2012 Elections | Media Matters for America

2012 Elections

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  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.

  • O’Reilly’s Proof That Voter Fraud Exists Was Debunked On His Own Show Four Years Ago

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly argued that Mitt Romney’s failure to receive any votes in the 2012 presidential election in 59 divisions in Philadelphia was evidence that widespread voter fraud exists presidential elections. This claim was investigated and proved false on O’Reilly’s show one week after the 2012 election.

     O’Reilly invited lawyers Kimberly Guilfoyle and Stacy Schneider to discuss the prevalence of voter fraud in presidential elections. While both Guilfoyle and Schneider agreed that voter fraud is extremely rare, O’Reilly pointed to “reports in Philadelphia that nobody voted for Romney” as proof that voter fraud exists and asked if these reports have been investigated. From the August 16 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

    O’Reilly himself investigated and debunked these allegations in 2012. Following the election, O’Reilly hosted Fox’s Megyn Kelly to investigate the “shenanigans” and why Romney got zero votes in a number of Philadelphia divisions. Kelly explained that “the same thing happened to John McCain” in 2008 because “the divisions with the unanimous Obama votes have large black, inner-city populations.”

    Furthermore, following the 2012 election, The Philadelphia Inquirer investigated the claim of voter fraud and the voting patterns in those 59 divisions in Philadelphia and reported that they are overwhelmingly Democratic, black, and politically uniform:

    • About 94 percent of the 633 people who live in that division are black. Seven white residents were counted in the 2010 census.

    • In the entire 28th Ward, Romney received only 34 votes to Obama's 5,920.

    • Although voter registration lists, which often contain outdated information, show 12 Republicans live in the ward's 3rd division, The Inquirer was unable to find any of them by calling or visiting their homes.

    • Four of the registered Republicans no longer lived there; four others didn't answer their doors. City Board of Elections registration data say a registered Republican used to live at 25th and York Streets, but none of the neighbors across the street Friday knew him.

    • The ward's 15th division, which also cast no votes for Romney, also cast no votes for McCain in 2008. Thirteen other Philadelphia precincts also cast no votes for the Republican in both 2008 and 2012.

    • Nationally, 93 percent of African-Americans voted for Obama, according to exit polls, so it's not surprising that the president did even better than that in some areas.


  • Can A Conservative Media Darling Win In 2016?

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    For GOP national candidates, navigating the conservative media is kind of like NASA executing a gravitational slingshot: there's a hot, dense center of gravity that you want to get just close enough to so that your campaign rocket ship gets a boost in the right direction. Veer too far and you'll drift into the political void. Get too close and you'll crash hard onto Planet Wingnut.

    This complicated act of political physics is becoming a defining characteristic of national Republican politics. Would-be candidates who don't hold elected office or otherwise lack a national platform turn to Fox News for exposure (and in the case of paid contributors, a paycheck). Anyone who wants to make it past the Ames straw poll can't risk drawing the ire of a big name radio host. Of course, as Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum can attest, you can't be too cozy with the activist right either. It's tough to pull off, particularly as talk radio and conservative online media slouch further and further to the right.

    Those of us who remember the 2012 election know that presidential candidates who channel the conservative blogosphere and poach talking points from Fox News quickly run into trouble. Mitt Romney's exposition on the 47 percent and his claims about President Obama's global "apology tour" traced their roots back to the conservative blogosphere. Romney (one could argue) indulged in this sort of rhetoric because he felt he had to boost his standing among the Republican base.

    With that in mind, we turn to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose trip to Iowa last week stoked a round of 2016 speculation. Cruz is a different matter from the likes of Romney. Conservative activists love the junior senator from Texas, and he's a Fox News favorite (a Nexis search shows he's been on Hannity five times this year already). He'll enthusiastically grab onto conservative media narratives and carry them into Senate hearing rooms.

  • Daily Caller's "Obama Intimidated Gallup" Conspiracy Comes To Inevitable End

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Matthew BoyleThe polling firm Gallup has agreed to pay $10.5 million to settle civil charges that the company had kept two sets of books in order to overbill federal agencies by millions of dollars. The Daily Caller and Fox News had previously floated a conspiracy theory suggesting that the lawsuit was related to supposed efforts by the Obama campaign to "subtly intimidate" the firm to compel them to produce polling results more favorable to Obama.

    The Daily Caller had also helped to smear the whistleblower who first exposed Gallup's alleged practices, Michael Lindley, publishing a variety of unsubstantiated criticisms of Lindley from an unnamed "senior Gallup official." Under the terms of the settlement, Lindley, who says he was fired in July 2009 after warning his superiors that he would go to the Justice Department if the company did not stop illegally overbilling the federal government on their contracts with the U.S. Mint and the State Department, will receive $1.9 million.

    In a September 6, 2012, story, headlined "Justice Dept. Gallup lawsuit came after Axelrod criticized pollsters," then-Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle wrote:

    Internal emails between senior officials at The Gallup Organization, obtained by The Daily Caller, show senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod attempting to subtly intimidate the respected polling firm when its numbers were unfavorable to the president.

    After Gallup declined to change its polling methodology, Obama's Department of Justice hit it with an unrelated lawsuit that appears damning on its face.

    Boyle summarized on Twitter:


    The alleged "intimidation" cited in the emails Boyle highlighted were complaints among Gallup executives that Obama strategist David Axelrod had sent a tweet criticizing Gallup's "methodological problems" in its polling of the presidential race. In June, Gallup acknowledged that their methodology had indeed been flawed, leading the firm to consistently overestimate Mitt Romney's support.

    As even conservative bloggers noted, Boyle's conspiracy theory made little sense: a single tweet from an Obama aide did not suggest Gallup's polling was a priority, there was little upside to trying to intimidate the firm, and the timeline showed that the Justice Department had been involved with the case for years before the tweet was issued.

    Nonetheless, Fox quickly adopted Boyle's conspiratorial frame. In a September 7 segment on his Fox Business program, Stuart Varney fabricated direct contacts between Axelrod and the Gallup employees to claim that the Gallup executives "had felt threatened." A few hours later on Fox News' America Live, guest anchor Shannon Bream said the Caller's story "suggests a conspiracy theory" between the filing of the DOJ lawsuit and Axelrod's "angry tweet." Both guests, attorney Brian Claypool and GOP pollster Chris Wilson, agreed that there was a connection between the two events; Wilson said it was indicative of "Chicago-style politics" on the part of President Obama and called it "frightening," while Claypool said the DOJ "needs to hire Houdini right now as a legal consultant" to "get them out of this mess."

    In fact, the DOJ's own lawyers were sufficient to convince Gallup to pay more than $10 million rather than risk continued legal action.

  • The Media Myth Of NRA Electoral Dominance Should End With 2012

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    In yet another year plagued by horrific instances of gun violence, the media was quick to react to tragedies by labeling gun violence prevention efforts futile on the basis of the alleged ability of the National Rifle Association to ruin the political careers of anyone who dared to stand in the way of its anti-gun regulation agenda. 

    Earlier this year, Slate's Brian Palmer typified this narrative with an article titled "Why Is The NRA So Powerful?" that suggested that the pro-gun organization "considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country" can "reliably deliver votes." In the wake of the Newtown school massacre, Slate republished the article verbatim. Also following the Newtown massacre, NBC's David Gregory and Fox News' Chris Wallace both suggested that politicians who favored gun violence prevention measures would face serious reprisals.

    In making these claims, the media simply advanced a years old narrative suggesting the NRA wields unlimited political power without citing any actual evidence for that position. In fact, 2012 was a year full of indicators that the extent of NRA influence has been wildly exaggerated. The media should keep this in mind as they prepare to cover the NRA's press conference this morning responding to the Newtown massacre.

    During the past year, the National Rifle Association was abandoned by political and business allies and spent nearly $18 million in a failed attempt to keep supporters of gun violence prevention out of Congress and the White House.

    Even as the NRA's brand was deemed toxic by the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative "model legislation" group, and faced withering criticism in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, the media myth has persisted that the NRA has the capability to punish politicians who oppose its extreme agenda.

  • NRA News Falls Flat In Discrediting Bipartisan Swing State Poll

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    On last night's edition of Cam & Company on National Rifle Association News, host Cam Edwards and guest Jim Geraghty of the National Review Online baselessly attacked the methodology of a bipartisan poll that showed voters in Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina trusted President Obama more on gun policy than Mitt Romney.

    A poll by Democratic pollster Momentum Analysis and Republican pollster Chesapeake Beach Consulting found that voters in Virginia trusted President Obama more than Mitt Romney on guns by a 9 point margin, and in Colorado and North Carolina by four and one point margins.

    Edwards and Geraghty erroneously claimed that the poll could not have produced meaningful results because they said it only sampled 500 voters across three states, and they questioned whether the sample was representative. In fact, the poll's methodology clearly states that 500 voters were sampled in each of three states polled, a sample size commonly used among professional pollsters. Reached for comment, the pollsters indicated that they used "industry accepted" techniques in conducting the poll.

  • Contrary To Media's NRA Powerhouse Myth, Voters Preferred Obama On Guns In Key Swing States

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The latest blow to the media myth that the National Rifle Association has the ability to determine election results is a Politico article reporting the result of a bipartisan poll that showed voters trusted Obama more than Romney on the issue of guns in North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado.

    The NRA spent nearly $12 million dollars on an "All In" campaign to remove Obama from office, but was unable to deliver. Voters in Virginia trusted President Obama more than Mitt Romney on guns by a 9 point margin, and in Colorado and North Carolina by four and one point margins. Despite massive ad buys, less than 27 percent of voters in the three states polled recalled seeing the NRA's campaign material.

    Politico quoted Mayors Against Illegal Guns director Mark Glaze reacting to the poll, which his organization paid for, as evidence that "the NRA has built a mythology around their ability to swing elections that has little basis in fact."

  • George Will Ignores GOP Gerrymandering To Deny Obama Mandate

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    During the November 18 edition of ABC's This Week, conservative Washington Post columnist George Will suggested that the tax policy of House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has a weightier mandate than President Obama's proposals because Republicans retained a majority in the House in the 2012 elections. In fact, Democratic House candidates received more votes than Republicans, who retained a majority largely because of widespread gerrymandering.

    According to Will, House Republicans possess a greater mandate because "almost every member of John Boehner's caucus won his or her seat by a much bigger margin than Mr. Obama won his renewed term."

    GEORGE WILL: The President denounced the House Republicans across this country as obstructionists. The country said, "We hear you," and they sent them back to continue being a brake on the President. And almost every member of John Boehner's caucus won his or her seat by a much bigger margin than Mr. Obama won his renewed term. 

    In making this comment, Will joined a chorus of right-wing media figures who have denied an Obama mandate in the wake of his electoral victory. During the November 7 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Dick Morris claimed that Obama does not have a mandate because "he is the first President of the United States ever to be re-elected by less than he got elected by." The same day, The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that "Speaker John Boehner can negotiate knowing he has as much of a mandate as the President."

    These claims ignore that the continued Republican majority in the House is the result of favorable redistricting rather than the will of the people.

  • Ted Nugent Accuses Obama Of Waging "Liberal Jihad" Against America

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Continuing his post-election meltdownWashington Times columnist Ted Nugent, who is also a National Rifle Association board member, claimed in a November 15 column that America may not be able to survive "four more years of Mr. Obama and his Big Wrecking Crew government liberal jihad."

    Nugent also amplified his attack on downtrodden areas of America, claiming that urban cities are "rusting wrecks full of unemployed scavengers." He singled out East St. Louis, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan, which he described as "hell-scapes of dependent hopelessness." In an October 30 interview with the Times, Nugent called the majority of Detroit residents "pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle."

    Nugent continued to deride Americans who voted for President Obama in his November 15 column, describing them as only interested in "more free candy from Uncle Sugar Daddy." Following the re-election of Obama, Nugent sent out a series of tweets on November 7 calling Obama voters "subhuman varmint[s]" and "Pimps whores & welfare brats." In a Times column on November 8, he unleashed more invective, describing Obama voters as "thunderously dumb and incredibly naïve."

    In the lead up to Election Day, Nugent repeatedly made inflammatory remarks about Obama. While promoting his Discovery Channel special about gun culture, Nugent called Obama "anti-American" and accused him of only feigning respect for veterans. While promoting his special on Twitter, Nugent referred to the Obama administration as "enemies of America" and leveled accusations of treason and "criminal complicity to murder."

    Nugent, who drew the scrutiny of the Secret Service in April after promising to be "dead or in jail" if Obama was re-elected, also made waves in July when he wrote in a Times column, "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War."

  • NRA Lashes Out At "Dim Journalists" For Shattering Electoral Powerhouse Myth

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative (NRA-ILA) issued an election postmortem claiming that the public has been misled by the media "about the effectiveness of NRA campaign spending." The release is the latest attempt by the NRA to sustain what has been a false media narrative about the NRA's ability to influence elections.  

    Despite the NRA's protestations, the outcome on Election Day could hardly have been worse for the gun organization. The NRA failed to achieve its main goal, the defeat of President Obama, and also backed the losing Senate candidate in six out of seven races where the NRA spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of House incumbents who lost their seats were endorsed by the NRA.  The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation concluded that less than one percent of $10,536,106 spent by NRA Political Victory Fund went to races where the NRA-backed candidate won.*  

    These results do not comport with the widely-accepted media narrative that the NRA is an electoral powerhouse. Despite research by American Prospect contributing editor (and former Media Matters staffer) Paul Waldman proving that the impact of both NRA campaign contributions and endorsements is overblown, the fable of NRA influence has persevered. Slate's Brian Palmer encapsulated this narrative in July when he wrote that the NRA "can reliably deliver votes" and "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."  

    Although mythology surrounding the NRA's power has persisted for years in the media, that façade appears to be crumbling in the wake of the 2012 elections. An article by The Hill titled "Report: NRA shoots blanks this election," highlighted the NRA's ineffective spending and noted that the Sunlight Foundation's report "challenge[s] the popular political wisdom that the NRA is among Washington's most influential lobbying forces and that candidates who buck their agenda do so at their own peril." The Washington Post offered similar analysis in an article titled "National Rifle Association shut out on Election Day" that cited the Sunlight Foundation's conclusions.

    As an attempt to continue projecting itself as an organization that can determine the outcomes of elections, the NRA is now touting the success of three state ballot initiatives preventing states from banning hunting as evidence that money given to the NRA was well spent.

    But the hunting ballot initiatives -- which were not even opposed by NRA nemesis the Humane Society -- are not what the 2012 elections were about for the NRA. In 2011, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced an "All In" campaign to remove President Obama from the White House that compared a potential Obama second term to a 2004 tsunami that killed over 250,000 people in South Asia.

  • Fresh Off Grueling Election Defeat, NRA Leader Predicts 2014 Victory

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    In the wake of the 2012 elections, where the National Rifle Association spent $18 million dollars to little effect, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promised to defeat Democrats who do not support his organization's agenda in the 2014 elections. According to LaPierre, a columnist for the organization's publications, Democrats who support gun violence prevention laws will "go out on that plank" with President Obama and "the American public and the NRA will saw it right off." 

    From the November 9 edition of The Daily News on NRA News:

    LAPIERRE: So what [Obama] is going to try to do is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank with him. Now that Obama has got no more elections in front of him, he is going to try to do the same thing that Bill Clinton did in '92 after he got elected, which is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank of attacking the Second Amendment. And here's a prediction I make right now. If they go out on that plank with President Obama, he doesn't have any more elections; these Democrats will have more elections in front of them. I predict in 2014, when they are out on that plank, if they walk it with Obama, the American public and the NRA will saw it right off behind him and defend this freedom. 

    But the NRA had an abysmal track record for the 2012 elections. Besides failing to achieve its primary goal to defeat President Obama, the NRA backed the losing candidate in six out of seven Senate races where it spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of incumbent House members who lost re-election bids were endorsed by the NRA.