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A protester outside a Kentucky Senate campaign event is thrown to the ground and stomped by the candidate’s supporters. [Source: Huffington Post]Several supporters of Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) throw Lauren Valle, a supporter of Paul’s opponent, Jack Conway, to the ground and deliberately stomp her head. The entire incident, which takes place minutes before a debate between Paul and Conway, is caught on camera; videos of the incident are quickly posted on the Internet. The incident occurs shortly after Valle, a member of the liberal political activism group MoveOn.org, pushes her way through a crowd of Paul supporters to approach Paul while he is still in a vehicle approaching the debate. Valle is wearing a blonde wig and carrying a sign that reads, “Rand Paul Republicorps: Member of the Month,” and her intention is to either present Paul with a mock “employee of the month award” from the fake “Republicorps” (misidentified in some news reports as “Republicore”) for his alleged support of large corporations, or to be photographed holding the sign near him. Initially, Valle is blocked from approaching Paul by a security guard and several Paul supporters. Some of the supporters pursue Valle around parked cars, until one of them trips her and sends her falling to the ground. Another supporter yanks the wig from her head. While she is down, two supporters hold her to the ground while a third stomps on her head, shoulder, and neck. While the incident is occurring, others in the crowd shout, “Get the cops!” A Lexington police spokesman will later say his department had not anticipated any violence at the debate. The spokesman, Lieutenant Edward Hart, says, “She [Valle] worked for MoveOn.org—was a contract employee sent to the debate with MoveOn.org for the purpose of getting a picture with Dr. Paul with the sign.” Valle initially refuses medical treatment, but is later hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion and multiple sprains. She will later file an assault charge against at least one of her assailants. [Kentucky Post, 10/25/2010; Huffington Post, 10/25/2010; Louisville Courier-Journal, 10/25/2010; New York Daily Post, 10/26/2010; TPMDC, 10/26/2010; Lexington Courier-Journal, 10/27/2010] Joshua Green, a senior editor of the Atlantic Monthly, calls the attack “truly awful.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/25/2010] Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts says, “[A]t this point there doesn’t seem to be anything to justify how this incident unfolded.” [TPMDC, 10/26/2010]
Lauren Valle's Account of the Incident - Valle later tells a reporter that she has been to other Paul campaign events, and says Paul’s staff members have “expressed their distaste for my work before.” She calls the assault “premeditated,” and explains: “[A]bout five minutes before Rand Paul’s car arrived they identified me and my partner, Alex [Giblin], who was with me. They surrounded me. There was five of them. They motioned to each other and got behind me. My partner Alex heard them say, ‘We are here to do crowd control, we might have to take someone out.’ When Rand Paul’s car arrived a couple of them stepped in front of me, so I stepped off the curb to get around them to get back out front. At that point they started grabbing for me and I ran all the way around the car with them in pursuit. The footage [referring to the video of the incident posted on a number of news Web sites and blogs] is after I’ve run all the way around the car and I’m in front of the car, and that is when they took me down. One or two people twisted my arms behind my back and took me down.… It was about two to three seconds after that that another person stomped on my head. And I lay there for 20 seconds or so, and my partner Alex came and got me up, and that’s the point where there is the media clip of me speaking.” Valle later says in response to reports that she was not struck on the head: “My memory of them is sort of that of a traumatized person. I think it was my head. My head is in a lot of pain today; my neck is kind of kinked. But I distinctly remember a blow to my head.” She says she was able to give interviews to reporters immediately after the assault because the pain started in earnest about 90 minutes later. “I was in severe shock,” she says. [Huffington Post, 10/26/2010; New York Daily Post, 10/26/2010; Plum Line, 10/26/2010]
Three Paul Supporters Directly Participate in Assault - Valle’s assertion that there were “five” assailants is either inaccurate, or she is including people who chased her around the parked cars but did not throw her down and stomp her against the curb. The day after the assault, new footage is posted that clearly shows an assailant’s boot coming down forcefully on her head, neck, and shoulders. One of the two men holding Valle to the ground is wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” button, a symbol widely associated with the “tea party” movement. [TPMDC, 10/26/2010; Bob Layton, 10/26/2010] This man is later identified by local police officials as Mike Pezzano, a Paul supporter and gun rights advocate. The other man holding Valle down is not immediately identified. [Lexington Courier-Journal, 10/27/2010; TPMDC, 10/27/2010]
Stomper Charged, Identified as Paul Campaign Coordinator and Donor - The Lexington police later identify the man who initially stomped Valle as Tim Profitt, the Paul campaign coordinator for Bourbon County. Profitt will issue an apology to Valle, though he claims the camera angle makes the assault seem more violent than it was. He will state, “I’m sorry that it came to that, and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful, but I was concerned about Rand’s safety.” Profitt will later demand an apology from Valle (see October 26-29, 2010), and will also blame the police for not intervening to keep Valle away from Paul. Police confirm that Profitt is given a criminal summons. [Huffington Post, 10/26/2010; Huffington Post, 10/26/2010; Associated Press, 10/26/2010] He will be charged with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor charge that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail, a $500 fine, or a combination of both. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/30/2010] Profitt is also a campaign donor, having given approximately $1,900 to Paul’s campaign along with $600 from his wife. Paul’s campaign will later refuse to return the donation (see October 26, 2010). Profitt is later dropped as Paul’s campaign coordinator and banned from future events. Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton says, “The Paul campaign has disassociated itself with the individual who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists—on both sides—to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind.” [Associated Press, 10/26/2010; Plum Line, 10/26/2010; New York Daily News, 10/26/2010] Profitt later tells a reporter that he did not actually stomp Valle, he was merely using his foot to keep her on the ground. He cannot bend over because of back problems, he says (see October 26-29, 2010). “[I]f she can hear this,” he says, “[a]ll I was trying to do was hold her until police could get her.” He goes on to state that he believes Valle was at the rally to “hurt Rand Paul.” [WKYT, 10/26/2010]
Statements Issued - Following the incident, Paul’s campaign issues this statement: “We understand that there was an altercation outside of the debate between supporters of both sides and that is incredibly unfortunate. Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election. We are relieved to hear that the woman in question was not injured.” Shortly thereafter, MoveOn issues its own statement, which reads: “We’re appalled at the violent incident that occurred at the Kentucky Senate debate last night. Numerous news reports clearly show that the young woman—a MoveOn supporter—was assaulted and pushed to the ground by Rand Paul supporters, where one man held her down while another stomped on her head. This kind of violence has no place in American society, much less at a peaceful political rally. Our first concern is obviously Lauren’s health and well being. She is recovering, and we will release more details as we have them. We are concerned that no arrests have yet been made, and we hope those responsible will be brought to justice quickly, and that Rand Paul will join us in condemning this horrible act.” The next day, Paul tells a Fox News interviewer: “We want everybody to be civil. We want this campaign to be about issues. I will tell you that when we arrived there was enormous passion on both sides. It really was something where you walk into a haze of lights flashing, people yelling and screaming, bumping up. And there was a bit of a crowd control problem. I don’t want anybody though to be involved in things that aren’t civil. I think this should always be about the issues. And it is an unusual situation to have so many people so passionate on both sides jockeying back and forth. And it wasn’t something that I liked or anybody liked about that situation. So I hope in the future it is going to be better.” Conway weighs in: “I was shocked to see video footage of a Rand Paul supporter stomping the head of a woman outside the debate last night. We can disagree on issues, and I don’t know what preceded the incident, but physical violence by a man against a woman must never be tolerated. It is my hope that steps have been taken to ensure this kind of thuggish behavior never happens again in this campaign.” [Huffington Post, 10/25/2010; Plum Line, 10/26/2010] The progressive news site TPMDC reports that Paul calls for civility, but refuses to explictly condemn the attack. [TPMDC, 10/26/2010] Conway later issues the following statement: “We are still waiting for Rand Paul to apologize to the victim of this attack. A boot stomp to the head of a woman is never appropriate. Rand should apologize to her, stop blaming others, and identify the others involved in this thuggish behavior and disassociate his campaign from them immediately.” [New York Daily News, 10/26/2010]
Entity Tags: Lauren Valle, MoveOn (.org), Joshua Green, Mike Pezzano, Jack Conway, Jesse Benton, Alex Giblin, Edward Hart, Rand Paul, Sherelle Roberts, Tim Profitt
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Former campaign coordinator Tim Profitt (left) stands next to Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) in an undated photo. [Source: Think Progress]The Rand Paul (R-KY) Senate campaign takes out a full-page ad in the Lexington Herald-Leader. The ad features the names of several supporters, including Tim Profitt, the Paul campaign coordinator who stomped the head of a helpless woman at a debate the night before (see October 25, 2010 and After). [Barefoot and Progressive, 10/26/2010] The Paul campaign will also refuse to return a $1,950 campaign donation made by Profitt. [Lexington Courier-Journal, 10/27/2010] Later, the campaign begins distancing itself from Profitt, who will be charged with assault in the incident (see October 26-29, 2010).
Fox News host Sean Hannity accuses President Obama of implementing “failed socialist policies.” Referring to a comment by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who said he wanted Obama’s presidency to fail (see January 16, 2009), Hannity says: “You know what, I don’t want his [Obama’s] policies to succeed. I want him out of—I want him to be a one term president because he’s doing so much damage with his failed socialist policies.” [Media Matters, 11/17/2010]
The man who stomped a woman’s head against the curb of a parking lot in the moments before a Senatorial candidate debate in Kentucky (see October 25, 2010 and After) calls for an apology from the woman he assaulted. Tim Profitt, a former campaign coordinator for the Rand Paul (R-KY) Senate campaign, is facing potential criminal and civil charges on behalf of the woman he assaulted, Lauren Valle. The campaign of Paul’s opponent, Jack Conway (R-KY), has called for Profitt to apologize. But Profitt tells a local television reporter: “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I would like for her to apologize to me, to be honest with you.” Profitt adds, “She’s a professional at what she does, and I think when all the facts come out, I think people will see that she was the one that initiated the whole thing.” Officials for MoveOn.org, the liberal advocacy group with whom Valle is affiliated, are outraged by Profitt’s position. MoveOn official Ilyse Hogan says: “I am offended and outraged by the words of Tim Profitt. Profitt said the attack was ‘not a big deal,’ that Lauren ‘instigated it,’ and that ‘she should apologize’—words that are eerily familiar to many women who have faced assault and abuse.” A spokesman for the Conway campaign, John Collins, says Profitt’s attempts to minimize the assault are inexcusable. “I think anyone who has seen the video could see that it was one-sided and that it was not a crowd-control problem but rather a sort of a mob, thuggish mentality of some of the Rand Paul supporters,” he says. Collins notes that the Paul campaign has not yet released the names of the two men that threw Valle to the ground and held her down as Profitt stepped on her, and continues: “Anyone who watched the video saw two men wrestle a young woman to the ground and then a third man, Profitt, come and stomp on the back of her head. I think the simple question we have is when is it ever okay… for two men to wrestle a young woman down to the ground, even without the stomping.” [WKYT-TV, 10/26/2010; Lexington Courier-Journal, 10/27/2010] Valle later refuses an apology. In an open letter to Profitt, she writes: “I have been called a progressive, a liberal, a professional agitator. You have been called a conservative, a Republican, a member of the tea party movement. Fundamentally and most importantly, you and I are both human beings. We are also both American citizens. These two facts, to me, are far more meaningful than the multitude of labels that we carry. And if these two facts are true then it means we are on the same team. I have not been for one moment angry with you and your actions. Instead I feel thoroughly devastated. It is evident that your physical assault on me is symptomatic of the crisis that this country is struggling through. And it seems that I will heal from my injuries long before this country can work through our separation. Only when we decide let go of our hate, our violence, and our aggression will we be able to communicate to each other about the issues that divide us. Right now, we are not communicating, we are stomping on each other. No one can ever win, no one can ever be heard, with violence. You and I, as fellow citizens, and we, as a country, have a choice. Either we choose to continue the cycle of inflicting violence upon each other, screaming at each other, insulting each other, and putting one another down or we find a way to sit down and start listening to each other. We’ll see how far we get. We are all viciously and vociferously feeding a fire that will only burn us down together. We must reach inside ourselves and make space for each other. We must forgive each other. We must believe in our capacity for transformation. The moment we choose compassion and reconciliation is the moment that we will begin to move toward freedom. There is no other way. I believe that you should be held accountable for your actions but I also recognize the incredibly negative impact that the consequences must be having on your life, and I wish you all the best as you yourself heal from this. Violence hurts everyone.” [TPMDC, 10/29/2010] Profitt is charged with assault against Valle; he will plead not guilty, and his lawyer will claim that his assault was justified (see October 26-29, 2010).
Within hours of Fox News host Glenn Beck’s first broadcast during his three-day tirade against Jewish philanthropist and financier George Soros (see November 9-11, 2010 and After), Jewish organizations begin condemning his remarks. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accuses Beck of anti-Semitism. ADL president Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, recalls living with a Catholic nanny during the Holocaust and says: “Look, I spit on Jews when I was six years old. Does that make me an anti-Semite?” The issue of the Holocaust, Foxman says, “is so sensitive that I’m not even sure Holocaust survivors themselves are willing to make such judgments. For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say, ‘There’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps,’ that’s horrific. It’s totally off limits and over the top.” Beck is speaking “either out of total ignorance or total insensitivity,” Foxman says, and adds in a statement: “While I, too, may disagree with many of Soros’s views and analysis on the issues, to bring in this kind of innuendo about his past is unacceptable. To hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant. The Holocaust was a horrific time, and many people had to make excruciating choices to ensure their survival. George Soros has been forthright about his childhood experiences and his family’s history, and there the matter should rest.” Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants calls the Beck accusations “monstrous; you don’t make such accusations without proof, and I have seen no such proof.” Beck’s accusations, Steinberg says, “go to the heart of the instrumentalization and trivialization of the Holocaust.” Simon Greer, president of the Jewish Funds for Justice, says that Beck’s comments “made a mockery of their professed understanding. In an effort to demonize a political opponent, Beck and Fox News scurrilously attacked George Soros, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor. No one who truly understands ‘the sensitivity and sacred nature’ of the Holocaust would deliberately and grotesquely mis-characterize the experience of a 13-year-old Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary whose father hid him with a non-Jewish family to keep him alive.” Interfaith Alliance head C. Welton Gaddy says Beck’s “use of the Holocaust to discredit George Soros is beyond repugnant. The Holocaust is one of history’s most tragic events and those who survived it are owed our enduring respect.” [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010; Salon, 11/11/2010] The ADL’s Foxman has previously lauded Beck as a “strong… friend of Israel.” [KMIR, 11/13/2010] Jewish columnist J.J. Goldberg writes, “There’s a difference between first-degree murder and vehicular homicide, which is intentionality.” Goldberg isn’t convinced that Beck intended to attack Jews, but he calls Beck’s three-day attack on Soros “as close as I’ve heard on mainstream television to fascism.” [Daily Beast, 11/11/2010] Jewish columnist M.J. Rosenberg writes that Beck’s series on Soros is “so anti-Semitic” that it has convinced him a Holocaust could happen in the United States. “I am not saying Beck is anti-Semitic,” he says. “I think he is so utterly ignorant of Jewish history and the history of Germany 1933-1945 that he is unaware of what he is doing.” [Raw Story, 11/11/2010] Jonathan Tobin, the editor of the neoconservative Commentary magazine, has criticized Soros before. But Tobin now writes: “Beck is in no position to pontificate about the conduct of Holocaust survivors and should refrain from even commenting about this subject.… Such topics really must be off-limits, even in the take-no-prisoners world of contemporary punditry.… There is much to criticize about George Soros’s career, and his current political activities are troubling. But Beck’s denunciation of him is marred by ignorance and offensive innuendo. Instead of providing sharp insight into a shady character, all Beck has done is further muddy the waters and undermine his own credibility as a commentator.” [Christian Science Monitor, 11/13/2010]
Fox Defends Beck - Fox News stands by Beck’s attack on Soros, with senior vice president Joel Cheatwood saying in a statement that the “information regarding Mr. Soros’s experiences growing up were taken directly from his writings and from interviews given by him to the media, and no negative opinion was offered as to his actions as a child.” [New York Times, 11/11/2010]
Beck's References to Holocaust and Nazi Germany Source of Concern - Greer and two rabbis met with Fox News executives in July to discuss Beck’s “constant and often inappropriate invocation of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany on the air” (see July 26, 2010). [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010] Greer accuses Beck and Fox News of “mak[ing] a mockery of their commitment to me and two rabbis” by airing the attack on Soros, and defends Soros as committed to the Jewish faith. Greer writes that he will again complain to Fox News executives about Beck’s behavior. [Jewish Journal, 11/11/2010]
Beck Attempting to Tarnish Soros as a Democratic Contributor? - James Besser, writing for The Jewish Week, asks: “Why is Soros important to the far right? Could it be because he is a major contributor to Democratic causes, and because they are trying to make his money radioactive to their political adversaries?” [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010]
Entity Tags: Glenn Beck, James Besser, Anti-Defamation League, C. Welton Gaddy, Fox News, Elan Steinberg, George Soros, Simon Greer, Joel Cheatwood, Abraham Foxman, Jonathan Tobin, J.J. Goldberg, M.J. Rosenberg
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Glenn Beck uses a chalkboard to connect billionaire George Soros to numerous events and organizations. [Source: Open Salon (.com)]Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck spends three broadcast days lambasting Jewish billionaire George Soros, whom Beck blames for single-handedly funding America’s left-wing, liberal, and progressive causes. Beck calls Soros a “puppet master” responsible for spreading political and economic chaos throughout the world. Soros was a teenager in Hungary when the Nazis invaded that country; Soros spent a brief period of time hiding with a non-Jewish Hungarian family whose father handed out deportation notices to Hungarian Jews. Soros has written of this incident in his biography; Beck uses that fact to label Soros as a Nazi collaborator. [Salon, 11/11/2010; Atlantic Wire, 11/12/2010; Cenk Uygur, 11/13/2010] Beck tells his audience that Soros “used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening. Here’s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps. And I am certainly not saying that George Soros enjoyed that, even had a choice. I mean, he’s 14 years old. He was surviving. So I’m not making a judgment. That’s between him and God. As a 14-year-old boy, I don’t know what you would do. I don’t know what you would do. But you would think that there would be some remorse as an 80-year-old man or a 40-year-old man or a 20-year-old man, when it was all over, you would do some soul searching and say: ‘What did I do? What did I do?’” On his radio show, Beck goes farther, accusing Soros of helping “send the Jews” to “death camps” during the Holocaust. Beck goes on to add that Soros “is not a fan of the state of Israel. George Soros is—many people would call him an anti-Semite. I will not. I don’t know enough about all of his positions on Jews. I know his mother, in George Soros’s own words, his mother was an anti-Semite. And so he just has this weird, weird world view. He’s also an atheist.” [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010; Media Matters, 11/11/2010] Beck goes on to accuse Soros of deliberately manipulating the global economy to ensure its collapse and says Soros wants to rule the world like a god: “Soros has admitted in the past he doesn’t believe in God, but that’s perhaps because he thinks he is.” [Daily Beast, 11/11/2010] “Eighty years ago, George Soros was born,” Beck says. “Little did the world know then, economies would collapse, currencies would become worthless, elections would be stolen, regimes would fall. And one billionaire would find himself coincidentally at the center of it all.” [Salon, 11/9/2010] Salon’s Alex Pareene writes: “I don’t think people who read secondhand accounts of the specials—or even those who read the transcripts—can grasp how weird and shameless the entire spectacle was. There were puppets strewn about the set. The camera always watches Beck watching whatever we’re supposed to be watching. Beck blatantly flirted with classic anti-Semitic tropes, knowing he’d be called on it but confident his friends would have his back. His taunting response to criticism: If he’s a lying anti-Semite, why would Rupert Murdoch [the owner of News Corp., which owns Fox News] allow him on the air?” [Salon, 11/13/2010]
Beck: Soros Attempting to Destroy Global Economy - Jewish author and columnist Michelle Goldberg calls Beck’s “tirade” against Soros “a new low on American television.” She writes: “The program… was a symphony of anti-Semitic dog-whistles. Nothing like it has ever been on American television before.” Goldberg writes: “Beck went beyond demonizing him; he cast him as the protagonist in an updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion [an infamous anti-Semitic screed]. He described Soros as the most powerful man on earth, the creator of a ‘shadow government’ that manipulates regimes and currencies for its own enrichment. [President] Obama is his ‘puppet,’ Beck says. Soros has even ‘infiltrated the churches.’ He foments social unrest and economic distress so he can bring down governments, all for his own financial gain. ‘Four times before,’ Beck warned. ‘We’ll be number five.’” Beck is misrepresenting Soros’s support for organizations that have helped to overthrow Communist regimes in former Soviet Union nations. Goldberg writes: “Beck’s implication is that there was something sinister in Soros’ support for anti-communist civil society organizations in the former Soviet Union. Further, he sees such support as evidence that Soros will engineer a Communist coup here in the United States. This kind of thinking only makes sense within the conspiratorial mind-set of classic anti-Semitism, in which Jews threaten all governments equally. And as a wealthy Jew with a distinct Eastern European accent, Soros is a perfect target for such theories.” [Daily Beast, 11/11/2010] Ron Chusid, writing for the blog Liberal Values, notes: “Glenn Beck often repeats conspiracy theories from the Birchers [meaning the John Birch Society—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011 ] and other far right wing groups. That made it inevitable that he would wander into repeating anti-Semitic memes which have historically been common on the far right.” [Ron Chusid, 11/11/2010] “How much worse can it get when one links the other to anti-Semitism and Nazism?” asks Brad Knickerbocker of the Christian Science Monitor. “And how much weirder can it get when the target of that charge escaped the Holocaust as a young Jewish teenager?” [Christian Science Monitor, 11/13/2010]
Beck Denies Anti-Semitism - Beck denies any anti-Semitism on his part. Instead, Beck accuses Soros of being anti-Semitic, and uses his time of hiding with the Hungarian family as “proof” of his hatred of Jews, and his “collaboration” with Nazis. [Daily Beast, 11/11/2010] “I’m going to concentrate on the fact that I think the lesson he learned in that horrific year of 1944 is if you hide your true identity you can gain power, you can survive,” Beck says. “And those who are seen as disadvantaged or handicapped and don’t hide their identity, well, they don’t survive.” The accusations of Soros being a “collaborator” actually began in 1998, after Soros discussed his successful escape from Nazi persecution on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Although the accusations were quickly proven false, right-wing opponents of Soros have continued to air them in an attempt to discredit the billionaire (see August 8, 2006 and February 2007). [Media Matters, 11/11/2010]
Jewish Organizations Condemn Beck - Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, and the Jewish Funds for Justice call Beck’s accusations “monstrous” and “horrific.” However, Fox News defends Beck’s comments (see November 9-11, 2010 and After).
In a somewhat sarcastic column, conservative author Ann Coulter advocates the repeal of the 26th Amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote (see July 5, 1971), apparently in an effort to make it more difficult to re-elect President Obama. Coulter writes: “[T]he argument for allowing children to vote was that 18-year-olds could drink and be conscripted into the military, so they ought to be allowed to vote. But 18-year-olds aren’t allowed to drink anymore. We no longer have a draft. In fact, while repealing the 26th Amendment, we ought to add a separate right to vote for members of the military, irrespective of age.… Eighteen- to 26-year-olds don’t have property, spouses, children, or massive tax bills. Most of them don’t even have jobs because the president they felt so good about themselves for supporting wrecked the economy.” (Coulter is referring to Obama and the fact that young voters turned out in record-breaking numbers to vote for him in 2008.) Coulter cites research showing that human brains “are not fully developed until age 25 and are particularly deficient in their frontal lobes, which control decision-making, rational thinking, judgment, the ability to plan ahead and to resist impulses. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that in 1971. Those of you who have made it to age 26 without dying in a stupid drinking game—and I think congratulations are in order, by the way—understand how insane it is to allow young people to vote. It would almost be tolerable if everyone under the age of 30 just admitted they voted for Obama because someone said to them: ‘C’mon, it’s really cool! Everyone’s doing it!’ We trusted them, and now we know it was a mistake.” Except for 1980, when young voters voted for Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in almost equal amounts, young voters have, Coulter writes, “consistently embarrassed themselves,” presumably by voting for Democrats. The 2008 results, Coulter writes, prove that “[t]oday’s youth are the infantilized, pampered, bicycle-helmeted children of the Worst Generation. They foisted this jug-eared, European socialist on us and now they must be punished. Voters aged 18 to 29 years old comprised nearly a fifth of the voting population in 2008 and they voted overwhelmingly for Obama, 66 percent to 31 percent. And it only took 12 to 14 years of North Korean-style brainwashing to make them do it! At least their teachers haven’t brainwashed them into burning books or ratting out their parents to the Stasi yet. (Of course, before teaching them book-burning, at least their professors would be forced to teach them what a book is.) It would make more sense to give public school teachers and college professors 20 votes apiece than to allow their impressionable students to vote.… Young people voted for Obama as a fashion statement.… Liberals fight tooth-and-nail to create an electorate disposed to vote Democratic by, for example, demanding that felons and illegal aliens be given the vote. But it’s at least possible that illegal aliens and criminals pay taxes or have fully functioning frontal lobes. Republicans ought to fight for their own electorate, which at a minimum ought to mean voters with fully functioning brains and the possibility of a tax bill. Not old enough to buy your own health insurance, not old enough to vote.” [Town Hall (.com), 11/10/2010]
Roger Ailes, a powerful Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988) and the founder and chairman of Fox News (see October 7, 1996), calls President Obama a “socialist,” and says the campaign contributions by Fox News’s parent company are legal and ethical. Of Obama, Ailes says: “The president has not been very successful. He just got kicked from Mumbai to South Korea, and he came home and attacked Republicans for it. He had to be told by the French and the Germans that his socialism was too far left for them to deal with.… He just has a different belief system than most Americans.” Fox News does not “single out” Obama for criticism, Ailes claims, but is merely “more direct” in its reporting. Ailes says Fox is correct in painting Obama as an anti-American who harbors secret sympathies for Islamist terrorists; it is the other news outlets that fear to report the “truth.” Most of the press is “in love” with Obama, he says. Ailes says Fox’s ratings boost since the Obama election (see November 4, 2008) has nothing to do with the network’s relentless criticism of Obama and the White House. Fox currently leads both of its cable news competitors, CNN and MSNBC, in ratings. He says that he was “totally surprised” when Fox News’s parent, News Corporation (often abbreviated NewsCorp), donated $2 million to Republican campaign organizations (see June 24, 2010 and After and September 30, 2010), but says NewsCorp owner Rupert Murdoch has the right to donate money to whichever organization or candidate he chooses. As for criticism of the donations, Ailes says he knew that “lefties would use it to immediately try to damage Fox News.” [Daily Beast, 11/16/2010] Fox News commentators and hosts have frequently tarred Obama and his advisors as socialists, “Stalinists,” and “Marxists” (see October 27, 2008, January 2009, March 17, 2009, March 29, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, May 13, 2009, May 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 19, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 29, 2010, and October 26, 2010).
Roger Ailes. [Source: All Access (.com)]Roger Ailes, the former Republican campaign guru who now heads Fox News, calls National Public Radio (NPR) officials “Nazis” for firing NPR and Fox News commentator Juan Williams; Williams recently made comments about Muslims that some, including NPR officials, took as racist. Of the NPR executives who fired Williams, Ailes says: “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.” (Air America is the now-defunct radio network that featured liberals and progressive talk show hosts and commentators.) Ailes also says that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who has castigated Fox News host Glenn Beck for his routine invocation of Nazis in discussing the Obama administration (see October 3, 2010), should be “beheaded” for his writings. (He then claims he is merely joking.) Interviewer Howard Kurtz calls Ailes’s evocation of Nazis “disproportionate to the situation.” NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher says, “[W]e will let Mr. Ailes’s words speak for themselves.” [The Daily Beast, 11/17/2010] Ailes issues something of an apology, not to NPR or its executives, but to Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League. Ailes explains, “I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR’s willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough.” Ailes writes that he should have used the term “nasty, inflexible bigot” instead of “Nazi” to describe the NPR officials who fired Williams. Foxman says in a statement: “I welcome Roger Ailes’s apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt. Nazi comparisons of this nature are clearly inappropriate and offensive. While I wish Roger had never invoked that terminology, I appreciate his efforts to immediately reach out and to retract his words before they did any further harm.” [New York Times, 11/18/2010]
Siriun XM logo. [Source: Reuters]Talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who recently promised to leave the airwaves after repeatedly using the racial slur “n_igger” in conversation with an African-American woman (see August 10-18, 2010), announces that she will not leave the airwaves. Instead, Schlessinger is moving her syndicated radio show from the broadcast milieu to satellite radio. Schlessinger has signed a “multiyear deal” with Sirius XM Radio, according to a spokesperson. Schlessinger has repeatedly said she would be leaving the airwaves after her tirade, accusing her critics of “persecuting” her and denying her right to freedom of speech (see September 7, 2010 and September 8, 2010). Her broadcast program will end on Friday, December 31, 2010. Her Sirius XM show will begin the following Tuesday, January 3, 2011. Schlessinger explains why she chose to go with Sirius XM instead of leaving the airwaves: “The first and most important thing that appealed to me was the freedom to speak my mind without advertisers and affiliates being attacked by activist groups that just love to censor anything they don’t agree with,” she says. “That just about made my heart and head explode.” She cites pressure from the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters as driving her initial decision to leave radio (see August 13, 2010). She says she is sure her new show will offend some people. Michael Harrison of the trade publication Talkers says, “She will have far less listeners now, but she will be able to superserve her core [audience] with less compromise.” He says Schlessinger may do better on satellite radio since “since she appears to be more thin-skinned than most personalities in talk radio, although professionally she’d be better off with a combination of satellite and terrestrial radio.” Media Matters official Ari Rabin-Havt says her show will remain fundamentally the same. “Her influence and her ability to impact a wide audience has clearly decreased,” he says. [Associated Press, 11/26/2010; Media Matters, 11/27/2010]
Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros warns a gathering in New York that the combination of Fox News, Fox talk show host Glenn Beck, the US “tea parties,” and what he calls Americans’ propensity to fantasize unrealistically about their political system may lead “this open society to be on the verge of some dictatorial democracy.” Soros makes his remarks in conversation with CNN host Fareed Zakaria at an International Crisis Center dinner in honor of Soros. The billionaire, often vilified by Beck and others for being a supporter of progressive and liberal causes (see November 9-11, 2010 and After), names George Orwell’s novel 1984 as a possible precursor to the future face of American society; the novel satirized the Communist system of absolute control over society and politics. Soros is harsh in his criticisms of Fox News and its role in American political discourse, saying that it is a threat to American open society. He characterizes Beck as, in the words of Forbes writer Robert Lenzner, “a throwback to the wild and crazy radical elements that never before were given such a public pedestal to foment their hate.” [Forbes, 12/7/2010]
Talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who recently promised to leave the airwaves after repeatedly using the racial slur “n_igger” in conversation with an African-American woman (see August 10-18, 2010) before reversing course and signing a contract to appear on satellite radio (see November 26, 2010), denies doing anything objectionable in an NBC interview. Schlessinger appears as a guest on NBC’s Today show and is interviewed by Matt Lauer. Schlessinger says she was “astounded” by the criticism following her racially inflammatory tirade because “I didn’t call her a name and I brought up an important point,” referring to her repeated claims that using the term “n_gger” seems to be acceptable when used by black comedians. She says that “many parts of the black community” are responsible for “keeping that word alive,” not white conservatives such as herself. Schlessinger also falsely claims that the woman in the conversation “went to the NAACP and said I called her that name” on the air. She concludes that her “point was well made” but “inartfully” done. [Media Matters, 1/18/2011]
A screenshot of Glenn Beck’s Web site, currently displaying this image on the front page. It juxtaposes a message urging Americans to ‘stand together against all violence’ with an image of Beck posing with a handgun. [Source: Glenn Beck]Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck denies he ever advised his viewers to “shoot” Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi “in the head.” Beck made his statement during a June 2010 broadcast on Fox (see June 9, 2010), and at the time his comments were not widely publicized. In the aftermath of the January 2011 shooting of Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), his comments become publicized and garner heavy criticism. Today, Beck joins his producer Steve ‘Stu’ Burguiere on his daily radio show to deny making the comments. Beck begins by accusing his “leftist” critics of twisting his words. He cites a story on the right-wing news Web site The Blaze, titled, “Did Glenn Beck really tell his audience to shoot people in the head?” and then cites a blog, Patterico’s Pontifications, that claims an “analysis” of his statement really shows that he was warning about the likelihood of Democratic politicians being shot by “radical leftists.” Beck introduces the Blaze story, then says: “This is the worst of the worst. This is the left, and those who don’t care about truth, honor, or justice at all.” Burguiere adds: “It’s just so blatant. They don’t even try to hide it anymore.” Beck then says: “And will do anything they have to do to discredit, dishonor, and inflame.… This is so easy to explain.” He presents an audio clip of his June 2010 broadcast, then says, “Let me give you the context.” He says that when he said in 2010: “You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you,” the “you” referred to “leftists politicians in Washington and the people in the media on the left,” while “they” referred to their “radical leftists friends. In this clip I am warning that ‘they,’ the revolutionaries that have been co-opted by the politicians and the media, they actually believe, and have called for a violent revolution. They believe it. And I was warning last summer that if they feel betrayed, if they feel like you’ve been lying to them, you’ve been using them—they’ll kill you. They’ll kill you, because they believe in something.” Burguiere adds: “And we know that because they’ve said it in their own words. They have said they wanted violence, and now that they think that they have someone on their side, if that person lets them down, you’re in danger too, and they’ve said that.” Beck says that “just because [Washington leftists] don’t actually believe in anything, doesn’t mean nobody else does. We do. Millions. You know why you’re confused by this show? It’s because I believe in something. You don’t.” Beck and Burguiere go on to accuse “radical leftists” of wanting to establish a communist tyranny in America, and to exterminate 25 million Americans who believe in democracy. [Media Matters, 1/21/2011; Jonathon Seidl, 1/21/2011]
A person described as a “former Fox News insider” tells author and Media Matters columnist Eric Boehlert that Fox News is indeed “a propaganda outfit” calling itself a news provider. In an interview, the source tells Boehlert that Fox routinely reports false information to “prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats,” and calls the news channel a “purely partisan operation” that actively spins almost every news story to reflect a Republican/conservative slant (see November 3, 2003, April 1, 2009, April 1-6, 2009, and April 23, 2009). “I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is,” the source says; “that stuff is just made up (see February 14, 2003).… It is their MO to undermine the [Obama] administration and to undermine Democrats (see December 2002, January 2009, February 24, 2009, April 3, 2009, and August 11, 2009). They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news” (see 1995, January 20, 2003, and July 2004). Boehlert says that “[e]veryone knows” Fox News has always reported news with a conservative slant: “Everyone who’s been paying attention has known that since the channel’s inception more than a decade ago” (see October 7, 1996). But over time, Boehlert writes, Fox News has become “an open and active political player, sort of one-part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on which party was in power.” The source confirms Boehlert’s observation, saying: “They say one thing and do another. They insist on maintaining this charade, this facade, that they’re balanced or that they’re not right-wing extreme propagandist[s].” The facade is one that, Boehlert writes, “permeates the entire Fox News culture and one that staffers and producers have to learn quickly in order to survive professionally.” The source says: “You have to work there for a while to understand the nods and the winks. And God help you if you don’t because sooner or later you’re going to get burned.” Virtually every hard-news story is presented in a way that either bolsters conservative ideology, criticizes liberal/progressive ideology, or both. “[A]nything—anything—that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it,” the source says. “If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn’t explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it. There’s a conservative take on every story no matter what it is. So you either get told what it is or you better intuitively know what it is” (see June 8, 2004). The source says with some apparent sarcasm: “My internal compass [on ‘spinning’ a story] was to think like an intolerant meathead. You could never error on the side of not being intolerant enough.”
Spin Training - The source reflects on how Fox News executives trained its employees to “spin” news stories, saying: “When I first got there back in the day, and I don’t know how they indoctrinate people now, but back in the day when they were ‘training’ you, as it were, they would say, ‘Here’s how we’re different.’ They’d say if there is an execution of a condemned man at midnight and there are all the live truck outside the prison and all the lives shots. CNN would go, ‘Yes, tonight John Jackson, 25 of Mississippi, is going to die by lethal injection for the murder of two girls.’ MSNBC would say the same thing. We would come out and say, ‘Tonight, John Jackson who kidnapped an innocent two-year-old, raped her, sawed her head off, and threw it in the school yard, is going to get the punishment that a jury of his peers thought he should get.’ And they say that’s the way we do it here. And you’re going, alright, it’s a bit of an extreme example but it’s something to think about. It’s not unreasonable.”
Changed over Time - Fox News officials always insisted that they were serving as “a bit of a counterpart to the screaming left wing lib media,” the source says. “So automatically you have to buy into the idea that the other media is howling left-wing. Don’t even start arguing that or you won’t even last your first day.” However, things have changed since the source first joined Fox: “For the first few years it was let’s take the conservative take on things. And then after a few years it evolved into, well it’s not just the conservative take on things, we’re going to take the Republican take on things which is not necessarily in lock step with the conservative point of view. And then two, three, five years into that it was, ‘We’re taking the Bush line on things,’ which was different than the GOP. We were a Stalin-esque mouthpiece. It was just what Bush says goes on our channel. And by that point it was just totally dangerous. Hopefully most people understand how dangerous it is for a media outfit to be a straight, unfiltered mouthpiece for an unchecked president.” As time went on, the source says, the news reporting became ever more strident and more partisan.
Siege Mentality - Using the source’s descriptions, Boehlert describes it as an “us-vs.-them mentality… a siege mentality that network boss Roger Ailes encourages, and one that colors the coverage his team produces.” The source confirms Boehlert’s observation, saying: “It was a kick-_ss mentality too. It was relentless and it never went away. If one controversy faded, godd_mn it they would find another one. They were in search of these points of friction real or imagined. And most of them were imagined or fabricated. You always have to seem to be under siege. You always have to seem like your values are under attack. The brain trust just knew instinctively which stories to do, like the War on Christmas” (a seasonal series of stories by Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly and others that regularly claim liberals, progressives, and the like “hate Christmas” and want to see it “destroyed”). It is rare for former Fox employees such as the source to share “insider” information after leaving, in part because of a strict non-disclosure agreement each exiting employee is asked to sign, and in part because of Ailes’s “siege mentality.” The source says that Ailes is bent on presenting a “unified Fox News front to the outside world,” to the point where he refuses to publicly criticize or critique other Fox employees regardless of how unprofessionally or even outlandishly they may behave on the air (see April 1, 2003, February 3-4, 2005, September 28-October 1, 2005, March 6, 2007, June 4-5, 2008, June 26, 2008, February 9-10, 2009, February 10, 2009, February 20, 2009, March 3, 2009, March 16-17, 2009, March 17-24, 2009, March 25, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 5-6, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 28, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 29, 2009, November 3, 2009, March 24, 2010, and October 3, 2010). The source says: “There may be internal squabbles. But what [Ailes] continually preaches is never piss outside the tent. When he gets really crazy is when stuff leaks out the door. He goes mental on that. He can’t stand that. He says in a dynamic enterprise like a network newsroom there’s going to be in fighting and ego, but he says keep it in the house.”
Evidence Bolsters Source's Claims - Boehlert notes that along with the source’s contentions, a great deal of evidence surfaced in 2010 that showed Fox News to be deliberately propagandistic in its reporting (see March 13, 2009 and After, March 23-24, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, June 2, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 30, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, and November 5-8, 2009). He cites the recently leaked emails from inside Fox News in which a senior editor instructed his newsroom staffers to slant the news when reporting on issues such as climate change and health care reform (see October 27, 2009 and After and December 8, 2009 and After); the over 600 instances of Fox News personalities raising money, endorsing, and actively campaigning for Republican candidates and/or organizations; and the over $1 million donated by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch to organizations dedicated to electing Republicans (see June 24, 2010 and After and September 30, 2010). Boehlert says that according to Media Matters estimates, Fox News has in essence donated $55 million worth of free airtime to Republican presidential hopefuls who also work for Fox News (see October 26, 2009). The source says Fox News is anything but a legitimate news outlet, and says both the Washington press corps and the general public has been duped by Murdoch’s relentless “fair and balanced” marketing campaign over the years. “People assume you need a license to call yourself a news channel,” the source says. “You don’t. So because they call themselves Fox News, people probably give them a pass on a lot of things.… I don’t think people understand that it’s an organization that’s built and functions by intimidation and bullying, and its goal is to prop up and support Republicans and the GOP and to knock down Democrats. People tend [to] think that stuff that’s on TV is real, especially under the guise of news. You’d think that people would wise up, but they don’t.”
Source Critical of Other News Outlets for Not Criticizing Fox News - The source is harshly critical of other news outlets, including their reporters and pundits, for failing to criticize Fox News for its propaganda. The source explains: “They don’t have enough staff or enough balls or don’t have enough money or don’t have enough interest to spend the time it takes to expose Fox News. Or it’s not worth the trouble. If you take on Fox, they’ll kick you in the _ss. I’m sure most [journalists] know that.” Boehlert notes that journalists who have criticized Fox News have come under heavy fire from Fox News (see November 17-18, 2010). The source says he/she was perplexed in 2009, when Obama administration officials questioned Fox News’s legitimacy as a news source (see September 18-19, 2009 and October 11, 2009), only to have Washington press corps figures rush to Fox’s defense. “That blew me away,” the source says. The White House’s critique of Fox News “happens to be true” (see October 17, 2009). [Media Matters, 2/10/2011]
Nir Rosen. [Source: Media Bistro]Author and columnist Nir Rosen explains what he meant to say in a burst of Twitter posts that forced him to resign from his position as a fellow at New York University’s Center on Law and Security (see February 11-16, 2011). Rosen made a series of comments, or tweets, that disparaged and mocked Lara Logan, a CBS reporter who was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob of Egyptians celebrating the fall of the Mubarak regime. Rosen notes: “I undid a long career defending the weak and victims of injustice. There is no excuse for what I wrote. At the time, I did not know that the attack against Lara Logan was so severe, or included apparent sexual violence. Even so, any violence against anyone is wrong. I’ve apologized, lost my job, and humiliated myself and my family. But I, at least, don’t want to go down looking like a sexist pig. I am not. I am a staunch supporter of women’s rights, gay rights, and the rights of the weak anywhere in the world.… I continue to apologize for this comment because it in no way reflects the way I feel about women or violence. Sexual assault is never funny, and it is a terrible crime. I have apologized to Ms. Logan and her family, and to victims of sexual violence everywhere.” Rosen says his posts were “disgusting comment[s] born from dark humor I have developed working in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Lebanon.” However, he continues, his tweets became a focus for “ideological opportunists who have used this ordeal for their personal gain. People whose words have helped create and justify war and genocide are now jumping onto this issue to attack me for my previous journalism (which, naturally, I stand by).” Rosen then makes what he calls “the point I really was trying to make. Had Logan been a non-white, non-famous journalist, this story would have never made it to the news. Ahmed Mahmoud, an Egyptian journalist, was killed in cold blood and nobody ever heard of him. Dozens of other women were harassed and nobody will ever know their names. Credible accounts indicate that the assaults on women took place largely on the Friday of the victory celebration, when millions of non-demonstrators joined the party. Countless women (Egyptian and foreign, journalists and others) have reported being harassed and assaulted in Tahrir Square that Friday, mostly, it seems, by non-revolutionaries.… So why all the focus on Logan? The US media did not care when Egyptian journalists (or any other Egyptian) were being jailed. Only when pretty white people showed up did Egypt really start to matter, and then, they were preoccupied with the scary Muslim Brotherhood possibly taking over, or what would happen to poor Israel now that there was a ‘threat’ of democracy in Egypt. This is why I wrote in a Twitter that I was already rolling my eyes. Even before we knew what happened to her, I knew how to anticipate the media response in the United States. So Logan and Anderson Cooper [a CNN reporter who was attacked by Egyptian protesters days before Logan was attacked] have become the story, instead of the thousands of Egyptians who have far more compelling stories. Meanwhile, I have not seen any condemnation of the pure hatred, racism, and vitriol that I’ve seen spewed all over the Internet in response to the Logan story. I’ve seen Arabs, Muslims, and Egyptians called animals and pigs in tens of websites and, right under the Logan stories, read vile rhetoric about them that would never be acceptable if used against any other group.” Rosen’s anger at Logan, whom he says supported the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, overcame his better judgment. However, “her destructive reporting has nothing to do with the crime she suffered, nothing at all. I point it out now only to explain my thinking, not to justify or defend the hurt I caused.” He asks why he is being vilified when others have called for the assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (see (Early January 2011)) or the jailing of more journalists, and calls some of the criticism of his tweets “sanctimonious, [e]specially when they come from people who support every kind of American war (or Israeli war), tolerate racism against Arabs and Muslims, and—while focusing on the plight of celebrities—ignore outrages like our scorched-earth policies in Kandahar.” Rosen believes he was subjected to what he says was an undue level of criticism because he is “a leftist opponent of American wars… and I have a hard time taking a lot of the sanctimonious condemnation from right-wingers very seriously, given what right-wing pundits say on a daily basis.” He concludes: “I hope that one day people will believe me when I say that I did not mean it and that it does not reflect who I am. I hope that people will take time to read my work and understand that I have spent my career taking a lot of heat for defending victims of all kinds, not just Arabs and Muslims. And I hope Ms. Logan and other victims of sexual violence will one day forgive me for my terrible mistake.” [Salon, 2/17/2011]
Tea party activist Mark Williams, who resigned from the Tea Party Express for racially inflammatory comments (see July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010, July 17-18, 2010, and July 19-23, 2010) and who now heads a tea party-affiliated political action committee (see August 6, 2010), declares on his blog, “MarkTalk,” that he intends to “infiltrate” the ranks of protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, and Sacramento, California, and “expose” them as “goons.” He calls for volunteers to join him. Williams writes that he wants to infiltrate the ranks of Wisconsin protesters who have taken to the streets of Madison to protest Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) and his attempts to cripple the ability of unions to organize among public sector workers. Williams says he and his prospective fellows will dress up like members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU): “[W]e are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there… we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like ‘screw the taxpayer!’ and ‘you OWE me!’ to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us)… we will echo those slogans in angry sounding tones to the cameras and the reporters.” Williams later updates his blog post to report that tea partiers in several other states have called him to share “their own creative ruses” for embarrasing the union demonstrators. “Several have also reminded me that we have a distinct advantage in that the SEIU primarily represents non-English speaking illegal aliens so we will be the ones whose comments will make air!!!!” he writes, and continues: “Our goal is to make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is, ding their credibility with the media, and exploit the lazy reporters who just want dramatic shots and outrageous quotes for headlines. Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.” The progressive magazine Mother Jones, reporting on the blog post, writes: “Thus far, demonstrations and counterdemonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin, have been peaceful.… Anti-union protesters, led by media mogul Andrew Breitbart, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, and ‘Joe the Plumber,’ largely fizzled after a rally on Saturday. And the image of union workers that Williams seeks to portray seems to run uphill against the images of the employees’ leaders seen thus far. But as labor disputes spread to other states, it remains to be seen whether tactics like those proposed by Williams will be effective in embarassing the public employees… or embarrasing the tea party ‘plants’ themselves.” [Mother Jones, 2/20/2011] Sometime after the press begins reporting on Williams’s blog post, the post disappears from the blog.
Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the former governor of Arkansas, currently a host on Fox News and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, tells a gathering at the National Press Club that it is “useless” to get into the seemingly endless debate on President Obama’s citizenship (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, and Around June 28, 2010) as recently revived by billionaire Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011). “I find it unnecessary, useless, and frankly a bit unnecessary to get into all sorts of debates over President Obama’s religion or the authenticity of his birth,” he says. “I know for some people that it is an obsession. It is not with me.” Huckabee has said that if Obama were not a US citizen, that fact would have emerged during the 2008 presidential primary. He also acknowledges that Obama is a Christian (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008) and calls Obama a good role model for fathers, saying: “I have no disagreement with President Obama as a human being. In fact, I’ll go so far to say one of the things I respect very much is the role model that he has served as a husband and a father. And I think he has been an exemplary husband to his wife and an extraordinary father to his daughters. Frankly, America needs a good role model like that.” Huckabee emphasizes that he does not agree with Obama’s policies, saying, “But this is not an attack on President Obama, the person, even though you will see sharp elbows at the policies that he has put forth, specifically, many of the economic policies.” [St. Petersburg Times, 2/28/2011]
The Twitter post made by Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes. [Source: Media Matters]A Panama City Beach citizen uses his or her cell phone to record an incident that breaks out at a local Burger King restaurant. The conflict starts when one resident, who identifies herself as Kimesia Smith of Montgomery, Alabama, (police later learn that her real name is Nekiva Vonte Hardy) becomes angry after having to wait an apparently too-lengthy period of time for her order. Hardy leaps up on the counter and throws a charity coin jug at employees. Three of Hardy’s friends join in, throwing napkins, utensils, and trays throughout the restaurant. All four scream imprecations and abusive comments. Hardy is arrested and taken to jail on charges of simple battery, in part because an employee says Hardy pulled her hair. Explaining her actions, Hardy later says, “I don’t play no games.” Panama City Beach Police Chief Robert Harding notes that Hardy’s actions are not related to spring-break parties, saying, “She’s a 30-year-old unemployed mother of three from Montgomery, so I would surmise that she’s not a spring breaker.” Hardy is later charged with a felony count of criminal mischief and two counts of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct. The cell phone video of the incident becomes something of a hit on YouTube, garnering tens of thousands of views. State attorney Glenn Hess says: “While many view this video as amusing, we see it as hard evidence of serious crimes being committed. I’m quite certain the employees who were battered and terrorized by [Hardy] do not find this the least bit amusing.” Hardy has a lengthy criminal record. [WJHG-TV, 3/23/2011; Black Urban Times, 3/24/2011; New York Daily News, 3/28/2011] On March 24, Fox News reporter Todd Starnes posts a somewhat different interpretation of the incident: he links to a local news report and writes a Twitter post that reads, “Blacks riot at Burger King.” Fox Nation, the online blog for Fox News viewers, then posts the video and a brief synopsis of the story, focusing on Hardy’s “bikini-clad” state but omitting references to her race. Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters calls Starnes’s take on the incident “racist.” After Media Matters publishes its article, Starnes deletes the post. Starnes’s profile identifies him as “a contributor on FOX & Friends, Hannity, and FOX Nation.” [Media Matters, 3/24/2011; Fox News, 3/24/2011]
A screenshot from Glenn Beck’s final show. [Source: Gateway Pundit (.com)]Fox News chairman Roger Ailes negotiates the departure of one of his network’s most influential stars, talk show host Glenn Beck. Beck’s departure has been predicted by outside observers for weeks; as for Beck, he has already told Ailes, “I don’t want to do cable news anymore.” Beck has been with Fox News since October 2008, when he was hired to fill the 5:00 p.m. slot that had unsuccessfully been hosted by other conservatives such as John Gibson and Laura Ingraham. He debuted the day before President Obama’s January 2009 inauguration (see January 20-21, 2009). New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman will write that Ailes hired Beck “to reenergize Fox’s audience after Obama’s election.” (In January 2009, Ailes told Beck that Fox News’s primary mission was to oppose Obama, and that Beck was a major part of that effort—see January 2009 and August 11, 2009.) Beck has been hugely successful (see March 29, 2009), “tapping deep wells of resentment and igniting them into a vast, national conflagration,” as Sherman will write. However: “The problem was that it had almost engulfed Fox itself. Beck was huge and uncontrollable, and some of Fox’s other big names seemed diminished by comparison—and were speaking up about it. Beck seemed to many to be Fox News’s id made visible, saying things—Obama is a racist (see July 27, 2009 and July 28-29, 2009), Nazi tactics are progressive tactics (see July 26, 2010 and October 3, 2010)—dredged from the right-wing subconscious. These were things that weren’t supposed to be said, even at Fox (see February 20, 2009 and March 9, 2009), and they were consuming the brand. Ailes had built his career by artfully tending the emotional undercurrents of both politics and entertainment, using them to power ratings and political careers; now they were out of his control.” Beck’s show has suffered a steep drop in ratings because of an effective boycott led by a number of progressive and civil rights groups; over 400 Fox advertisers pulled their commercials from Beck’s show. Beck has become a divisive figure among other Fox hosts, with Sean Hannity complaining about his “stardom” and Bill O’Reilly, who detests Hannity, regularly scheduling Beck as a guest on his show, further angering Hannity. And Ailes is increasingly uncomfortable with the religious content of Beck’s show (at times Beck has told his viewers that God is speaking to them through him). Beck and Ailes agree that Beck will give up his 5:00 p.m. show and return for a number of network “specials.” The talks between Beck and Ailes are not without acrimony; at one point, Ailes tells a Fox executive, “I’m just going to fire him and issue a press release.” When the network announces the departure on April 6, Beck and other Fox spokespersons are careful to avoid any sort of “public meltdown,” and ensure the avoidance of what Ailes fears most: what Sherman calls the view of “Beck’s departure… as a victory for the liberal media.” Ailes tells reporters: “We felt Glenn brought additional information, a unique perspective, a certain amount of passion and insight to the channel and he did. But that story of what’s going on and why America is in trouble today, I think he told that story as well as could be told. Whether you can just keep telling that story or not… we’re not so sure.” David Brock, founder of the progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters, says “the only surprise is that it took Fox News months to reach this decision.” And James Rucker, the chairman of ColorofChange.org, the organization behind the advertiser boycott, says, “Fox News Channel clearly understands that Beck’s increasingly erratic behavior is a liability to their ratings and their bottom line, and we are glad to see them take this action.” Beck is expected to continue his daily AM radio show and to engage in other media activities in the future. New Republic reporter James Downie observes, “In recent months, it seems, Beck’s theories became so outlandish that even conservatives—both viewers and media personalities—were having a hard time stomaching them.” Downie notes that as Beck’s show continued, Beck became caught in what he calls a “vicious circle,” having to “top himself” from week to week with ever more intricate and outlandish conspiracy theories, and more extremist rhetoric. [Associated Press, 4/6/2011; Christian Science Monitor, 4/6/2011; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011] In his own explanation for his departure, Beck compares himself to Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere, saying: “When I took this job I didn’t take it because it was going to be a career for me. Paul Revere did not get up on the horse and say, ‘I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.’ He didn’t do it. He got off the horse at some point and fought in the Revolution and then he went back to silversmithing.” [New York Daily News, 4/7/2011]
Entity Tags: Gabriel Sherman, Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Barack Obama, Sean Hannity, Roger Ailes, Laura Ingraham, David Brock, Paul Revere, James Downie, John Gibson, Glenn Beck, James Rucker
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Glenn Beck, a Fox News talk show host who also hosts a syndicated radio show, tells radio listeners that he wishes the “birthers” would stop with the conspiracy theories. “Birthers” believe President Obama is not really a US citizen, despite all the evidence to the contrary (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). Referring to his co-hosts, Beck says, “This is why Stu [Burguiere] hates, and I hate, and Pat [Gray] hates the birther thing.” Republicans who continue to flog the “birther” conspiracy theory, Beck says, are missing out on a real opportunity to “show real differences between the right and the left” in the upcoming presidential election. Beck tells his listeners: “If you’re going to lose your country—we’re going to lose it on a birth certificate? You have a real opportunity to talk about American exceptionalism and what made us exceptional. You have a real opportunity to talk about taxes and spending. Instead, you’re gonna waste time on the birth certificate? I understand. I personally think he’s a citizen. I think he was born here. I don’t think he was a Manchurian Candidate from birth. But, if you want to, great. You’re out of your mind if you think that is a winning argument for the next election.… Stop with the damn birth certificate! Stop!” [Mediaite (.com), 4/14/2011; The Blaze, 4/14/2011]
The New York Times publishes the results of a recent poll it conducted in conjunction with CBS News. The poll finds a general “lack of passion” among Republican voters for any particular 2012 presidential contender. However, one of the poll’s findings is buried deep in the story: Forty-seven percent of Republican voters believe that President Obama was born in another country (therefore making him not a US citizen and ineligible for the presidency). Twenty-two percent say they do not know where he was born, and 32 percent say he was born in the United States (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). Within hours, the section about Republicans doubting Obama’s birthplace is removed from the online version of the Times article with no explanation. [New York Times, 4/22/2011; Media Matters, 4/22/2011; Crooks and Liars, 4/23/2011]
Responding to recent comments by evangelist Franklin Graham that questioned President Obama’s US citizenship (see April 24-25, 2011), Fox News anchor Shepard Smith tells his viewers: “Fox News can confirm that the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States. Period.” Smith refers viewers to the validated copy of Obama’s birth certificate that has been available for years (see June 13, 2008) before making the assertion that Fox confirms Obama’s US citizenship. [Media Matters, 4/25/2011; Business Insider, 4/26/2011]
Fox News anchor Monica Crowley, a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor, explains why so many people give credence to the “birther” theory that President Obama is not an American citizen, saying: “Listen, if the president is sitting in the White House wondering why the birth certificate issue still has traction, why some of these other issues about his origins and his background have traction, it’s not about those issues per se, though. It’s about the fact that he continues to do things… that are not ‘anti-American,’ they’re ‘un-American.’ His policies—” O’Reilly interjects, “I wouldn’t go that far.” Guest Alan Colmes calls her characterization “really disgusting. It’s really reprehensible that you would go there.… It’s really reprehensible that you would say ‘un-American,’ really reprehensible.” Crowley insists that “her distinction” between “anti-American” and “un-American” has meaning. Obama’s policies on what she calls “wealth redistribution,” on “Obamacare,” and on “expanding the welfare state” are what she says “all feeds into this idea that somehow, fair or not, Obama is not one of us.” O’Reilly concludes the segment by accusing Obama of exhibiting “poor judgment.” Colmes invites Republicans to keep pushing the idea that Obama is “not one of us,” saying that to do so will have them “lose every election.” [Media Matters, 4/26/2011]
A screenshot of Fox News (.com)‘s headline announcing the release of Obama’s birth certificate. [Source: Think Progress]Responses to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) are mixed. Fox News places a banner headline on its Web site saying, “White House Releases What It Says is President Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate.” [Think Progress, 4/27/2011] Fox News later replaces the original headline with the more conventional, “White House Releases Obama Birth Certificate.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Influential conservative blogger and political pundit Erick Erickson, echoing billionaire television host and rumored 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump, demands that Obama release his college transcripts, saying, “That’s the issue for me.” Erickson concludes: “When the birth certificate is reviewed and we can see what most of us have always known—that he was born in Hawaii—we can move on. For some, moving on will be to wonder what religion the man is” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008). Commenters on Erickson’s blog immediately begin calling the newly released certificate a “fake,” and one says, “I just wish he’d release the actual real certificate.” Another demands the release of all of Obama’s college and medical transcripts, and another recommends, “We need someone to start looking into recent purchases of printing apparatuses from the 60s.” Comments posted on the conservative news and gossip site Drudge Report are heavily skewed towards calling the certificate a fake. [Erick Erickson, 4/27/2011] Conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND), which has trumpeted much of the “birther” controversy, headlines its article, “Born in the USA?” Its article includes a caveat, “If the document proves valid…” and goes on to claim: “[I]t also could prove his ineligibility because of its references to his father. Some of the cases challenging Obama have explained that he was a dual citizen through his father at his birth, and they contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born citizens.” WND is referring to a host of lawsuits challenging Obama’s status as a “natural born citizen” that have been thrown out of court and debunked as contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. WND publisher Joseph Farah says: “But it is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved to assure what has become a very skeptical public concerning Barack Obama’s parentage, his adoption, his citizenship status throughout his life, and why he continues to cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life.” Farah says the document “raises as many questions as it answers.” Bloggers at Free Republic echo WND’s claims, saying that the new document proves Obama is “not a natural born citizen.” Some say that since Obama “renounced his [US] citizenship” for Kenyan citizenship, the new document proves nothing. Another commenter posts a picture of a debunked, faked “birth certificate” showing Obama as being born in Kenya. [WorldNetDaily, 4/27/2011; Free Republic (.com), 4/27/2011; Washington Independent, 4/27/2011] Farah is joined in his doubts about the veracity of the certificate by Paul Joseph Watson, a writer and editor for Alex Jones’s Web site Prison Planet. Watson again raises the issue of Obama being a “natural born citizen,” because of his father’s Kenyan ancestry and citizenship, and writes, “Since the American people have been habitually lied to about everything under the sun, with trust in government at an all time low, a PDF file put out directly by the Obama administration itself isn’t going to make the furore die down at all, and will only lead to claims that the document is a carefully crafted fake.” [Paul Joseph Watson, 4/27/2011] Blogger Karl Denninger of Market-Ticker says the doctor’s signature on the certificate is false, and alleges that information on the certificate was “tampered with.” [Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011; Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011] Two lawyers who filed rejected suits challenging Obama’s citizenship, Philip Berg (see August 21-24, 2008) and Orly Taitz (see August 1-4, 2009), weigh in on the issue. Berg says that Obama was adopted by his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, and thus lost his US citizenship: “I think the issue is that he’s not any more natural born. I don’t care if he releases his birth certificate or whatever. Let’s see his records coming back through immigration.” Taitz says her “analysis” of the document shows that Obama is using a fake Social Security number: “In Obama’s Selective Service [document], his social security is listed as a Connecticut Social Security number” (see April 27, 2011). Politico’s Ben Smith reminds readers that “Taitz… has tried to have forgeries introduced into court filings before.” [Politico, 4/27/2011] Author Jerome Corsi has made similar allegations about Obama’s Social Security number (see September 21, 2010). Barbara Morrill, writing for the progressive blog Daily Kos, says flatly, “Birthers aren’t satisfied because no matter how many documents Barack Obama releases it will never be enough, because there isn’t a document in the world that will turn him white.” [Barbara Morrill, 4/27/2011]
Entity Tags: Drudge Report, Barack Obama, WorldNetDaily, Barbara Morrill, Ben Smith, Donald Trump, Erick Erickson, Prison Planet (.com), Fox News, Paul Joseph Watson, Philip J. Berg, Jerome Corsi, Free Republic, Karl Denninger, Joseph Farah, Orly Taitz, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Conservative author and pundit Ann Coulter, in an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, says that the entire “birther” controversy is the fault of President Obama and MSNBC. Obama released his “long form” birth certificate earlier in the day, in an attempt to settle the “controversy” once and for all (see April 27, 2011). Some right-wing opponents have fueled the idea that Obama is not a “true” American citizen since the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign (see July 20, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, January 18, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 28, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 27, 2011). “[W]e were right, they were wrong,” Coulter says, meaning that the conservative establishment has, in her view, consistently denounced “birtherism” as a distraction and a non-issue. She correctly notes that the controversy began among a small cadre of angry Hillary Clinton supporters during the 2008 Democratic primary, and goes on to say: “And then I think it was a lot of liberals who were pretending to be conservatives or, on MSNBC.… But MSNBC, there’s nothing secret about MSNBC. They cover it approximately 55 minutes of every hour. And, yeah, you didn’t hear anything about it at all on Fox News, so they were the ones promoting it, because it made conservatives look crazy.” Fox News has often promoted “birther” viewpoints on a variety of its news and opinion shows (see April 27, 2011). O’Reilly, who has kept his distance from the “birther” controversy (see July 29, 2009 and April 26, 2011), says that many people hate Obama so intensely that they simply become blinded. Coulter responds that many uninformed, apolitical Americans may well believe that Obama “seems foreign” in the way “all liberals do.” [Mediaite, 4/27/2011]
The logo of ‘The View.’ [Source: ABC / Chocomize (.com)]On the ABC morning talk show The View, hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, and Sherri Shepherd take turns attacking the “birther” controversy and its chief proponent, billionaire television host Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 27, 2011). The four variously accuse him of open racism, vilifying President Obama, and hurting the nation’s reputation. Goldberg, an African-American actress and comedian with a progressive bent, says: “I’m getting tired to trying not to find things slightly racist. It is very difficult, on a daily basis, to see this stuff and not say, you know, this is what it is. I have been raised to think: ‘Well, maybe that’s not what they mean. Let me figure it out.’ But, being black, when you say, ‘Y’know, this is racist,’ 9,000 people say, ‘Oh, you’re just playing the race card.’ Well, you know, I’m playing the damn card now.” Later in the broadcast, Goldberg slams Trump directly, saying: “You know how Donald always says, ‘People are laughing at us, thinking we don’t have it?’ Here’s one of the reasons they’re laughing at us, Donald. When you show such insane disrespect to the president of your country, other countries think we’re idiots.” [Mediaite, 4/27/2011]
Journalist Michael Tomasky, in a column for The Guardian, says the entire “birther” conspiracy theory, which for three years has questioned President Obama’s US citizenship, “is madness, and that the madness comes down to the fact that the president is, for a certain depressingly high percentage of Americans, an Other with a capital O—the kind of person who, to their way of thinking, could not possibly have been legitimately elected the president of any United States they know.” An entire array of “alternate” explanations has been advanced—ACORN, a voter registration and poverty-advocacy group, “stole the election for him,” perhaps, or a “cabal of shifty liberal journalists, many of whom merely happen to be Jewish (and—full disclosure—of which your correspondent was a member), allegedly conspired to vault him into our land’s highest office.” Americans could not have actually voted Obama into office. Ultimately, Tomasky writes, the central question of Obama’s presidency is not about his citizenship, which has time and again been proven legitimate (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008), and is further bolstered by the long-demanded release of his “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011). “A conspiracy of immense proportions, concocted all the way back in 1961, had to be the only explanation for how this black man got to the White House,” Tomasky writes. “And if you think race isn’t what this is about at its core, ask yourself if there would even be a birther conspiracy if Barack Obama were white and named Bart Oberstar. If you think there would be, you are delusional.” Birther advocate Donald Trump, Tomasky writes, will crow about “forcing” the release of the ‘long form” certificate, and hardcore “birthers” will refuse to accept its validity, instead concocting another mare’s nest of conspiracy theories to “prove” its falsity (see April 27, 2011). While this may make the “birthers,” and the Republicans who continue to support them, “look sillier to a larger percentage of people,” Tomasky concludes, “the problems here are racial paranoia and the bald willingness of politicians to lie in order to stoke it.” [Guardian, 4/27/2011]
Since billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump has garnered so much media coverage for his challenges to President Obama’s citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), Fox News has tremendously increased its coverage of the “birther” controversy, according to a research analysis by progressive media watchdog Media Matters. “[S]everal Fox News figures have embraced the birther conspiracy theory, while others have repeatedly failed to debunk false claims about Obama’s birth,” the report finds. “So widespread was Fox’s coverage of Trump’s embrace of birtherism that some Fox News hosts reported on and joked about the birther conspiracy theory in segments not relating to Trump.” Since March 5, Fox News has shown 52 segments on the “birther” conspiracy theory, with few exceptions (see April 25, 2011), promoting and expanding on the allegations that Obama is not a legitimate US citizen (see April 26, 2011). According to Media Matters’s analysis, 44 of 52 segments—84 percent—made false claims about Obama’s birth that went unchallenged by hosts or guests, including claims that Obama has never produced a legitimate birth certificate (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008), his grandmother claimed he was born in Kenya (see October 16, 2008 and After), and that Obama has spent $2 million blocking the release of his “real” birth certificate (see April 7-10, 2011). In contrast, when Fox News host and presumed 2012 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee claimed Obama grew up “in Kenya” and then backtracked that claim (see February 28, 2011), Fox spent very little time covering Huckabee’s repudiation of his misstatement. Media Matters only covered Fox News “opinion” shows for its study, including Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox & Friends Sunday, Justice with Judge Jeanine, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta van Susteren, Glenn Beck, Huckabee, and Your World with Neil Cavuto. Author and columnist Eric Boehlert notes that before Trump’s media splash, Fox had spent far less time, percentage-wise, on the “birther” controversy, and prominent opinion show hosts such as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly had criticized “birther” allegations (see July 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, and February 17, 2010). Boehlert writes: “I mean, what are the odds that Fox News would suddenly take a sharp turn towards birtherism at the exact moment Trump started raising questions about Obama’s birth certificate while busy promoting his kinda/maybe candidacy for president? Fox News’s about-face was especially odd considering that when the exact same bogus birther story was raised during the 2008 campaign Fox News virtually boycotted the story. Fox News refused to touch it. As Obama was running for the White House and questions from the far right were raised about Obama’s eligibility and his birthplace, Fox News paid the story no mind. Then in 2009, when Fox News personalities did address the birther issue, it was usually to belittle the story and mock its followers.… But then, just as Trump stepped forward for his Republican star turn, Fox News decided to alter years of editorial judgment and to fully embrace—to celebrate—the birther story, simultaneously aiding Trump’s (right-wing) political fortunes. It’s almost like the two events were coordinated, no? Either way, it’s now obvious Trump and Fox News formed a mutually beneficial political, and media, alliance: Trump used the Fox News platform to rise his profile, while Fox News used Trump’s birther attacks as cover to wallow in the non-story.” Boehlert quotes Fox News analyst Andrea Tantaros on a recent O’Reilly broadcast, explaining why she encouraged the media to cover Trump: “Let the man speak. He’s got a bigger megaphone than [GOP presidential candidates Mitt] Romney, [Tim] Pawlenty, [Newt] Gingrich, than all of them combined. And you know what; he can drive up Obama’s negatives more than any of the other of those GOP candidates.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011; Media Matters, 4/27/2011]
David Frum, a New York Times columnist who once wrote speeches for the Bush administration, writes on his personal blog “Frum Forum” that today’s release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) should bring to an end “the phony controversy” of “birtherism.” He calls the controversy “poisonous and not very subtly racist” (see January 24, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, November 10, 2008, September 14, 2009, March 2011, April 1, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), and asks how the controversy acquired “such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?” To deny that “birtherism” ever existed as a serious component of Republican rhetoric, Frum writes, is “just wrong.” He cites the recent surge in popularity of billionaire television host Donald Trump as a “serious” presidential contender among far-right and tea party voters, and adds: “[N]ot only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers—but so also did every Republican candidate who said, ‘I take the president at his word.’ Birthers did not doubt the president’s ‘word.’ They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, ‘I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.’” Still, Frum writes, the racially fueled allegations persist (see April 27, 2011). Trump is now questioning Obama’s acceptance into Harvard Law School (see April 26, 2011), recycling debunked allegations from 2009 that claimed Obama was “placed” in Harvard through the auspices of a black Islamist radical and a Saudi prince (see July 21, 2009). “The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand,” Frum laments. “It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a ‘real American.’” Frum restates his opposition to virtually every policy and initiative advanced by the Obama administration, and writes: “Republicans should be fighting this president on policy, not winking at those who use race as a weapon.… [T]hose who imagine that they somehow enhance the value of [their] citizenship by belittling the American-ness of their president (see March 2011)—they not only disgrace the politics they uphold, but they do damage that will not soon be forgotten by the voters a revived Republicanism must win.” [David Frum, 4/27/2011]
The Washington Times illustrates its column asking if Obama is a ‘black nationalist’ with this graphic of the Presidential Seal using the Black Panther raised fist and color scheme. [Source: Washington Times]The Washington Post reports that Shiloh Baptist Church, a well-known house of worship in Washington, DC, has received over 100 death threats after President Obama and his family visited it for Easter on April 24, and after Fox News host Sean Hannity, reporting on Obama’s Easter visit to the church, aired a video clip of Shiloh’s Reverend Wallace Charles Smith giving a speech in January 2010 in which he said some people espousing racial prejudice do so “under the protective cover of talk radio.” Smith tells a Post reporter: “We received a fax that had the image of a monkey with a target across i[t]s face. My secretary has received telephone calls that have been so vulgar until she has had to hang up.” Smith shares some of the emails he has received with the reporter, and says that he has not yet notified authorities. He is consulting with church leaders about what steps to take. The church was founded in the 1860s by former slaves. Hannity aired the clip on April 25, one day after Obama’s Easter visit. In the videotape, Smith said: “It may not be Jim Crow anymore. Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school, and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore [a reference to the Ku Klux Klan] because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.” Smith tells the Post reporter that he had been asked to give a speech on racism and that he “was giving some background on what I thought were some of the issues regarding race in this country.” Hannity compared Smith’s speech to remarks by Obama’s former Chicago pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (see January 6-11, 2008), whom Obama repudiated after learning that Wright had said the 9/11 attacks were “America’s chickens… coming home to roost.” Hannity told listeners: “Wright’s contentious sermons hit the airwaves and forced Obama eventually to denounce his spiritual leader of more than 20 years. Now, here’s the twist: Dr. Wallace Charles Smith doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with what Jeremiah Wright preached. I don’t believe that it is a coincidence out of all the churches in the country that Obama finds himself sitting in, why is he always in pews listening to such controversial spiritual leaders?” Hannity says he asked Smith to comment on his broadcast and offered Smith a slot on his show, but Smith refused. “We played his own words in full context but now it’s time for him to explain,” Hannity says. [Washington Post, 4/27/2011] The day after Easter, Fox Nation, the blog of Fox News, falsely claimed that Obama was the first president to attend services at Shiloh Baptist and extended the attack on Smith’s “shocking” sermons. [Fox Nation, 4/25/2011] Days before Easter, the Post, announcing Obama’s choice to attend Shiloh for the morning’s service, noted, “The church has hosted other presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.” An April 27 article adds that President George H.W. Bush also attended services there. [Washington Post, 4/22/2011; Washington Post, 4/27/2011] Washington Times columnist Jeffrey T. Kuhner echoes the same questions that Hannity raises, asking if Obama is “a black nationalist” and calling Smith “a race-baiting black nationalist” who is “a more polished version” of Wright. “Mr. Smith lacks the bombast of Mr. Wright but peddles the same philosophy of racialism, grievance-mongering, and black victimology,” Kuhner claims, and cites a recent sermon by Smith decrying institutionalized racism as “evidence” before claiming that segregation and racism no longer exist to any real extent in the nation. Kuhner says that Smith, and by extension Obama, equate conservatives with racists who want to “perpetuate a watered-down form of apartheid.” Kuhner then claims that conservatives, not progressives and liberals, are historical champions of civil rights (see March 12, 1956 and After), and attacks affirmative action programs as perpetuating racism. [Washington Times, 4/27/2011]
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, speaking on his daily radio program, claims that President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) to distract the press from a press conference being given by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. Beck says: “The president of the United States is about to speak shortly [about his birth certificate]. Stations, we will carry it live, live, live on this program. Gas prices, sure, out of control. Middle East, sure, on fire. Ben Bernanke going to give the first press conference for the Fed for the first time in 97 years today, but today is the day the birth certificate is released. You have got to be kidding me. Are we really down to this? We’re really down to this? The birth certificate? I mean, it was bad when we were down to the, you know, Final Four in the brackets, but now we’ve got the birth certificate talk and the president is going to hold a press conference.… [T]his is because Bernanke is speaking today. Watch the markets move today. Why is the Fed—this is what I’ve been trying to figure out—why is the Fed holding a press conference for the first time in 97 years? Why? Something is coming gang, something is coming. Now at the same day, the same time, why is the president of the United States choosing today to release the birth certificate?… There is no way this is being released today for no reason. There’s no way. They’ve had this for two years—three years this has been going on. This rumor was started by Hillary Clinton. This was a Clinton tactic.… So now they’ve had it since Clinton. They could have done this since Clinton. So why?” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011; Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) makes the same claim. In a post on her Twitter account, Palin writes: “Media, admit it. Trump forced the issue. Now, don’t let the WH distract you w/the birth crt from what Bernanke says today. Stay focused, eh?” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011]
Lawrence O’Donnell and Orly Taitz on O’Donnell’s MSNBC show ‘The Last Word.’ [Source: Mediaite (.com)]MSNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell has an angry exchange with “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, September 17, 2009, October 29, 2009, March 15, 2010, April 16, 2010, July 7 - August 16, 2010, August 9, 2010 - January 11, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), who for years has insisted that President Obama’s “short form” birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) does not prove his citizenship. In light of Obama’s recent release of the “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), O’Donnell tells viewers that he has invited Taitz onto the show to see if she will apologize for her years of insistence that Obama is not a citizen. Taitz refuses to address the issue of the certificate, and instead attempts to tout her latest conspiracy theory, involving Obama’s Selective Service records that she says prove he has used a different Social Security number in the past (see April 27, 2011 and April 27, 2011). A clearly incensed O’Donnell repeatedly refuses to listen to her charges, and asks her repeatedly, “Will you talk about Barack Obama’s birth certificate?” After she continues to push her charge, even demanding that he give a close-up to the document she is attempting to show the camera, O’Donnell says: “All right, that’s it. Get her off this show. Get out. You’re not going to talk about the birth certificate so roll the tapes. Go home, you’re fired. Go play with Donald Trump.” [MSNBC, 4/27/2011; Raw Story, 4/28/2011] “Look, she’s crazy,” he says. “I invited a crazy person on this show to see if the crazy person… could say something responsive, something human, to the document that was released today… and she wants to play with all of her other kid’s toys.” [Huffington Post, 4/27/2011; MSNBC, 4/27/2011] After ending the interview and having Taitz taken off screen, O’Donnell tells viewers that he had not anticipated Taitz’s attempt to dodge any discussion of the birth certificate and instead talk about a new and different conspiracy theory. Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher writes: “I doubt that. He has clearly studied Orly’s modus operandi, and was ready for the barrage of patter. O’Donnell was a tad merciless, but it’s hard to cry any crocodile tears for Taitz, who has been given far too much attention so far.” [Mediaite (.com), 4/27/2011] The Huffington Post calls the segment “a wild, high-decibel, nearly incomprehensible interview.” [Huffington Post, 4/27/2011]
Progressive columnist Ari Melber, writing for The Nation, states that billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump is using coded racist messages to attack President Obama. Melber cites recent Trump claims that Obama, whom he called a “terrible student,” could not have gotten into Ivy League universities unless it was somehow due to race (see April 26, 2011), and writes: “By charging that Obama was not admitted based on merit, Trump is suggesting that Obama was admitted because he is black.… He is blatantly attacking Obama’s teenage qualifications for college—a topic so obscure, it was a non-issue in Obama’s exhaustive, two-year-long presidential campaign.” Melber cites the underlying racism of the entire “birther” controversy (see January 24, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, November 10, 2008, September 14, 2009, March 2011, April 1, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), and calls Trump’s attacks on Obama’s citizenship and college performance “a coded attack—aimed at the racists but clinging to deniability—[that] curdles into public, blatant racism.” “Birtherism,” Melber writes, “is a putatively non-racial, vaguely constitutional way to challenge the legitimacy of the first black president and appeal to racists without sounding officially racist. [Birther proponents] won’t go away. They are an audience-in-waiting for any amplified race-baiter.” [Nation, 4/27/2011] Melber is echoing sentiments expressed days before by CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria (see April 22, 2011).
Author Jim Kennedy writes that the recent release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) will do nothing to “put an end to the antics of the bizarro-Quixotic birthers… because the birther movement is the Arkansas Project of 2011.” Kennedy is referring to the so-called “Arkansas Project,” a loosely organized effort to bring down the Clinton presidency that resulted in years of groundless allegations and investigations surrounding the Whitewater land deal, and other related allegations, that resulted in the unsuccessful impeachment of President Clinton. Kennedy writes: “The intent of both is the same: paint a false portrait of a Democratic president on a canvas of lies. Birthers claim that Barack Obama was not born in America and is therefore not legitimately serving as president. A simple, however faulty, assertion. But it is merely a gateway to a larger, misleading construct about President Obama—that he is not ‘one of us’ (see April 27, 2011). His values are alien to ours. He’s not fully American. He might be a Muslim, not a Christian. He has a radical agenda that will take our country down a path of socialism. The birthers don’t have to prove their point to make a point. In their scheme, the mere repetition of the question about where the president is from serves to raise questions about where the president is taking us.” Of the Arkansas Project’s claims of million-dollar boondoggles, sex orgies, drug deals, murders, and more, “[n]one of those charges proved true,” he writes, “but the Arkansas Project was never intended to be a search for the truth. It was a shiny, metal object designed to lead the media on a wild goose chase and mislead the public about the values of the Clintons. Like the birther movement, the Arkansas Project represented the marriage of lies and right-wing political agendas.” Significant differences between the two exist, Kennedy writes, most notably the reluctance of many in the mainstream media to pursue the “birther” claims, as opposed to the Arkansas Project allegations, which Kennedy writes, led “many journalists and nearly all Republicans [to] simply [take] the bait and [go] off and running in search of misdeeds that did not exist.” He concludes: “There are fewer media allies for the birthers, and even some noteworthy Republicans are distancing themselves from their cause. Yet their mission will continue, abetted by the likes of Donald Trump. No doubt they will create some excuse to question the new birth certificate, just as some continue to claim [former White House aide] Vince Foster was murdered. [Foster committed suicide, but the Arkansas Project alleged Hillary Clinton had him murdered.] A long form won’t dissuade those who are in it for the long haul. For the goal of the birthers is not to reach a conclusion about the birthplace of a president based on facts. The goal is to encourage the public to reach a conclusion about the values of a president based on lies.” [Huffington Post, 4/27/2011]
National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg writes that while he has not studied the newly-released “long form” birth certificate released today by President Obama (see April 27, 2011), he assumes it is legitimate, barring any information about Obama having “a birthmark that resembles the numbers ‘666’” or information about his father “work[ing] for the KGB and—of course—assuming that the font in question matches typewriters of the time… I figure this puts the birther thing to bed once and for all. Good.” However, Goldberg poses what he calls a “perplexing question: If this was possible all along, why did the WH take such sweet time releasing it? Could it be that this White House, continuing a tactic used by Democrats for years, actually liked being able to cast their opponents—often through guilt by association—as paranoid nuts? No, that couldn’t possibly be it.” [National Review, 4/27/2011] In a post on his Twitter account, Fox News talk show host Brian Kilmeade asks a similar question: “[W]hy did the president wait so long to put the birther issue to rest?” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Jonathan Strong of the conservative news blog The Daily Caller notes that Obama waited to release his form “after years of speculation about the issue metastasized into a major political phenomenon he could no longer ignore,” and asks, “Why did Obama, who has proudly vowed his administration would be the ‘most open and transparent in history,’ wait so long?” Strong theorizes that Obama was responding to a recent spate of publicity generated by billionaire television host Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), along with a “media push” from Web news blogger Matt Drudge and an upcoming book by author and conspiracist Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, September 21, 2010, January 18, 2011, and March 27-28, 2011). Strong writes: “Certainly, conspiracy theorists who peddled lies and half-truths on the issue—and there were many—are at fault for the explosion of the issue. But did Obama provide them cover in failing to fully address a simple document request for over two years? The political world in Washington was rife with speculation from Democrats and Republicans about whether Obama was using the ‘birther’ issue for political advantage, as a way to make his conservative critics appear fringe.” [Jonathan Strong, 4/27/2011] Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, whose work has provided much of what Strong calls the “lies and half-truths” that have continued to churn the story (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008, and August 4, 2009), writes: “Today Obama announced he would finally release the long form of his birth certificate. As Obama continues to toy with and taunt the American people, you have to scratch your head and say, what took so long? And why?” [Pamela Geller, 4/27/2011]
New Yorker columnist David Remnick joins a number of media figures and others in proclaiming the “birther” controversy, now presumably settled by President Obama’s issuance of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), to be rooted in racism (see April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Remnick writes: “There is the birther fantasy; the fantasy that Bill Ayers wrote Dreams from My Father (see August 1, 2008 and After and May 7, 2010); the fantasy that the president has some other father, and not Barack Obama Sr. (see October 24, 2008 and Before October 27, 2008); the fantasy that Obama got into Harvard Law School with the help of a Saudi prince and the Nation of Islam (see July 21, 2009). There is a veritable fantasy industry at work online and in the book-publishing industry; there are dollars to be made. The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning: that Obama is foreign, a fake, incapable of writing a book, incapable of intellectual achievement. Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the president himself is reluctant to say): these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father.” The only “radical” things about Barack Hussein Obama, Remnick writes, are his race and his name. “[E]ven now, more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him.” Opposition to Obama based on these qualities is, Remnick writes, “a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering.” Remnick accuses billionaire television host and birther enthusiast Donald Trump of directly and deliberately involving himself in such race-bating, but, he concludes, “[t]he shame is that there are still many more around who, in the name of truth-telling, are prepared to pump the atmosphere full of poison.” [New Yorker, 4/27/2011]
Journalist and author David Corn examines the media’s reaction to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), writing that Washington reporters were, from the time just before Obama’s press briefing to the period of intensive coverage and analysis immediately following, alternating between expressing incredulity that Obama would spend time on such a “minor” issue and, in Corn’s words, “jumping up and down in anticipation.” Obama made the decision in large part to put an end to the endless media coverage going to the “birther” controversy that he feels would be better spent on analyzing and covering the discussions about the nation’s budget woes. In his brief address regarding the release of the document, Obama says: “[T]wo weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.” The entire controversy is a “distraction,” he says, that needs to stop soaking up huge amounts of media coverage. In the moments before the press briefing, Obama commented on a “break-in” by NBC political reporter Chuck Todd to that network’s normal broadcast schedule: “I was just back there listening to Chuck—he was saying, it’s amazing that he’s not going to be talking about national security. I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it.” Corn writes, “Ending the birther conspiracy allowed him to nudge the political media and demonstrate he’s the mature leader in town.” Obama wanted to deliver the message himself, Corn writes: “He wanted to come to the podium and take point on the birther rebuttal, using the occasion to address that larger problem and to demonstrate his own desire to rise above political pettiness in order to make Washington work for the citizenry. So rather than just release the records and allow the cable chatterers to chew up the material (and bash [billionaire ‘birther’ enthusiast Donald] Trump), the White House deployed the president to throw the knock-out punch, realizing that it had a much better chance to cut through the clutter if he was the messenger.” Corn concludes with a rhetorical question: “[C]an [Obama] turn the end of birtherism into a teachable moment? That may well depend on how the media covers it.” [Mother Jones, 4/27/2011]
John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, writes a brief column for the conservative National Review that says President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) because he wants to “enhance” the popularity of billionaire television host and rumored 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump has, in recent weeks, revitalized the “birther” controversy (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Pitney writes that the Obama administration apparently believes Trump would be an easy candidate to beat in the 2012 presidential campaign. Pitney references the 2008 attempt by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to convince listeners to cross party lines and vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, in the belief that “a prolonged nomination battle would weaken the Democrats.” Pitney writes: “A Trump candidacy could have a similar effect [on Republicans]. He has little chance of winning the nomination, but if he put a lot of resources into his campaign, he could prevent anyone else from clinching the race until very late in the season. The eventual nominee would be bloodied and… broke.” [National Review, 4/27/2011] Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011]
Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who for years has stirred the “birther” controversy surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008, and August 4, 2009), appears on Fox Business Channel to discuss the release of President Obama’s “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011). Using a poster-size reproduction of the certificate as a prop, Geller says the certificate is “actually not a birth certificate,” calling it a “certificate of live birth.” Host Eric Bolling insists that the certificate has been “Photoshopped” (i.e. altered using the graphics program Photoshop) because of a “green border” surrounding the certificate. Geller agrees that the border is “suspect.” Bolling says the certificate “opens up the can of worms that there are at least questions for it.” Both Bolling and Geller appear to be basing their “analysis” on the quickly-debunked claim that the “layering” of the PDF image of the certificate “proves” it is a fake (see April 27, 2011). Fox contributor Monica Crowley says billionaire real estage mogul and television host Donald Trump “forced the president’s hand to the point where he actually produced this document that we’re talking about.” She says Obama took a “direct slam at Donald Trump” by calling those who continue to question the legitimacy of his birth “sideshows and carnival barkers.” However, Crowley says, “we’ve got this document produced today, which means President Obama zero, carnival barker one.” Guest Keith Ablow agrees with Crowley that Trump deserves the credit for “forcing” Obama to release the certificate. Bolling says that Obama’s timing in releasing the certificate—on the same day that Trump appears in New Hampshire as part of what some consider to be his preparations to enter the 2012 presidential campaign—is obviously an attempt to upstage Trump. Ablow says there is some as-yet unknown reason why Obama has not released this “long form” certificate until now (Ablow does not inform viewers that Hawaiian state law prohibits the “long form” certificate from being given to anyone, and that Obama needed to get a special dispensation from the Hawaiian State Department to be given a copy—see July 1, 2009). Crowley cites the theory of author and conspiracist Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, September 21, 2010, January 18, 2011, and March 27-28, 2011), who is about to release a book that will purport to prove Obama is not a citizen; “I think what Obama was trying to do today,” she says, “is preempt that, try to steal the thunder away from this book that’s coming out, so that nobody will pay attention to the Corsi book.” Bolling informs viewers that the wife and son of the doctor who signed the birth certificate in 1961, who has since passed away, “had no idea” that he signed the certificate. “If you gave birth to the president of the United States,” Bolling says, “don’t you think your family would know about it?” Geller concludes the segment by citing an array of Obama’s “life documents” that she says have been kept out of the public eye (see September 11, 2008, Around June 28, 2010, and April 26, 2011), and accuses the media of “protecting this man” from scrutiny. [Media Matters, 4/27/2011; Media Matters, 4/27/2011] A day later, the progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that the doctor that signed the birth certificate died in 2003. Reporter Ben Dimiero will write: “Let that sink in for a second. At the time, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator in Illinois. If the doctor had told his family before he died that he delivered the future president, that would have spawned a much more interesting conspiracy theory (he’s a wizard!). Apparently Eric Bolling thinks obstetricians give their families a list of the most interesting people they delivered—with a special section for ‘potential future presidents’—before they die.” [Media Matters, 4/28/2011] Two days later, Geller will label Obama “a b_stard, literally and figuratively” (see April 29, 2011).
A portion of President Obama’s ‘long form’ birth certificate. [Source: White House / WorldNetDaily (.com)]President Obama releases his “long form” birth certificate for public view, in an attempt to put questions about his citizenship to rest. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says in a statement: “The president believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country.” In 2008, Obama released an official copy of his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008), but many so-called “birthers” have said that “short form” certificate did not fully prove his Hawaiian birth. In his statement, Pfeiffer notes that the “short form” certificate is “the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the Internet.… When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the president received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign Web site is what Hawaiians use to get a driver’s license from the state and the document recognized by the federal government and the courts for all legal purposes. That’s because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.” Pfeiffer says: “At a time of great consequence for this country—when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue. The president’s hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country.… Therefore, the president directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.” [Hawaii Department of Health, 8/4/1961 ; Associated Press, 4/27/2011; White House, 4/27/2011]
Signed, Certified as True and Valid - The certificate is signed by the delivery doctor, Obama’s mother, and the local registrar. It certifies that Barack Hussein Obama II was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961, to Stanley Ann Dunham Obama at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu. It does not mention religion. Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, is noted as being born in Kenya, and his mother as being born in Wichita, Kansas. The Hawaiian registrar certifies the new photocopy of the document provided to the White House on April 25 as being a true and valid copy. The White House also releases a letter from Obama on April 22 requesting two certified copies of his original certificate of live birth. The Hawaii Department of Health does not, by law, release the actual birth certificate, but the department makes an exception for Obama given his “status as president of the United States.” Also released is a letter from Loretta Fuddy, Hawaii’s director of health, approving the request. In her approval letter, Fuddy wrote that she hopes the release “will end the numerous inquiries” received by her office. “Such inquiries have been disruptive to staff operations and have strained state resources,” Fuddy wrote. Obama’s personal lawyer, Judith Corley, flew to Hawaii to pick up the documents and brought them back to Washington. She returned with the documents around 5 p.m. April 26.
Obama: 'We Do Not Have Time for This Kind of Silliness' - Obama says during a morning press conference that he has been both amused and puzzled by the degree to which his place of birth has become an issue. “We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he says. “This issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign. I have watched with bemusement, I’ve been puzzled at the degree at which this thing just kept on going.” The country needs to come together to work on critical issues, he says, but “we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
Trump Takes Credit, RNC Blames Obama for Controversy - Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump has reignited the controversy in recent weeks (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 26, 2011) as part of his apparent 2012 presidential campaign bid. Though neither Obama nor Pfeiffer mention Trump by name, he takes full credit for the release. “He should have done it a long time ago. I am really honored to play such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue,” Trump says during a visit to New Hampshire. Trump says he is not yet convinced of the certificate’s authenticity, saying that he and his people are “going to look at it. We have to see if it’s real, if it’s proper.… It’s amazing that all of a sudden it materializes. Why he didn’t do it when the Clintons asked for it. Why he didn’t do it when everyone else was asking about it, I don’t know.” However, Trump says he is “sure it’s the right deal” and is looking forward to moving on to more important issues such as OPEC and China. Trump and other “birthers” have alleged that the long form birth certificate contains information Obama wanted to hide from public view, when in fact the two different versions of the certificate contain virtually the same information. The long form includes the signatures of Obama’s mother and the attending physician. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus calls the issue a distraction, but blames Obama for playing “campaign politics” by addressing it. “The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy,” he says. “Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority—our economy.” [Associated Press, 4/27/2011; Associated Press, 4/27/2011; USA Today, 4/27/2011; WorldNetDaily, 4/27/2011] Trump also demands that Obama release his complete college transcripts. [Real Clear Politics, 4/27/2011]
Questions from CNN - Some observers feel the White House may have been spurred to release the certificate in part because of questions about the controversy from mainstream media reporters. On April 26, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked a question about Obama’s birth status by CNN’s Ed Henry, at the same time CNN’s Anderson Cooper was airing a “definitive investigation” into the controversy that debunked the “birther” conspiracy theory and attacked Trump for feeding the controversy. Carney called the question “preposterous” and the controversy “a distraction” that had been “settled,” but Henry continued to pursue the issue. [Huffington Post, 4/26/2011]
Entity Tags: Judith Corley, Loretta Fuddy, Jay Carney, Reince Priebus, Hawaii Department of Health, Barack Obama, Sr, Donald Trump, Ann Dunham, Barack Obama, Dan Pfeiffer, Ed Henry
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
An Associated Press report examines the issues surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in the wake of Obama releasing his “long form” certificate for public scrutiny (see April 27, 2011) and finds racial overtones to the controversy. Writer Rachel Rose Hartman observes that while the controversy surrounding Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s birth status was short-lived and resolved by a single announcement from a set of lawyers (see March 14 - July 24, 2008), the controversy surrounding Obama’s birth status has carried on for nearly three years (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 28, 2011, and April 5, 2011). Hartman writes that Obama “has faced a relentless campaign questioning his US citizenship—and thereby the legitimacy of his presidency—that has disregarded the facts” (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). After Obama released his “long form” certificate, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz quickly announced her disbelief in the form, saying that the listing of Obama’s father as “African” cast doubt on the veracity of the document; she said that in 1961, the term that would have been used was “Negro” (see April 27, 2011). Hartman notes that many “birther” critics believe the movement’s “core tenets—and its stubborn resistance to evidence disproving those beliefs—can be traced to racial hostilities. The fundamental birtherist conviction, these critics say, is that an African-American can’t have legitimately won the presidency—and that his elevation to power therefore has to be the result of an elaborate subterfuge.” History professor Peniel Joseph says: “There is a real deep-seated and vicious racism at work here in terms of trying to de-legitimate the president.… This is more than just a conspiracy. I think this is fundamentally connected to white supremacism in this country.” Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. has called “this birther nonsense” “profoundly racist claptrap” (see April 1, 2011), Michael Tomasky has written in the British newspaper The Guardian that the birther conspiracy “had to be the only explanation for how this black man got to the White House.… And if you think race isn’t what this is about at its core… you are delusional” (see April 27, 2011). The Reverend Jesse Jackson noted yesterday that billionaire Donald Trump’s “birther” campaign is rooted in race, saying: “Any discussion of [Obama’s] birthplace is a code word. It calls upon ancient racial fears.” Trump, he said, “is now tapping into code-word fears that go far beyond a rational discourse” (see April 26, 2011). Trump has recently leveled allegations that Obama was only accepted into Columbia and Harvard Universities because of his race (see April 26, 2011). Hartman notes that while “[b]irthers emphatically deny such criticism… it’s difficult to apprehend the ongoing resistance to proof of Obama’s citizenship without crediting racial fear as a significant factor.” For years, the “birther” movement has insisted that the release of the “long form” certificate would settle the issue, but now that the document has been released, the same “birthers” either refuse to accept its validity or are insisting that Obama release a spate of other documents to prove his identity and citizenship, “a level of scrutiny that neither McCain nor Obama’s 43 predecessors in the Oval Office were expected to face” (see April 27, 2011). Trump and others are calling for Obama to release his college transcripts (see April 26, 2011), have alleged that Obama did not write his own memoirs, and, despite all evidence, continue to insist that he is a “closet Muslim” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008). Jackson and Peniel both note that never before has a sitting president’s nationality been questioned. A recent study found that racially biased whites are far more likely to view Obama as “less American” than Vice President Joe Biden, a white man. That assessment correlates with a profoundly lower view of Obama’s performance as president (see March 2011). National polls continue to find that almost half of Republican voters do not believe Obama was born in the US, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has blamed Obama for the “birther” controversy, says the issue is irrelevant. [Associated Press, 4/27/2011]
Entity Tags: Reince Priebus, Peniel Joseph, Rachel Rose Hartman, Michael Tomasky, Jesse Jackson, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Orly Taitz, John McCain, Leonard Pitts, Jr, Joseph Biden
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
The progressive media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, along with other media outlets, documents 30 years of racist issues surrounding billionaire celebrity Donald Trump (see April 14-15, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 28, 2011), who is using “birther” allegations to vault himself into a preliminary front-runner position for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Trump has touted his racial sensitivity, often discussing the importance of the civil rights movement and writing about his dream of an America unencumbered by “racism, discrimination against women, or discrimination against people based on sexual orientation.” Trump once donated office space to Jesse Jackson’s civil rights group, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, once hosted an NAACP convention party, and likes to be seen in public with African-American celebrities such as P. Diddy and Lenny Kravitz. [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/6/2011]
Justice Department Charges of Discrimination against Housing Applicants - In October 1973, Trump was still working with his father Fred Trump’s Trump Organization, which made millions from building thousands of units of middle-class housing in Brooklyn and Queens. Donald Trump had just been made president of the company. The Justice Department accused the Trump firm of serious violations of the Fair Housing Act, including refusing to rent or negotiate rentals “because of race and color,” misrepresenting to blacks that apartments were not available, and charging minorities higher rents. Donald Trump sued the federal government for making baseless charges, and accused the government of “trying to force [the firm] to rent to welfare recipients.” Trump added that if welfare recipients were allowed into his apartments in certain middle-class outer-borough neighborhoods, there would be a “massive fleeing from the city of not only our tenants, but communities as a whole.” A federal judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit, calling it a waste of “time and paper,” and Trump settled with the Justice Department, not admitting guilt but agreeing to a number of conditions that would open Trump housing to more nonwhites. In 1978, the government charged Trump with failing to adhere to the agreement, saying that the Trump company “discriminated against blacks in the terms and conditions of rental, made statements indicating discrimination based on race, and told blacks that apartments were not available for inspection and rental when, in fact, they are.” In 1983, many Trump developments still had 95 percent white occupancies. [Salon, 4/28/2011; Huffington Post, 4/29/2011]
Called for Death Penalty for Blacks Accused of Rape - In 1989, Trump took out full-page ads calling for the death penalty for three African-American teenagers accused of raping a white jogger in Central Park. The three teenagers were later exonerated. One of the defendant’s lawyers, Colin Moore, compared Trump’s stance to the racist attitudes expressed in the 1930s during the infamous “Scottsboro Boys” case. Trump tried to mend relations by visiting a black woman who had been raped and thrown off the roof of a building in the hospital, promising to pay her medical expenses.
Trump: Blacks 'Have the Actual Advantage Today' - Later in 1989, Trump told NBC interviewer Bryant Gumbel, “If I was starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today.” Orlando Sentinel columnist David R. Porter responded: “Too bad Trump can’t get his wish. Then he’d see that being educated, black and over 21 isn’t the key to the Trump Tower. You see there’s still that little ugly problem of racism.” [Huffington Post, 4/29/2011]
Trump: 'Laziness Is a Trait in Blacks' - John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino who in 1991 published a biography of Trump, wrote that Trump said “laziness is a trait in blacks,” and once exclaimed: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” In 1997, Trump admitted to a Playboy interviewer that “[t]he stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true,” and went on to call O’Donnell “a f_cking loser” whom Trump barely knew. [Huffington Post, 4/29/2011; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/6/2011]
A 1971 photograph of Barack Obama Sr. and Barack Obama Jr. [Source: Apex Newspix / London Daily Mail]The London Daily Mail uses information obtained by the Arizona Independent to attack President Obama’s father as a “serial womanizer” and “polygamist” whose eye for “white women” led to his expulsion from the United States. The article leads with the line, “With a father like this, it is little wonder President Obama did not want to release his full birth certificate” (see April 27, 2011). The Arizona Independent obtained files from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that imply US government and Harvard University officials, disapproving of Barack Obama Sr.‘s “licentious” ways, forced him to leave the United States. Obama Sr. married a white woman, Stanley Ann Dunham, who became Obama Jr.‘s mother, during a time when interracial marriages were still illegal in many parts of the US; moreover, Obama Sr. apparently had a wife in Kenya, making him in the eyes of some US officials a “polygamist.” Obama Sr., a student at Harvard University, “had an eye for the ladies,” according to the documents, and was warned by Harvard officials to “stay away from girls at the university.” Obama Sr.‘s application to extend his visa to remain in the US was eventually denied, in part because of his “polygamy” and, apparently, because of his predilection for dating white women. The file quotes an unnamed government official as calling Obama Sr. a “slippery character” who dated “several women.” Another immigration memo, from June 1964, records that Harvard officials were trying “to get rid of him” and “couldn’t seem to figure out how many wives he had.” The memo, which notes that Obama Sr. and Dunham had a child, Barack Obama Jr., on August 4, 1961, goes on to say that Obama Sr. should be “closely questioned before another extension is granted—and denial be considered.” The INS officials also apparently requested that Harvard withdraw his scholarship to attend college there. The memo says: “Obama has passed his general exams, which indicates that on academic grounds he is entitled to stay around here and write his thesis; however [Harvard] are going to try to cook something up to ease him out.… They are planning on telling him that they will not give him any money, and that he had better return to Kenya and prepare his thesis at home.” Obama Sr. took classes at Harvard and at the University of Hawaii in 1960, where he met Dunham in a Russian language course. Dunham apparently knew nothing of Obama Sr.‘s wife and child in Kenya, and their divorce in 1963, when their child Barack Obama Jr. was just two, may have been triggered in part because of Obama Sr.‘s previous marriage as well as his reported philandering. Obama Jr. saw his father once after the divorce, in 1971; 11 years later, Obama Sr. was killed in a car accident. [Daily Mail, 4/28/2011] Hours after the story is published online, Fox Nation, the blog for Fox News, prints a summation of it and directs readers to it. [Fox Nation, 4/28/2011]
Washington Post managing editor Bob Woodward says that billionaire television host and real estate mogul Donald Trump “is aspiring to be the new Joe McCarthy.” Woodward, appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe talk show hosted by former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, is comparing Trump, who has for months attacked President Obama’s supposed lack of US citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), with former Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who used false allegations of Communist sympathies to ruin the careers and reputations of dozens of lawmakers and other public figures. Woodward calls the “birther” controversy “manufactured,” and says “the news media has got to get a handle on itself on this.” As for Trump, Woodward says: “Let’s call things what they are. Donald Trump, I think, was or maybe still is aspiring to be the new Joe McCarthy. No evidence, but you make an assertion and you look at these things Trump said… people interviewing him at that moment should have said, ‘What’s your evidence?’ Trump has no evidence, and when you have no evidence you have nothing and the discussion of the subject should end.” [Mediaite, 4/28/2011]
Chris Matthews, hosting MSNBC’s Hardball, interviews columnists Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and Eric Boehlert of the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters about the conservative reaction to the recent release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Matthews focuses on a recent segment from Fox Business Channel featuring host Eric Bolling and his guest, conservative blogger Pamela Geller, where the two insisted that the newly released form is a fraud that has been “Photoshopped” (see April 27, 2011). Matthews calls their conspiracy theory “absolute garbage,” and Boehlert says Bolling “wants to prove he’s got the crazy niche” to replace the outgoing Glenn Beck on Fox News. Boehlert also notes that for weeks, Fox News hosts and guests have demanded that Obama release the “long form” certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011), “and yesterday he does, and you turn on Fox News: ‘How dare he release his long form birth certificate!‘… This is a game that’s being played, a very dishonest, hateful, and very disturbing game that the right-wing media is playing with American politics.” Matthews then plays a brief clip from a recent MSNBC broadcast where “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz tried, and failed, to raise new questions about Obama’s Social Security number (see April 27, 2011); Boehlert says: “She’s moving the goalposts, obviously. Man, that’s what conspiracists do, I mean, this is the textbook example of what we saw yesterday. As you said, it wasn’t just the hard-core professionals like her. It was the right-wing media, it was AM talk radio, it was a lot of the Internet, and obviously it was Fox News. Nobody apologized, nobody conceded the fact, they just kept spinning and spinning.” Matthews plays a clip of Donald Trump questioning Obama’s acceptance into Columbia University and Harvard Law School (see April 26, 2011). Page says in response: “I’ll tell you how black folks feel about it, it sounds like he’s saying [Obama is] an affirmative action baby (see April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011).… You haven’t gotta be a black American just to be proud of the fact that this fellow was able to work his way up and make it through Harvard and make it to the White House, and… Trump is just pouring cold water on that whole thing, and I think now he’s just embarrassing the whole [Republican] Party.” Matthews says the crux of Trump’s argument about Obama’s college acceptance hinges on the fact that Obama is African-American, and says Trump would never use such an argument against a white political opponent. Boehlert says Trump is another cog in the organized effort to delegitimize Obama as a president (see April 27, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011] Bolling will indeed replace Beck on Fox News, as the co-host of a roundtable discussion show entitled The Five. [Real Clear Politics, 6/30/2011]
Brian Kilmeade of the Fox News morning talk show Fox and Friends suggests that President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) to “play the victim card.” Kilmeade says Obama released the certificate to “build sympathy and empathy from the base and from some independents and say, ‘Well, listen, I’ve really been the subject of a vile campaign against me.’” Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson agrees, claiming, “I think the president’s premise for coming out is wrong, and I think it was done… as a distraction.” Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011]
Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly denies there were ever any racial connotations to the “birther” controversy surrounding President Obama’s US citizenship. On his show The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly notes that many “defenders of Obama labeled the whole thing racist,” and plays clips from MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, CBS’s Bob Schieffer, The View’s Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg (see April 27, 2011), MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter, and BET host Tavis Smiley, many of them focusing on billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump and his pronouncements (see April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). O’Reilly’s guests, Fox analyst Alicia Menendez and Republican strategist Margaret Hoover, join in denouncing what Hoover calls “the most predictable” reactions imaginable from “the entire left.” Hoover says that liberals always cry “racist” when they want to criticize conservatives. Hoover does admit that Trump’s claims that Obama got into Ivy League schools due to affirmative action, and the “widespread movement to delegitimize the president to say he’s not American enough (see April 27, 2011), I think it’s not unrelated to race.” O’Reilly disagrees, saying that questions about Obama’s college career are different from “calling him out because of his skin color.” Trump may be “stoking the discomfort that some people have with [Obama’s] skin color,” Hoover says, a remark that draws a snort of derision from O’Reilly, who says he knows Trump well and does not believe he is a racist. Menendez, described by an on-screen chyron as a member of a “center-left think tank,” agrees with Hoover that some of the comments and charges leveled by “birthers” may aggravate the racial tensions that exist in America today. O’Reilly cuts her off and says he does not see “any of these racial confrontations in this country, and I do this every day.” He demands proof of her contention. “I’m not saying it’s just about Barack Obama,” Menendez says, “I’m saying it’s generally about people trying to figure out what to do with this change in America.” Menendez says that there is “some intertwining” between the birther controversy and racist attitudes, but calls the comments by Schulz and others “very radical and obscure the conversation we should be having.” O’Reilly calls the charges of racism “vicious,” and presses for agreement from both Hoover and Menendez. Menendez attempts to qualify, calling the charges a response to “a vicious and hateful thing coming out of the right. And there were very few people like you who were being honest and calling it what it was.” O’Reilly says that the “bad behavior” from the right does not justify “bad behavior” from the left. He says the charges that “the birth certificate was phony” had no connection to racism at all, and continues to lambast “the left” for trying to tie racism into the controversy. Menendez asks if O’Reilly believes that “it was just coincidental” that Obama, the first African-American president, was targeted as not “being a real American” by right-wing opponents. “That’s just a weird coincidence,” she says. O’Reilly says the entire controversy was “borne out of hatred for the man.… The people who hate Barack Obama will latch on to anything. It’s not because of his skin color.” O’Reilly concludes that the “far left” did not act “in a responsible way” in challenging the controversy “as we did [presumably referring to his show]. We just took it apart” (see July 29, 2009). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011] An Associated Press analysis has found that the “birther” controversy was fueled in large part by racism (see April 27, 2011), and liberals (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 28, 2011), moderates (see April 27, 2011), and conservatives (see April 27, 2011) alike have decried the racism at the heart of “birtherism.” Author John Avlon has said that “birthers” will never give up their conspiracy theories because even Republicans who disbelieve the claims and do not themselves harbor racist beliefs will not denounce the claims and the racism behind them (see April 28, 2011). Some conservative media outlets, including Fox News, are launching a new series of attacks on Obama through his father, vilifying the senior Obama because of his alleged “penchant” for “white women” (see April 28, 2011, April 29, 2011, and April 29, 2011). And conservative radio host Laura Ingraham says the release of the “long form” certificate “proves” Obama intends to make his re-election bid about race (see April 28, 2011).
Entity Tags: Edward Andrew (“Ed”) Schultz, Bill O’Reilly, Barack Obama, Associated Press, Alicia Menendez, Donald Trump, Whoopi Goldberg, Fox News, Margaret Hoover, Bob Schieffer, John Avlon, Jonathan Alter, Joy Behar, Laura Ingraham, Tavis Smiley
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris, writing for the online news outlet Politico, say that President Obama’s decision to present his “long form” birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship (see April 27, 2011) is a “decisive new turn in the centuries-long American history of political accusation and innuendo. By directly and coolly engaging a debate with his most fevered critics, Obama offered the most unmistakable validation ever to the idea that we are living in an era of public life with no referee—and no common understandings between fair and unfair, between relevant and trivial, or even between facts and fantasy.” The authors note that presidents have been pursued by “[l]urid conspiracy theories” for centuries. However, until now, those presidents have “benefited from a widespread consensus that some types of personal allegations had no place in public debate unless or until they received some imprimatur of legitimacy—from an official investigation, for instance, or from a detailed report by a major news organization.” That is no longer the case, they say (see April 27, 2011). Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says: “There are no more arbiters of truth. So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We’ve crossed some Rubicon into the unknown.” The writers note their difficulty in envisioning former President Clinton “coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster—never mind official rulings of suicide—were wrong” (see April 27, 2011), or former President George W. Bush giving a press conference denying allegations that “he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.” Obama’s choice to release the documentation and even to make a personal appearance to announce it are a powerful indication that the political dynamic has changed. Obama advisers explain that he made the decision to do so “because of the radical reordering of the political-media universe over the past 15 years, or so. The decline of traditional media and the rise of viral emails and partisan Web and cable TV platforms has meant the near-collapse of common facts, believed across the political spectrum.” Debunking the myth of Obama’s “foreign birth” means nothing to a large percentage of Americans who still remain unconvinced, or firmly believe the myth, the authors write. After trying to ignore it and mock it into irrelevance, they write, Obama “finally gave in and affirmed a new truth of politics in the Internet era: Nothing can be dismissed and anything that poses a political threat must be confronted directly.” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says: “We’re dealing with a lot of the same things Clinton and frankly Bush dealt with, but we’re dealing with them at 1,000 times the speed and with fewer referees. That is the downside of the disaggregation of the media. If you don’t want to believe what someone is telling you, you can go somewhere else. If you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president is not American, you can go somewhere to find somebody to validate that.” Another Obama adviser, who remains anonymous, adds: “Clinton never had to deal with a fully formed Internet. [Conservative Web gossip Matt] Drudge’s power was born out of the revelations of 1998. A fully automated cable TV universe with the Internet is something that [Clinton] never had to deal with.” Clinton’s press secretary Joe Lockhart says: “You’ve lost the ability to starve a story to death. So what you have to do is raise the price of those who are making the charges. If Donald Trump is out there saying this, you’ve got to make him pay a price for throwing a bomb before too much collateral damage is done.… You literally can’t laugh anything off. There’s nothing neutral in politics. It’s either helping you or hurting you. You’ve got to make sure it’s helping you or you’re going to lose.” The authors note that politicians are learning to use this phenomenon to their own advantage. While Washington Republicans often bemoan the ascendancy of “fringe” pundits like Fox News’s Glenn Beck, the authors write, “they relish the way Beck and ideological confederates excite the GOP base, a contributing factor in the party’s strong performance in 2010.” The authors also point to Democrats’ willingness to allow “liberal commentators” to push for the truth behind George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the National Guard. The authors claim that the Obama team “enjoys giving the stage to the GOP’s most divisive voices,” noting that Gibbs and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel often called conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh “the de facto leader of the Republican Party.” Obama, and his successors, will have to do things previous presidents have never considered, from appearing on less “serious” talk shows such as those hosted by Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, or making appearances on networks such as the sports broadcaster ESPN. “It’s hard to see a president doing those things 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s become almost a requirement now,” Gibbs says. It is hard to know where to draw the line, Gibbs continues. “Does it become incumbent to prove everything wrong? You have to be very careful to not fall into that trap because you’ll spend all of your time and energy chasing your own tail.” Pfeiffer says most open-minded Americans will take the “long form” certificate as the evidence required to settle the issue: “There will be some segment of the population who will believe what they’re going to believe, regardless of anything else. But for the majority of the country, we have the capacity to correct the record and convince people of the truth. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but it’s possible.” Pfeiffer notes the “huge amount of time and energy” spent on dealing with the “birther” issue, time better spent, he says, on issues confronting the country. Former Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove says the Obama administration has attempted to use the “birther” controversy against Republicans: “The president himself has hoped Republicans would continue to talk about it, thereby damaging their own credibility. It was a useful diversion (see April 27, 2011). But take a look at recent polls. The problem was the view was taking hold among independents. He got worried it was about to spin out of control” (see April 27, 2011). Rove says Obama was attempting to “play rope-a-dope with Republicans,” a charge Pfeiffer denies (see April 28, 2011). “Up until a month ago, nobody really asked for the long form. It was fringe. It was a settled issue for 99 percent of the country.” Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer says: “It’s a terrible problem for the body politic. People like me who have been or are in the arena have an obligation to speak out against people in both parties who push untruths” (see January 25, 2001, January 25-27, 2001, and April 18, 2001). “The political discourse is much worse now, but that’s not always to the detriment of the so-called victim. In this case, President Obama came out looking better.” Lockhart agrees, saying: “Look at the rogue’s gallery of Clinton accusers. Most of them blew themselves up.” Lockhart acknowledges that for some, the issue will never be settled (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 29, 2011). “They’ll probably ask for the first diaper. They’ll want to see the DNA.” [Politico, 4/28/2011]
Entity Tags: Joe Lockhart, Donald Trump, Dan Pfeiffer, Barack Obama, Ari Fleischer, Glenn Beck, Vince Foster, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert Gibbs, John F. Harris, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Matt Drudge, Rahm Emanuel, Rush Limbaugh, Jonathan Martin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
In the aftermath of President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), the number of people who say they believe that Obama was born in another country has dropped by half. The poll is conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) of Princeton, New Jersey, on behalf of the Washington Post, between April 28 and May 1, 2011. Now, 70 percent of respondants say that Obama was born in Hawaii, up from 48 percent in April 2010. Eighty-six percent say he was born in the US, or call this their best guess. Only 10 percent say he was born in another country, down from 20 percent a year ago. Almost all of that 10 percent say it is only their “suspicion” that he was born elsewhere; only 1 percent claim “solid evidence” that he was born abroad, down from 9 percent a year ago. (In both the 2010 and 2011 surveys, 19 percent say they have “no opinion.”) Now, 14 percent of Republicans say Obama was born elsewhere, down from 31 percent in April 2010. Among the most conservative Republicans, the number drops from 35 percent last year to 16 percent this year. [Washington Post, 5/1/2011; Washington Post, 5/5/2011]
Software expert Jean-Claude Tremblay says there is no doubt President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) is genuine. Tremblay is responding to recent claims that the “layers” found in the electronic version of the certificate “prove” it is fake (see April 27, 2011 and April 27, 2011). Many of the claimants have used a graphics program, Adobe Illustrator, to reveal the layers. Tremblay is a certified Adobe expert who teaches Illustrator. He tells Fox News, “You should not be so suspicious about this.” The layers are evidence of the use of ordinary scanning software, not evidence of forgery: “I have seen a lot of Illustrator documents that come from photos and contain those kind of clippings—and it looks exactly like this.” Whoever scanned the birth certificate into a PDF file did so using commonly used OCR (optical character recognition) software, which translates characters or words into text, and creates “layers” of text in the process. “When you open it in Illustrator it looks like layers, but it doesn’t look like someone built it from scratch,” Tremblay says. “If someone made a fake it wouldn’t look like this. Some scanning software is trying to separate the background and the text and splitting element into layers and parts of layers.… I know that you can scan a document from a scanner most of the time it will appear as one piece, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no software that’s doing this kind of stuff.… I’d be more afraid it’d be fake if it was one in piece. It would be harder to check if it’s a good one if it’s a fake.” [Fox News, 4/29/2011]
Pamela Geller, the conservative blogger who has for years attacked President Obama’s parentage and his citizenship (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008,August 4, 2009, and April 27, 2011), now calls Obama “a b_stard, literally and figuratively.” Geller’s characterization is part of a long tirade about Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., based on information about the elder Obama cited by the Arizona Independent, which obtained the Immigration and Naturalization Service file on Obama Sr. (see April 28, 2011). Geller accuses Obama’s father of “impossible philandering, multiple wives, and bad behavior,” says the elder Obama was forced to leave Harvard University and the United States itself, and blames his “polygamy” on his Muslim faith. She also says the portrait Obama has painted of his father in his first memoir, Dreams of My Father, is completely false, though Obama never knew his father and depicted his father in an unflattering light. Geller writes: “He was a terrible man—immoral and irresponsible. His treatment of women was incredibly callous and cruel—not to mention the abandoment of his children and his multiple wives. President Obama is indeed a bastard, literally and figuratively. What a horrible man. Dreams of My Father. Indeed. Perhaps this explains President Obama’s animus towards the United States” (see November 8, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 16, 2008, April 9, 2009, June 5, 2009, June 25, 2009, June 29, 2009, September 14, 2009, November 17, 2009, February 2, 2010, June 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 12, 2010 and After, September 16, 2010, September 17, 2010, September 23, 2010, September 23-24, 2010, March 2011, April 15, 2011, and April 27, 2011). A New York Times analysis of the same information concludes that Obama Sr. had a tribal wife in Kenya at the time he married Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and explains: “We call this ‘polygamy’; they see it as moving on with life. First marriages fizzle out in Africa, as they do everywhere else. The difference is that culturally, legal divorce is very frowned upon: It’s viewed as shirking financial and familial responsibilities. Epidemiologists, who have studied this cultural pattern because of its impact on the spread of HIV, often say that Africans tend to have ‘concurrent’ relationships, while Americans have ‘consecutive’ ones. That’s a wild generalization, but the point is that Obama Sr. would not have viewed his first marriage back in Kenya as something disreputable. It clearly became worthy of investigation to school and immigration officials, though, after he started fooling around with white women.” Geller calls the hints of racism towards Obama Sr. ridiculous, and cites fellow conservative blogger Jack Cahill as providing “proof” that Obama Sr.‘s marriage to Dunham was possibly invalid, making Obama the “b_stard” that she accuses him of being. [Pamela Geller, 4/29/2011] The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Geller’s attack on Obama and his father is part of a new initiative by “birthers” to besmirch Obama by attacking his father (see April 29, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/29/2011]
Washington Post Style columnist Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel (.com), lambasts billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump for exhibiting a pattern of sexism throughout his business and entertainment career. As her first example, she cites “the Trump rule,” which was described by conservative Miss USA winner Carrie Prejean in 2009. Trump owns the Miss USA beauty pageant and exercises a strong degree of control over it, including taking part in selecting contestants. Prejean wrote in her memoir that Trump required potential contestants to “parade” in front of him so he could sort them into two groups: those he found sexually appealing, and those he did not. Prejean wrote: “Many of the girls found this exercise humiliating. Some of the girls were sobbing backstage after [Trump] left, devastated to have failed even before the competition really began… even those of us who were among the chosen couldn’t feel very good about it—it was as though we had been stripped bare.” Holmes calls Prejean’s description “[s]trong stuff, made even more provocative considering it comes from a woman who made her career participating in events known for their focus on aesthetic appeal.” In early April 2011, New York Times columnist Gail Collins cited the example of a column she wrote chiding Trump, and his response—sending her a photograph of herself with his words “Face of a Dog!” scrawled across it (see April 1-8, 2011). Trump has asked the male contestants on his reality television series The Apprentice to rate their female counterparts based on appearance; in 2005, according to one female contestant, Trump told her, “I bet you make a great wife.” In 2007, he attacked actress Angelina Jolie by disparaging her sexual history, telling CNN host Larry King, “[S]he’s been with so many guys… I just don’t even find her attractive.” That same year, he inked a deal with Fox to develop a reality show called Lady or a Tramp? in which he would school “out-of-control young women” in what Holmes calls “the art of becoming modern-day Eliza Doolittles.” The show was never produced. In 2006, Trump attacked comedian Rosie O’Donnell, calling her a “big, fat pig” and an “animal” after she criticized him on the air. Trump once said of his daughter, Ivanka, “She does have a very nice figure… if [she] weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Holmes writes that Trump’s recent reversal of his position on abortion—he now opposes it—is rooted in his sexism, though he knows little about the legal underpinnings of it; he recently demanded to know of an MSNBC interviewer what abortion law has to do with a woman’s right to privacy. In early 2011, Trump confidant Michael Cohen explained his boss’s change on abortion thusly: “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.” Holmes concludes by citing Trump’s statement to an Esquire reporter in 1991, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of [expletive].” [Washington Post, 4/29/2011]
The progressive news and opinion magazine Mother Jones examines what columnist Adam Weinstein calls an attempt by Fox News and conservative bloggers to besmirch President Obama by attacking his father, Barack Obama Sr. Since the “birther” controversy has been conclusively proven to be groundless, he writes (see April 27, 2011), “the anger stage has kicked in: Birtherism has given way to fear-of-a-virile-black-man-ism.” Weinstein cites a lead story on Fox Nation, the blog of Fox News, titled “‘A Slippery Character’: New Details Emerge About Obama’s Father” (see April 28, 2011). The story is a “hatchet job” based on a British tabloid report that uses a newly released Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) file to slander and besmirch Obama Sr. The article “confirm[s] what President Obama had already stated in his memoir: His dad wasn’t the greatest of guys,” Weinstein writes. “But it’s all in how the article conveys that message: ‘With a father like this, it is little wonder President Obama did not want to release his full birth certificate.’” Weinstein says the way the Fox Nation article paints Obama Sr. “has it all: polygamy, the suggestion of illicit interracial sex, and the predatory sexual appetites of a dark-skinned African man. In fact, this theme’s got a name, or a couple of names, in popular Western culture: ‘Black beast,’ ‘black buck,’ ‘Mandingo.’ It’s the theory that black males are more animal than human, with an insatiable predilection for defiling white (read: virtuous) women.” Weinstein quotes Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint as writing in 1972: “There is little doubt that our white countrymen have been in a chronic state of paranoid fear over black male sexual power. ‘N***er’ jokes and pornographic literature abound with stories testifying to the black male’s sexual appetites and attributes. The preoccupation is evident in much white folklore.” Fox and conservative bloggers piggybacking on the story (see April 29, 2011) are attempting to say that “we, the people, elected the offspring of an unholy union between a bestial sexual predator and an innocent Kansas girl… a union that’s proven by the existence of the birth certificate!” [Mother Jones, 4/29/2011]
A joke image displayed during President Obama’s address at the White House Correspondents Dinner, envisioning what the White House might look like if Donald Trump were to become president. The subheading on the photo reads ‘Hotel - Casino - Golf Course - Presidential Suite.’ [Source: C-SPAN]The annual White House Correspondents Dinner is the scene of a “roast” of birther advocate Donald Trump, who has for months called President Obama’s US citizenship into question, by Obama. The dinner is traditionally a venue where politicians, journalists, and pundits have fun at one another’s expense. [Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] After the dinner, the New York Times reports that Obama “zings” Trump during his presentation. [New York Times, 4/30/2011]
Obama Zings Trump, 'Birther' Controversy - Obama begins his presentation by noting that he has recently released the “long form” version of his birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), which has quieted some (but not all) critics. Obama presents what he calls his “official birth video” to “put all doubts to rest,” and shows a clip from the Disney animated film The Lion King depicting the triumphant birth of the lion Simba. He then says, to repeated bursts of laughter: “I want to make clear to the Fox News table: That was a joke. That was not my real birth video. That was a children’s cartoon. Call Disney if you don’t believe me. They have the original long-form version.” He mentions US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), another “birther” (see April 20, 2011) who is “thinking about running for president, which is weird because I hear she was born in Canada.” After the laughter subsides, he says: “Yes, Michele, this is how it starts. Just letting you know.” [White House, 5/1/2011; Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] (Bachmann, as Obama and others in the room are well aware, was born in Iowa.) [Des Moines Register, 10/20/2009] Obama then turns his attention to Trump, who like Bachmann is in attendance. “Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately,” Obama says, “but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter—like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?” Obama is referring to a triad of popular conspiracy theories that assert the various Apollo moon landings were faked in California sound studios; Roswell, New Mexico, was the site of an alien landing in the 1950s; and rap stars “Biggie” Smalls and Tupac Shakur were not murdered, but are alive and in hiding. Obama continues to address Trump, citing the NBC show Celebrity Apprentice, which Trump hosts: “But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example—no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’—at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf [two celebrity contestants on the show]. You fired [contestant] Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled.” The audience roars with laughter, while Trump attempts to smile, but glowers and looks uncomfortable. Obama finishes his joshing at Trump’s expense with displaying an image of what the White House might look like if Trump were to become president, drawing a huge round of laughter. He concludes the lighter portion of his presentation by showing a video of him being forced to give speeches without a teleprompter, which includes a number of presidential “bloopers” from earlier speeches.
Praises Soldiers, Storm Survivors, Journalists - Obama closes his presentation on a serious note, lauding the American servicemen and servicewomen “who are serving in uniform overseas in the most extraordinary of circumstances,” noting the terrible devastation suffered by people in Alabama and other Southern states who were hit by multiple tornadoes and powerful storms, and praising the journalists who cover such difficult stories: “You know, in the last months, we’ve seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable. And through it all, we’ve seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth. That’s what you do. At your best that’s what journalism is. That’s the principle that you uphold. It is always important, but it’s especially important in times of challenge, like the moment that America and the world is facing now. So I thank you for your service and the contributions that you make. And I want to close by recognizing not only your service, but also to remember those that have been lost as a consequence of the extraordinary reporting that they’ve done over recent weeks. They help, too, to defend our freedoms and allow democracy to flourish. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.” [New York Times, 4/30/2011; White House, 5/1/2011; Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] The other featured presenter is Saturday Night Live head writer Seth Meyers, who spends some time mocking Obama, other White House members, and some of the journalists in attendance, but spends most of his time making fun of Trump. “Donald Trump has been saying that he’ll run for president as a Republican—which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke,” he opens, drawing a wave of laughter. One of his most popular laugh lines is: “Donald Trump said recently he has ‘a great relationship with the blacks’ (see April 14-15, 2011. But unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.” Even Obama dissolves in laughter at this line. [Daily Beast, 5/1/2011; Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] By the time the presentation is over, Trump is, in the words of the New York Times, sitting “grimly unsmiling” and “grimacing” through the mockery. Trump is so visibly upset that the others at his table stop smiling and laughing; a reporter from New York magazine, citing guests sitting near Trump’s table, writes that his “mood shifted from playing along to unvarnished anger.” [New York Times, 4/30/2011; TPM Muckraker, 5/1/2011]
Former Democratic Governor: Trump's 'Bubble Has Burst' - Veteran correspondent Lloyd Grove, writing for the online news outlet The Daily Beast, writes that Obama, “in a manner of speaking, deftly slit [Trump’s] throat, cut out his entrails, set him ablaze, and scraped what was left off the presidential shoe.” Before Obama’s presentation, Trump seemed to be enjoying himself at the dinner, “[b]ut after Obama finished with him—and the evening’s paid entertainer, [Meyers], stomped on the remains—a scowling Trump and his frowning model-wife bolted out of their chairs in the basement ballroom, pushed their way toward the exit with their security team, and disappeared into the cruel Washington night.” CNN host and former Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) says, apparently referring to Trump’s presidential aspirations: “That was very serious. I think that bubble has burst.” [Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] Trump says of Obama’s presentation, “It was very good,” but calls Meyers “a stutterer.” [TPM Muckraker, 5/1/2011]
Eric Bolling, the host of the Fox Business Channel talk show Follow The Money, reads a list of people his viewers say they want waterboarded. The list includes President Obama. Bolling is doing a segment on his viewers’ reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden (see May 2, 2011), and insists, despite claims from Obama administration members and informed outsiders, that bin Laden was located “through waterboarding, simple as that” (see Autumn 2003, August 6, 2007, December 2-4, 2008, December 11, 2008, and March 29, 2009). (Later in the segment, some of his guests dispute that claim.) Bolling says he asked viewers who they wanted to see waterboarded. The respondents, through Facebook, named, among others: “Senate Dems… and then Obama… then the kooks on [the ABC morning talk show] ‘The View,’ starting with Joy” Behar; “Alan Colmes… [t]he secrets of the left-wing cabal will come pouring out of that boy”; “[m]y ex-wife!”; progressive talk show hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow; and the far-right, virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. Bolling concludes the segment with some jocularity with his guests, and jokingly offers to be waterboarded himself. [Media Matters, 5/5/2011]
Entity Tags: Keith Olbermann, Barack Obama, Alan Colmes, Eric Bolling, Obama administration, Fox Business Channel, Westboro Baptist Church, Rachel Maddow, Osama bin Laden, Joy Behar
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Domestic Propaganda
Four of Fox News’s presumptive presidential candidates. Clockwise from upper left: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. [Source: Huffington Post]New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman profiles Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (see October 7, 1996), who also serves as a Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988). According to close friends and advisers to Ailes interviewed by Sherman, Ailes wants far more than the continued ratings and advertiser success of Fox News—he wants the network to steer one of its own into the White House in 2012 (see October 2008). He is tremendously influential; a Republican strategist tells Sherman: “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger. Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.”
Letdown? - Ailes has been keenly disappointed in the results of his network’s official and unofficial candidates so far. Former Alaska governor and Fox commentator Sarah Palin (see September 15-16, 2010), who has not yet announced her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, is polling at around 12 percent among Republican voters. Official presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and Rick Santorum, a former senator, who both are commentators for Fox, have even lower numbers, at 10 percent and 2 percent respectively. Ailes has asked Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), who is not a Fox employee, to run; until recently, Fox News was enthusiastically promoting the putative presidential run of billionaire “birther” Donald Trump (see March 17, 2011). Ailes has envisioned General David Petraeus as a potential candidate, but Petraeus has instead accepted the post of CIA director. “He thinks things are going in a bad direction,” says a Republican close to Ailes. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of [President] Obama is a disaster.” None of the current crop of candidates meets Ailes’s expectations. Ailes is particularly disappointed in Palin; according to the same Republican, Ailes considers her “an idiot”: “He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.” After Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January 2011, and other media outlets focused on Palin’s use of gunsight graphics to “target” Giffords and other vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 election (see March 24, 2010), according to Sherman, “Ailes recognized that a Fox brand defined by Palin could be politically vulnerable.” After the Giffords shooting, Ailes told an interviewer, “I told all of our guys, ‘Shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually.’” Ailes was infuriated when Palin refused his advice to remain quiet until after the memorial service, and accused her critics of committing “blood libel,” a phrase often seen as anti-Semitic. The problem with Palin was further exacerbated when she argued about the amount of work Fox expects her to do: she does not want to host special broadcasts or other tasks the network expects of her. In March 2011, Fox suspended the contracts of Gingrich and Santorum so they could run their campaigns without legal or ethical entanglements. Shortly thereafter, Huckabee chose to remain at Fox and abandon his plans for a primary challenge. The network is still waiting for Palin’s decision whether to run for president.
Creation of the Tea Party - While Ailes and Fox News did not directly create the “tea party” “grassroots” movement, Ailes was involved in its creation and promotion from its outset (see February 19, 2009, February 27, 2009, and April 15, 2009). Ailes has always been somewhat leery of having Fox News too closely associated with the burgeoning movement (see March 13, 2009 and After, March 23-24, 2009, April 2, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 8, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 12, 2009, and September 12, 2010), and at one point banned Fox News host Sean Hannity from hosting a tea party rally. However, according to Sal Russo, a former Reagan aide and the founder of the national Tea Party Express tour, “There would not have been a tea party without Fox.” Fox News has promoted a number of successful “tea party” candidates (see May 14, 2008 - February 2010), including former host John Kasich (see March 27, 2008 - June 1, 2009 and After), who won the Ohio gubernatorial election in 2010. Before that election, Gingrich, still a Fox News commentator at the time, said that he was confident the “tea party” would evolve into “the militant wing of the Republican Party” (see April 21, 2010). Ailes used some of the same “astroturf” tactics (see February 27, 2009 and April 14, 2009) in developing the “tea party” as he did when he represented tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds, creating phony, seemingly independent “front” groups to push the “tea party” messages in the media. [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]
Entity Tags: John Kasich, Donald Trump, David Petraeus, Christopher J. (“Chris”) Christie, Fox News, Gabrielle Giffords, Rick Santorum, Sal Russo, Gabriel Sherman, Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Roger Ailes
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
Fox Business Channel host Eric Bolling uses a racial smear to characterize President Obama’s visit to Ireland and other European countries. Obama left for Europe shortly after a number of tornadoes caused heavy damage in parts of Missouri. On his Twitter account, Bolling says “Obama chugging 40s in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO.” He repeats the smear on his television show Follow the Money a few hours later. [Media Matters, 5/23/2011; Media Matters, 5/24/2011; Media Matters, 2/16/2012] The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that Missouri authorities have praised the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their quick and effective response to the tornadoes. [Media Matters, 5/24/2011] The progressive news site Think Progress notes that Bolling’s reference to Obama “chugging 40s” is inaccurate and racially motivated. Obama was photographed drinking Guiness from a glass in an Irish pub. More importantly, Bolling’s reference is to malt liquor, usually sold in the US in 40-ounce bottles or cans. Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald writes: “Throughout the late 80s and 90s, 40 oz malt liquor was rolled out with ‘aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at minority drinkers,’ which often portrayed black actors and rappers in stereotypical or exploitative fashions. There is a fairly large body of academic literature exploring the relationship between malt liquor and African Americans.… Hip hop culture has appropriated malt liquor, with numerous songs with ‘40 oz’ in the title. ‘Rap artists have been popular images in malt liquor advertising and ‘gangsta’ rap performers portray malt liquor as a sign of masculinity,’” according to a 2005 study. Bolling is apparently trying to associate Obama with African-American street gang and rap culture. He is also apparently trying to portray Obama as having a drinking problem, a characterization with no evidence to back it. [Think Progress, 5/24/2011] After facing a barrage of criticism over his racially inflammatory remarks, Bolling attempts to clarify his remarks, saying he intended no racial connotations and merely attempted to imply that Obama is a drunkard. “I took some heat for saying Obama should have delayed his bar crawl, or whatever he’s doing over there,” he tells a Fox Business Channel audience. Media Matters observes: “That, of course, is not what he said. And Bolling did not explain why he thinks it’s OK to call Obama a binge drinker.” [Media Matters, 5/24/2011; Media Matters, 5/25/2011]
Gabon President Ali Bongo (L) and US President Barack Obama labeled as ‘hoods’ by Fox Business Channel. [Source: Media Matters]Fox Business Channel host Eric Bolling uses a number of racially charged characterizations in his report on a visit by an African head of state to the White House. Bolling, hosting a segment on President Ali Bongo of Gabon’s visit with President Obama, titles the segment “Hoods in the House,” and puts the title on screen under footage of Obama sitting with Bongo in a White House meeting room. Bolling introduces the segment by saying: “Guess who’s coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa’s kleptocrats. It’s not the first time he’s had a hoodlum in the hizzouse.” Apparently Bolling is calling both Obama and Bongo “hoods,” slang often used for African-American street criminals. “Hizzouse,” a term Bolling uses for the White House, is slang for a crack house or a house used by African-American street gangs. Bolling begins the segment by saying: “So what’s with all the hoods in the hizzy? A month after the White House hosted the rapper Common, who glorifies violence on cops, the president opened his doors to one of Africa’s most evil dictators. Here’s Ali Bongo, the Gabonese president, who’s been accused of human rights violations and plundering billions of his country’s dollars.” When Bolling says that Obama has previously hosted “a hoodlum in the hizzouse,” he shows footage of Common. Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters will explain that Fox News viewers may recognize Common as the target of a recent smear by Fox News and other conservative media outlets, which marked the instance of his visit to the White House by falsely accusing him of being a “cop killer rapper.” Later in the segment, Bolling says of Bongo: “Smile for the birdie. Our president’s sitting with one of Africa’s most wanted. It’s not the first time he’s had a hood in the big crib.” “Big crib” is more slang for houses used by street gangs. When Bolling says “Smile for the birdie,” he shows an image of Bongo with a lighting effect—a flashing tooth, an apparent reference to some African-American rappers’ preference for gold inserts in their teeth. Media Matters notes, “For the record, it is true that Gabon and Bongo have a troubling human rights record, and Obama pressured Bongo on the issue during their meeting.” During the segment, Bolling’s guest, Human Events editor Jason Mattera, says that “Barack Obama likes to defecate on American allies.” And another of Bolling’s guests, Fox Business reporter Sandra Smith, accuses Obama of preferring to “entertain” America’s enemies in the White House over the nation’s allies. “Do we really have to have them in the White Hizzy?” she asks. [Media Matters, 6/11/2011; Media Matters, 2/16/2012]
Fox News’s Eric Bolling, hosting The Five, says that he remembers no terrorist attacks on the US during the Bush presidency. Bolling is either ignoring or forgetting that the 9/11 attacks, the most lethal and costly terrorist attacks in US history, occurred eight months into the Bush presidency. Since late 2009, two former Bush administration officials have also denied that 9/11 took place during the Bush presidency (see November 24, 2009 and December 27, 2009), as has former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was mayor when his city was stricken (see January 8, 2010). A Las Vegas newspaper publisher has claimed no terrorist attacks occured during the Bush administration after 9/11, another falsehood perpetrated by Bolling (see January 3, 2010). One of the “five” participants in the roundtable discussion on the show is former Bush administration press secretary Dana Perino, who is one of the former administration officials who denied that 9/11 took place during Bush’s presidency. Bolling and the other participants, save for the single “liberal” at the table, Bob Beckel, are criticizing the Obama administration’s economic policies. The topic goes into a quick repudiation of the fact that the Bush administration used false claims about WMDs to drive the US into a war with Iraq, and Bolling shouts over the crosstalk: “America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don’t remember any terrorist attacks on American soil during that period of time.” No one involved in the panel discussion corrects his misstatement. [Media Matters, 7/13/2011; Huffington Post, 7/14/2011] The Five is the newest Fox News offering, replacing the recently canceled show hosted by Glenn Beck. [Huffington Post, 7/14/2011] The next day, MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews derides what he calls Bolling’s “revisionist history” regarding 9/11. He plays a brief clip of Bolling making the statement, then sarcastically invites Bolling to “think back to 2001.” While playing a clip from the coverage of the 9/11 attacks, Matthews asks, “Does that trigger your memory?” [Media Matters, 7/14/2011] Hours after Matthews’s correction, Bolling says on The Five: “Yesterday I misspoke when saying that there were no US terror attacks during the Bush years. Obviously I meant in the aftermath of 9/11.” Bolling then swings to the attack, saying: “That’s when the radical liberal left pounced on us and me. [The progressive media watchdog Web site] Media Matters posted my error, saying I forgot about 9/11. No, I haven’t forgotten.” (Bolling is referring to a Media Matters article with the title: “‘Have You Forgotten?’ Conservatives Erase 9/11 From Bush Record,” which cites Bolling’s error among other “misstatements” and omissions by conservatives, and cites the numerous terror attacks that took place on US soil after 9/11 during the Bush presidency.) Bolling continues by saying he was in New York during the attacks, lost friends during the attacks, and comforted the children of friends who were terrified by the attacks. He concludes by saying, “Thank you, liberals, for reminding me how petty you can be.” [Media Matters, 7/14/2009] Shortly after Bolling’s statement on Fox, Media Matters posts another article, again citing the numerous domestic terrorism attacks that took place after 9/11, under the headline, “Eric Bolling Is Still Wrong.” [Media Matters, 7/14/2011]
Fox News chief Roger Ailes acknowledges that Fox News has undergone what he calls a “course correction” over the last year, dialing back some of the most inflammatory and partisan rhetoric that is its brand. The release of talk show host Glenn Beck (see March 28 - April 6, 2011) is one of the actions Ailes has taken to “moderate” Fox News’s stance, as is the lower profile given former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a prominent Fox personality—once aggressively promoted by the network as the savior of the Republican Party, Palin is much less visible on the network now. Fox executives admit that after Barack Obama’s election in 2008 (see January 2009), “the entire network took a hard right turn (see February 2, 2009, February 9-10, 2009, February 10, 2009, February 20, 2009, March 16-17, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 17-24, 2009, March 18, 2009, March 23-24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 31, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 6, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, April 22, 2009, April 23, 2009, April 28, 2009, April 29, 2009, May 5-6, 2009, May 6, 2009, May 8-15, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, June 2, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, July 30, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 14, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, September 29, 2009, October 11, 2009, October 16, 2009, November 3, 2009, November 5-8, 2009, November 18-19, 2009, November 24, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 20-22, 2010, June 11, 2010, June 24, 2010 and After, July 2, 2010, July 24, 2010, September 1, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 15-16, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 27, 2010, September 28, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 30, 2010, October 1, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 9-11, 2010 and After, and November 9-11, 2010 and After)… but, as the tea party’s popularity fades (see August 25, 2011), is edging back toward the mainstream” (see November 16, 2010, November 17-18, 2010, February 23, 2011, February 28, 2011, March 19-24, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, May 22, 2011, May 23-24, 2011, June 10, 2011, July 13-14, 2011, January 14, 2012, January 17-18, 2012, February 11-16, 2012, and February 12-13, 2012). Ailes has ordered the opinion show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly to tone down the rhetoric, in part in response to the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and the resultant debate about the aggressive, violent rhetoric being promulgated on the right (see March 24, 2010). Moreover, as media pundit Howard Kurtz writes, “[i]t was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.” Ailes’s contract is up in 2013, and some expect the 71-year-old media magnate not to renew his contract thereafter. Ailes continues to insist that his news network is the only “fair and balanced” (see 1995) news outlet on television, with the other broadcast and cable news providers being relentlessly liberal in their presentations, but on the other hand implicitly admits that he routinely pushes right-wing memes and talking points on his network. Today, for example, he is touting Fox News’s new “Regulation Nation” series, pushing the idea that government regulations have a stranglehold on American business. “[N]o other network will cover that subject,” he says. “I think regulations are totally out of control.” Government bureaucrats hire Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life,” he says. Under Ailes’s direction, Fox News will feature stories on “over-regulation” in many of its straight-news and opinion shows. Some non-Fox News conservative pundits, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, wonder if Ailes hasn’t given up on his commitment to conservative principles in return for ratings, saying, “Fox wants these people [Republican primary candidates] to tear each other up, ‘cause they want approval from the mainstream media.” Kurtz says that Ailes has turned the Republican primary into his own “reality show” for ratings and profits, essentially agreeing with Limbaugh. Overall, others are registering that Ailes is attempting to dial back the hyperpartisan posturing, even former Obama administration aide Anita Dunn, who says, “You have the sense that they’re trying to at least appear less of the hyperpartisan political network they had been.” [Newsweek, 9/25/2011]
Entity Tags: Gabrielle Giffords, Anita Dunn, Barack Obama, Fox News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Howard Kurtz, Sarah Palin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney (R-MA) uses a phrase made familiar by the Ku Klux Klan in his stump speeches. In a speech given to supporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Romney says: “There are people in this room who are informed and who care about this election, who recognize that this is a defining time for America. We have on one side a president who wants to transform America into a European-style nation, and you have on other hand someone like myself that wants to turn around America and keep America America.” Reporters and bloggers note that Romney, inadvertently or not, is echoing the phrase “Keep America American” as used for nearly a century by the KKK. A 1920 pamphlet published by the United Klans of America and archived at Yale University was entitled “Why you should become a klansman: of interest to white, protestant, native born Americans who want to keep America American.” On the eve of World War II, a Klan-affiliated organization called the American Coalition pressured the US government not to admit Jewish refugees into the country. And in 1950, a pamphlet with the phrase “Keep America American” was sold in Dallas, Texas, just before a wave of bombings of African-American-owned homes rocked the city. Reporter Steve Benen also notes that the 2008 Romney campaign intended to use a similar “keep America America” attack against the Democratic nominee for that year if Romney had survived the primary process: focusing then on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, the Romney campaign intended to run on the platform that Clinton and the Democrats wanted to “drag America down to Europe’s standards.… That’s where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.” The Romney campaign planned to print “First, not France” bumper stickers to go along with the campaign rhetoric. [Washington Monthly, 12/12/2011; Booman Tribune, 12/12/2011; Los Angeles Times, 12/10/2012] After initially refusing to comment on the allegation of the campaign using a KKK slogan, Romney spokespersons claim that their candidate is using the phrase “Keep America America,” and not the KKK phrase. Liberal blogger John Aravosis calls the campaign’s claim “a nuance without a difference” and says, somewhat sarcastically, that if it is fair to use President Obama’s rhetoric to label him a “socialist,” then it is equally fair to use Romney’s phraseology to label him a member of the Klan. MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews reports on the story, and is quickly pressured by NBC senior management to issue an apology to the Romney campaign, calling his reporting “irresponsible and incendiary” and indicative of “an appalling lack of judgment.” [John Aravosis, 12/13/2011; Mediaite, 12/14/2011; John Aravosis, 12/14/2011] In line with MSNBC’s retreat from its reporting, Washington Post editor Patrick B. Pexton calls the Post’s own reporting of the controversial slogan usage “error-filled,” and repeats the Romney campaign’s claim that the phrase “Keep America America” is different from the KKK’s “Keep America American.” Pexton also notes that a campaign ad on YouTube using the phrase is not an actual Romney campaign ad, but an ad by an “independent” political organization in support of Romney. [Washington Post, 12/16/2011] AlterNet’s Chauncey DeVega later writes of the controversy: “The dropping of one letter from the Ku Klux Klan’s slogan, ‘Keep America American,’ does not remove the intent behind Romney’s repeated use of such a virulently bigoted phrase. While Mitt Romney can claim ignorance of the slogan’s origins, he is intentionally channeling its energy.” DeVega notes the intensely “nativist” connotations of the phrase, and writes that Romney, like the remainder of his fellow Republican presidential contenders, is “hostile” to immigrants of any stripe, a hostility reflected in the phrase. “Romney’s slogan, ‘Keep America America,’ begs the obvious question: Just who is American? Who gets to decide?” [AlterNet, 1/25/2012]
The presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich (R-GA) expresses its anger at media coverage of its candidate’s recent remarks alleging that African-Americans rely more on food stamps than other ethnic groups, and seemingly prefer that reliance to actual work (see January 5, 2012). Campaign spokespersons tell reporters that Gingrich’s words were misquoted and taken out of context. Gingrich himself, asked about the remarks, says: “I know that the left has a passion for defending its right to be the only moral arbiter in America. Therefore… if you in fact talk openly and honestly about the failure of liberal institutions and the way they hurt the poor, there becomes a sudden frenzy of a herd of people running screaming, ‘racism, racism.’ It is a fact that liberal institutions in inner cities have failed the poor. It’s a fact that bad schools trap poor children. It’s a fact that bad public safety policies lead to the collapse of cities like Detroit. It is a fact that high taxation drives jobs out. It’s a fact that the approach that favors unemployment compensation and food stamps over work and pay checks has failed. I’m happy to have that debate. I believe all Americans of every ethnic background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. I’m prepared to discuss that even if it makes liberals uncomfortable. For the life of me I cannot understand why having a conservative Republican who cares about young people having jobs should be seen as such a terrible idea. Or should be seen as somehow a racist characterization. I think all young people of all backgrounds should have jobs.” MSNBC’s Ed Schultz calls Gingrich’s comments “racially insensitive” and “simply not true.” He then shows the statistics of Americans given benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Around 40 million Americans receive SNAP benefits: 59 percent of those are white and 28 percent are black. Thirty percent of SNAP recipients have jobs and depend on SNAP to supplement their income. Forty-seven percent of SNAP recipients are children. Seventy-six percent of SNAP households contain a child, an elderly person, and/or a disabled person. Schultz says Gingrich’s comments were reported accurately, regardless of Gingrich’s protestations that the media “distorted” his comments and crafted “an attack” with the misreported words. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous calls Gingrich’s remarks “extremely frustrating” to hear, and says Gingrich is trying to “divide” the country along racial lines for his electoral gain. Gingrich uses “stereotypes… not rooted in fact” on which to base his arguments, Jealous says, and adds, “His facts are wrong, the implications are wrong, and the effect is wrong.” [MSNBC, 1/5/2012; Politico, 1/6/2012]
MSNBC suspends conservative author and commentator Pat Buchanan for racist material in his most recent book, Suicide of a Superpower (see October 18, 2011 and After). The suspension is indefinite. Buchanan has faced heavy criticism from many civil rights organizations and activists after his book was released; it contains such chapter titles as “The End of White America” and “The Death of Christian America.” The activist group Color of Change has mounted a campaign to have Buchanan suspended from the airwaves. MSNBC president Phil Griffin says that the suspension is indefinite, and will not speculate on when or if Buchanan will return to the network. Griffin says of the suspension, “When Pat was on his book tour, because of the content of the book, I didn’t think it should be part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC.” [Raw Story, 1/7/2012; Associated Press, 1/7/2012; Mediaite, 1/7/2012] Griffin adds: “Since then [the book tour] the issue has become the nature of some of the statements in the book.… Pat and I are going to meet soon and discuss it… a decision will be made.” He calls Buchanan “a good guy,” but says “[s]ome of his ideas are alarming.” [New York Times, 1/7/2012] Buchanan has engaged in a number of racially inflammatory comments and actions in the past. In 2009, he launched a number of racially couched attacks on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor before she was confirmed for the high court (see May 28, 2009, May 31, 2009, and June 12, 2009); in one attack on Sotomayor, he asserted that America was “a country built basically by white people” (see July 16, 2009). That same year, he took part in a political event along with a number of white supremacist figures (see June 20, 2009). Buchanan has repeatedly argued that President Obama is an “affirmative action” president, whose every success can be traced to that program in some form (see October 13, 2009). Buchanan has spoken at events sponsored by the openly white supremacist political party American Third Position (see October 15, 2009 and After). Recently Buchanan apologized for calling Obama “your boy” on an MSNBC talk show hosted by Joe Scarborough. Buchanan first gained public notice with the racially fueled remarks and programs he began as a young communications aide in the Nixon administration (see April 1969). [Raw Story, 1/7/2012; Associated Press, 1/7/2012; Mediaite, 1/7/2012] Color of Change issues the following statement: “ColorOfChange.org welcomes MSNBC’s decision to indefinitely suspend Pat Buchanan. However, it’s time for MSNBC to permanently end their relationship with Pat Buchanan and the hateful, outdated ideas he represents. We appreciate this first step and urge MSNBC to take the important final step to ensure that their brand is no longer associated with Buchanan’s history of passing off white supremacy ideology as mainstream political commentary.” [Raw Story, 1/7/2012]
MSNBC commentator and contributor Pat Buchanan, recently given an indefinite suspension from the network because of racially inflammatory content in his most recent book (see January 7, 2012), blames “militant gay[s],” “people of color,” and “the hard left” for his suspension. Appearing on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Buchanan says: “Look, for a long period of time the hard left, militant gay rights groups, militant—they call themselves civil rights groups, but I’m not sure they’re concerned about civil rights—people of color, Van Jones, these folks and others have been out to get Pat Buchanan off TV, deny him speeches, get his column canceled. This has been done for years and years and years and it’s the usual suspects doing the same thing again. But my view is, you write what you believe to be the truth.” Buchanan is referring to Van Jones, an African-American who was an Obama administration advisor on “green jobs” before being attacked for his political beliefs by Buchanan and other conservatives, and subsequently being asked to leave the administration (see September 6, 2009). [Think Progress, 1/11/2012] Interviewed by radio host Hugh Hewitt, Buchanan claims that he was never suspended, and that he took a leave of absence for medical reasons, saying: “Well, you know I’ve had some medical issues at the end of the year which were pretty problematic, and so I’ve sort of been out of speaking and things like that.… On Drudge Report, somebody said I’ve been suspended. I don’t know anything about that. I hope to get back full up here in January, but I’ve been out for a couple of months.” Statements made by MSNBC president Phil Griffin confirm that Buchanan was indeed suspended from the network. Some blogs are reporting that MSNBC has already replaced Buchanan with Robert Traynham, a black conservative who once worked for former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). Traynham was publicly “outed” as gay while he worked for Santorum, who is strongly opposed to gay rights. [David Badash, 1/9/2012; Mediaite, 1/10/2012]
Andrew Adler. [Source: AIB TV (.com)]Andrew Adler, the owner/publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times (AJT), advises readers that one option for Israel to consider in handling the threat posed by Iran is to order the assassination of President Obama. The Atlanta Jewish Times is a community newspaper that has been in existence since 1925. Adler bought it in 2009. Currently, the AJT claims some 3,500 readers. According to Adler, Israel has three options in considering how to handle the threat posted by Iran: attack Hezbollah and Hamas, attack Iran, or order the assassination of Obama. Adler considers Obama an “enemy” of Israel, and believes Obama has moved the US away from supporting Israel to supporting the Palestinians and an array of Islamist terrorists, pursuing what Adler calls an “Alice in Wonderland” belief that diplomacy with Iran will prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon. He calls his three options a series of “Kobayashi Maru” scenarios, a term used in Star Trek to characterize a seeming “no-win” situation that, if addressed with an unsuspected approach to “solve” the problem, could “redefine” the situation. Adler writes of his third option that Israel could “give the go-ahead for US-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies. Yes, you read ‘three’ correctly. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles? Another way of putting ‘three’ in perspective goes something like this: How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives… Jews, Christians, and Arabs alike? You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table.” In a subsequent interview by journalist John Cook, Adler backtracks from his original assertions, and denies advocating Obama’s assassination. Contrary to what he wrote, Adler tells Cook that Israel should not consider an Obama assassination as a viable option. When asked if he believes Israel is indeed considering such an option, he responds: “No. Actually, no. I was hoping to make clear that it’s unspeakable—god forbid this would ever happen.” He then asks Cook, “I take it you’re quoting me?” When Cook responds in the affirmative, Adler says, “Oh, boy.” Cook asks Adler why, if he does not advocate assassination and does not believe Israel is considering such an option, would he write such a column saying that the option is “on the table.” Adler asks to call Cook back with a measured response. His answer, several moments later, is, “I wrote it to see what kind of reaction I was going to get from readers.” He has indeed received a reaction: “We’ve gotten a lot of calls and emails,” he tells Cook. [Atlanta Jewish Times, 1/13/2012; Gawker, 1/20/2012; Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 1/20/2012] After Cook’s publication, the online news site Gawker publishes a story about Adler’s column. Adler then informs the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that he intends to publish an apology. “I very much regret it, I wish I hadn’t made reference to it at all,” he says. He also admits that the response he has received has been, in JTA’s words, “overwhelmingly negative.” [Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 1/20/2012] Adler tells Atlanta columnist Thomas Wheatley: “I don’t advocate anything. I don’t preach anything. Wasn’t calling for action, anything like that.… Do I regret writing it and how I did it? Very much so and I apologize to anyone who took it differently. But in no way shape or form do I support the overthrowing [of the country] in order for Israel to do its thing.” He says he has not been contacted by law enforcement officials or the Secret Service about his column. [Creative Loafing Atlanta, 1/20/2012] Conservative columnist and blogger Jonah Goldberg writes of Adler’s column: “This is outrageous, offensive, borderline seditious, bad for Israel, bad for Jews, and wildly, incomprehensibly stupid. It sounds like the author/publisher realizes it. But too late to save him from a world of grief.” [National Review, 1/20/2012]
During a state Democratic Party convention in San Diego, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls Republican legislators “demons.” In response, Fox News talk show host Eric Bolling advises Waters to “step away from the crack pipe,” earning Bolling accusations of employing racist rhetoric against Waters. Waters, an African-American, speaks in support of Democrats retaking the US House of Representatives in November 2012, and says of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): “I saw pictures of Boehner and Cantor on our screens [at the convention]. Don’t ever let me see again, in life, those Republicans in our hall, on our screens, talking about anything. These are demons. They are bringing down this country, destroying this country, because they’d rather do whatever they can do destroy this president rather than for the good of this country.” After news of Waters’s remarks becomes publicly known on February 15, Brad Dayspring, a spokesperson for Cantor, calls Waters’s rhetoric “sad and unfortunate.” [Fox News, 2/15/2012] On February 16, Bolling, the host of Fox News’s The Five, appearing as a guest host on Fox News’s morning show Fox and Friends, responds to Waters’s rhetoric: “What is going on in California? How’s this? Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston (see February 12-13, 2012). Step away from the crack pipe. Step away from the Xanax. Step away from the Lorazepam. Because it’s going to get you in trouble. How else do you explain those kinds of comments?” Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Juliet Huddy laugh uncomfortably at Bolling’s comments; after a commercial break, Bolling modifies his comments by saying he was “kidding about the crack pipe, but obviously the rhetoric, you know.” Doocy immediately responds: “Of course. We knew that.” Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters says Bolling’s rhetoric is “racially charged,” particularly with his reference to Waters smoking crack, a drug stereotypically associated with African-American gangsters and street criminals. Politico notes that there is no evidence crack or any other illegal drug was involved in Houston’s recent death. [Media Matters, 2/16/2012; Media Matters, 2/16/2012; Politico, 2/16/2012] On Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show later in the day, guest host Andrea Tantaros, a Fox News commentator, defends Bolling’s racially inflammatory rhetoric. “How is that a racist remark?” Tantaros asks a caller. She goes on to say that Bolling was just joking, and says that “when you inject race into everything, you legitimize when people are actually really genuinely making racist remarks, which Eric Bolling was absolutely not doing.” [Media Matters, 2/16/2012] Liberal news blog The Grio calls Waters’s rhetoric “incendiary” and Bolling’s comments “racially provocative and insensitive.” [The Grio, 2/16/2012]
Entity Tags: John Boehner, Eric Bolling, Brad Dayspring, Andrea Tantaros, Fox News, Whitney Houston, The Grio, Maxine Waters, Steve Doocy, Juliet Huddy, Eric Cantor, Politico, Media Matters
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Whitney Houston. [Source: Sandra Rose (.com)]Fox News posts a story about the sudden and as-yet-unexplained death of African-American singer Whitney Houston. Within minutes, the story receives numerous comments featuring a variety of racial slurs against Houston and African-Americans in general. Conservative blogger Charles Johnson lambasts the commenters and Fox News for the posts. Johnson writes: “I don’t even know what to say about this any more. There’s a real sickness running rampant in the right wing; the Fox News comment thread on Whitney Houston’s death is yet another disgusting deluge of outright racism.… There are almost 5,000 comments posted in the thread.” He quotes a number of the comments posted on the first few pages, noting that “the racist b_stards deliberately misspell their slurs or insert random spaces, so they aren’t caught by word filters. And many of the worst comments have numerous ‘likes’ from other commenters.” Calling Houston a “n_gger” is the most common slur used, with the first comment Johnson quotes calling her “just an inferior lo w life ni gg er that needed to go,no tragedy,no loss.” Many inaccurately call Houston a “thug” from the “ghetto” and speculate that she died from a drug overdose, with some labeling her a “crack ho.” Others insult African-Americans’ intelligence, physical type, and work ethic. Some call her a “monkey,” and many reference her “jungle” origins. Many insult her as a woman and make crude sexual references to her. Many celebrate her death as another African-American “off the public social rolls,” while others cheer the loss of another “Obama voter.” One poster writes, “To bad it wasnt the monkey in the White House.” Another poster writes: “I am now patiently waiting for the grand messiah Obama to have a blk fundraiser in honor of Whitley with Kevin Costner as guest of honor with all the Hollywood elites invited along with Alan Colmes, Al Sharpton, Jeremia Wright, Charles Rangel, etc. with a menu featuring blk eyed peas, grits, Imported Kobe steak, Dom Perignon, sweet potato pie and a mus lll im scarf as a momento of this great occasion. Of course the door prize will be an all expense paid trip to Kenya to visit the Obama tribe and birthplace of his ancestors while the American people still look for this imposter’s birth certificate in Hawaii !!!” The commenter deliberately misspells “Muslim,” presumably to avoid having his or her comment filtered. Another poster blames “the black gene pool” for being genetically inferior and thereby unable to “handle fame and fortune whether it’s derived from music, acting, sports or just plain entertainment.” Another poster says African-Americans are not “included in the human race.” Another accuses Houston of smoking crack with President Obama, and of having sexual relations with him, accusations echoed by subsequent posters. One asks why “Afro-Americans” are allowed to “use English names” when they should be named “Kunta Kinti or Moguba Magaba.” After quoting several pages of comments, Johnson writes: “There’s more. A lot more. But I have to stop now because it’s making me physically ill.” [Fox News, 2/12/2012; Charles Johnson, 2/12/2012] The day after, Fox News deletes the entire comments thread and purges all of the comments from public view. Johnson writes: “It was probably easier to just trash the whole thing than try to moderate 5,000 comments full of racial slurs. I’ll bet somebody at Fox News is pretty pissed off at me today.” [Charles Johnson, 2/13/2012] At the far-right blog Free Republic, a poster blames “liberals” for posting the comments as part of what he calls a “COINTELPRO” (or counterintelligence program) operation, and implies Johnson is behind the “scheme.” The Free Republic post features its own racist comments about Houston, with one commenter calling her a “schvatza,” a Yiddish racial slur. [Free Republic (.com), 2/13/2012]
John McQuaid, a senior columnists for Forbes magazine, calls talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent apology to Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see March 3, 2012) an insincere “non-apology.” Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and was vilified for three days by Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). McQuaid says the usual “non-apology” from Limbaugh and others is a crude affair, condescending in tone and piling new insults atop the old. However, Limbaugh’s recent “non-apology” is a bit more sophisticated, he writes, “[b]ut no less insulting to the poor woman he spent several days attacking and defaming, and to the intelligence of anyone who paid attention.” According to McQuaid, Limbaugh is trying to placate his advertisers, who are leaving his show in increasing numbers (see March 2, 2012 and After). Instead of saying that he is sorry if anyone was offended—the usual form a “non-apology” will take—Limbaugh tried to pretend the entire affair “was all just a big joke that no one should have taken seriously.” Limbaugh then defended his own position on contraception, the issue that he disagrees with Fluke on and the spur for him labeling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and finally said words to the effect that had he made better word choices, there would be no need for apologies. McQuaid writes: “Conservative radio hosts pride themselves on their plainspoken directness. The idea of Rush Limbaugh attempting to retcon weasely nuance into his own past statements to obscure his excesses: now that’s absurd.” [Forbes, 3/3/2012] Days later, Forbes contributor Dave Serchuk will call Limbaugh’s apology a “quarter-loaf mea culpa” that proves Limbaugh is becoming increasingly irrelevant in modern political society. “Limbaugh doesn’t seem to grasp that you can’t call a woman the vilest things imaginable and expect all people, not just women, to not be offended. He then didn’t get that his usual doubling down on a bad bet and bluster would not get him out of it. Then he didn’t get that when he apologized he actually had to mean it. It’s also like he didn’t get that women are an extremely powerful and massive part of American life, growing more powerful every day. And they don’t like their desire for safe, affordable reproductive control to get them labeled as town whores, like we were all back in a Bible Belt high school in the 1970s. That’s considered offensive. This should be obvious. But he’s happy to write off more than half the American population.” After the 2012 election, Serchuk predicts, Limbaugh’s influence will steadily fade: “He won’t go away over night. But over time he will fade in power and influence, inexorably, his name leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths. He will end as he began, a lonely man in a radio booth, shouting at the air.” [Forbes, 3/7/2012]
Conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh issues an apology for his three-day verbal assault on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and was vilified by Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh, echoing claims from his anti-Fluke broadcasts, claims he was merely joking in calling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” alleging that she wanted the government to pay for her having promiscuous sex, and demanding that she post online videos of the sex he claimed he would be paying for. On his blog, Limbaugh writes: “For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke. I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a presidential level (see March 2, 2012). My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.” [Rush Limbaugh, 3/3/2012] Premiere Radio Networks, the subsidiary of Clear Channel Entertainment that distributes Limbaugh’s show, quickly emails the apology to reporters, but initially declines to comment. Limbaugh’s chief of staff Kit Carson refuses to comment as well. On March 4, the network will email a statement by a spokesperson that reads: “The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue. We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.” The company refuses to divulge the names of the largest advertisers on Limbaugh’s show, nor how much revenue Premiere is losing by the advertiser defections. A Twitter account called “Stop Rush” posts: “I think this attempt at damage control labeled as an apology actually makes things worse. You know what Rush’s so-called apology means? Your efforts at delivering real accountability are working!” MSNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell posts on Twitter, “Lawyers wrote that apology.” [New York Times, 3/3/2012; Associated Press, 3/4/2012] Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald notes that Limbaugh conflates contraception with governmental purchases of sneakers, and continues to imply that Fluke and other women advocate for contraception coverage solely for their own personal sexual activities. Seitz-Wald recalls that Fluke testified to Congress on behalf of a friend who needed birth control pills to manage polycystic ovarian syndrome. [Think Progress, 3/3/2012] Liberal blogger Kaili Jo Gray writes in response: “Shorter Rush: ‘I’m sorry if any sluts were offended by being called sluts, but if they’d stop being sluts, I wouldn’t have to call them sluts.’ Obviously, the campaign to demand that Rush’s sponsors pull their advertising from his show is working” (see March 2, 2012 and After). [Kaili Jo Gray, 3/3/2012] Others agree. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the Democratic National Committee chair, says, “I know he apologized, but forgive me, I doubt his sincerity, given that he lost at least six advertisers.” And Eric Boehlert of the progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters says he doubts the apology will “stop the pressure that’s being applied to his advertisers.” In an email, Boehlert says, “His comments were so egregious, naturally advertisers will have doubts about being associated with Limbaugh’s brand of hate.” [New York Times, 3/5/2012] It is possible that Limbaugh issues the apology in hopes of fending off a lawsuit by Fluke (see March 2, 2012) and/or to stop advertisers from removing themselves as sponsors of his show. Regardless, the exodus will intensify, and will spread to advertisers asking that their ads be removed from Limbaugh’s political talk-show colleagues as well as from his own show (see March 9, 2012).
Radio host Don Imus condemns fellow host Rush Limbaugh for what Imus calls his “insincere” apology to Sandra Fluke, the law student he vilified for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Imus joins Fluke and others in not viewing Limbaugh’s apology (see March 3, 2012) as sincere (see March 5, 2012). Imus was suspended from the air in 2009 over his characterization of a female, primarily African-American basketball team as “nappy-headed ho’s” and fired from CBS News (see April 13, 2007). Imus accuses Limbaugh of engaging in a “vile personal attack” against Fluke, and notes that it was “sustained” over three days. Imus calls Limbaugh’s apology “lame,” and says that Limbaugh’s statement that he had no intention of personally attacking Fluke is ridiculous, considering he did little else but attack her over a three-day period. Imus says if he employed Limbaugh, he would force him to apologize in person to Fluke. But Limbaugh is “an insincere pig” and a “pinhead,” Imus says, and will not apologize because he lacks the courage and the integrity to do so. “He has no guts,” Imus says, and should be fired. [Media Matters, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
KPUA-AM logo. [Source: TuneIn (.com)]KPUA-AM Radio in Hilo, Hawaii, cancels its broadcast of Rush Limbaugh’s talk show in the wake of Limbaugh’s controversial vilification of a female law student (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). According to general manager Chris Leonard: “We are strong believers in the first amendment and have recognized Mr. Limbaugh’s right to express opinions that often times differ from our own, but it has never been our goal to allow our station to be used for personal attacks and intolerance. The most recent incident has crossed a line of decency and a standard that we expect of programming on KPUA whether it is locally produced or a syndicated program like the Rush Limbaugh show. While much of the national debate regarding this issue is now being framed in political terms, the decision for us is one of decency and responsibility. Regardless of one’s political views on the issue being discussed, we feel the delivery was degrading and the continued comments over several days to be egregious. As a result, we are discontinuing the Rush Limbaugh program on KPUA effective immediately.” [KPUA-AM, 3/5/2012; Hawaii 24/7, 3/5/2012; Big Island Video News, 3/6/2012] WBEC-AM, a commercial radio station in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, also drops Limbaugh’s show, even though it has lost no advertisers and has only received a few complaints. General manager Peter Barry says: “The nature of Rush’s programming has always presented challenges for us and he’s always pushed the envelope. But this time he’s taken it too far.” [New England Public Radio, 3/5/2012]
Columnist and author David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, says that conservatives’ complaints that talk show host Rush Limbaugh is not being treated fairly over the Sandra Fluke controversy (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 5, 2012, and March 3, 2012) are specious. Frum says that conservatives note that while Limbaugh may have said some unacceptable things about Fluke, liberals and Democrats have also said unacceptable things. Frum says that the conflation is irrelevant. He writes: “Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad ‘word choice.’ It was a brutally sexualized accusation, against a specific person, prolonged over three days.” Frum notes that several media figures putatively on the left, including late-night hosts David Letterman and Bill Maher, and liberal MSNBC host Ed Schultz, have said unacceptable things themselves, with conservatives complaining that they faced no consequences. Frum notes that such complaints are not true. Schultz called a female talk show host a “slut” and not only apologized, but was suspended from MSNBC (see May 24-25, 2011). Letterman, after insulting former Govenor Sarah Palin’s daughter, “delivered an abject seven-minute apology” on the air. (Frum notes that Palin refused to accept the apology and insinuated that Letterman was a pedophile.) Maher used a crude sexual epithet against Palin, and to date has refused to apologize for it (see March 27-28, 2011). However, Frum notes, neither Letterman, Schultz, nor Maher has anywhere near the political influence that Limbaugh has. “Letterman is not a political figure at all; and while Maher and Schultz strongly identify as liberals, neither qualifies as anything like a powerbroker in the Democratic Party.… A word of criticism from Limbaugh… will reduce almost any member of the Republican caucus to abject groveling.… I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh” (see January 28-29, 2009). Frum asks why conservatives are responding to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by finding old instances of liberal misconduct and throwing them into the discussion. “[W]hy the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then—if there’s another indecency later—react to that too, and on its own terms? Instead, public life is reduced to a revenge drama. Each offense is condoned by reference to some previous offense by some undefined ‘them’ who supposedly once did something even worse, or anyway nearly as bad, at some point in the past.” However, he concludes, Limbaugh’s latest transgression “is so ‘piggish,’ to borrow a word from Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), as to overwhelm the revenge drama.… It is the bottom of the barrel of shock talk. And the good news is that from the bottom of the barrel, there is nowhere to go but up.” [CNN, 3/5/2012]
American Forces Network logo. The organization is also known as Armed Forces Network. [Source: Public domain]Nearly 9,000 people sign an online petition in a single day calling on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to remove radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh from Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio, which serves US troops overseas. Limbaugh has earned the ire of many after vilifying a female law student for three days on his radio show over her advocacy of insurer-paid contraceptive coverage (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh has apologized for his tirade (see March 3, 2012), but advertisers are leaving his broadcast over the controversy (see March 2, 2012 and After). For now, according to a Pentagon spokesperson, the military will continue to air Limbaugh on its radio broadcast. The petition, started by private citizens but hosted on the White House’s Web site, objects to taxpayer money being spent on a show hosted by someone whose “remarks this week were well beyond the pale of what should be broadcast to our military and their families, supported with our tax dollars,” it states. “There is no excuse for the US government, in any capacity, giving this man an audience.” The same day the petition is posted online, VoteVets, an organization of veterans opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, releases a letter from four female veterans calling on the Defense Department to drop Limbaugh from AFN’s programming. “Rush Limbaugh has a freedom of speech and can say what he wants, but in light of his horribly misogynistic comments, American Forces Radio should no longer give him a platform,” the letter reads. “Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other—women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect. When many of our female troops use birth control, for Limbaugh to say they are ‘sluts’ and ‘prostitutes’ is beyond the pale. It isn’t just disrespectful to our women serving our country, but it’s language that goes against everything that makes our military work. Again, we swore to uphold our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and would not take that away from anyone—even Limbaugh. But that does not mean AFN should broadcast him. In fact, it shouldn’t.” [Air Force Times, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Peter Gabriel. [Source: XPosure / London Daily Mail]Musicians such as Peter Gabriel and Kim Wilson, and the rock bands Rush and Rage Against the Machine, ask that their music no longer be used as part of Rush Limbaugh’s broadcast. Limbaugh, a conservative talk show host, set off a firestorm of controversy when he spent three days vilifying a female law student over her position on insurer-provided contraception (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Gabriel, the former singer for the rock band Genesis, is reportedly appalled to learn that his solo single “Sledgehammer” was playing underneath a portion of one of Limbaugh’s tirades against law student Sandra Fluke. Limbaugh repeatedly called Fluke a “slut” while the song was playing. According to a Gabriel representative: “Peter was appalled to learn that his music was linked to Rush Limbaugh’s extraordinary attack on Sandra Flute [sic]. It is obvious from anyone that knows Peter’s work that he would never approve such a use. He has asked his representatives to make sure his music is withdrawn and especially from these unfair aggressive and ignorant comments.” Gabriel himself later writes: “I am a real believer in the freedom of speech and would defend Rush Limbaugh’s right to mouth off about almost anything. I just don’t like my work being used as the bed track for prejudice or hatred.” [NBC Chicago, 3/8/2012; London Daily Mail, 3/8/2012] Anthem Entertainment, the firm that represents the rock band Rush, also demands that Limbaugh stop using Rush’s music on his show. Limbaugh played Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio” under his talk when he asked Fluke to provide sex tapes of herself in return for insurer-provided contraception. Anthem writes: “According to media reports, Rush Limbaugh, Premiere Radio Networks, and the Rush Limbaugh Show have been using Rush’s recorded music as part of what is essentially a political broadcast. The use of Rush’s music in this way is an infringement of Rush’s copyrights and trademarks. The public performance of Rush’s music is not licensed for political purposes and any such use is in breach of public performance licenses and constitutes copyright infringement. There are civil and criminal remedies for copyright infringement, including statutory damages and fines.… Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of Rush’s music and confirm that you will do so.” [Bob Cesca, 3/6/2012] Rock/rap band Rage Against the Machine and blues musician Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds also demand that Limbaugh stop using their music on his show. Rage Against the Machine leader Tom Morello, after learning that Limbaugh used the band’s song “Sleep Now in the Fire” during his tirade against Fluke, posts on Twitter: “To Rush Limbaugh: Hey Jack_ss, stop using our music on your racist, misogynist, right wing clown show. Sincerely, Rage Against The Machine.” Wilson, complaining about Limbaugh’s use of the Thunderbirds’ song “Tuff Enough,” tells an interviewer: “I don’t want people to think I’m affiliated in any way, shape or form with him. The message he promotes is something I’m totally against.” [Craig Marshall, 3/10/2012]
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) condemns talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his “incendiary comments” about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Murkowski says she was “stunned” by his statements, and says that Limbaugh’s rhetoric is “just adding to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked.” Moreover, she says, “I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Does that expectation include Republicans? she is asked, and she responds: “Everybody. What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.” Murkowski also says she “regret[s]” her vote in favor of a Senate amendment that would have terminated mandated insurer coverage for contraception (see March 1, 2012), the basis of Limbaugh’s attacks against Fluke. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she says, explaining that she intended to cast a vote in favor of religious freedom and not against women’s rights. Of Limbaugh, she says: “I think women when they hear… mouthpieces like that say things like that they get concerned and they look to policymakers. That’s where I feel like I have let these women down is that I have not helped to give these women the assurance they need that their health care rights are protected.” [TPM LiveWire, 3/6/2012; Anchorage Daily News, 3/6/2012]
HBO talk show host Bill Maher, a libertarian-liberal, posts a “tweet” on Twitter defending conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for his tirade against female law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 5, 2012). Maher writes: “Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized (see March 3, 2012 and March 5, 2012), liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout” (see March 2, 2012 and After). Think Progress reporter Judd Legum notes that Maher has his own history of demeaning women, including using a crude sexual epithet to describe former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and calling Palin and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) “bimbos” (see March 27-28, 2011). Maher has refused to apologize for his own rhetoric, saying, “I don’t have sponsors, I’m on HBO.” [Think Progress, 3/7/2012]
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA), considered the leader in the primary race for the Republican presidential nomination, again refuses to comment on the controversy surrounding talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Romney, like many Republicans, has refused to publicly criticize Limbaugh over his actions (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012). Asked during a campaign stop about his position on Limbaugh, he says, “My campaign is about jobs and the economy and scaling back the size of government and I’m not going to weigh in on that particular controversy.” [Boston Globe, 3/6/2012] Some prominent Republicans, such as Romney’s fellow candidate Ron Paul (R-TX—see March 4, 2012), former Bush White House advisor Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), Senators John McCain (R-AZ—see March 5, 2012) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AZ—see March 6, 2012), and former Bush speechwriter David Frum (see March 5, 2012), have condemned Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Two days ago, the former head of a conservative women’s organization predicted that few Republicans would step up to publicly criticize Limbaugh (see March 4, 2012).
Premiere Radio Networks logo. [Source: Premiere Radio Networks]Premiere Radio Networks, the company that distributes radio shows by an array of right-wing hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, announces that 98 out of 350 advertisers, including a number of major corporations, have requested that their ads only appear on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).” The Premiere email says, “Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.” Limbaugh vilified law student Sandra Fluke for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), and though he issued an apology on his Web site (see March 3, 2012), advertisers have dropped their sponsorship of his show in increasingly large numbers (see March 2, 2012 and After) following a widespread outcry of anger against Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Now, large advertisers such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm, McDonald’s, and Subway Restaurants have asked that their advertising be removed from Premiere’s right-wing talk shows. Industry insider Valerie Geller tells a reporter: “I have talked with several reps who report that they’re having conversations with their clients, who are asking not to be associated with specifically polarizing controversial hosts, particularly if those hosts are ‘mean-spirited.’ While most products and services offered on these shows have strong competitors, and enjoy purchasing the exposure that many of these shows and hosts can offer, they do not wish to be ‘tarred’ with the brush of anger, or endure customer anger, or, worse, product boycotts.” For nearly two decades, Limbaugh has been at the forefront of the movement that insisted conservative talk shows on radio and television must counterbalance what he and others have termed the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media (see Summer 1970, October 7, 1996, October 9, 2002, October 8, 2003, December 2004, December 14, 2005, December 19-20, 2005, December 21, 2005, May 2008, October 23-24, 2008, February 24, 2009, and August 11, 2009). After cable television and Internet access fragmented the market, “niche” audiences such as Limbaugh’s have provided the most reliable listenership and viewers, and the highest comparative ratings. However, the demographics are changing for right-wing talk. Limbaugh, Levin, Savage, Hannity, and others generally rate best among aging white males, a demographic that is less profitable than it used to be. Now, the prize advertising demographic is women aged 24 to 55, a demographic that has been leaving the right-wing talkers in steadily increasing numbers, and now makes up the forefront of the angry pushback against Limbaugh over his public savaging of a young female law student over a political disagreement. Some, including Limbaugh’s brother, right-wing talk show host David Limbaugh, have complained of a “left-wing jihad” against conservative radio hosts. However, as reporter John Avlon writes: “[T]he irony is that the same market forces that right-wing talk-radio hosts champion are helping to seal their fate. Advertisers are abandoning the shows because they no longer want to be associated with the hyperpartisan—and occasionally hateful—rhetoric. They are finally drawing a line because consumers are starting to take a stand.” Moreover, the advent of social media has made the response time for protesters and angry consumers almost immediate. Geller says: “In the past, a letter, petition, or phone campaign took a few days to put together and longer to execute. But now customers [listeners] can instantly rally using Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging to make their displeasure with a client, product, or service known immediately. These movements can happen fast.” Avlon concludes: “When big money starts shifting, it is a sign of a deeper tide that is difficult to undo, even if you are an industry icon like Rush Limbaugh. It is a sign that the times are changing. Let’s hope that what emerges is an evolution of the industry, away from stupid, predictable, and sometimes hateful hyperpartisanship and toward something a little smarter and more civil.” [Radio-Info.com, 3/9/2012; Daily Beast, 3/10/2012]
Entity Tags: Mark Levin, Valerie Geller, General Motors, Geico, Ford Motor Company, Allstate, John Avlon, Tom Leykis, Toyota Motor Corporation, State Farm, Premiere Radio Networks, Michael Savage, McDonald’s, Prudential, Subway Restaurants, Glenn Beck, Sandra Fluke, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Speculation mounts as to whether the National Review, a prominent conservative magazine, will fire veteran columnist John Derbyshire over an overtly racist screed he penned for an obscure blog yesterday (see April 5, 2012). Editor Rich Lowry calls Derbyshire’s column “appalling” but refuses to discuss any possibility of Derbyshire’s firing or other sanctions. Lowry asserts that “no one at National Review” shares Derbyshire’s views. National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru posts on Twitter that he does not wish to be associated with Derbyshire any longer, and National Review editor Jonah Goldberg posts on Twitter that he finds Derbyshire’s column “fundamentally indefensible and offensive.” Faiz Shakir of the liberal news Web site Think Progress calls Derbyshire’s column “unbelievably racist.” Derbyshire has written for the National Review for 12 years, and in 2003 characterized himself as a “racist” (see November 11-18, 2003). [Think Progress, 4/6/2012] Derbyshire will indeed be fired from the National Review as a result of his column (see April 7, 2012).
An array of journalists and columnists from the left and right attack National Review columnist John Derbyshire over what they consider a flatly racist column published in a right-wing blog (see April 5, 2012). The New York Daily News’s Alexander Nazaryan calls Derbyshire’s column “racist junk.” He speculates that it may be “lead-footed satire” instead of a serious assertion, though Derbyshire will state that he considers his column “social commentary” and not satire. According to Nazaryan, Derbyshire failed to exhibit a basic modicum of “ordinary human decency” in his column, and instead produced a work that “only a Klansman would find hilarious.” Nazaryan continues: “Derbyshire has only one point, and he hammers it home again and again: Black Americans are dangerous, less intelligent, and poorly socialized. He wants his children to stay away from them as much as possible.” He is, Nazaryan writes, “a perfect poster boy for what conservatism has degenerated into.” Matt Lewis of the conservative news blog Daily Caller writes: “Some people aren’t worth the fighting for. Some things are indefensible. This is one of those cases.” [New York Daily News, 4/5/2012; Think Progress, 4/6/2012] Blogger Charles Johnson, a conservative who has become increasingly frustrated at the racism and gender hatred promulgated by some on the right (see April 15, 2011, February 9-11, 2012, February 12-13, 2012, and February 29, 2012), calls the column “overtly racist, paranoid, and frankly deranged.” [Charles Johnson, 4/6/2012]
Magazine Must Fire Derbyshire - Josh Barro of the conservative business publication Forbes writes that the National Review must fire Derbyshire immediately. Lowry often complains that the publication is unfairly characterized as promoting racism and bigotry, Barro writes, but notes that it is difficult for Lowry to complain about such characterizations as long as he publishes work by overtly bigoted columnists such as Derbyshire. [Forbes, 4/6/2012] Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates declares flatly, “John Derbyshire is a racist.” Derbyshire proclaimed himself a racist nine years ago, Coates observes (see November 11-18, 2003), and writes: “I guess it’s admirable that Rich Lowry is taking time away from pondering why people think he’s a bigot, to denounce Derbyshire. But ‘Derb’ told you what he was in 2003. And National Review continued to employ him. That’s who they are. What else is there?” [Atlantic, 4/7/2012]
Derbyshire Serves Useful Purpose for Publication - Atlantic Wire columnist Elspeth Reeve believes the National Review has not yet fired Derbyshire because his writings are useful to it, writing: “The truth about intellectual magazines is that not all of their readers are as enlightened and forward-thinking and clear-eyed as the people who produce them imagine themselves to be. So the trick to pull off is how to give what those less enlightened readers want—and thereby secure their money either through subscriptions or contributions—while still maintaining an air of respectability. Think of how your PBS station always trots out the stars-of-the-1970s concerts and River Dance whenever pledge drive comes around. That’s where Derbyshire comes in. You’re probably familiar with the phrase, ‘No offense, but… ’ which always precedes something offensive wrapped in an ‘I’m just telling it like it is’ attitude. In certain parts of the country, there’s a similar use of the phrase, ‘I’m not racist, but… ’ which always signifies that the speaker is about to say something racist. Derbyshire’s specialty is the fancy-pants version of ‘I’m not racist, but… ’ … Derbyshire lends credibility to the sense of white grievance—that white people are the real victims of racism. He doesn’t use the language Ron Paul did in his racist old newsletters, which painted a vivid picture of packs of black thugs marauding cities and infecting white women with HIV for the sheer fun of it (see 1978-1996). That was specifically to appeal to rednecks. Derbyshire is classier than that.” Reeve concludes: “Race-baiting is getting harder and harder to do while holding onto your job. So, who knows, maybe this will be the piece that finally costs Derbyshire his. If it is, he will no doubt be surprised after such a long career of writing outrageously racist things. He’s served, for all the aspiring race-baiters out there, as the model for how it’s done.” [Atlantic Wire, 4/6/2012] Derbyshire will indeed be fired from the National Review as a result of his column (see April 7, 2012).
National Review editor Rich Lowry pens a brief blog post announcing that the magazine has “part[ed] ways” with John Derbyshire, a self-proclaimed “racist” (see November 11-18, 2003) who wrote for the magazine for 12 years. The reason is Derbyshire’s recent column for an obscure blog that asserted blacks are genetically inferior to whites and Asians, and advised white and Asian parents to teach their children to avoid blacks for their own safety (see April 5, 2012). The column met with a firestorm of criticism from both left and right, including from Lowry and other senior National Review officials (see April 5-6, 2012). However, Lowry is almost effusive in his praise of Derbyshire, whom he calls “Derb” throughout his post, characterizing him as “a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer.” Derbyshire can also be “maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative” on occasion, Lowry notes, and calls Derbyshire’s recent column “nasty and indefensible.” Because Derbyshire is identified so closely with National Review, Lowry writes, “Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues (see February 1, 2001, February 15, 2001, November 11-18, 2003, July 7, 2008, October 6, 2009, and April 5, 2010), but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO [National Review Online], or as someone associated with NR any longer.” [National Review, 4/7/2012] The New York Daily News’s Alexander Nazaryan writes that “it has been thoroughly refreshing and, dare I say it, modestly uplifting to witness a surprisingly large swath of the right-wing blogosphere condemn Derbyshire’s comments.” Nazaryan writes that he fears Derbyshire’s firing is “merely a public relations move” by the National Review: “[N]o sane publication would want to be associated with this kind of rhetoric, especially in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing,” referring to the recent murder of an African-American teenager by a white conservative in Florida and the controversy that murder has engendered. But, Nazaryan continues, “[a] more hopeful part of me wants to—no, yearns to—believe that this will engender a serious conversation among the right wing about race, and will maybe even rein in some of the ideological excesses of the tea party movement. We shall see. For now, I am just glad that Derbyshire’s humor was met with outrage by both the right and the left.” [New York Daily News, 4/5/2012]
Investigative journalist Robert Parry speaks at a conference in Heidelberg, Germany concerning the progression of journalism from the 1970s to the present. Parry tells the gathering that American investigative journalism may have hit something of a zenith in the 1970s, with the media exposure of the Pentagon Papers (see March 1971) and the Watergate scandal (see August 8, 1974). “That was a time when US journalism perhaps was at its best, far from perfect, but doing what the Founders had in mind when they afforded special protections to the American press,” he says. “In the 1970s, besides the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, there were other important press disclosures, like the My Lai massacre story and the CIA abuses—from Iran to Guatemala, from Cuba to Chile. For people around the world, American journalism was the gold standard. Granted, that was never the full picture. There were shortcomings even in the 1970s. You also could argue that the US news media’s performance then was exceptional mostly in contrast to its failures during the Cold War, when reporters tended to be stenographers to power, going along to get along, including early in the Vietnam War.” However, those days are long past, Parry notes, and in recent years, American journalism has, he says, gone “terribly wrong.” Parry says that the American press was subjected to an orchestrated program of propaganda and manipulation on a par with what the CIA did in many foreign countries: “Think how the CIA would target a country with the goal of shoring up a wealthy oligarchy. The agency might begin by taking over influential media outlets or starting its own. It would identify useful friends and isolate troublesome enemies. It would organize pro-oligarchy political groups. It would finance agit-prop specialists skilled at undermining and discrediting perceived enemies. If the project were successful, you would expect the oligarchy to consolidate its power, to get laws written in its favor. And eventually the winners would take a larger share of the nation’s wealth. And what we saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the United States was something like the behavior of an embattled oligarchy. Nixon’s embittered allies and the Right behaved as if they were following a CIA script. They built fronts; they took over and opened new media outlets; they spread propaganda; they discredited people who got in the way; ultimately, they consolidated power; they changed laws in their favor; and—over the course of several decades—they made themselves even richer, indeed a lot richer, and that, in turn, has translated into even more power.”
Building a Base - Right-wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers (see 1979-1980) and Richard Mellon Scaife, along with Nixon-era figures such as former Treasury Secretary William Simon (a Wall Street investment banker who ran the right-wing Olin Foundation) worked to organize conservative foundations; their money went into funding what Parry calls “right-wing media… right-wing think tanks… [and] right-wing attack groups. Some of these attack groups were set up to go after troublesome reporters.” Parry finds it ironic, in light of the CIA’s interference in the affairs of other nations, that two foreign media moguls, Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, were key figures in building and financing this conservative media construct. Some media outlets, such as Fox News (see Summer 1970 and October 7, 1996), were created from scratch, while others, such as the venerable and formerly liberal New Republic, were bought out and taken over by conservatives. When Ronald Reagan ascended to the White House, Parry says, he brought along with him “a gifted team of [public relations] and ad men.” Vice President George H.W. Bush, a former CIA director, enabled access to that agency’s propaganda professionals. And Reagan named William Casey to head the CIA; Casey, a former Nixon administration official, was “obsessed [with] the importance of deception and propaganda,” Parry says. “Casey understood that he who controlled the flow of information had a decisive advantage in any conflict.”
Two-Pronged Attack - Two key sources of information for Washington media insiders were targeted, Parry says: the “fiercely independent” CIA analytical division, whose analyses had so often proven damaging to White House plans when reported, and the “unruly” Washington press corps. Casey targeted the CIA analysts, placing his young assistant, Robert Gates, in charge of the analytical division; Gates’s reorganization drove many troublesome analysts into early retirement, to be replaced with more malleable analysts who would echo the White House’s hard line against “Soviet expansionism.” Another Casey crony, Walter Raymond Jr., worked to corral the Washington press corps from his position on the National Security Council. Raymond headed an interagency task force that ostensibly spread “good news” about American policies in the foreign press, but in reality worked to smear and besmirch American journalists who the White House found troubling. According to Parry, “Secret government documents that later emerged in the Iran-Contra scandal revealed that Raymond’s team worked aggressively and systematically to lobby news executives and turn them against their reporters when the reporters dug up information that clashed with Reagan’s propaganda, especially in hot spots like Central America.” It was easy to discredit female journalists in Central America, Parry says; Raymond’s team would spread rumors that they were secretly having sexual liaisons with Communist officials. Other reporters were dismissed as “liberals,” a label that many news executives were eager to avoid. Working through the news executives was remarkably successful, Parry says, and it was not long before many Washington reporters were either brought to heel or marginalized.
'Perception Management' - Reagan’s team called its domestic propaganda scheme “perception management.” Parry says: “The idea was that if you could manage how the American people perceived events abroad, you could not only insure their continued support of the foreign policy, but in making the people more compliant domestically. A frightened population is much easier to control. Thus, if you could manage the information flows inside the government and inside the Washington press corps, you could be more confident that there would be no more Vietnam-style protests. No more Pentagon Papers. No more My Lai massacre disclosures. No more Watergates.” The New York Times and Washington Post, the newspapers that had led the surge of investigative reporting in the 1970s, were effectively muzzled during the Reagan era; Parry says that the two papers “became more solicitous to the Establishment than they were committed to the quality journalism that had contributed to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.” The same happened at the Associated Press (AP), where Parry had attempted, with limited success, to dig into the Reagan administration’s Central American policies, policies that would eventually crystallize into the Iran-Contra scandal (see May 5, 1987). Few newspapers followed the lead of AP reporters such as Parry and Brian Barger until late 1986, when the Hasenfus air crash provided a news story that editors could no longer ignore (see October 5, 1986). But, Parry says, by the time of the Iran-Contra hearings, few news providers, including the Associated Press, had the stomach for another scandal that might result in another impeachment, particularly in light of the relentless pressure coming from the Reagan administration and its proxies. By June 1990, Parry says he understood “the concept of ‘perception management’ had carried the day in Washington, with remarkably little resistance from the Washington press corps.… Washington journalists had reverted to their pre-Vietnam, pre-Watergate inability to penetrate important government secrets in a significant way.” The process accelerated after 9/11, Parry says: “[M]any journalists reverted back their earlier roles as stenographers to power. They also became cheerleaders for a misguided war in Iraq. Indeed, you can track the arc of modern American journalism from its apex at the Pentagon Papers and Watergate curving downward to that center point of Iran-Contra before reaching the nadir of Bush’s war in Iraq. Journalists found it hard even to challenge Bush when he was telling obvious lies. For instance, in June 2003, as the search for WMD came up empty, Bush began to tell reporters that he had no choice but to invade because Saddam Hussein had refused to let UN inspectors in. Though everyone knew that Hussein had let the inspectors in and that it was Bush who had forced them to leave in March 2003, not a single reporter confronted Bush on this lie, which he repeated again and again right through his exit interviews in 2008” (see November 2002-March 2003, November 25, 2002, December 2, 2002, December 5, 2002, January 9, 2003, March 7, 2003, and March 17, 2003).
The Wikileaks Era and the 'Fawning Corporate Media' - Parry says that now, the tough-minded independent media has been all but supplanted by what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern calls the “Fawning Corporate Media.” This has increased public distrust of the media, which has led to people seeking alternative investigative and reporting methods. Parry comments that much of the real investigative journalism happening now is the product of non-professionals working outside the traditional media structure, such as Wikileaks (see February 15, 2007, 2008, and April 18, 2009). However, the independent media have not demonstrated they can reach the level of influence of institutions like the Washington Post and the New York Times. “[I]f we were assessing how well the post-Watergate CIA-style covert operation worked,” Parry says, “we’d have to conclude that it was remarkably successful. Even after George W. Bush took the United States to war in Iraq under false pretenses and even after he authorized the torture of detainees in the ‘war on terror,’ no one involved in those decisions has faced any accountability at all. When high-flying Wall Street bankers brought the world’s economy to its knees with risky gambles in 2008, Western governments used trillions of dollars in public moneys to bail the bankers out. But not one senior banker faced prosecution.… Another measure of how the post-Watergate counteroffensive succeeded would be to note how very well America’s oligarchy had done financially in the past few decades. Not only has political power been concentrated in their hands, but the country’s wealth, too.… So, a sad but—I think—fair conclusion would be that at least for the time being, perception management has won out over truth. But the struggle over information and democracy has entered another new and unpredictable phase.” [Consortium News, 5/15/2012]
Entity Tags: Fox News, David Koch, Washington Post, William Casey, William Simon, Central Intelligence Agency, Associated Press, The New Republic, Sun Myung Moon, Walter Raymond, Jr, Ronald Reagan, New York Times, George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Rupert Murdoch, Robert Parry, Ray McGovern, Robert M. Gates, Olin Foundation, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Jeffrey Toobin in 2007. [Source: Wikimedia]Author and political pundit, Jeffrey Toobin, publishes an in-depth article for the New Yorker showing that Chief Justice John Roberts engineered the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010), moving it from a case that could well have been considered and decided on a relatively narrow basis to a sweeping decision that reformed the nation’s campaign finance structure. Toobin writes that the underlying issue was quite narrow: the conservative advocacy organization Citizens United (CU) wanted to run a documentary attacking presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) on “video on demand” cable broadcast (see January 10-16, 2008). Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation (see March 27, 2002 and December 10, 2003), the Federal Election Commission (FEC) disallowed the broadcast because it would come 30 days or less before primary elections. CU challenged the decision in court (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, March 15, 2009, June 29, 2009, and September 9, 2009). [New Yorker, 5/21/2012] Toobin’s article is an excerpt from his forthcoming book The Oath: The Obama White House vs. The Supreme Court. It is dated May 21, but appears on the New Yorker’s Web site on May 14. [Tom Goldstein, 5/14/2012]
Oral Arguments - During the initial arguments (see March 15, 2009), attorney Theodore Olson, the former solicitor general for the Bush administration, argued a narrow case: that McCain-Feingold’s prohibitions only applied to television commercials, not to full-length documentary films. Olson argued, “This sort of communication was not something that Congress intended to prohibit.” Toobin writes: “Olson’s argument indicated that there was no need for the Court to declare any part of the law unconstitutional, or even to address the First Amendment implications of the case. Olson simply sought a judgment that McCain-Feingold did not apply to documentaries shown through video on demand.… If the justices had resolved the case as Olson had suggested, today Citizens United might well be forgotten—a narrow ruling on a remote aspect of campaign-finance law.” However, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most vocal opponents of campaign finance restrictions on the Court (see September 26, 1986, December 15, 1986, March 27, 1990, June 26, 1996, June 16, 2003, December 10, 2003, and June 25, 2007), seemed disappointed in the limited nature of Olson’s argument, Toobin writes. The oral arguments expand the case far beyond Olson’s initial position. Olson’s initial intention was to narrow the case so that the Court would not have to expand its scope to find in favor of CU.
Change of Scope - Ironically, the government’s lead lawyer, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, may well have changed the scope of the case in favor of a broader interpretation. Traditionally, lawyers with the solicitor general (SG)‘s office are far more straightforward with the Court than is usual in advocacy-driven cases. Toobin writes: “The solicitor general’s lawyers press their arguments in a way that hews strictly to existing precedent. They don’t hide unfavorable facts from the justices. They are straight shooters.” Stewart, who had clerked for former Justice Harry Blackmun and a veteran of the SG office since 1993, is well aware of the requirements of Court arguments. But, Toobin writes, Stewart fell into a trap, prompted by Justice Samuel Alito’s pointed questioning about the government’s ability to ban or censor printed materials—i.e. books—under McCain-Feingold—and follow-up questions by Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, that led him to claim incorrectly that the government could indeed censor books under the law. Stewart’s incorrect assertion gave Roberts and his colleagues the chance to overturn McCain-Feingold on the grounds of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Second Arguments - The second arguments were held on September 9, 2009 (see September 9, 2009). The concept of “money equals speech” goes back at least as far as the 1976 Buckley decision (see January 30, 1976), and the five conservative justices were poised to stretch that definition much farther than has previously been done.
Majority Opinion - Toobin writes that Roberts’s decision was then to decide “how much he wanted to help the Republican Party. Roberts’s choice was: a lot.” Roberts assigned the opinion to Kennedy, the “swing” justice who had already written an expansive opinion gutting almost a century’s worth of campaign finance legislation. Kennedy tends to “swing wildly in one direction or another,” Toobin writes, “an extremist—of varied enthusiasms.” In the area of campaign finance, he has consistently “swung” to the conservative side of the argument. He is, Toobin writes, “extremely receptive to arguments that the government had unduly restricted freedom of speech—especially in the area of campaign finance.” Moreover, Kennedy enjoys writing controversial and “high-profile” opinions. Toobin says that Roberts’s choice of Kennedy to write the opinion was clever: Roberts came onto the Court promising to conduct himself with judicial modesty and a respect for precedent. Kennedy, with his draft opinion at the ready, was a better choice to write an opinion that lacked either modesty or a respect for Court precedence. Roberts, Toobin writes, “obtained a far-reaching result without leaving his own fingerprints.” Kennedy, in an often-eloquent opinion that did not deal with the gritty reality of the Citizens United case, stated that any restraint of money in a campaign risked infringing on free speech. “Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it.… By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the government deprives the disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speaker’s voice. The government may not by these means deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration. The First Amendment protects speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each.” Kennedy also reaffirmed the Court’s perception that corporations deserve the same First Amendment protections enjoyed by individuals. Kennedy’s opinion found, in Toobin’s words, that “[t]he Constitution required that all corporations, for-profit and nonprofit alike, be allowed to spend as much as they wanted, anytime they wanted, in support of the candidates of their choosing.” One of the only provisions remaining in McCain-Feingold after Kennedy’s opinion was the ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates.
Fiery Dissent from 'Liberal' Stevens - Toobin reminds readers that the elder statesman of the “liberal” wing of the Court at the time, John Paul Stevens, is a “moderate Midwestern Republican,” one of the last of a “vanishing political tradition.” Though Stevens’s views have migrated left on some issues, such as the death penalty, Toobin writes that the perception of Stevens as a Court liberal is mostly because of the Court’s steady progression to the right. Toobin writes that the 90-year-old Stevens has grown dispirited in recent years, as the conservative wing of the Court, led by Scalia, Alito, and Roberts with Clarence Thomas and often Kennedy in tow, overturned one Court precedent after another. “The course of Citizens United represented everything that offended Stevens most about the Roberts Court,” Toobin writes. Much of Stevens’s objections to the Roberts Court are rooted in procedure; he is deeply troubled by the Citizens United case being transformed by Roberts and his conservative colleagues from a narrowly focused case about a single McCain-Feingold provision to what Toobin calls “an assault on a century of federal laws and precedents. To Stevens, it was the purest kind of judicial activism.” Stevens wrote in his angry dissent, “Five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.” A simple change in the McCain-Feingold law to disallow its application to full-length documentaries the CU case was sparked by, or even to nonprofit organizations such as CU, would have been appropriate, Stevens wrote. He penned a 90-page dissent, the longest of his career, blasting almost every aspect of Kennedy’s decision, starting with Kennedy’s ignoring of precedent and continuing with a refutation of Kennedy’s perception of the Constitutional definitions of “censorship” and “free speech.” Stevens was angered by Kennedy’s equivocation of corporations with people. “The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare,” he wrote. “Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.” Congress has drawn significant distinctions between corporations and people for over a century, he wrote: “at the federal level, the express distinction between corporate and individual political spending on elections stretches back to 1907, when Congress passed the Tillman Act” (see 1907). He even challenged Kennedy’s stated fear that the government might persecute individuals’ speech based on “the speaker’s identity,” sarcastically noting that Kennedy’s opinion “would have accorded the propaganda broadcasts to our troops by ‘Tokyo Rose’ [a famed Japanese propagandist] during World War II the same protection as speech by Allied commanders.” According to Toobin, Stevens’s law clerks disliked the dated reference, but Stevens, a Navy veteran, insisted on keeping it. Toobin writes that “Stevens’s conclusion was despairing.” Stevens concluded: “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.… It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” Toobin notes that as “impressive” as Stevens’s dissent may have been, it was Kennedy’s opinion that “was reshaping American politics.”
Reaction - In his State of the Union address six days after the verdict, President Obama referenced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concerns about foreign influence in American politics by saying, “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections” (see January 27-29, 2010). Democrats cheered as Obama said, “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities.” Alito’s mouthing of the words “not true” stirred some controversy; Toobin notes that Alito was technically correct, as “Kennedy’s opinion expressly reserved the question of whether the ruling applied to foreign corporations.” However, Toobin notes, “as Olson had argued before the justices, the logic of the Court’s prior decisions suggested that foreign corporations had equal rights to spend in American elections.” With the Citizens United decision and a March 2010 decision that allowed for the formation of “super PACs” (see March 26, 2010), the way was clear for what Toobin calls “presidential campaigns in 2012 that were essentially underwritten by single individuals.” He notes the billionaires that almost single-handedly supported Republican presidential candidates (see February 21, 2012, February 16-17, 2012, February 21, 2012, March 26, 2012, and April 22, 2012), and the efforts of organizations like Crossroads GPS that have to date raised tens of millions of dollars for Republican candidates (see May 2, 2012). Toobin believes that the Court will continue to deregulate campaign finance, noting the 2011 decision that invalidated Arizona’s system of public financing that state enacted after a series of campaign finance scandals (see June 27, 2011). He concludes, “The Roberts Court, it appears, will guarantee moneyed interests the freedom to raise and spend any amount, from any source, at any time, in order to win elections.” [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Criticisms of the Article - Toobin’s article will engender significant criticism, from nuanced questioning of particular elements of Toobin’s story (see May 14, 2012) to accusations of outright “fictionalizing” (see May 17, 2012) and “libelous” claims (see May 15-17, 2012).
Entity Tags: Clarence Thomas, US Supreme Court, Citizens United, Barack Obama, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, American Crossroads GPS, Tillman Act, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, John Paul Stevens, John G. Roberts, Jr, Malcolm Stewart, Jeffrey Toobin, Republican Party, Hillary Clinton, Samuel Alito, Federal Election Commission
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York, advises Representative Nan Hayworth (R-NY) to fire campaign communications director Jay Townsend after he advised his readers to “hurl some acid at those female Democratic senators” who disagree with Hayworth’s politics (see May 27-31, 2012). The Herald-Record is the largest newspaper in Hayworth’s Congressional district. In an editorial, the newspaper writes that if Hayworth “decides to keep Jay Townsend anywhere near her campaign after his outburst on Facebook this week, she will be sending the unmistakable message that she agrees with his stand—If you don’t like the politics of your opponent, react with violence.” The editorial then notes, “With people bringing guns to protest rallies, and with the memory of the fatal shootings in Arizona that almost took the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords still very fresh, it is hard to believe that Townsend—with his broad and deep experience in politics—could make such a callous remark without understanding the consequences.” It concludes with a call for Hayworth to fire Townsend. [Times Herald-Record (Middletown NY), 6/3/2012]
Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee block a proposal that would force television stations to make records about political advertisement buys public on the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had approved the proposal in April 2012. It would require television stations affiliated with the four top networks in the 50 largest markets to post political ad sales online; stations are already required to make the records available on request, but most stations keep the records on paper, making it difficult to compile and track the information as it is recorded. The data includes the rates charged for political spots, the dates the spots aired, and the class of time purchased. Broadcasters had argued against the proposal, claiming that it would cost them money and would force them to reveal information that would make them less competitive. Broadcasters are expected to make as much as $3 billion this year from political advertisement sales. Committee chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) argued that “television station fiscal matters are private and should be kept private.” But Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center says Rogers’s argument is “contrary to existing laws that have been on the books for decades,” because the information is already available to the public. She calls the idea that switching from paper would be a burden for stations “ridiculous.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/8/2012]
In the hours after a horrific shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that took the lives of 12 people, Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) blames the shooting on what he calls the “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs,” and asks why no one in the theater was armed and able to shoot the gunman. The alleged gunman, college student James Eagan Holmes, was taken into custody at the scene, a midnight showing of the just-released movie The Dark Knight Rises. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, ballistic helmet, a gas mask, and what the press calls “military/SWAT-style clothing.” He carried an assault rifle, two handguns, a knife, and a gas canister. Before he began shooting, he released a gas or smoke canister into the theater. Gohmert speaks out on the Heritage Foundation’s Istook Live! show, hosted by former Congressman Ernest Istook. Istook asks Gohmert why he believes such senseless violence happens, and Gohmert responds by citing what he calls weakening Christian values in Americans. “You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of a derelict takes place,” he says. “Some of us happen to believe that when our founders talked about guarding our virtue and freedom, that that was important. Whether it’s John Adams saying our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people… Ben Franklin, only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, as nations become corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters. We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country.” Istook notes that no one has determined the motivation of the shooter just yet. Gohmert says that may be true, but then calls the shootings “a terrorist act” that could have been avoided if the country placed a higher value on God. “People say… where was God in all of this?” Gohmert says. “We’ve threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God’s name, they’re going to be jailed… I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.” Gohmert adds that the shooter could have been stopped had someone else been in the theater with a gun and shot back at him. The theater was crowded with people, including many teenagers and children; the youngest victim identified by the media was a three-month-old child. “It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?” Gohmert asks. Istook notes that Colorado has concealed-carry laws in place that allow moviegoers to bring their guns into the theater, though apparently the theater itself does not allow weapons inside the premises. [Huffington Post, 7/20/2012; CBS News, 7/20/2012; KCNC-TV, 7/20/2012; Louis Gohmert, 7/20/2012] Jeff Fecke of Care2 writes: “[T]hese remarks will likely be ill-received; in the wake of a tragedy, few people want to see finger-pointing. Especially by someone claiming that God would allow 12 people to die out of pique.” [Care2, 7/20/2012]
In an editorial claiming that the Obama administration is engaged in giving preferential land-use permits to solar energy producers over fossil fuel corporations, the Wall Street Journal claims, “The dirty secret of solar and wind power is that they are extremely land intensive, especially compared to coal mining, oil and gas drilling, or building a nuclear power plant.” [Wall Street Journal, 8/13/2012] In 2003, the US Department of Energy concluded that most of the land needed for renewable energy sites could be supplied by abandoned industrial sites. Moreover, “with today’s commercial systems, the solar energy resource in a 100-by-100-mile area of Nevada could supply the United States with all of its electricity. If these systems were distributed to the 50 states, the land required from each state would be an area of about 17 by 17 miles. This area is available now from parking lots, rooftops, and vacant land. In fact, 90 percent of America’s current electricity needs could be supplied with solar electric systems built on the estimated 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites in our nation’s cities.” The federal government is expanding its efforts to find “disturbed and abandoned lands that are suitable for renewable energy development.… Groups concerned with minimizing the impacts of energy development on wildlife prefer prioritizing these areas for development.” The Energy Information Administration says: “Covering 4 percent of the world’s desert area with photovoltaics could supply the equivalent of all of the world’s electricity. The Gobi Desert alone could supply almost all of the world’s total electricity demand.” And a 2009 study found that “in most cases” solar arrays in areas with plenty of sunlight use “less land than the coal-fuel cycle coupled with surface mining.” [National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1/2003 ; US Energy Information Administration, 12/19/2011; Defenders of Wildlife, 1/14/2013 ; Media Matters, 1/24/2013]
Conservative columnist Charles Lane, writing for the Washington Post, pens a column deriding the renewable energy industry and says that powerful Democratic politicians are using that industry to make themselves rich. He cites the example of former Vice President Al Gore, who has made somewhere around $100 million “partly through investing in alternative energy firms subsidized by the Obama administration.” Lane juxtaposes this information with a note that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney earned the cheers of “thousands” when, at a rally in Ohio, he proclaimed his support for the coal industry. Lane writes that liberals and Democrats are profiting handsomely by forcing the government to subsidize what he characterizes as an industry doomed to failure: “As the Democrats become more committed to, and defined by, a green agenda, and as they become dependent on money from high-tech venture capitalists and their lobbyists, it becomes harder to describe them as a party for the little guy—or liberalism as a philosophy of distributive justice.” Lane claims that Gore has an inherent conflict of interest in speaking out about alternative energy and climate change while at the same time investing in alternative energy research and development. He then lambasts the entire renewable energy industry as “not cost-competitive with traditional energy,” and claims that it “won’t be for years. So it can’t work without either taxpayer subsidies, much of which accrue to ‘entrepreneurs’ such as Gore, or higher prices for fossil energy—the brunt of which is borne by people of modest means.” Lane writes that “expensive electricity is bad for industry, as Germany is discovering. Fact is, subsidies for green energy do not so much create jobs as shift them around.” So-called “smart grids,” advanced technology that makes conventional electricity’s transmission more efficient and reliable, is bad, he writes, because it puts “human meter readers” out of work, “just as solar panels put coal miners out of work.” If any new energy technology is worth pursuing, he writes, it is “fracking,” the industry practice that promises to extract millions of tons of natural gas from the ground. Solar and other renewable energy industries would not exist if it were not for government subsidies, he claims, and will never be sustainable without government payouts. [Washington Post, 10/15/2012] Lane’s claim about Germany’s failure to create jobs in its renewable energy industry is contradicted by a German study showing that the industry creates hundreds of thousands of jobs each year (see July 31, 2013). Similarly, his claim that wealthy solar energy producers are sustained by higher rates paid by poor consumers will be strongly challenged (see April 5, 2013).
On Fox News’s morning show Fox and Friends, “expert” commentator Shibani Joshi of Fox Business tells viewers that the reason Germany has had so much success with its solar power industry is that it gets a great deal more sunlight than America does. In reality, Germany gets comparatively little sunlight, comparative to Alaska, the US state that gets the least amount of annual direct solar energy. Neither Joshi nor any of the hosts on the show mention Germany’s long governmental support of solar energy development and its backing of green technology research and development. Host Gretchen Carlson and her fellow hosts deride the Obama administration’s “failed” solar subsidies, with Carlson saying: “The United States simply hasn’t figured out how to do solar cheaply and effectively. You look at the country of Germany, it’s working out great for them.” The future of America’s solar industry, Carlson asserts, “is dim.” She then asks Joshi: “What was Germany doing correct? Are they just a smaller country, and that made it more feasible?” Joshi replies: “They’re a smaller country and they’ve got lots of sun. Right? They’ve got a lot more sun than we do.… The problem is it’s a cloudy day and it’s raining, you’re not gonna have it.” A few American states like California get a relatively plentiful amount of sunshine, Joshi says, and experience some success with generating energy from sunlight, “but here on the East Coast, it’s just not going to work.” Slate reporter Will Oremus will later write: “Gosh, why hasn’t anyone thought of that before? Wouldn’t you think that some scientist, somewhere, would have noticed that the East Coast is far less sunny than Central Europe and therefore incapable of producing solar power on the same scale? You would—if it were true.” According to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL—see 1977), almost the entire continental US gets more sunlight than the sunniest region of Germany. NREL scientist Sarah Kurtz tells Oremus, “Germany’s solar resource is akin to Alaska’s.” According to an NREL map, the American Southwest is one of the best places in the world to generate solar power, and all of the continental US with the possible exception of the Puget Sound region in Washington state gets far more sunlight than anywhere in Germany. [Slate, 2/7/2013; Media Matters, 2/7/2013] Four days later, Joshi will admit she is wrong. In a post on Fox News’s blog, she will write: “I incorrectly stated that the chief difference between the US and Germany’s success with solar installations had to do with climate differences on a Fox and Friends appearance on Feb. 7. In fact, the difference come down more to subsidies and political priorities and has nothing to with sunshine.” She will then continue to deride solar energy as a minor element in a “divers[ified] energy portfolio,” and will claim that natural gas obtained via “fracking” is a better and more reliable source of energy for the next century. [Fox News, 2/11/2013]
Amory B. Lovins, the chief scientist for the Rocky Mountain Institute and a well-known expert on sustainable and renewable energy, writes in a blog post for the Institute that the US solar industry is being attacked by an onslaught of disinformation and lies by the mainstream media, much of it designed to promote the interests of the conventional electric utilities. He begins by citing the infamous “flub” by Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi, who in January 2013 lied to viewers when she said Germany has a more successful solar industry than the US because it has “got a lot more sun than we do” (see February 7, 2013). Lovins notes, “She recanted the next day while adding new errors.” He cites a pattern of what he calls “misinformed or, worse, systematically and falsely negative stories about renewable energy.” Some are simply erroneous, he admits, “due to careless reporting, sloppy fact checking, and perpetuation of old myths. But other coverage walks, or crosses, the dangerous line of a disinformation campaign—a persistent pattern of coverage meant to undermine renewables’ strong market reality. This has become common enough in mainstream media that some researchers have focused their attention on this balance of accurate and positive coverage vs. inaccurate and negative coverage.” The coverage issue has become one of note, he says. Tim Holmes of the UK’s Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) says that media reporting has an outsized influence on the thinking of lawmakers. In Britain, Holmes says, left-leaning newspapers tend to write positively about renewable energy, while more conservative, Tory-favoring news outlets give far more negative coverage. Overall, negative coverage of renewable energy more than doubles the amount of positive coverage in the British press. In Britain, the “lopsided” coverage is largely driven by nuclear power advocates who fear competition from wind power.
Myth: Renewable Energy Industries Cause Job Losses - Lovins cites the October 2012 claim by a Washington Post opinion columnist that subsidies for green energy do not create jobs, where the columnist cited Germany as an example of his assertion (see October 15, 2012). He cites data from a German study debunking the Post claim, showing that Germany’s renewable energy sector created over 380,000 jobs in 2011 alone and was continuing to create more jobs each year. Lovins writes, “More jobs have been created than lost in Germany’s energy sector—plus any jobs gained as heavy industry moves to Germany for its competitive electricity.” He writes that “a myth persists that countries lose more jobs then they gain when they transition to renewables.” He calls this claim an “upside-down fantasy” promulgated by a faulty study released by King Juan Carlos University in Spain in 2009 and written by an economist with reported ties to ExxonMobil, the conservative Heartland Institute, and the far-right Koch brothers (see August 30, 2010). The study claimed that for every job created in Spain’s renewable energy industry, 2.2 jobs were lost in the general job market. The story is still reported as fact today. But the study was debunked by experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL—see 1977) and the Spanish government. A 2012 study by the International Labour Organization shows that Spain is leading Europe in “green” job creation. Similar claims have been made about the American job market, with right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute (also funded by the Koch brothers—see 1977-Present and February 29, 2012) asserting that if people think renewable energy industries will create jobs, “we’re in a lot of trouble.” In reality, the American renewable energy industries created over 110,000 new jobs in 2012; in 2010, the US had more jobs in the “clean economy” than in the fossil-fuel industries.
Disinformation Campaign - Lovins writes that the attacks on the renewable energy industry are too systematic and coordinated to be accidental. Only one out of every 10 articles written about renewable energy had a quote from a spokesperson with the renewable energy industry, according to a recent survey. Retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, head of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), says that enemies of the renewable energy industries “are dominating the conversation through misrepresentation, exaggeration, distraction, and millions of dollars in lobbying and advertising.” Lovins concludes: “This misleading coverage fuels policy uncertainty and doubt, reducing investment security and industry development. Disinformation hurts the industry and retards its—and our nation’s—progress. As Germany has shown, investing in renewables can grow economies and create jobs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions even in a climate as ‘sunny’ as Seattle. We just have to get the facts right, and insist that our reporters and media tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” [Rocky Mountain Institute, 7/31/2013]
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