Research ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT
Following Fox News' lead, conservative media outlets celebrated Labor Day by attacking labor unions, often smearing them as "socialist" and violent.
Following Fox News' lead, conservative media outlets celebrated Labor Day by attacking labor unions, often smearing them as "socialist" and violent.
On Monday, The Daily Caller reported that Sen. Barbara Boxer, at a campaign event over the weekend, "seemingly equated being a politician to serving in the military." The Daily Caller included a 34-second audio clip of Boxer's comments that was posted on YouTube by "Veterans Against Boxer" and quoted a press release from the Veterans for Carly Coalition attacking Boxer over her remarks, which was posted on her GOP opponent Carly Fiorina's website.
Predictably, right-wing blogs ran wild with The Daily Caller article, attacking Boxer for her comments. But just how did Boxer "seemingly equate being a politician to serving in the military" in the audio clip? Here's what The Daily Caller actually reported she said:
"We know that if you have veterans in one place where they can befriend each other and talk to each other. You know when you've gone through similar things you need to share it. I don't care whether you are a policeman or a fireman or a veteran or by chance a member of Congress," the California senator said. "[Democratic Rep.] Maxine [Waters] and I could look at each other and roll our eyes. We know what we are up against. And it is hard for people who are not there to understand the pressure and the great things that go along with it and the tough things that go along with it."
Pretty innocuous, right? Boxer seems to be discussing the importance of camaraderie among those who share similar experiences, which certainly isn't controversial. Boxer didn't single out the military, and she certainly didn't say that serving in Congress is just like serving in the military.
Of course, if you're a right-wing blogger, you take this 34 seconds of audio, toss aside any sense of context, and launch an attack.
Well, that didn't take long. After his effort to expose racism in the NAACP turned out to be a monumental failure, Breitbart, instead of accepting responsibility for his part in destroying the reputation of an innocent woman, started changing his story. His rewriting of history is best encapsulated in a clip from MSNBC, in which he says he feels sorry for Sherrod that "they made this about her":
BREITBART: I feel bad that they made this about her, and I feel sorry that they made this about her. Watching how they've misconstrued, how the media has misconstrued the intention behind this, I do feel a sympathy for her plight.
The disingenuousness of this claim was clear to most of us from the beginning. In his original post, Breitbart claimed Sherrod "lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions," and later, Big Government's editorial board, Publius, posted a blog gleefully celebrating the fact that "Racist Govt Official/NAACP Award Recipient Resigns after Big Government Exposé."
As transparent as his attempts to absolve himself of blame were, it turns out the best way to refute Andrew Breitbart's arguments is just to wait for him to contradict himself. Turns out, Breitbart felt so sorry that "they" made his phony story about Sherrod, that the next day he posted another clip from the video, again suggesting that she is racist. In the video clip, Sherrod discusses working with white lawyers in helping to save a black-owned family farm from some family members who wanted all of the land sold. The story concluded that they managed to save most of the farmland from being sold, but that a small portion of it was being sold to a white man. From a July 20 Breitbart.tv post:
So who's making it about Sherrod this time, Breitbart?
The right-wing media have made discredited claims about a case of alleged voter intimidation involving two members of the New Black Panther Party at a Philadelphia polling location on election day, 2008, in order to attack the Obama Justice Department as racially biased. In reality, the Obama DOJ obtained an injunction against one individual who was carrying a night stick at the polling location. Charges against the second member at the polling location, the president of the party, and the party itself were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Now, right-wing blogs are pointing to a video that they claim, falsely, contains footage of the NBPP president admitting to a coordinated plan to intimidate voters. The video appears on Breitbart.tv, headlined "President of New Black Panther Party Admits to Plan to Intimidate Voters," with rollover data reading, "Malik Shabazz incriminates himself in black panther case." The headline of the post on Big Government states, "New Black Panther Party President Admits to Philadelphia Voter Intimidation." The post on Freedom's Lighthouse reads, "In newly uncovered video Malik Shabazz incriminates the Black Panthers by admitting they went to polling stations to intimidate voters." At Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft wrote: "In a newly discovered home video, Malik Zulu Shabazz states to a crowd of Panther members that the activities that occurred in Philadelphia in Nov '08 were indeed done to intimidate voters."
These assertions are simply false. In reality, nowhere in the video does Shabazz describe a plan to orchestrate voter intimidation. Instead, he says that the NBPP planned to respond to perceived efforts to prevent "black people from coming to vote." From the video as seen on Breitbart.tv:
SHABAZZ: We decided that on election day, that we would go out to the polls. Because of what? Because they said they was going to be stopping black people from coming to vote. We knew that they didn't want a black man in office and there were strong intelligence indicators that there was going to be some trouble at the polls and we wanted to make sure the police were not harassing our people, so we wanted to go out and do what we could. [Abrupt video edit] It's just that sometimes the New Black Panther Party, sometimes, whatever we do we just tend to do it kinda strong. You know what I mean? [laughs] Sometimes whatever we do, we just do it, real strong. And sometimes it can even be too black and too strong.
Right-wing media are distorting comments Elena Kagan made during arguments before the Supreme Court to falsely claim she said "it's fine if the law bans books." In fact, in the video the right is citing, Kagan never said "it's fine if the law bans books"; she specifically argued that federal law had never banned books and likely could not do so.
Right-wing media are absurdly attacking Energy Secretary Steven Chu's past praise of BP for awarding UC Berkley an alternative energy grant which Chu said would help "save the world." But the grant had bipartisan support, and scientists and university professors praised the grant's importance for alternative energy research aimed at weaning the world off of oil.
Right-wing media figures have freaked out over a video of White House adviser John Brennan mentioning his love for "Al Quds -- Jerusalem," with some asserting that Brennan had used the "Islamist name" to refer to Jerusalem. In fact, "Al Quds" is simply the Arabic word for Jerusalem, which other prominent political leaders have also used.
Right-wing media have falsely claimed that Attorney General Eric Holder "refus[ed] to say 'radical Islam' is a cause of terrorism." In fact, Holder specifically mentioned "a radical version of Islam" as a possible motivation for Faisal Shahzad, a suspect in the attempted Times Square bombing.
Right-wing blogs have seized on comments OMB Director Peter Orszag made on April 8 at the Economic Club of Washington to claim that he admitted that there are "death panels" in the new health care law.
Will this ridiculousness ever stop?
The latest iteration is just a recycled version of a previous death panels claim that was debunked back in December.
Today, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft claimed that "Sarah Palin was right" and posted a video clip of Orszag's comments, complete with Breitbart TV's dubious title: "Obama's Budget Director: Powerful Rationing Panel (Not Doctors) Will Control Health Care Levels."
The "powerful rationing panel" is the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board. Here are Orszag's comments highlighted in the video being pushed by Breitbart and the right-wing blogs:
ORSZAG: Well, let me just first pause and point out that's exactly what we just created for Medicare. So this Independent Payment Advisory Board has the power and the responsibility to put forward proposals to hit a pretty aggressive set of targets over the long term. And furthermore, the proposals take effect automatically, unless Congress not only specifically votes them down but the President signs that bill. So the default is now switched in a very important way on the biggest driver over long-term cost, which is the Medicare program.
DAVID RUBENSTEIN [President, Economic Club of Washington]: Was that explained to Members of Congress very carefully?
ORSZAG: Yes, it was and that's why this was something that was very difficult to actually - this is why I think it was underappreciated, that this is a very substantial change. Again, a lot will depend on whether it realizes its potential, and how the culture develops, but it has statutory power to put forward proposals to reduce healthcare cost growth overtime and improve quality,and those proposals take effect automatically if Congress ignores them, or if Congress votes them down and the President vetoes that bill. So in other words, inertia now plays to the side of this independent board.
Palin herself tried in vain in December to push this claim that the Independent Payment Advisory Board amounted to a "death panel." Dick Morris also pushed it on Fox News, falsely claiming that the board will say "you can't treat this person with colon cancer with the best drug available."
In fact, the health care law specifically prohibits the Advisory Board from "any recommendations to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits."
Sarah Palin was not right, contrary to what Hoft claimed. She was very, very wrong -- no matter how many times her right-wing defenders push this debunked nonsense.
From Breitbart.tv, accessed April 2:
Andrew Breitbart's website Breitbart.tv is pushing a new video that suggests Obama adviser Rev. Jim Wallis advocated for a "forced redistribution of wealth" that strings together cropped comments from Wallis' past interviews and panel discussions, many of which have been previously distorted by Glenn Beck. But as the context of Wallis' remarks make clear, he in no way advocated for "forced" redistribution of wealth; but rather in most cases, he discussed his beliefs regarding the "spiritual" responsibility of helping the poor to achieve economic parity.
Fox & Friends perpetuated the false claim advanced on right-wing blogs that President Obama was incorrect in stating during a Fox News interview that Hawaii suffered an earthquake in 2006 -- a disaster Fox News itself reported on at the time. In a 2007 memo, a Fox News executive reportedly warned staff that "seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC."
Another Andrew Breitbart-hyped video from the Naked Emperor News website is bouncing around the right-wing echo chamber. As usual, it doesn't live up to the hype -- on the campaign trail before the 2008 election, Barack Obama didn't promise that he would pass health care reform only with a supermajority of support -- but that isn't stopping conservatives from using it to attack President Obama.
Last week, Media Matters documented how a Naked Emperor video, hyped by Breitbart, pushed by the Drudge Report, and echoed by Glenn Beck, advanced the falsehood that "the nuclear option" refers to the budget reconciliation process. Right-wingers used the falsehood to accuse Democrats -- who had complained in 2005 when Republicans considered changing Senate filibuster rules in what the GOP at the time called the "nuclear option" -- of hypocrisy for considering using reconciliation to pass health care reform. But there wasn't any inconsistency in Dems' wanting to use a process that has been employed repeatedly to pass legislation, including major health care reforms, after having criticized Republican plans to change the Senate rules.
This time, right-wingers are claiming the new video shows Obama promising that he won't pass health care reform without a supermajority. Here's Glenn Beck from his radio show today:
BECK: New audio for you from Barack Obama saying that we cannot, cannot pass it with a simple majority vote. Health care has to be supermajority, has to be done that way. You can't just slip it by the American people, which they are now saying they're going to do. Yet another broken promise from Barack Obama.
The video itself shows several clips of Obama on the campaign trail in 2006 and 2007 discussing how he expected to pass health care reform. For example, in a September 2007 speech, Obama says of health care reform, "This is an area where we're going to have to have a 60 percent majority in the Senate and the House in order to actually get a bill to my desk. We're going to have to have a majority to get a bill to my desk that is not just a 50-plus-1 majority." In another clip, Obama discusses how he wanted to campaign in a way that brought more than a "50-plus-1" majority because "you can't govern" after such a victory and predicts that "you can't deliver on health care. We're not going to pass universal health care with a 50-plus-1 strategy." In a 2006 speech, Obama says, "If we want to transform the government, though, that requires a sizable majority."
What he's saying in these clips is that he expected it would be more difficult to govern (such as passing health care reform legislation) without broad support. Whether health care reform has such broad support may depend on how you interpret various polls and how you expect Congress to vote on upcoming bills. But what Obama is not saying in those clips is that he promises not to pass health care reform without a supermajority.
Of course, this hasn't prevented right-wingers from claiming that he made such a promise. Blogger Jim Hoft posted the video at his Gateway Pundit site and wrote: "But, of course, like everything else Obama promised, this statement came with an expiration date. Today Obama will announce that democrats will force their unpopular nationalized health care bill through Congress using a simple majority to ram it through."
Similarly, Breitbart.tv, the Drudge Report, the Fox Nation, and the Jawa Report all posted the video and claimed that Obama said, in Breitbart's words, "Democrats Should Not Pass Healthcare With a 50-Plus-1 Strategy." Did Obama say Dems "should" pass health care reform only with more than that 50-plus-1? That's not what the video shows him saying.
Somehow, I doubt they'll come to realize that the Naked Emperor video, er, has no clothes.
Conservative media are pushing the falsehood that "the nuclear option" refers to the budget reconciliation process in order to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy for previously criticizing the nuclear option and now considering using reconciliation to pass health care reform. But Democratic criticism of a 2005 Republican proposal to change filibuster rules is in no way inconsistent with passing health care reform through reconciliation -- a process that has repeatedly been used to pass legislation, including major health care reform.
Andrew Breitbart's "Big" websites -- Big Hollywood, Big Government, and Big Journalism -- as well as his breitbart.tv website, have in recent months laid claim to many "exclusives," touting controversial and sensationalist storylines that have been picked up by other conservative media outlets, from Fox News on down. However, a closer examination reveals that many of Breitbart's "scoops" have been based on speculation, gross distortions, and outright falsehoods.