It’s Ba-aa-ack! The Return of the 90’s style Clinton-Hit-Machine

It’s Ba-aa-ack! The Return of the 90’s style Clinton-Hit-Machine

Suddenly right-wingers are in love with the New York Times AND government regulations.

The New York Times handed the right-wing media attack machine a big, yummy early Easter egg with their journalistically challenged report on Hillary Clinton’s use of private e-mail as Secretary of State.

The article was heavy on suggestion but unclear to the point of misleading on whether Ms. Clinton had violated any laws when she forwent a government account and opted for a private system which she used for all official business.

Since then other outlets have attempted to fill in the gaps in the Times report and the consensus is that no laws were broken.

The law pertaining to use of private e-mail that the Times report seemed to be referring to (again, the report was indefinite) was not in place until over a year after Clinton left her post at State. The Times has since come back to say they were referring to other statutes, but if that’s the case, why were they not mentioned specifically in the original reporting?

Colin Powell also used private e-mail during his tenure as Secretary of State but I don’t recall any outcry then. Maybe the Times was too busy at the time churning out false reports on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction that had the effect of helping the Bush administration mislead the nation into war.

It’s not that issues around the use of private e-mail by high-profile public officials aren’t worthy of attention and that concerns around transparency and national security are not involved. They are.

The problem is that the Times’ vague and misleading report raised more questions than it answered and was more about insinuation than facts and hard journalism.

As a result a picture was painted that was a perfect Rorschach, in which the right-wing media smear machine could project all its paranoid conspiratorial imaginings while being able to point back to the alleged credibility of the Times to bolster its case.

But we should not by now be surprised to see the “lame stream media” acting as an amplifier and enabler of Fox/talk radio-style faux journalism. In 2013, 60 minutes’ Laura Logan interviewed an “eye-witness” to the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, whose testimony was then trumpeted by Fox and the rest of the echo chamber as validation of their conspiracy theories and political talking points. 12 days later, CBS was forced to pull the report when serious issues became known concerning the credibility of their source’s claims alleging to be a witness of events that night. In other words, he lied on-air and CBS broadcasted his lies after failing to do due journalistic vetting beforehand.

This is what is so disturbing and dangerous: it seems we can no longer grapple with real issues in the way that is necessary in a democracy because everything becomes fodder for the conspiracy mill of the right-wing media fear & smear machine.

Meanwhile, mainstream outlets that should know better, and that should have the integrity and skill to do better, are more and more succumbing to the paradigm of sensationalism, cynicism, and misinformation that haunts our politics and culture like a curse.

The result is commentators like Bill O’Reilly who, when revealed to be a serial liar, is shielded from consequence because his ratings remain high, reporters like Lara Logan who is given a few months off to let the dust settle before taking up where she left off at CBS, and the New York Times which is now refusing to address the glaring journalistic deficiencies of their “Hillary-gate” reporting.

Fear Goes Viral: Deranged Demagogues and the Epidemic of Ebola Scare-Mongering

Fear Goes Viral: Deranged Demagogues and the Epidemic of Ebola Scare-Mongering

Eric Duncan has passed away in a Texas hospital from the Ebola virus he contracted in Liberia. Two health care workers have tested positive for the disease after an apparent break down of protective protocol for hospital staff attending to Mr. Duncan in his final days. The CDC warns that more health care workers who treated Mr. Duncan may  be at risk of having contracted Ebola.

Meanwhile, the 48 other people that Mr. Duncan had contact with, before it was belatedly realized that he was infected, have continued to be monitored but have exhibited no symptoms of the disease. A deputy sheriff who came down with a fever after spending time in Mr. Duncan’s apartment tested negative for Ebola.

The Ebola outbreak in Texas, while obviously very troubling, in no way poses a panic-worthy threat to the United States and the chances of contracting the disease remain very low. That’s not the impression you would get, however, from much of the media coverage in the country.

Ebola is not an airborne virus, but the media airwaves are being infected by an epidemic of fear, lies and sensationalized misinformation that is transmitted into the homes of millions of Americans.

A well informed and coolheaded citizenry is an essential line of defense against the spread of infectious disease. Panic, misinformation, groundless fear and reckless rumors are the enemy in this fight and must not be allowed to take root in the public imagination.

Distinctly culpable are the bottomlessly irresponsible demagogues of the right-wing-media-noise-machine, whose very reason for existing is to create a self-perpetuating media bubble of hyper-politicized misinformation.

Just as a virus uses the normal functioning of the organism to carry infection and corrupt the health of the body, media demagogues infect the free flow of credible information — the very life’s blood of a democracy — with rhetoric, conspiracy and propaganda designed to inflame the fear centers of its victims and undermine reasoned response.

Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham — along with Fox — have dropped the most bottomlessly irresponsible, intellectually unhinged and morally bankrupt ravings imaginable right into the middle of a public health emergency.

While doctors, scientists and officials are working to maintain public calm and to disseminate facts, they find themselves drowned out by a deluge of noise and nonsense.

Politicizing, distorting and demagoguing on issues where the public understanding requires calm, clarity and trustworthiness are nothing new for the microphone-wielding miscreants of the right-wing echo chamber, but they have now rampaged over a line that must not be crossed.  They cannot not be ignored, denied or tolerated in this regard.

It must be said, directly and firmly, that the monsters of the right-wing media scare machine, in that they traffic in fear and inflammatory misinformation, are the enemy in this fight.

Laura Ingraham, aside from her gigs as radio host and Fox commentator, is also on the payroll as a contributor with ABC News, thus adding a veneer of mainstream credibility to her campaign of malignant misinformation.

Major news organizations, which seek to maintain their credibility and good name, should not be providing journalistic cover for inflammatory and hyper-politicized misinformation which endangers the public health and safety.

You can sign our petition here calling on ABC News CEO, James Goldston, to remove Ingraham immediately.

It has long been obvious that Fox “News” is not news at all, but rather a misinformation machine that exists to promote a political agenda. There is a substantial and growing body of empirical evidence that confirms this truth.

Right-wing, Tea Party politicians who have made a career of amplifying Fox/talk radio misinformation should do the right thing and step up now to condemn the politicization of the Ebola outbreak by these outlets.

Keith Rothfus is the representative of PA Congressional District 12 where I live in Beaver County. Mr. Rothfus has been endorsed by the “Tea Party Express” which itself has been heavily promoted by Fox and right-wing talk radio. At the endorsement rally in Boyce park in 2012, the event MC, Sean Hannity radio fill-in and Fox panelist, Rose Tennent joked with the crowd about the Obama-birther conspiracy as Mr. Rothfus stood by casually, waiting to be introduced.

Many of us are not laughing. Manipulating peoples’ fears and prejudices for financial and political profit isn’t my idea of yuks. And playing around with a public health crisis is my idea of evil.

There comes a time when you have to say, “Enough.”

We should all contact our members of Congress to tell them to publicly call on Fox to stop their hyper-politicized, misinformation campaign on the Ebola outbreak.

It’s going to take a ground swell of public outrage and revulsion to change the course of extremist media in America.

A massive political propaganda operation sewing the seeds of mass panic cannot be allowed to go on disguising itself as a “news” source. But it will unless we push back.

Look up your representative and Senators here:

Roundup: A big week for right-wing media crazy talk

Roundup: A big week for right-wing media crazy talk

RWM roundup: It’s been a big, crazy week in media crazy talk.

Reality-based viewers were left to starve as Bill O’Reilly shoveled chunks of red meat to the Fox “News” base during the Super Bowl pre-game interview with President Obama.

It was all hoax and conspiracy all the time as O’Reilly interrupted the President dozens of times, beating the dead horses of IRS and Benghazi while completely ignoring pressing issues of jobs, minimum wage and unemployment insurance extension.

It was as if he were speaking from an alternate bizzarro dimension… perhaps from a twisted wormhole reality created by a right-wing cable channel and amplified by hundreds if not thousands of talk radio voices across America. I expected Rod Serling to walk onto the set at any moment.

Twilight Zone

For his part, President Obama refused to let the exchange be sucked into O’Reilly’s netherworld of conspiracy and pushed back against Fox’s fantasy-based broadcast model saying, “These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.” 

Meanwhile in Oklahoma, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R) held a town hall event to get  some feed back from his constituents. What he got was a face full of “Obama derangement” flamer insanity.

One woman called for the execution of the President as an “enemy combatant.” Another more moderately, wants impeachment. She doesn’t elaborate for what crime. Because MuslimKenyanMarxist, I guess.

If you assume the Congressman pushed back against or attempted to tamp down this ugliness, you’d be way wrong. 180 degrees wrong in fact, because he jumped right in the crazy pot with them declaring the “lawlessness” of the President.

Its almost like him and his unhinged, crack pot constituents and Bill O’Reilly are all trapped together in a bubble of festering madness and malicious misinformation that’s been designed for some radical political agenda! Could it be?

Of course its not just Fox that’s guilty of perpetuating unreality. In this digital era of “report first and ask questions later” just about every outlet is jumping on the misinform America bandwagon.

This week the CBO released numbers on the Affordable Care Act’s effect on the economy and the media immediately set its hair on fire sensationalizing the stats.

Almost everybody got it wrong. 

The stats described a positive aspect of the ACA in that folks who are working jobs just to hang on to health care would be free to opt out and start their own businesses or take better care of their families. This would also free up jobs which are in short supply for other seekers.

Instead the media overwhelmingly misreported that the CBO was talking about a loss of jobs to the economy not an opting out of workers.

Chuck “It’s-not-my-job-to-fact-check” Todd predictably lodged this totally wrong report: “CBO essentially reaffirms GOP talking points on health care. Says it will cost jobs…”

This is another glaring case in point of why we fight for journalistic standards of truth and accuracy over sensationalism and report-it-first mania.

One more example is WTAE in Pittsburgh’s “Obamacare” hit piece from last week. Sign the petition here to call for a correction of this bogus and biased reporting.

Charlene signed and commented:

This is important to me because if you present yourself as a news program, then you should present the news–not someone’s opinion. When people want to be told what to think, they listen to Fox “News” or Rush Limbaugh. I expect better from WTAE. If you continue to sensationalize the news, I will stop watching.

#FakingNews: Local PGH station stands by fraudulent “Obamacare” coverage

#FakingNews: Local PGH station stands by fraudulent “Obamacare” coverage

There has been a rash of Obamacare “horror stories” making headlines across the country that, when exposed to a little scrutiny, are revealed to be completely bogus.

It started when Sean Hannity trotted out three couples with easily debunkable claims, then there was the case of a reporter in Texas who was punked by Tea Partisans and last week, in Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ Republican SOTU response the distressing tale of “Bette” from Spokane was touted who turned out to be not at all in the predicament that was claimed.

Now local Pittsburgh station WTAE has jumped on the bandwagon with a story that ran last Wednesday, Jan. 29th.

Anchor Wendy Bell reported from Simonetta’s Collision Repair Center where insurance broker Charles Moore delivered “devastating” news to the owner and assembled employees: “Obamacare” was making their health care costs explode.

The piece had all the bells and whistles, including dramatic graphics to highlight the numbers presented by the broker creating an impression of indisputable validity.

The cameras rolled as Ms. Bell asked one employee how she would afford her health care… “I don’t know,” she said seeming on the verge of tears.

Another employee said, “They call it the affordable health plan, there’s nothing affordable about it.”

Quite the powerful story. And its gotten plenty of exposure, especially in the right-wing media circuit. Republican members of Congress have shared it extensively on social media and used it to reinforce their anti-Obamacare talking points.

The problem is, despite the sensationalized graphics the story is void of crucial facts and information.

First, the story leaves out the fact that small business with fewer than 50 full-time employees — the Simonetta’s have 7 — are not required to offer insurance under Obamacare. If the “best” their broker could find was this plan employees are so unhappy with, they could decide to stop offering coverage — and give employees the chance to go into the Health Insurance Marketplace individually, giving them access to income-based premium credits and help lowering their out-of-pocket expenses.

Second, there is no mention of the small business tax credit (available since 2010!) in Obamacare that could save the Simonetta’s thousands of dollars. To qualify, a business has to have fewer than 25 FT employees, making less than $50,000, where the employer contributes at least 50% to workers’ health coverage and use the new Small Business Marketplace.

Third, there’s no way for viewers to know whether the numbers given by the broker are “the best” he could do, but there’s every reason to think not. A quick search on Healthcare.Gov’s window-shopping tool for business owners reveals a number of plans that are much better than the plan presented by the broker and WTAE as the Simonetta’s only option.

Broker Blog on Pre-Existing Conditions

If you assumed that WTAE verified the broker’s numbers, you would be wrong. WTAE simply broadcast Mr. Moore’s damning numbers uncritically and presented them as solid fact. 

These numbers seem very dubious to many and not enough information is provided in the story for viewers to perform a proper analysis. The report does not reference this lack of detail or question the broker on this point.

It turns out that there is also plenty of reason to be concerned about the source of these numbers. Mr. Charles Moore is presented in the report to be an unbiased professional.

In reality he is an outspoken far-right ideologue who publicly opposes the ACA.

One example is this blog where he opposes preexisting condition protections including for children.

Broker on WTAE Opposes Protections for Kids

Justin Antoniotti, news director at WTAE said the station is willing to run another story from a “different perspective.” But this only perpetuates the “he-said/she-said” reporting style that is the root of the problem, i.e. that facts and accuracy are sacrificed to emotional, contentious and ratings-driven coverage.

We have stressed to him and other WTAE news staff, including Wendy Bell, the importance of following up on the Simonetta’s story to clarify for their viewers that:

  1. The numbers used were the broker’s alone and were not verified by any journalistic due diligence or checking
  2. The broker is an extreme and public ideological opponent of the health care law and
  3. Due to critical factual omissions, viewers were left with an overall misrepresentation of the law and its impact.

The station has received numerous responses from members of the public who have expressed their concerns about this story. So far WTAE has not agreed to run any sort of follow up to address the issues in their reporting.

Tell WTAE that it is not enough to run another story without acknowledging the glaring problems in the Simonetta story. 


You can contact WTAE publicly, on their Twitter feedemail their news department here or call them at 412-244-4444 to demand accountability.

We all understand the importance of contacting our politicians when they fail to represent our interests and the public good.

We also must demand accountability from news outlets when they are guilty of media malpractice to demand that they not shred journalistic standards in a rush to sell out to sensationalism. 


[Meet the Obama-hating Tea Partisan who WTAE presented as a neutral, credible source on Obamacare]:


Broker is a Birther