Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has again dipped into the fringes of the conservative media for support. The Washington Post reported that Paul is building a national network to potentially support a 2016 presidential run, and is using Fritz Wenzel as his pollster.
Wenzel is a birther who has called President Obama an "imposter," and teamed up with conspiracy site WND to push dubious polling about the president's birth certificate. In addition to promoting conspiracy theories, Wenzel is also an objectively poor pollster. He has a long history of offering wild electoral predictions, prompting Slate reporter Dave Weigel to dub him the "pollster that's always wrong."
Wenzel's WND polling isn't limited to birtherism. WND articles about his polls carry headlines like, "AMERICANS WANT 'GAY' LESSONS BANISHED"; "POLL: SEEDS OF TYRANNY PRESENT IN AMERICA"; "ANSWER TO BENGHAZI OBFUSCATION? IMPEACHMENT"; and "POLL: PALIN WOULD STIR UP EVEN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY" (a poll that claimed Palin would be competitive against Obama in a Democratic primary).
Wenzel's problematic history means the media should treat his polling and analysis skeptically as Paul ramps up his presidential efforts.
The website of Wenzel Strategies touts an endorsement from Paul, who states: "Fritz Wenzel and Wenzel Strategies played a crucial role in my [Senate] election victory ... He is smart, swift, great to work with, and provides top-quality work. I would recommend him to any political campaign." Wenzel was also the pollster for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.
Paul's birther pollster is his latest connection to fringe conservative media. Last year Jack Hunter resigned from Paul's Senate office after his "neo-Confederate" and "pro-secessionist" punditry (including defenses of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth) surfaced. Hunter co-wrote Paul's 2011 book, and also appeared in The Daily Caller and on Fox Business. Paul has also repeatedly appeared on the program of leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Paul used Jones' program as a publicity and fundraising platform during his U.S. Senate campaign, and Jones was an enthusiastic and active supporter of his candidacy.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent wrote that opponents of gun safety laws "must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns," citing a Connecticut law that banned assault weapons following the use of an AR-15 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Nugent's claim in his regular column for conspiracy website WND that Parks is his "hero" because of her efforts to fight segregation came on the same day that Media Matters made available a copy of a 1990 interview where Nugent defended the apartheid, a system of racial segregation enforced in South Africa, with the claim, "All men are not created equal."
In his March 26 column, Nugent wrote, "If anyone believes that gun confiscation is not a real threat here in America or that it couldn't happen here like it did in the U.K. and Australia, just look to what is happening in Connecticut." Connecticut's new law prohibits the future purchase of assault weapons and requires current owners of assault weapons to register their guns. Despite a federal court ruling that the law is a constitutional means of regulating weapons under the Second Amendment, thousands of gun owners are reportedly refusing to register their weapons.
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for the Outdoor Channel, went on to compare the supposed plight of gun owners to the experiences of victims of racial discrimination who fought against segregation:
In 1955, my hero, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a city bus. Good for her. In 2014, gun owners must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns. As Rosa Parks once said, "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right."
(Image from Jackson's 2010 video, "There's a Communist Living in the White House)
When former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson announced this week that she will be seeking political office in Tennessee, it capped perhaps the most bizarre recent career in fringe conservative media.
After appearing on SNL in the 80's, Jackson had largely faded from public view until she reshaped herself in recent years as a tea party activist and conservative bomb-thrower. Her proclamations that Obama is definitely a communist and possibly the Antichrist sparked something of a second career, leading to a stint as a columnist for conspiracy website WND, a web-TV series, occasional Fox News interviews, and regular appearances at conservative and tea party events.
This week, Jackson "filed to run as an independent candidate for a seat on a county commission outside Nashville, Tenn."
Conservative media spend a lot of time and energy wringing money out of their followers. Between the conservative publications that use their email lists to scam subscribers with dubious health advice, and the conservative radio hosts who pitch precious metals to their listeners, and the symbiotic relationship that exists between right-wing pundits and conservative non-profits and activist groups, it's all but certain that at any given moment some overly credulous right-leaning Americans are throwing good money at bad investments.
Salon writer Alex Pareene has posited that "the conservative media movement exists primarily as a moneymaking venture." Indeed, conservative websites -- particularly conspiracy-minded ones -- offer a wide array of products inspired by their nonsensical jibbering. WND, for example, has an entire section of its online store devoted to selling products related to the Obama birth certificate conspiracy the site has been flogging for more than five years.
These sites hawk a staggering array of often-bizarre products, ranging from gear to protect you and your family from the ever-imminent Apocalypse, to playing cards featuring the members of the New World Order. All of it generously marked up. Right Wing Watch highlighted several gift options from conservative outlets "for the prepper in your family," including "a $150 bucket of black bean burgers" (with ketchup).
In the spirit of the season, here is Media Matters' Christmas (not holiday) shopping guide to right-wing websites.
Price: $1,499 from WND.com
WND has published dozens of articles over the years warning its readers of an impending attack on the U.S. -- possibly by Iran, North Korea, or Cuba -- with an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon that could leave "9 out of 10 Americans dead." This Faraday cage -- "manufactured specifically for WND" -- will ensure that "your electronics will survive" the devastating EMP attack, even if you don't.
It weighs a barely-there 55 lbs, and at the low price of $1,499, it only needs to protect 3 iPhones from an EMP attack (or one iPhone from three EMP attacks) in order to pay for itself. Be sure to supplement your Faraday cage with some "EMP Faraday Bags," designed with "desiccant pouches to remove humidity and a sliding bag clamp to ensure a tight Faraday cage seal."
"Super Male Vitality™"
Price: A steal at $69.95 (on sale from $89.97) from InfoWars
Super Male Vitality™ uses the "science of modern day technology" to keep you from losing "vitality, energy, sexual drive, and overall wellness." Alex Jones himself attests to the fact that Super Male Vitality™ is "literally an infusion of the highest quality sources and naturally derived essences."
So what goes into this magic science potion? There's "a ground vine with deep roots," various types of ginseng, "the common oat," and a tree bark that "has been described as an aphrodisiac and sexual stimulant."
You may think that paying $70 for a 2-oz. bottle of oats and ginseng is a bit excessive. But just listen to Alex Jones: "This product works so well for me that I actually had to stop taking it before I go on air or else I would want to do hours and hours of overdrive with complete focus."
Makes a great stocking stuffer alongside Fluoride Shield™, which protects you from the dangers of fluoride with the help of exotic, hard-to-find ingredients like tamarind and cilantro.
As the one-year anniversary of the December 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School approaches, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is blaming "the self-inflicted scourge of political correctness" for the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut.
In his regular column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent wrote on December 11 that unless America followed a series of his policy recommendations -- including arming teachers, eliminating "gun-free zones," and getting "deranged people off the streets" -- "then those precious little 20 children and their six teachers and faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary died for nothing."
He also explained mass shootings as a product of "political correctness" run rampant in society:
The first lesson we should take away from the Sandy Hook massacre is that the self-inflicted scourge of political correctness has dumbed down America enough to allow the conditions to continue to exist that will facilitate another twisted individual capable of doing the same thing to flounder about our society. In fact, it already happened at the Washington Naval Yard. It is going to happen again. And again.
There is no evidence, however, that Nugent's recommendations would prevent school shootings or reduce gun violence generally.
Channeling the NRA's first-post Newtown comments, Nugent claimed that, "The only way to stop a madman with a gun is a good guy or two with guns. Nothing else will work." Thus, according to Nugent, "supporting arming teachers and other faculty members is clearly the right choice."
In fact, an analysis of public mass shootings by Mother Jones that covered the past 30 years did not find a single mass shooting ended by an armed civilian. While the Obama administration and the National Education Association have supported funding for placing more armed members of law enforcement in schools, there is no evidence that the NRA and Nugent's unpopular proposal to arm teachers would prevent shootings.
Far-right website WND teased an article on the possibility that gay men will soon be allowed to donate blood with a banner asking, "Does Obama Want You Infected With This?"
From WND's home page:
WND's December 3 article noted that a federal advisory panel is considering lifting the blanket ban on donations by gay men, in effect since 1985. The website hyped one researcher's support for the ban, citing statistics showing that men who have sex with men constitute the majority of HIV infections to justify prohibiting all gay men from donating blood, regardless of whether they practice safe sex or are monogamous:
Should homosexual men - a group with the highest HIV-infection rates in the nation - be allowed to donate blood?
That's the question the federal government is considering this week as it re-evaluates whether it should lift the 30-year ban on homosexual blood donation.
On Thursday, members of the Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability will revisit the issue.
But a leading pathologist is warning that the move would heighten the risk of spreading HIV to other Americans.
Dr. Jay Brooks, an expert in blood banking and transfusion at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, told WND the problem with "donations from men who've had sex with men is that they have a much higher prevalence of HIV than the heterosexual community."
"They have a much higher prevalence," he emphasized.
Conveniently, WND omitted the fact that the American Medical Association (AMA) opposes the ban, calling it "discriminatory" and "not based on sound science." Under current policy, a heterosexual woman who has had intercourse with an AIDS- or HIV-infected partner can give blood after a one-year waiting period. Any gay man who has had sex since 1977, however, can never donate. According to the AMA, a case-by-case approach makes far more sense than a sweeping ban.
Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Japan, and South Africa have already lifted bans on gay blood donations.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent claimed that an FBI investigation into the fatal police shooting of a teenager with a pellet gun was "another hollow attempt" by President Obama "to stir up racial controversy and divide America further in order to keep Americans from focusing on the gross ineptitude of Obamacare and the never-ending scourge of lies and scams spun by his administration."
On October 22, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot seven times by a sheriff's deputy in Santa Rosa, California. The deputy, identified by media as a "gun expert", apparently believed that the pellet gun Lopez was spotted carrying was an AK-47 assault weapon. Indeed, the toy gun had a striking resemblance to a real AK-47. Controversy stemming from the shooting has spurred numerous protests and vigils in Santa Rosa.
In addition to internal investigations by two local law enforcement agencies, the FBI has begun an independent investigation. An FBI spokesperson told local newspaper The Press Democrat that "It's a civil rights-type of case." Local law enforcement have welcomed the FBI investigation, with Sheriff Steve Freitas stating, "They notified us what they were going to do and we said 'Great we'll welcome that.'"
The premise of Nugent's column -- that the investigation is meant to create racial strife -- is suspect. Civil rights investigations are not always about racial discrimination. In fact, according to the FBI, the most common civil rights complaint "involves allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel."
National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent compared himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks in a column for conspiracy website WND where he celebrated the right to free speech. The NRA and its representatives frequently compare their movement to the civil rights struggle, claiming that restrictions on guns are similar to the conditions of segregation or racial discrimination.
In an October 30 column, Nugent called Parks his "hero" for exercising her First Amendment rights and referenced his celebrity as a guitar player to write, "I'm Rosa Parks with a Gibson":
Heavily armed with whatever media bully pulpit I can muster, I exercise my First Amendment rights like my hero Rosa Parks who refused to sit at the back of the bus when that numb-nut law existed. I'm Rosa Parks with a Gibson.
Parks, who died in 2005, was a civil rights activist best known for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white passenger. She was honored by Congress in 1999 as the "first lady of civil rights" and the "mother of the freedom movement" and was a 1996 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nugent previously claimed in a January interview with WND that "the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus." Civil rights leaders called those comments a "very disingenuous comparison," "offensive" and a "far-fetched fantasy."
ACORN, the disbanded community organizing group and conservative boogeyman that was baselessly credited with everything from the financial crisis to stealing the 2008 presidential election, has been resurrected to attack the Democratic nominee for New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, over his history with the group and its last chief organizer, Bertha Lewis.
The organization, which for decades worked to help the poor, became a favorite conservative media target after discredited conservative activist James O'Keefe released videos purporting to show ACORN employees helping child prostitution traffickers. The "severely edited" videos gave the false impression that O'Keefe visited various ACORN offices in a pimp costume -- a lie that was parroted by mainstream media outlets such as CNN and The New York Times. The videos were so misleading that O'Keefe reportedly paid a $100,000 settlement to a former ACORN employee who filed suit against him, claiming that O'Keefe had illegally taped their conversation in a California ACORN office.
Despite conservatives' assertions that the videos exposed criminality on the part of ACORN, three separate investigations cleared ACORN employees of any criminal wrongdoing -- and law enforcement officials criticized O'Keefe for the misleading nature of his videos.
Reporting throughout 2008, from both conservative and mainstream media sources, also tarred the organization with overhyped claims of voter registration fraud. These reports criticized ACORN for turning in forms from its voter registration drives that were possibly fraudulent. But those reports omitted that many states have laws that require organizations collecting voter registration forms to turn in every single form -- even forms that the organizations suspect are fraudulent. This misleading media narrative was so persistent that a 2009 poll found that a majority of Republicans believed that ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama.
Now, more than three years after ACORN formally disbanded, conservative media are reviving the specter of ACORN after de Blasio won the Democratic nomination for New York City mayor. A September 24 New York Post story explored de Blasio's relationship with ACORN and Lewis, and quoted de Blasio saying that he is proud of his past work with her.
Social conservatives will descend on Washington, D.C., next month for the Values Voters Summit (VVS), an annual convocation put on by an assemblage of anti-LGBT groups that will prominently feature high-profile right-wing media figures.
Sponsored by organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) - both Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate groups - VVS got its start in 2006. As in the past, this year's gathering promises to feature leading opponents of equality for women and LGBT people. Several confirmed speakers will be familiar faces to consumers of right-wing media:
Among the right-wing media personalities slated to speak at the conference:
Right-wing media have pounced on a forthcoming book claiming that gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard's brutal 1998 murder was motivated by drug use, not homophobia. While these media figures shroud their interest in a desire to get at the facts, their vitriolic attacks on Shepard and the movement for whom his death became a rallying cry reveal that there's more to Matthew Shepard trutherism than a concern for the truth.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez revives his decade-old theory that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson killed Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Shepard's death sparked a national discussion on anti-LGBT violence, but Jimenez makes the bombshell claim that Shepard and McKinney had actually had sex and done meth together. McKinney has denied this assertion.
Jimenez's theory is also difficult to square with the fact that McKinney cited Shepard's sexuality as a factor in the murder, attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial.
Inexplicably, media coverage of The Book of Matt has ignored Jimenez's history of shoddy reporting on the case. In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a special on Shepard's murder for ABC News' 20/20. The widely panned report downplayed the role of anti-gay bias in Shepard's murder, suggesting that meth was the primary factor. After the special aired, Gay City News unearthed an email Jimenez wrote two months before 20/20 even began its reporting, in which he proclaimed that the report would upend the conventional interpretation of Shepard's death.
Right-wing media outlets are already celebrating a forthcoming book that claims that brutal 1998 murder of gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard - which became a rallying cry for LGBT activists - was actually fueled more by drug use than anti-gay bias.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez argues that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson bludgeoned Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Jimenez minimizes the role of anti-gay bias in the murder, writing that Shepard and McKinney had previously had sex and done meth together (an assertion that McKinney himself denies).
Although his report of a sexual history between Shepard and McKinney is new, Jimenez's central thesis - that drugs were the motivating factor in Shepard's murder - has been called into question before.
In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a piece on the Shepard murder for ABC News' 20/20. GLAAD highlighted key shortcomings in 20/20's report, including the lack of hard evidence that drugs were a factor and its failure to point out that McKinney himself had cited ant-gay bias as a central element in the case, even attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial. Shepard's mother also condemned the report, criticizing its selective reading of evidence and accusing ABC of taking her comments out of context.
The 20/20 report neglected to mention another crucial detail: that Jimenez was a friend of Tim Newcomb, Henderson's defense attorney.
Most disturbingly, email correspondence revealed that the Jimenez had already decided that Shepard's murder wasn't an anti-gay hate crime before 20/20 even started its reporting. As Gay City News reported in December 2004:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent endorsed the conspiracy theory that President Obama's birth certificate is a forgery in his regular column for conspiracy website WND.
Riffing on a recent claim by Obama that his critics promote "phony scandals" involving his administration, Nugent wrote in his July 31 column that "more of us believe in the American hero Sheriff Joe Arpaio's thorough investigation into your phony birth certificate and phony history than the phony media's smoke and mirrors."
In July 2012 Arpaio, a controversial Arizona sheriff, announced that a "Cold Case Posse" under his direction determined that Obama's "long-form birth certificate was manufactured electronically and that it did not originate in a paper format as claimed by the White House." The "Cold Case Posse" reportedly attempted to uncover evidence that Obama was born in Kenya.
Nugent also suggested in his column that Obama is engaged in a "Saul Alinsky inspired attack on America" which involves "intentionally implementing the 'Rules for Radicals' agenda so appropriately dedicated to Satan."
Beyond his endorsement of birtherism, Nugent made a number of inflammatory attacks on Obama including accusing him of engaging in "phony racism" and suggesting that Nidal Hasan, the man allegedly responsible for a 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, is Obama's "Allah Ahkbar buddy."
Fox News continued its smear campaign against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, by hyping an evidence-free claim that recipients are using the program to send food overseas.
A July 21 New York Post story claimed that low-income New Yorkers were using SNAP funds to purchase food to send overseas. The Post based its claims on anecdotes from unnamed sources at two New York supermarkets that "confirmed the practice," but failed to include specifics. The anonymous woman that the Post provided as its sole example of the practice was not a SNAP beneficiary:
Last week, a woman stuffed dozens of boxes of macaroni and evaporated milk into a barrel headed for her family in Kingston, Jamaica. She said she didn't have welfare benefits and bought the food herself.
"This is all worth more than $2,000," she said. "I've been shopping since last December. You can help somebody else, someone who doesn't live in this country."
A man helping her pack the barrel said: "We're poor here, and they're poor. But what we can get here is like luxury to them."
You're paying for food stamps for foreigners? The New York Post reports that welfare recipients in New York City are buying groceries and sending them in giant barrels to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The Agriculture Department won't investigate. That will be up to individual states. Thanks.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is doubling down on his attacks on Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, calling Martin an "enraged black man-child" and a "Skittles hoodie boy."
On July 13 a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Martin. Zimmerman had said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin, who was carrying a bag of Skittles and wearing a hoodie, during an altercation in Zimmerman's gated community on February 26, 2012.
In a July 14 column for conservative news website Rare, Nugent called Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" who was "responsible for his bad decisions," claiming that the "only racism on that night was perpetrated by Trayvon Martin, and everybody knows it."
Nugent doubled down in a July 15 World Net Daily column titled "What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Do?" describing Martin as "an enraged black man-child" and a "dope-smoking, dope-peddling, gangsta wannabe, Skittles hoodie boy:
[A]ll thinking people are very relieved that George Zimmerman was found not guilty by the intelligent, justice-driven women of the jury, in spite of the façade presented by the prosecution and forced by the threat of racism by everyone from President Obama, to Eric Holder, the New Black Panther gangstas, NAACP, excuse makers of every stripe and even the governor of Florida, but still this innocent man who simply defended his life from a violent, life-threatening, bloodying, head-and-face slamming attack by an enraged black man-child has so wrongly paid an inexplicable price financially and emotionally.
The parents of Trayvon Martin get a huge million-dollar-plus payoff from the gated community just to shut them up, and so obviously to fend off the ambulance chaser racist lawyers for the simple fact that their son was guilty of a vicious, violent attack on a man for no good reason whatsoever.
What did the gated community have to do with any of it? Where is a judge capable of making a justice call in this travesty? Does anyone care at all anymore?
The entire system is screwed up.
But George Zimmerman and his entire family, innocent of any wrongdoing, have lost everything and will be in debt for a long, long time for having to fight the trumped-up charges that he "profiled" and/or set out to murder the poor, helpless, dope-smoking, dope-peddling, gangsta wannabe, Skittles hoodie boy.