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  • Fox Promotes Dubious Claim That 900 Deceased People Voted In SC

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News has repeatedly promoted South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson's claim that voter fraud is indicated by records showing that more than 900 state residents were recorded as casting a vote after their reported death date. But the official who first publicized that figure reportedly said that the discrepancy could be explained by voters casting absentee ballots before their deaths or by data errors.

  • Mike Huckabee's "Leftwing Argument Against Capitalism"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    In recent days, Fox News personalities have been defending Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital. Joining the chorus, Fox News host Mike Huckabee sent a message to his email list attacking Republicans for going after Romney's time at Bain and embracing "that leftwing argument against capitalism." Huckabee stated, in part:

    Romney has come under a lot of fire for Bain Capital's investments in some companies that were then scaled down with layoffs to become profitable. That's been demonized thoroughly by the media as corporate raiding, But it's surprising to see so many Republicans embrace that leftwing argument against capitalism. It's terrible for the workers who lose their jobs, and nobody likes to see viable companies looted and destroyed. But if downsizing can turn around a failing company, then at least it prevents all the jobs from being lost, and it sets up a stronger company that can grow and start rehiring. The term for this among people who aren't hostile to capitalism is "creative destruction." Bad companies have to die to make way for stronger companies, in the same way that old trees fall over to make way for new trees.

    However, as a candidate running against Romney, Huckabee himself brought up concerns about Bain Capital. During a January 13, 2008, interview on CBS' Face the Nation, Huckabee attacked Romney's business record, especially with regard to layoffs:

    HUCKABEE: You know, what Mitt Romney did is admirable in some quarters, but in some ways, there are a lot of people who lost their jobs when his company would take over, restructure a company, lay a lot of people off. Lot of times, the CEOs and the people at the top got some pretty huge bonuses and made a lot of money. A lot of people went home without a pension and a paycheck. I'm not sure that's what Michigan's looking for.

    A January 24, 2008, Associated Press article also reported that Huckabee "criticized" Romney's record at Bain Capital:

  • The Fox Primary By the Numbers, January 2 - 8, 2012

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

    Last week, Sean Hannity twice hosted candidate Newt Gingrich on his Fox News program. In each interview, Hannity led with questions about negative campaign ads directed at the former Speaker of the House. And in both instances, Gingrich explained that he was "not going to engage in that kind of petty negativity" (January 2) and that "the most" he would do is "draw a contrast only on public policy" (January 5). Gingrich added, "I'm not going to go out and play gotcha games; I'm not going to distort Governor Romney's personal life or his personal records or his personal business."

    During those interviews, Hannity was uncritical of Gingrich and characterized this "strategical or a tactical shift" (Hannity's words) as merely comparative in nature. On January 2, Hannity said, "You feel that up until this point you were trying to run a positive campaign. Now, kind of, in Iowa the gloves are off, and you are going to make comparisons between you and Governor Romney. Is that a fair analysis?" On January 5, Hannity said, "I have the ad right here. 'The choice. Only a bold Reagan conservative can defeat President Obama.' That ad is different than what you have been running. You weren't really running those comparative ads in Iowa."

    Today, Gingrich's campaign released "For the Dogs," an ad that "revives the story of a Romney family road trip 25 years ago during which Romney strapped a dog carrier, with the family's Irish setter Seamus inside, to the roof of his station wagon for the 12-hour drive from Boston to Ontario, Canada." Will Hannity finally call Gingrich's campaigning negative or will he characterize this ad as "comparative," too? We'll be watching.

    So who's winning the Fox Primary? Each week at Media Matters, we watch the interviews, crunch the numbers, and tell you what Fox is up to in the presidential campaign.

  • "Truth Vigilantes"

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Arthur Brisbane, public editor for the New York Times, poses a question today: "Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?" He asks Times readers -- and this is really quite remarkable -- whether New York Times reporters should fact-check statements from the people they cover:

    I'm looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge "facts" that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

    [...]

    This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.

    Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven't mentioned here?

    Newsmakers already have people to repeat what they say without challenge. They're called CNN.

    This is an expression of an irrational, overpowering fear of anything that could be misconstrued as a viewpoint. It has so thoroughly permeated our news establishment that the paper of record is having an existential crisis over whether they should make sure what they present to their readers as news is true.

    This, in turn, is a symptom of valuing the appearance of objectivity over accuracy -- itself a pointless endeavor, given that the catcalls of "bias" will continue no matter what steps the Times takes.

    Here's a recent example in which a little fact-checking would have served the Times well. On January 10, the Times quoted Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in New Hampshire:

    "I've got broad shoulders and I'm happy to describe my experience in the private economy and the fact that if you take all of the businesses that we invested in over our many years, over 100 different businesses and collectively, they net-net added over 100,000 new jobs," Mr. Romney said.

    The claim from Romney that he created 100,000 new jobs while with Bain Capital was dissected by the Washington Post's Greg Sargent and the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn and found to be "bogus." The Washington Post's fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, called it "untenable." It's one of those scare-quoted "facts" that the Times should have challenged, but didn't.

    As such, Times readers were left unsure whether Romney's claim was true, or perhaps just assumed it was because the Times didn't say otherwise.

    The choice between being accurate and being "fair" is a false one. But the drive for forced objectivity and the fear of appearing "biased" have become so ingrained that the presentation of the truth is now cast as an act of vigilantism.

  • Election Officials, Experts: O'Keefe Implicated In Another Illegal Stunt

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    James O'Keefe

    In 2010, conservative videographer James O'Keefe and three associates pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses in connection with an attempted video sting at the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

    Now election officials and election law experts are suggesting that he may be implicated in another illegal scheme. They say that in attempting to create an undercover video showing how easy it is to commit voter fraud, James O'Keefe's associates may have run afoul of those laws themselves.

    Those experts and officials are questioning whether the conservative videographers may have violated laws banning individuals from falsely identifying themselves at the polling place and requiring both parties to consent to be videotaped.

    In their investigation, the conservative videographers entered polling places, gave the name of recently deceased New Hampshire residents, and were offered ballots by poll workers. In one case, the videographer fled the scene after a poll worker became aware that he was not the deceased voter.

    While the videographers were largely careful not to directly assert that they were the deceased voters whose names they were stating, Think Progress noted that in at least one instance, when a poll worker asked a O'Keefe confederate for his name, he gave the name of deceased person.

    In addition to potentially putting his accomplices in legal jeapardy, O'Keefe's video largely shows the logical incoherence of the right's voter fraud paranoia and the difficulty of pulling off a large-scale fraud conspiracy.

  • The Flaws In The O'Keefe "Voter Fraud" Scheme

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Discredited fraud James O'Keefe's latest video attempts to prove how easy it is to steal an election without voter ID laws on the books, but actually demonstrates just how difficult it would be to pull off such a plot.

    The video presents a compilation of clips from Tuesday's New Hampshire primary elections in which either O'Keefe or a confederate gives a poll worker the name of a recently deceased voter and is offered a ballot. The public policy issue the video actually shows is the need for voting records to be kept up to date in the months before an election. The deceased should not be on the rolls and election officials need to do a better job of keeping those lists clean. But since conservative elites (and donors) are far more interested in voter ID laws that have the effect of keeping Democratic voters from the polls, that's the tack that O'Keefe takes.

    What O'Keefe instead suggests is that, because the state does not require voters to present photo identification at the polls, it is simple for individuals to pose as deceased voters, cast ballots in their names, and swing elections. As we've noted, there is little evidence that such schemes actually exist in the real world.

    An actual attempt to carry out such a plot would run into the problem shared by all such schemes to steal elections through in-person voters, rather than in the vote counting phase: without knowing how many votes they need to steal to win, conspirators must engage in a very large effort.

    As election experts noted when contacted about O'Keefe's video by TPM, actually pulling off a scheme to swing an election through these methods would be extremely complex, a massive undertaking whose size could quickly lead to its discovery:

    Election law expert Rick Hasen, who writes the Election Law Blog, joked in an email to TPM that O'Keefe's team should "next show how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun."

    "Who in their right mind would risk a felony conviction for this? And who would be able to do this in large enough numbers to (1) affect the outcome of the election and (2) remain undetected?" Hasen wrote.

    Other election experts agreed that the video doesn't change the substance of the debate over whether the minimal threat of in-person voter fraud is worth the impact that such laws can have on minority and poor voters.

    "The fact that activists can engage in a stunt is not a reason for reform," Samuel Issacharoff, a professor of constitutional law at New York University Law School, told TPM. "It means nothing. Why would anybody want to do this? It proves that they don't update their dead voter information as quickly as they might, but so what? To pull this off on a large scale, you'd need coordination, and presumably somebody would have heard about it."

    The bigger the election, the more precincts and deceased voters would be involved and the more conspirators would be needed. Smaller elections mean fewer votes would need to be stolen, but they also mean that there are fewer recently deceased individuals to pose as.

    In an election involving a larger number of voters, numerous conspirators would be needed, all willing to risk facing election fraud charges. And indeed, even operating a two-person operation that only seems to have targeted a dozen polling locations, O'Keefe or his associate was caught in the act. The video includes eleven clips in which a conservative videographer is offered a ballot. In one other case, the right-wing operative in question was halted by a poll worker who knew the deceased. Those odds don't bode well for the sort of wide-scale operation such an effort would require if the purpose had been to actually steal the New Hampshire primary.

    Moreover, voter ID requirements might present a hindrance to such an effort, but they would in no way stop it altogether. The conspirators would need to obtain fake identification, but if they were willing to devote this level of time and resources to stealing an election and take on such a high level of risk, there is no reason to believe they wouldn't they take that step.

  • O'Keefe Video Doesn't Show "Dead People Vote In NH"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    James O'Keefe

    James O'Keefe, a discredited liar with a history of releasing deceptively edited videos that ultimately fail to back up his claims, has released his latest video. This one purports to demonstrate how "Dead People Vote" in New Hampshire, but instead largely shows the logical incoherence of the right wing's voter fraud paranoia.

    For years, conservatives have fearmongered about the perils of voter fraud; nearly every election brings with it new claims from the right that Democrats and their ACORN allies are on the verge of stealing elections. While actual examples of such fraud are extremely rare, conservatives have used this hysteria to push through laws in several states requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls in order to vote. Such laws have not yet spread to New Hampshire, where Gov. John Lynch vetoed a voter ID bill last year.

    With his last set of videos largely seen as meaningless and pathetic, his fundraising in shambles, and his allies leaving him in disgust, O'Keefe clearly hopes to press this non-issue to revive his standing in the conservative movement. As always, the Daily Caller is happy to help out, already trumpeting the "bombshell video" that they received "exclusively" from O'Keefe.

    In the service of this aim, O'Keefe and associate Spencer Meads visited a number of polling locations during the January 10 New Hampshire primaries armed with hidden cameras. At each polling location, the videographer in question would approach a poll worker who was checking in voters and ask the poll worker if a recently deceased voter's name is on the rolls. When the poll worker, assuming that the right-wing operative is presenting themselves as that person, attempts to give them a ballot, the videographer says that they don't have their ID and leaves. O'Keefe provided the Daily Caller the following explanation for the purpose of the video:

    In an interview with TheDC on Wednesday, O'Keefe said the exposé shows how voter fraud can be easier to perpetrate when identification isn't required.

    "There is fraud going on and our goal is to visualize it for people," he said.

    But O'Keefe's claim aside, there is simply no evidence that such fraud occurs more often then, say, community organizations are asked to help set up child sex rings. In a 2007 report, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that there are a "handful" of cases when votes have actually cast in the names of the deceased, compared to thousands of such allegations that ultimately proved fruitless:

    Allegations of "dead voters" are also popular, not least for the entertaining pop culture references to be found in the headlines: "Among Voters in New Jersey, G.O.P. Sees Dead People," for example, or "Dead Man Voting." After further investigation, however, these allegedly dead voters often turn up perfectly healthy.

    There are a handful of known cases in which documentation shows that votes have been cast in the names of voters who have died before the vote was submitted.

    It is far more common, however, to see unfounded allegations of epidemic voting from beyond the grave, with a chuckle and a reference to Gov. Earl Long's quip ("When I die -- if I die -- I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.") or Rep. Charlie Rangel's update (same idea, but takes place in Chicago). [Footnotes excised]

    Indeed, as John Samples of Cato told TPM, "The big question for policy always was what was the extent of it, and this doesn't solve that question."

    While there is no evidence that O'Keefe-style schemes have actually been in use, there is significant evidence that voter ID laws have prevented eligible voters from casting ballots.

  • Cavuto, Hoft Think Obama's "About Normal" NH Primary Results Spell Trouble

    ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Neil Cavuto and Jim Hoft suggested that President Obama receiving 82 percent of the votes in the New Hampshire Democratic primary show Obama is struggling among Democrats and that New Hampshire voters "are sending a message that we don't like you." But all recent incumbent presidents who went on to win re-election received similar percentages of the votes in their New Hampshire primaries, and political expert Larry Sabato called the results "about normal."