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  • Pruitt's EPA replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist who promoted an Infowars video defending Milo Yiannopoulos

    Now Wheeler is trying to sound like a defender of environmental justice

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    Andrew Wheeler will be the acting administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now that Scott Pruitt has resigned. Wheeler is a former lobbyist for coal, natural gas, chemical, and utility companies, and was a long-time aide to the Senate's most ardent climate denier, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).

    Wheeler once promoted a conspiracy theorist's video that defended Milo Yiannopoulos, an alt-right provocateur who actively promoted neo-Nazi and white nationalist views as an editor for Breitbart. From an April Daily Beast article about Wheeler by reporter Scott Bixby:

    In August 2016, Wheeler publicly defended alt-right troll Milo Yiannopolous after the latter was banned from Twitter for encouraging users to harass actress Leslie Jones. In a now-deleted tweet, the lobbyist linked to a six-minute video, “The Truth About Milo,” produced by InfoWars editor-at-large and noted conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, in which Watson posited that conservatives might be “banned from using the internet altogether if they trigger your butthurt.”

    Wheeler felt compelled to delete another social media post from that year. In February 2016, he shared very negative feelings about then-candidate Donald Trump on Facebook. That post is no longer visible on Facebook, but is captured in this tweet:

    Despite that post, Trump nominated Wheeler to the EPA's No. 2 spot in October, and the Senate confirmed him in April. Since the beginning of this year, Wheeler has not posted anything publicly on Facebook, and all of his tweets have been retweets except for one praising Trump's State of the Union address:

    Wheeler had also avoided talking to reporters this year, but he broke his silence last week:

    On June 27, The Hill, the Washington Examiner, and Bloomberg all published articles based on interviews with Wheeler, and on June 28, the Journal-News, a paper from Wheeler's hometown area in Ohio, published an article based on an interview with him as well.

    Wheeler told the Examiner and The Hill that he wasn't looking to take Pruitt's job. (He got it anyway.) He told Bloomberg that, because he used to lobby for the coal industry, he was recusing himself from broad deliberations over taking emergency steps to save coal plants. And he talked to the Journal-News about the EPA's current focus on cleaning up contaminated sites via the Superfund program.

    Most of what Wheeler said in his recent spate of media interviews was unremarkable, but one thread was surprising. Wheeler -- who's fully on board with the EPA's current agenda of rolling back public health protections -- claimed in two of those interviews to be concerned about environmental justice.

    Wheeler told The Hill that he wants to improve the way the EPA communicates environmental risks to the public:

    That is particularly important, Wheeler said, in areas with high concentrations of minority populations. They are often closest to manufacturing and other polluting sites, and the EPA has an “environmental justice” responsibility to consider the unique impacts of pollution on them.

    Wheeler made a similar point in his interview with Bloomberg:

    "I don’t think the agency historically has done a consistent job of describing what the risk is that Americans face," Wheeler said, citing statements about air quality in New York after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the integrity of drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Wheeler said the burden falls disproportionately on the poor, "who often live the closest to facilities."

    Environmental-justice advocates might be surprised to hear those kinds of statements from a man who has endorsed Pruitt's environmental agenda. As Wheeler told The Hill, "I’m here to help Administrator Pruitt with his agenda and President Trump’s agenda for the agency." Their agenda has been to sideline, rather than prioritize, environmental justice.

    Experts recently projected that the changes Pruitt and Trump have proposed to environmental regulations could lead to tens of thousands of premature deaths over a decade and hundreds of thousands of cases of respiratory infections in children. Given that air pollution hits minority communities harder than white ones, many of those suffering from EPA rollbacks would be people of color.

    Wheeler's comments about environmental justice seem like an attempt to soften his image and allay very real concerns about what he'll do at the agency. He made a more flippant attempt to soften his image during his interview with the Journal-News, saying, “Yes, I represented a coal company, but I also represented a cheese company.”

  • These Four Outlets Are A Welcome Exception To Media's Failure To Appropriately Label This Anti-Immigrant Hate Group

    Media Need To Stop Helping The Center Of Immigration Studies Sanitize Its Nativist Image

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The media’s problem of citing the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) as merely "conservative" -- and effectively elevating it as a legitimate source -- has allowed for the proliferation of anti-immigrant extremist groups in mainstream media. However, some outlets have become a welcome exception by appropriately describing “the nativist lobby” of CIS and its sister organizations, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has dubbed these three groups “the nativist lobby” for their ties to white supremacists. It has also specifically singled out CIS and FAIR as hate groups in its latest annual hate group census, listing them as among “the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups that have proliferated since the late 1990s.” CIS is referred to as the “think tank” arm of the Nativist Lobby because it attempts to mask its extremist agenda under a veil of academic discipline. CIS produces studies that routinely use flawed methodologies, distort reputable research, and demonize immigrants despite its attempt to cast itself as being “low-immigration, pro-immigrant.

    Media have aided the group in sanitizing its image. Major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Politico, and others have all cited CIS within the last year without accurately exposing the group’s anti-immigrant agenda and unreliable research. USA Today routinely publishes articles written by CIS members that misinform readers about immigrants and refugees; the paper justifies the platform as “the opposing view,” offering the space as a counterpoint to the paper’s editorials. CIS is also no stranger to mainstream cable news outlets like CNN.

    But a handful of outlets are offering a refreshing exception to this media pitfall. The New Yorker, New Republic, and La Opinión have recently joined The Daily Beast in exposing the CIS anti-immigration campaign that is having tangible effects via President Donald Trump's administration. The New Yorker zeroed in on the group’s growing influence, calling it one of the most “prominent nativist groups” and writing, “Under the Trump Administration, the relationships between anti-immigrant stalwarts and Border Patrol are being strengthened, and formalized, as never before.” New Republic lambasted CIS for bolstering Trump’s border wall proposal with false statistics, noting that the group has been “Trump’s go-to source for research about migrants and the dangers they pose.” La Opinión pointed to CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA as “the pillar organizations of the nativist movement today,” noting that their roots “emerge from their concern that Latinos bring maladies and defects that damage [American] society.”

    Articles like these are welcome nuggets of truth in a political climate often devoid of facts, especially when it comes to immigration. CIS responded to the New Yorker and New Republic articles, attempting to discredit the outlets as well as the SPLC, which the articles cited. The group’s response underscores the need for other media outlets to ditch the “conservative” label when mentioning CIS and its cohorts and apply the proper name: “anti-immigrant hate groups.” Failure to provide audiences with the complete truth about the nativist lobby will only serve to further their already established influence within the administration and throughout government.

  • Watch Kellyanne Conway Push Three Anti-Abortion Myths In Under Two Minutes

    Fox Hosts Senior Trump Aide To Spread Junk Science, Myths About Abortion

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In less than two minutes during a Fox News interview, Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Donald Trump, peddled three of right-wing media’s favorite anti-abortion myths.

    Appearing on the January 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Conway responded to a question about the reason she participates in the March for Life, an annual anti-abortion protest, by arguing that "partial-birth" and "sex-selective" abortions are common in the United States -- despite significant scientific and medical evidence to the contrary. She also wrongly claimed that taxpayers foot the bill for abortion care and that fetuses can feel pain when aborted at 20 weeks:

    1. So-Called “Partial-Birth” And “Sex-Selective” Abortions Are Anti-Choice Myths, Based On Junk Science

    Conway cited “partial-birth abortions" and "sex-selection abortions" as reasons she's participating in the March for Life, claiming she could "basically go get a pregnancy test and then go get a sex test and schedule my abortion.” 

    Fact: So-called “partial-birth” and “sex-selection” abortions are anti-choice myths, based entirely on junk science.

    Right-wing media, anti-choice politicians, and Conway herself have often repeated the allegation that both “partial-birth” and “sex-selection” (usually termed “sex-selective”) abortions are a common occurrence. In reality, neither term is medically accurate nor do they describe actual abortion procedures performed in the United States.

    “Partial-birth” abortion is a nonmedical and fabricated term coined by anti-choice groups to vilify and stigmatize individuals who elect to have a later-term abortion. Despite right-wing media’s insistence that “partial-birth” abortions are common, 99 percent of abortions in the United States take place before the 20th week of pregnancy. The Supreme Court explicitly protected the right to an abortion beyond this point when the life or health of the mother is endangered -- meaning late-term procedures are often performed only in instances of medical need. As Rolling Stone reported, late-term procedures occur “when something has gone terribly wrong” and they often represent the “loss of a wanted pregnancy.”

    Conway’s allegations about so-called “sex-selective” abortions are similarly unfounded. Since 2012, anti-choice lawmakers have attempted to legislate against the practice of “sex-selective” abortion. In an October 2016 release, the Guttmacher Institute noted that “sex-selective” abortion restrictions are specifically designed to “make abortion less accessible.” Furthermore, a 2014 report by the University of Chicago Law School, the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) found that “sex-selective” abortion bans have no evidentiary basis. They wrote:

    The key empirical support for sex-selective abortion bans in the United States comes from a study of census data that is now almost 15 years old. The study by Almond and Edlund found male-biased sex ratios at birth for the second and third children of foreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans when they had already given birth to one or two girls. Our study of more recent data from the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011 reveals that the sex ratios at birth of foreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans, as well as all Asian Americans, in the United States are lower than the sex ratios of white Americans, when all births are taken into account. This means that Asian Americans have more girls than white Americans. The National Asian American Survey, a poll conducted among Asian Americans, further reveals that Asian Americans do not have a preference for sons over daughters.

    2. “Taxpayer-Funded” Abortion Is A Right-Wing Media Myth

    Conway listed “taxpayer-funded abortion” as one of the reasons she’s participating in the March for Life.

    Fact: The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal abortion funding -- with negative consequences for abortion access.

    Conway and right-wing media have insisted that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers use taxpayer money to fund abortion services -- despite a longstanding prohibition on the use of federal funds for this purpose.

    The Hyde Amendment is a budgetary rider that has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother’s life. Significantly, days before the March for Life, the House of Representatives voted to codify and dangerously expand the Hyde Amendment.

    A 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute detailed the devastating impact of the Hyde Amendment on low-income and marginalized communities. The report found that the “number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services.

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and American Indians -- also suffer a disparate impact from the Hyde Amendment's restrictions.

    3. Fetal Pain Is A Scientifically Flawed Premise And Does Not Justify Bans On Abortion After 20 Weeks

    Conway listed “fetal pain abortion, where nonpartisan and nonpolitical scientists and physicians have said an unborn baby can feel pain at 20 weeks, basically the halfway point,” as a reason she’s participating in the March for Life.

    Fact: Fetal pain is a scientifically flawed premise and does not justify bans on abortion after 20 weeks.

    Conway’s allegations about fetal pain are based on the flawed premise that a fetus is able to feel pain starting around 20 weeks post-fertilization. Assertions about fetal pain have animated right-wing media discussions of abortion and supplied talking points for anti-choice politicians to push for increasingly restrictive and medically unnecessary laws targeting abortion access after 20 weeks.

    Despite Conway’s claim that “nonpolitical scientists and physicians have said that an unborn baby can feel pain at 20 weeks,” there is a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary. The Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen wrote that there is little science supporting 20-week bans, and the few examples that anti-choice lawmakers point to are highly contested in the medical community. As Allen explained, two of the three researchers whose work is commonly cited to support fetal pain bills “have already publicly disagreed with the way in which their findings have been used by anti-abortion advocates”:

    In 2013, Dr. Merker told The New York Times that his frequently-cited research “did not deal with pain specifically.” Even Dr. Anand, who believes that fetal pain could start earlier than the literature suggests, told the Times that he used to testify in court cases on abortion bans but that he stopped because “it’s just gotten completely out of hand.”

    In an interview with Salon, Columbia University Medical Center’s Dr. Anne Davis said warnings about fetal pain are “created concerns” that are “based in politics,” not science. According to Davis, a fetus’s brain is not sufficiently developed to perceive pain until 24 weeks gestation.

    A transcript of Conway’s comments on abortion is below:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT: I know you have had a very busy week, Kellyanne. Today is no different. You’re going to be marching for the March for Life today in Washington along with the vice president. Why are you doing this?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: I believe in the sanctity of life. I think that if we can promote and protect life from conception to natural death it says an awful lot about our country. It's no mistake that in our own Declaration of Independence life was the very first right that is mentioned. And it was precious then. It remains precious now. We have to stop this culture that just looks the other way. Partial-birth abortions, sex-selection abortions -- I can basically go get a pregnancy test and then go get a sex test and schedule my abortion. That's not America’s foundation. Taxpayer-funded abortion. Of course fetal pain abortion, where nonpartisan and nonpolitical scientists and physicians have said an unborn baby can feel pain at 20 weeks, basically the halfway point.

    And we just have to look at this as a culture of life. Many presidents and vice presidents have said they were pro-life. They were. But to have Vice President Mike Pence go out on that mall today in just a few short hours and address those who are coming around from the country and indeed the world to bond together to protect the culture of life is truly remarkable and historic. I think it's a big day for Vice President Pence. [Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends, 1/27/17]

  • Daily Beast Exposes Racist Alt-Right Conspiracy Theory About Fort Lauderdale Shooter

    Right-Wing Fringe Falsely Accused CNN Of Doctoring Photo Of Shooting Suspect To Make Him Look More White

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Daily Beast exposed how fake news purveyors pushed a race baiting alt-right conspiracy theory about accused Ft Lauderdale shooter, Esteban Santiago, which alleged that CNN doctored a photo of Santiago. In reality, CNN has not shown a picture of Santiago, and right-wing media outlets that ran with the racist conspiracy theory, namely Gateway Pundit, have had to repudiate their own false claims.

    Santiago is accused of opening fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport on January 6, killing five people and injuring multiple others. Santiago was apprehended at the scene and is currently being interviewed to determine the motive of the shooting.

    The Daily Beast detailed how “alt-right” fringe sites like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit falsely claimed CNN published a doctored photo of Santiago that made the person in the picture appear to be lighter in complexion “to make the suspect look more white.” The article noted that “in reality, CNN had yet to air a picture of Santiago, let alone lightened a picture of him.” Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft wrote up the story and linked to “alt-right Twitter accounts,” before being forced to admit the mistake and retracting the post:

    Far rightwing figureheads immediately invented an elaborate and racist conspiracy theory that CNN had lightened a photo of alleged Fort Lauderdale airport shooter Esteban Santiago shortly after the Friday attack.

    In reality, CNN had yet to air a picture of Santiago, let alone lightened a picture of him. The conspiracy also used a picture of an entirely different man named Esteban Santiago—not the alleged shooter.

    Still, writers at websites like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit tweeted about CNN’s nonexistent Photoshop job. Former Republican Florida Congressman Allen West, who represented Fort Lauderdale itself, even tweeted about the conspiracy and linked to an article about it on his own website.

    [...]

    Alt-right Twitter accounts appear to have helped create the confusion. After media personality Tariq Nasheed tweeted, “there are reports that the identity of one of the Ft. Lauderdale shooting suspects is a white Hispanic named Esteban Santiago,” verified alt-right Twitter user @BakedAlaska tweeted a screenshot of Nasheed’s tweet, along with a picture of the wrong Santiago.

    [...]

    Hoft’s story links to a tweet by the user @alphakangz, whose account has only existed since November.

    “UNDOCTORED PHOTO vs. photo @CNN USED PHOTO of Esteban Santiago, the alleged FLL airport shooter #FortLauderdale pray for the victims,” the account tweeted.

    Minutes later, a copy of the lightened photo of the 39-year-old Santiago, falsely claiming CNN attribution, appeared on Watson’s Twitter feed.

    Update 6:31 p.m.: Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft emailed The Daily Beast about an hour after this story's initial publication.

    "I pulled the post," he said.

    "UPDATE — THIS MAY BE A DIFFERENT ESTEBAN SANTIAGO," the story now reads.

    The Daily Beast reached out to both Watson for comment. His tweet is still visible on his account.

    The ecosystem of fake news and the alt-right, dubbed the ‘Misinformer of the Year,’ continues to evolve and expand. Media Matters has created a glossary to help understand what fake news is and the ecosystem underpinning the phenomenon. Episodes like Pizzagate show how social media platforms like Facebook help to empower total lies, and conservative media outlets like Gateway Pundit help to mainstream these lies.

  • Univision Lifts Up Nativist Center For Immigration Studies As Credible Source

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision’s daily email brief cited the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant nativist group that often peddles in misinformation, continuing the leading Spanish-language media outlet’s pattern of promoting anti-immigrant groups and failing to label them as such.

    The December 5 edition of Univision’s Daily Brief claimed, “New government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows more than three million new documented and undocumented immigrants settled in the United States in 2014 and 2015 — a 39 percent increase over the prior two years.”

    CIS is one of three anti-immigrant groups, all spearheaded by retired ophthalmologist John Tanton, that use the veneer of impartiality to inundate media outlets with false statistics and misinformation about immigrants. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS -- along with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, both also founded by Tanton -- as anti-immigrant white nativist groups for their ties to racist extremists. CIS’ Jessica Vaughan, a right-wing media regular, has used her media platform to misinform about sanctuary cities and peddle lies about undocumented immigrants voting and being released to commit violent crimes.

    Some media outlets, like The Daily Beast, have reported on this “shady network” of anti-immigrant groups that bolster right-wing media talking points and routinely creep into mainstream media, noting that their problematic studies are often characterized by a lack of context. Univision’s propensity to cite CIS and FAIR contributes to this dangerous media pattern and threatens the integrity of immigration information.

  • What Supreme Court Experts Want You To Know Before The Last Presidential Debate

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & PAM VOGEL

    The Supreme Court will be one of the topics discussed at the final presidential debate of this election, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on October 19. Supreme Court reporters and legal experts have been explaining the significance of the court throughout the election season, because of the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and the implications for the ideological direction of the court stemming from the election of a new president.

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • New Media Outlets Explain That Abortion Laws Already Punish Women

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Several writers for online media outlets are pointing out that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's remarks that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions just made "more explicit" the philosophy of Republicans who already punish women for obtaining the procedure through various pieces of legislation. 

  • Journalists And Foreign Policy Experts Call Out Trump's "Completely Uneducated" "Baffling" Foreign Policy

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & CRISTIANO LIMA

    Journalists and foreign policy experts criticized the "unintelligble" foreign policy positions Donald Trump described during interviews with The New York Times and The Washington Post, and called the GOP presidential front-runner's "ignorance" "breathtaking," saying he has "no understanding of the post-war international order that was created by the United States."

  • Media Mock The GOP's "Ridiculous Manifesto" Of Presidential Debate Demands

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & CRISTIANO LIMA

    Media commentators criticized the Republican presidential candidates' demands to media sponsors for future presidential primary debates, noting that because debates are "a chief means for Americans to hear and weigh the ideas of the candidates," they're "too important to be guided" by a "ridiculous manifesto" of demands from candidates.

  • The Flaws In The Daily Beast's Hit On The National Iranian American Council

    ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY & KATIE SULLIVAN

    An anonymous writer claimed in a Daily Beast article that the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) -- a key player in the Iran deal fight -- is connected to an Iranian family known as the Namazis, who supposedly support the deal only to make a "fortune" from future economic sanctions relief. But the author provides little evidence to support his claim of clear financial incentives in the slim connections between NIAC and the Namazis, while NIAC denies those alleged ties. The piece also rehashes "dishonest" attacks against NIAC and their connections to the Iranian regime. Moreover, experts say the sanctions relief will benefit the entire Iranian economy.