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  • How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies


    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.

  • PolitiFact Equates Sanders' Broadly Accurate Climate-Terror Comment With Blatantly False Climate Denial

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Bernie Sanders looking perplexed

    On November 16, PolitiFact ruled that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' remark that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism" is "mostly false." But while Sanders arguably overstated how "direct" the connection is between climate change and terrorism, his broader point that the two are linked is well substantiated, as PolitiFact itself noted when it rated a similar statement from fellow Democrat Martin O'Malley. Nonetheless, PolitiFact gave Sanders the same "mostly false" rating it has given to Republican politicians and fossil fuel industry allies who deny that man-made climate change is even occurring.

    Foreign policy and military experts agree with Sanders' assessment that climate change helps create the conditions for terrorism to thrive, and major studies and reports have detailed how global warming played an important role in the rise of ISIS. In particular, climate change likely worsened drought conditions in Syria, which in turn helped spark that country's civil war, allowing ISIS to seize territory and establish a base of operations. PolitiFact noted many of these same facts when it assessed a remark by O'Malley and ruled that it was "mostly true" that "the cascading effects" of climate change contributed to the rise of ISIS.

    However, PolitiFact took issue with Sanders' use of the word "directly" when he said at a November 14 Democratic presidential debate that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism":

    SANDERS: [C]limate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you're gonna see countries all over the world-- this is what the C.I.A. says, they're gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you're gonna see all kinds of international conflict.

    PolitiFact rated Sanders' comment as "mostly false," writing: "While there is a body of literature backing his broader point that climate change contributes to the growth of terrorism, Sanders is overstating the 'direct' connection. ... We couldn't find any evidence of a 'direct' relationship between climate change and terrorism, though many reports have noted an indirect link."

    Maybe so. But when it comes to accuracy, Sanders' remark is light years ahead of Republican politicians and fossil fuel allies who deny the clearly-established scientific consensus that climate change is happening and human activities are the primary cause of it. PolitiFact gave all four of these blatantly false claims the same "mostly false" rating as Sanders' purported "overstatement":

    • Austin, TX City Council member Don Zimmerman declared: "You don't have to be as smart as a fifth-grader to know what causes the climate is the sun. ... I have people tell me, 'carbon dioxide warms the Earth.'  No, it doesn't.  The sun warms the Earth."
    • Texas Senator Ted Cruz claimed: "Many of the alarmists on global warming, they've got a problem because the science doesn't back them up. In particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there's been zero warming."
    • Florida Senator Marco Rubio asserted: "[T]he left loves to go around saying there is a consensus, there is a consensus. There is a majority of scientists that say that global carbon emissions by humans causes some changes in the climate. What there is no consensus on and (what) they conveniently ignore is there is no consensus on the sensitivity of the climate. How much is it changing and how much of it is directly attributable to human carbon emission? There is no consensus on that, which is why the models vary so greatly, which is why, despite 17 years of dramatic increases in carbon production by humans, surface temperatures (on) the earth have stabilized."
    • Fossil fuel industry advocate Patrick Moore alleged: "It has not warmed for the last 17 years. We know that for sure. And that brings into question the whole hypothesis."

    Image at top via Flickr user Michael Vadon using a Creative Commons license.

  • Governors Who Don't Want To Accept Syrian Refugees Are Recycling Debunked Right-Wing Media Myths

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    At least 30 state governors -- 29 Republican, 1 Democratic -- are parroting right-wing media myths about security concerns presented by incoming Syrian refugees to argue against taking part in expanded refugee resettlement programs. However, the overwhelming majority of refugees pose no credible threat to the United States, and the vetting process for refugee applicants is thorough. Furthermore, state governments lack the legal authority to dictate immigration policy in the United States.

  • Right-Wing Media Take Obama's ISIS Containment Comment Out Of Context To Criticize His Terror Response

    ››› ››› RACHEL CALVERT

    Right-wing media mischaracterized President Obama's remarks that ISIS has been "contained" to suggest that he downplayed the international threat posed by the terrorist group. However, fact-checkers have determined that "references or suggestions that Obama claimed ISIS no longer presents an active threat are incorrect."

  • Conservatives Use Paris Attacks To Stoke Fears About Admitting Syrian Refugees Into America


    Conservative media used the terrorist attacks in Paris to fearmonger about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, claiming that the U.S. cannot effectively vet potential refugees, ignoring experts who say that the thoroughness of the U.S.'s refugee vetting process sets it apart from those of European countries.

  • 5 Ways Conservative Media Are Exploiting The Terrorist Attacks In Paris To Hype Misinformation


    Right-wing media seized on the November 13 terror attacks in Paris to make at least five false or misleading claims about Syrian refugees, past statements from Hillary Clinton, President Obama's strategy against ISIS, the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and how guns in civilian hands could have supposedly changed the outcome of the attacks.

  • PolitiFact Relies On Bizarre Reasoning To Rate Congressman's Mass Shooting Claim "Half True"

    PolitiFact: "The First Half Of His Sentence Is True And The Second Half Is True. But Two Trues, In This Case, Don't Make The Whole Truth"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    PolitiFact Rhode Island acknowledged that both halves of a two-part claim about the incidence of mass shootings in the United States were "true," but bizarrely concluded that the overall claim was only "half true."

    In a November 1 article, PolitiFact Rhode Island purported to fact check a claim by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who said that "There have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States this year -- more than any other country in the world."

    There is strong evidence for both the claim that more than one mass shooting happens each day in the United States and that mass gun violence occurs in the U.S. in a way that is not seen in other countries, as PolitiFact acknowledged.

    PolitiFact, however, rated the overall claim "half true," arguing, "while both parts are basically correct, Cicilline was off base when he put them together. ... The first half of his sentence is true and the second half is true. But two trues, in this case, don't make the whole truth."

    This conclusion is as convoluted as the reasoning used to reach it.

    PolitiFact first acknowledged that it is "true" that there have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States this year. PolitiFact cited the same data source as Cicilline, the Mass Shooting Tracker, which counts any shooting in the United States where four or more people are shot, regardless of whether anyone was killed, or whether the incident occurs in public or in private residences.

    PolitiFact asserted, however, that "The second half of the congressman's claim" -- which dealt with mass shootings in other countries -- "is more problematic because it has little in common with the first half of the claim."

    To determine the incidence of mass shootings in other countries, PolitiFact cited a study of public mass shootings in foreign countries by University of Alabama professor Adam Lankford.

    The difference between the definition of a "mass shooting" and a "public mass shooting" is that mass shootings encompass all incidents where large numbers of people are shot (even in private homes), while "public" mass shootings are a subset, only including shootings at shopping centers, movie theaters, churches, and schools, and other places where victims are typically shot indiscriminately in a public or semi-public space.

    The other distinction is that the Lankford study only included public mass shootings where at least four people were killed, while the Mass Shooting Tracker counts incidents where four individuals were shot regardless of whether the victims were injured or killed.

    Lankford's study concluded that public mass shootings are more common in the United States than other countries, and significantly, Lankford told PolitiFact "Any politician who says that is correct."

    But in its summation, PolitiFact argued, "The problem with [Cicilline's claim] is that he mixes disparate facts to draw a single conclusion. The 'mass shootings' of the first part are not the same as the 'public mass shootings' of the second part":

    And so while both parts are basically correct, Cicilline was off base when he put them together. The Mass Shooting Tracker does not tally foreign shootings. And the social scientist from the University of Alabama looked at different events from a different period of time.

    The first half of his sentence is true and the second half is true. But two trues, in this case, don't make the whole truth.

    The problem with this logic is that the disparities in the data could actually strengthen Cicilline's point. Lankford's study identified 90 individual public mass shooters -- who killed at least four victims -- in the U.S. between 1966 to 2012. That was five times more mass shooters than the next highest foreign country, according to his study. Even if the Mass Shooting Tracker captures more private shootings than Lankford would have counted, it still identified 65 shootings just this year where 4 or more people died; and the chances of another country increasing their incidents of public mass shootings enough to gallop past the U.S. just since 2012 seems deeply unlikely.  

    Overall, the evidence is on Cicilline's side concerning the grotesque incidence of mass shootings in the United States, and PolitiFact's criticism of his claim seems to rest more on grammar than on the data.

  • Media Debunk Carly Fiorina's "Utterly Wrong" Debate Claim That 92 Percent Of Job Losses Under Obama Were Women

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Media outlets called out Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's "utterly wrong," "wildly misleading," and long discredited claim at the October 28 CNBC presidential debate that women held 92 percent of the jobs lost during President Obama's first term, pointing out that that statistic is recycled from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and newer data completely contradicts Fiorina's claim: women actually gained jobs by the end of Obama's first term.

  • Sean Hannity Cites Faulty, Months-Old Statistics To Claim Immigrants Commit 38% Of Murders


    Sean Hannity echoed a previously debunked statistic to claim that 38 percent of all murder convictions in some states are committed by undocumented immigrants. The claim appears to have originated on the conservative news site Breitbart.com, and has been debunked by PolitiFact for relying on a flawed study from the conservative Center for Security Policy.

  • Media Run With Discredited Nativist Group's Research To Claim More Than Half Of Immigrant Households Receive "Welfare"

    More Questionable Research From The SPLC-Labeled Nativist Group, The Center For Immigration Studies


    Numerous conservative media outlets are parroting the misleading conclusions of a September 2015 report by an anti-immigrant nativist group, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which claims that "immigrant households use welfare at significantly higher rates than native households." Like previous flawed CIS studies, these findings have been called into question by immigration experts for failing to account for the economic hardship of some immigrant families, lumping American-born beneficiaries into "immigrant household" categorizations, and conflating numerous anti-poverty programs with so-called "welfare."

  • Wash. Post Debunks Conservative Media Praise For Jeb Bush's Program Abolishing Affirmative Action

    ››› ››› RACHEL CALVERT

    Right-wing media have praised former Florida Governor and possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's 1999 executive action eliminating race-based affirmative action in higher education admissions. Now, a new report from The Washington Post finds that black student enrollment is in decline at two of Florida's largest four-year schools.

  • PolitiFact Debunks The Biggest Conservative Lie About ENDA

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    Conservative media outlets have repeatedly asserted that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination against LGBT workers - discriminates against Christian businesses, but a new report from PolitiFact has rated that claim "False."

    On December 16, PolitiFact evaluated a fundraising email from the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) which claimed that ENDA would unfairly punish Christian businesses. PolitiFact rated TVC's claim "false," noting that ENDA includes religious exemptions that are actually more generous than those contained in other federal non-discrimination laws. 

    PolitiFact also noted that non-religious businesses operated by religious individuals have to comply with the law regardless of the business owner's faith (emphasis added):

    Under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964], and therefore under ENDA, religious organizations, which need not be church-run, would be exempt. Additionally, all businesses with fewer than 15 employees are exempt, whether they're religious or not. 

    Nelson Tebbe, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in religious liberty, said ENDA's religious exemption exceeds Title VII's.

    "It's broader because the religious exemption in Title VII only allows religious organizations to discriminate [against LGBT individuals] on the basis of religion," he said. But it doesn't allow religious groups to discriminate based on factors like an employee's gender or race.

    So by permitting religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ENDA allows them more flexibility than Title VII.


    The bill's religious exemption indicates that churches, church-run initiatives and other religious businesses need not comply by employing people of all sexualities and gender identities. And there's no special negative treatment for Christians. 

    Businesses of any religion could qualify for the exemption. Individuals of any faith who oppose sexuality would have to abide by the law, so no religion is singled out.


    We rate this claim False. 

    The myth that ENDA would discriminate against Christian businesses has been widely debunked, but that hasn't stopped the lie from gaining prominence among right-wing media outlets.