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

Fox Spins the Pope, Shields Ultra-Rich Crazy Talk

Fox Spins the Pope, Shields Ultra-Rich Crazy Talk

Adam Shaw writing for declares that Pope Francis has opened a “War on Aspiration” by calling out the excesses of capitalism and the resulting human suffering. 

The Pope has challenged the idea that trickle-down economics works to create a shared economic prosperity and called into question values that are focused inordinately on money and markets over people.

According to Mr. Shaw’s fevered account, the casualties of this crusade are regular Joes like him struggling to put food on the family table.

Shaw, by misrepresenting his words, creates a straw Pope and a false narrative which helps divert from the power and verity of Pope Francis’ message.


Is it conceivable that Pope Francis is “waging a war” on our most earnest, personal hopes and dreams? Or, with an honest look at his meaning, is he calling out guys like these:

Billionaire investor and TV personality, Kevin O’leary responded to a recent Oxfam study which reported that the world’s 85 richest people have equal wealth to the 3.5 billion poorest, this way: “it’s fantastic.”

“It inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the 1% and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top,'” … “This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this?”… “It’s a celebratory stat, I’m very excited about it… wonderful to see it happen.”

The President of Freedom Industries, on the night that began an ongoing, catastrophic chemical spill in WV waters, dodged several press questions and then tried to walk away from further inquiry on the effects of the spill on the people of the state saying, “it’s been an extremely long day…” Since then it’s been revealed that Freedom failed to disclose a second chemical that was spilled at the same time into the Elk River.

Thomas Perkins is a venture capitalist who recently wrote in the pages of the WSJ that the “progressive war on the 1%” is comparable to Nazis Germany’s campaign against the Jews. In a follow up interview he said he should not have referred specifically to “Kristallnacht,” but stood by his message over all. He also talked about his watch which he said could buy a “six pack of Rolexes.”

It takes an almost super human feat of make believe and denial to pretend that Pope Francis is in any way talking about the needs of average people for economic security and to work toward their dreams, while simultaneously blocking out the obvious disregard, greed and off-the-rails public proclamations of the ultra-rich.

But that’s why they call it the Fox Bubble.

Rabid Fox Attacks Pope for Protecting Flock

Rabid Fox Attacks Pope for Protecting Flock

“Take heed to yourselves,…for grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”– ST. PAUL’S EXHORTATION TO ELDERS, ACTS 20:29,30.

Since his inception last March, Pope Francis has inspired millions with deeds of service and humility like washing the feet of youth inmates and, apparently, slipping out by night and undercover to minister to Rome’s homeless citizens.

He’s also inspired many of the “grievous wolves” of the right-wing media… to lose their minds in attacking and denouncing him.

Numerous pundits including Limbaugh and several on Fox “News” have jumped on the bombastic, anti-Francis bandwagon.

Why? To hear them tell it’s all about FREEDOM. And of course, SOCIALISM. You know, the usual smear job unleashed on anyone who has the audacity to notice and address with real concern the all too obvious economic and social realities of our time.

The Pope has challenged the idea that trickle-down economics works to create a shared economic prosperity and called into serious question societal values when we are consumed by markets and, well, consumption.

Not everyone thinks there’s a problem. Check out this billionaire literally celebrating the immense world wealth imbalance which leaves millions in crushing poverty. He describes the situation as: “Fantastic.” No, really. Watch.

I think the intensity of the vitriol directed against the Pope is a result of his having touched a nerve or two of special sensitivity to the propaganda profiteers. After all, they have spent decades using religion as a crude tool to divide people by whipping-up fear and hatred.

You can just hear them fuming behind the scenes: “And then along comes this popular Pope, who’s actually bringing people together for crying out loud, saying that Ideological Christianity is a “serious illness.

Illness, schmillness! Injecting ideology into religion is our bread and butter, jack! Why don’t you just stick to your Pope-mobile and what ever happened to the big hat anyway?

Then he says the church is “Obsessed with gays, abortion and birth control.” — He’s trying to take away all our best wedge issues!

This will not do.”

Last week in his Message for World Communications Day, Pope Francis hit even more directly on that nerve, saying that media communications should help us, “grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity.” 

He warned that the pace of modern media can be too fast and “enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.” Fox in Henhouse

It’s difficult given the Pope’s previous statements, and the increasing empirical evidence, not to see parts of this message as mostly directed at willfully divisive, myopic and misinformational right-wing media sources.

If you rely on Fox and most talk radio, you will catch all the latest smear and misrepresentation of Pope Francis and his words. But you wouldn’t hear his message and warning on media at all.

A Walk Down Hoax Scandal Lane: the IRS

A Walk Down Hoax Scandal Lane: the IRS

An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie. — A. Huxley

The right-wing media continues to throw out smoke screens in the form of debunked hoax-scandals in an attempt to deflect focus from Chris Christie’s NJ Bridgegate.

The latest is the claim that the mainstream media is giving more attention to Bridgegate than they did to the IRS scandal of last year.

The truth is that there was intense initial focus on the claim that the IRS was targeting right-wing/Tea Party groups but as emerging facts contradicted this claim, the media’s ADD kicked in big time and they checked out in search of fresh sensationalism.

The Hindenburg turned quickly into a toy balloon, deflating flatulently on its way to a dead stop.

Which is a problem because the early hyped reporting persists in public memory while the less sexy truth-of-the-matter is much less well known or understood.

The bold and simple story that ran wild was that the IRS had abused its wildly unpopular powers to put the big-government screws to right-wing groups; targeting the Tea Party for their political views in a tyrannical crackdown.

Wow, sort of confirms what the Tea Party has been trying to warn us about all along. TIME TO HIT THE ALL CAPS AND GO BALLISTIC!!!

Except that none of it was at all accurate.

The more mundane fact is that the IRS has the unenviable (and understaffed) task of making determinations as to which applying groups are eligible for special tax exempt 501c(4) status.

Having this status is not automatic, not a right. Under the law, It is a privilege conferred on organizations who are deemed to promote the social welfare and who do not unduly engage in partisan politics.

This system has been increasingly abused especially in the wake of the gutting of campaign finance laws, bringing on an avalanche of groups looking to set up as non-profits as a front for dark-money-funded political activity.

The IRS was overwhelmed by an influx of newly formed Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status in the run up to the 2012 elections.

IRS and Tea Party

Opposition to social welfare is pretty much the Tea Party’s reason for existing. That and ad hominem political attacks against Democrats, especially against President Barack (where’s the birth certificate!) Obama. Why would such rabidly partisan groups not be subject to specific review?

Even the assertion, however, that they were singled out was blatantly false. Lost in the right-wing media screeching and theatrics was the fact that not a single Tea Party group was denied status (they were merely sent follow up questionnaires to their applications) while a progressive group was denied.

Indeed, an FBI investigation concluded there was no illegal activity as the IRS checked up on groups with “Occupy” and “Progressive” in their names with the same zeal as Tea Party applicants.

To sum up, the IRS was simply doing its job under difficult conditions. And despite the conspiracy narrative of the right, they did it in a balanced way and bent over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt as to the partisan nature of Tea Party groups seeking the tax free benefit of 501c(4) designation.

But since so many media consumers did not have the benefit of the full story and only heard the sensationalized conspiratorial version, it continues to be trotted out as a diversionary tool to protect Governor Christie from his reality-based debacle.

Here again, right-wing media voices are asking us to go on hunting unicorns and to give a big fat pass to the all too real elephant in the room.

We shouldn’t let them get away with it.

To tell the truth. What would King say about Fox?

To tell the truth. What would King say about Fox?

There is always a danger that we will come to gloss over the message and meaning of great figures in the process of raising them to a stature of eternal honor.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of conviction who sought to convict us. The great man’s words again and again turn our focus inward; to that quiet within, beyond the world’s noise and distractions, where at last — if you will listen — you must hear the voice of conscience.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

That’s why it’s fitting that we observe King Day as a day of service: To answer the call of the inward voice to go beyond ourselves and engage with the world for the common good.

In stark contrast, the right-wing media megaphones keep the focus ever away from conscience-convicting self-reflection; instead pointing out at convenient scapegoats on which to heap scorn, derision and hatred.

King wrote this about the purpose of education:

We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda… Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

King’s movement was built on the values that come from a frank confrontation with truth both inward and outward and the faith and courage to act for the truth.

What happens to a society that loses the value of truth?

The right-wing media engine ceaselessly manufactures fantasy versions of reality to suit their needs and agendas without regard to fact or conscience. They twist the search for truth and meaning into a cynical rhetorical shell game which diminishes the spirit of our democracy and culture.

King led a movement by towering example toward a great, inclusive vision. Right-wing media figures manipulate and employ heated rhetoric to whip-up forces of division which threaten to extinguish that vision’s light.