MSNBC panel calls out Sean Hannity's "dangerous" "dishonest smear" of law enforcement agents investigating Trump
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Two recent stories based on faulty premises -- an Illinois Review post that falsely claimed President Obama had supported "Stand Your Ground" as an Illinois state legislator, and a since-corrected BuzzFeed report that pushed the erroneous conclusion that gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) has suffered a membership drop -- have nonetheless spread throughout the right-wing media.
The cases are not parallel -- Illinois Review is a minor conservative Illinois political blog (their Twitter handle has about 3,000 followers) whose story was too good to check for the right-wing media, while the BuzzFeed story is an unfortunate outlier for a publication that typically produces good reporting. But the articles nonetheless illustrate the first-mover problem of correcting misinformation -- once a charge is levied and begins gaining momentum it becomes difficult to stop, no matter how clearly false the claim, due to the right-wing media apparatus that will push any story considered damaging to progressives.
The basis of the July 22 BuzzFeed article was that MAIG is losing membership ("is finding it hard to keep its membership up") because it has become too strident in its recent push for stronger gun laws. But BuzzFeed's premise was false: MAIG has actually seen an increase in membership during the period the article covered, with more than 100 mayors joining the coalition during that time of increased political action.
Buzzfeed has since updated its article, making a minor change to the text "to reiterate the fact that Mayors Against Illegal Guns is gaining more members than it's losing." But of course, that "fact" completely repudiates the premise of the article.
And of course, the damage has been done. The idea of MAIG shedding membership has already spread through the conservative echo chamber. The story was picked up by a number of right-wing outlets, with Breitbart News and the New York Post stating outright that the story indicated that the group's membership was down overall. The Post article in particular, which ran under the headline "weakened arsenal," linked the group "struggling to replace ex-members" to their focus "on banning weapons and other tough new gun-control measures" (by contrast, a New York Daily News piece cited the BuzzFeed report but framed the story with the fact that the group is larger and growing faster than ever before).
These sorts of misguided stories have an impact on the political debate. One NRA activist, who acknowledged that the number of mayors leaving "isn't a huge blow to MAIG," wrote that BuzzFeed's story "isn't good for MAIG. They will have to counter this meme, and that's good for us. Make them work for it."
Fox News has recently tried to spin GOP voter dissatisfaction with the 2012 presidential field by suggesting it is a manufactured Democratic talking point designed to "handicap" the candidates, when, in fact, polling has consistently shown Republicans are dissatisfied with the GOP field. This spin comes as Fox is investing a significant amount of resources into promoting the GOP presidential candidates.
In a June 7 editorial, The Washington Times stated that Sarah Palin's recent comments about Paul Revere were "correct" and that the "left does not revere history." As Media Matters has noted, experts agree that Palin's account of Paul Revere's ride was "mostly inaccurate."
From the Times editorial, headlined, "The media ride of Sarah Palin; The left does not revere history":
It soon turned out, however, that Mrs. Palin's version of history was correct. While Revere warned the Americans that the British were coming, he also warned the British - not for their benefit - that the Americans were coming. When Revere was detained by British soldiers during his ride, he told them, in his own words, "that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be 500 Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up." As for the bells and gunshots, David Hackett Fischer - in the 1994 book "Paul Revere's Ride" - quotes a townsman saying that on that night, "repeated gunshots, the beating of drums and the ringing of bells filled the air."
Tea Partyers and others who look to America's past for inspiration are appealing to the great national narrative that the left has rejected. In essence, we have become two peoples: one with a vision of America as an exceptional country with a heroic history, and another believing the country and its people are burdened by a multitude of original sins and populated by groups who are owed continuing and endless debts because of that corrupt past.
On Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck falsely suggested that the federal government was not involved in relief efforts following May's devastating storms in Joplin, MO. In fact, FEMA responded immediately to assist storm victims at the request of President Obama.
In a May 25 Rolling Stone article on the "Fox News Fear Factory," Tim Dickinson reported that Fox News chairman Roger Ailes "has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim -- which is consistent with the ideology of his network" and that Ailes "lived in fear that gay activists would try to attack him in retaliation over his hostility to gay rights." Indeed, Ailes' reported "personal paranoia" has been mirrored on Fox, which has a long history of smearing and attacking Muslims and the LGBT community.
In a May 22 New York magazine article, Tea Party Express founder Sal Russo boasted that "there would not have been a tea party without Fox." Indeed, Russo is correct: Media Matters has extensively documented Fox News' relentless promotion of the Tea Party Express.
Following the GOP response to President Obama's speech on his budget plan, Fox News figures have repeatedly echoed the idea that it was an "excessively partisan" "campaign speech," along with several other GOP talking points.
Following Obama adviser David Plouffe's comments that Donald Trump's birther claims are a "sideshow" and that Trump has "zero chance" of being elected president, right-wing media have responded by suggesting that the Obama administration is "afraid" of Trump or is "worried" about him.
Fox has continued to ramp up its ongoing war on health in recent weeks, attacking initiatives that encourage kids to exercise and discourage unhealthy behavior, even going so far as to attack a plan to decrease unhealthy foods at New York City Health Department events.
On April 4, President Obama officially announced his 2012 re-election campaign. Fox News predictably responded by acting as the "voice of the opposition," renewing its attacks on Obama.
The right-wing media have seized on an eight-second video clip of Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) to claim he called the Constitution "silly." In fact, McDermott was criticizing Republicans for not focusing on "job creation" in favor of doing "silly" things like reading the Constitution on the House floor.
In a February 16 editorial, The Washington Times called for defunding public broadcasting, stating that it's "time to pull the plug on [the] NPR subsidy" and that "[s]o long as NPR draws from public coffers, its objectivity will be compromised. The cleanest and most compelling solution to this problem is to cut the subsidy completely." The Times further wrote: "[T]he First Amendment is under assault by the Obama administration. Taxpayers shouldn't be paying for its propaganda network."
From the Times' editorial, titled, "Welfare for public radio":
Public broadcasting cannot simultaneously be a creature of the state and serve the necessary Fourth Estate function as a government watchdog. So long as NPR draws from public coffers, its objectivity will be compromised. The cleanest and most compelling solution to this problem is to cut the subsidy completely. If federal largesse only makes up a fraction of NPR funding, as its defenders habitually maintain, it can easily be made up by other means such as private donations or by licensing PBS programming to cable and satellite stations. Perhaps a little market discipline would help NPR sharpen its operations and be more responsive to listeners.
Americans like to think government censorship and attacks on a free press are problems in authoritarian lands far, far away. But here at home, the First Amendment is under assault by the Obama administration. Taxpayers shouldn't be paying for its propaganda network.
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