Why was there preparation being made for FEMA camps to house people in isolation? These were the questions being seriously discussed.
For the record, the "disposable FEMA coffins" Brittany warns of "have nothing to do with FEMA or any other agency of the U.S. government, and they were around long before Barack Obama was first elected to the presidency of the U.S. in 2008." According to Snopes, a private company that sells plastic containers called grave liners stored the containers outdoors. An image of the containers circulated online and "gave rise to wild conspiracy theories" that have been circulating online for years.
Brittany concludes by lamenting how people have lost trust in government because of supposed dishonesty, which creates a situation where "theories begin to emerge about all sorts of things." She adds, "My fear is that this has all been orchestrated from the very beginning," possibly so that "guns can be seized":
Recent polls show that there is a crisis of confidence among the people. When the people lose all trust in their government because of the lies they have been told over and over again, theories begin to emerge about all sorts of things. We desperately need someone to rebuild the trust and restore faith in this government. The damage that has been done is almost irreparable.
My fear is that this has all been orchestrated from the very beginning. Who knows? Maybe the current administration needs this to happen so martial law can be declared, guns can be seized and the populace can be controlled. Once that happens ... game over.
Last month, Brittany was hosted on Fox & Friends to plug her new book, What Women Really Want.
WND has long been a cesspool of wild conspiracy theories. The site has for years led the charge claiming President Obama lacks an authentic birth certificate and has featured columns suggesting the 2012 shooting in Sandy Hook was staged.
Conservative media outlets, including Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham, are fanning the flames of Ebola panic and anti-immigrant sentiment by highlighting the unfounded opinions of fringe medical expert Dr. Elizabeth Vliet, the former director of an organization that claimed that undocumented immigrants caused a leprosy epidemic.
After news outlets reported the discovery of an Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham hosted Dr. Elizabeth Vliet to inform listeners about the disease. Vliet used the platform to accuse President Obama of "underplaying the risk" of Ebola and suggested the disease could be transmitted through the air, an opinion that runs contrary to widespread medical opinion.
Vliet's facts are completely wrong about Ebola's transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that Ebola "is not spread through the air." A Vox report points out that "basically every health agency in the world agrees" that Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air.
National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent analogized President Obama to a "crack whore" in his latest column for conspiracy website WND.
In a September 24 column, Nugent criticized "politically correct freakzoids" who support animal rights, and suggested that those people were responsible for the election of Obama. Nugent wrote that Obama, "the Chicago community organizer," has been allowed to "increase the national debt like a crack whore in an opium mall":
Unfortunately, in this world of politically correct freakzoids, the inexplicable self-inflicted curse of denial has festered the big lie of so-called animal rights, and these dishonest zealots remain maniacal in their clamor to ban hunting, fishing and trapping.
These are basically the same lying scammers that allowed the Chicago community organizer to weasel his way to the presidency, nearly neuter America's defense system, increase the national debt like a crack whore in an opium mall, abandon security 101 in Benghazi and elsewhere, ignore a gunrunning attorney general, allow an IRS to operate like a third-world gang, unleash U.S. Fish & Wildlife agents to raid Gibson guitars and get away with it, cause America to lose all respect around the world with a foreign policy straight out of the Ann Arbor Hash Bash and cause myriad embarrassments by a government completely out of control.
WND reporter Aaron Klein's history of outrageous conspiracy theories has already cast serious doubt on the credibility of his new book, The REAL Benghazi Story. But the book itself contains major distortions of reality, including selectively-edited evidence and distorted facts, reconfirming Klein's commitment to pushing convoluted hoaxes.
Klein's book, which Media Matters obtained a copy of in advance of its September 9 release, claims to "expose" the "truth" about the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya, revealing "What The White House and Hillary Don't Want You To Know." Included are a few of the more conspiratorial analyses that Klein has previously pushed at the birther website WND, such as the claim that Benghazi is linked to the Boston Marathon bombing -- because a handful of members of a jihadist group may have taken part in the Benghazi attacks, and that group also "is behind" a magazine "thought to have provided bomb-building instructions" for the accused marathon bombers.
Klein's book does include one seemingly "new" Benghazi theory, which is also entirely false. Klein attempts to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for what he claims is her previously "unreported role" in Benghazi, by falsely claiming she must have personally approved security conditions at the Benghazi compound.
The Benghazi mission was unusual for government buildings overseas, as it featured a CIA annex that was separate from the diplomatic compound, roughly a mile apart. Typically government agencies are housed together in the same building, which is called "co-location." According to Klein, State Department regulations would have required Clinton to personally sign a waiver permitting the Benghazi mission to be set up like this, and thus provided "personal approval of security conditions at the compound":
...it can now be said that Clinton personally provided the legal waivers for U.S. personnel to occupy that death trap of a mission. This largely unreported detail was confirmed in the Senate's January 2014 report on Benghazi. Senate investigators found the Benghazi facility required a special waiver since it did not meet the minimum official security standards set by the State Department.
Some of the necessary waivers, the Senate affirmed, could have been issued at lower levels within the State Department. However "other departures, such as the co-location requirement, could only be approved by the Secretary of State." ... This means Clinton herself approved some aspects of the U.S. special mission, including separating the mission from the seemingly more protected CIA annex. In doing so, did Clinton know she was approving a woefully unprotected compound? If not, then at the very least she is guilty of dereliction of duty and the diplomatic equivalence of criminal negligence.
But the fact is the Benghazi mission did not require this kind of waiver. The State Department regulations Klein is referencing lay out the responsibilities of the Secretary under the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act, or SECCA. But as the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated Benghazi explained, the Benghazi facility was exempted from SECCA. SECCA applies to diplomatic facilities, such as consulates, that are officially notified to the host government. Instead, the special mission in Benghazi was a "temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government," and as such SECCA rules -- waivable or not -- did not apply.
In fact, the document approving the set up and security conditions for the compound has been public since at least September 2013, when it was posted online by Al Jazeera America. It clearly shows the signature of Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy, as well as clearance from a number of other low-level officials.
State's ARB report acknowledged that the Benghazi mission's "'non-status' as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult." They recommended State develop minimum security standards for temporary facilities and encouraged co-location in the future. Clinton accepted the recommendation and began implementing it before leaving office.
Real flaws in security at Benghazi do not, however, justify Klein's attempt to ignore the facts and claim Clinton personally signed waivers approving the compound.
WND reporter Aaron Klein is releasing The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don't Want You to Know, which claims to "expose" the "truth" about the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya. Klein is utterly devoid of credibility -- he's a conspiracy theorist who claims President Obama has an "eligibility problem," says Obama may be a Muslim who "might be with" Al-Qaeda given his "Islamic background," and previously authored books about Obama being a "Manchurian President" deserving of impeachment.
Conspiracy website WND is using Robin Williams' recent suicide to try to sell DVDs about celebrities using "demonic" powers to gain stardom.
On August 14, WND reprinted an excerpt of an opinion piece by Joe Schimmel that argues Williams used the help of "demonic powers" that "aided him on stage," but these "insidious forces" eventually "drove him to suicide":
Everybody is currently talking about Robin Williams and his tragic suicide. Many are puzzled as to how a man, who made so many people laugh, could be so depressed that he would violently end his life. What people are not learning is the deeper truth about the insidious forces that tormented Robin Williams and drove him to suicide.
Robin Williams acknowledged that he had opened himself up to transformative demonic powers that aided him on stage. Without the aid of such demonic powers, it is likely that you would have never have heard of Robin Williams and many other famous celebrities. Williams also recognized that these powers had manifested a very evil influence on stage and that there could be a hefty price to pay for their assistance.
At the end of the excerpt -- the full piece is published at "Good Fight Ministries" -- WND links to its website store with the text, "Is Satan using music to corrupt our youth? See Joe Schimmel's shocking three-hour video: 'They Sold Their Souls for Rock 'n' Roll.'"
For the "Discount Price" of $15.95, readers can purchase the "3 Hour Version" -- which has been "condensed from the best of the full 10-hour version" -- of Schimmel's movie, which argues "how Satan has been effectively using popular music to undermine God's plan for the family and ultimately heralding the coming of the Antichrist and his kingdom on earth."
The Schimmel excerpt is currently featured prominently on WND's opinion section with the headline, "Robin Williams: The Sad Truth Media Won't Tell You":
WND's Superstore regularly attempts to profit off of crass paranoia, selling products claiming President Obama's birth certificate is fake, Harry Potter is "witchcraft," and John "Lennon may well have sold his soul to the devil and that the assassination was merely Satan collecting his due."
Right-wing media are exploiting the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa to stoke fears that undocumented immigrants could carry the deadly virus across the southern U.S. border, even though the Centers for Disease Control and other health experts have stated that the likelihood of such an event is "almost nonexistent."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent lashed out after the cancellation of an upcoming concert, claiming his critics are like Nazi chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
On July 21 the Coeur d'Alene Tribe announced that Nugent will not perform at the tribe's Idaho casino on August 4, citing "Nugent's history of racist and hate-filled remarks." The Puyallup Tribe followed suit, cancelling two scheduled concerts at its Washington state Emerald Queen Casino because they didn't want their venue used "to promote his racism."
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for Outdoor Channel, responded to his critics in his regular column for conspiracy website WND.com, comparing them to an infamous Nazi. While claiming that American Indians are his "BloodBrothers," Nugent wrote that those who lodged complaints against his scheduled performances were part of the "Josef Goebbels gang." He also wrote, "Josef Goebbels and Saul Alinsky would be very proud of them and very angry at me. Cool."
Nugent's Nazi comparison comes as the NRA is already under fire from a Jewish group after one of its lobbyists compared a proposal to expand background checks on gun sales in Washington state to the policies of Adolf Hilter, and mocked Jewish individuals who support gun safety.
Rep. Paul Ryan's poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals' "spirit" and personal life choices. Experts say poverty is the result of systemic inequality and lack of opportunity.