By Karl Frisch
On Friday, the nation awoke to the news that the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to President Barack Obama. "I am both surprised and deeply humbled," Obama said that morning. "I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership…I will accept this award as a call to action."
But sadly, Obama’s words failed to touch the hearts of some of the world’s most esteemed and principled critics and commentators, all of whom have proven their love for America and her values time and again. I’m kidding of course.
After resolutely working to undermine Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games and then roundly applauding the International Olympic Committee’s decision to eliminate the U.S. city from competition, the right-wing media responded with furor to the Nobel Committee’s decision. "I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota," wrote Erick Erickson at the conservative RedState, who just last week had laughed at the idea that Obama had improved America’s standing in the world.
"He’s sided with Marxists Castro, Chavez, Morales and Ortega. … Obama’s bankrupted the US economy and destroyed the morale of our military," chimed in Gateway Pundit, another right-wing blogger. "No wonder he was awarded the Nobel." A poll question on Lou Dobbs’ website expressed shock at the fact that the award had gone to "Our Supreme Leader." Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade (the brown-haired-guy-who-isn’t-Steve-Doocy) suggested that Obama had delayed making a decision to send more troops to Afghanistan in order to win the award, even though the White House said it was unaware that Obama had even been nominated. "The World Apology Tour yields dividends," succinctly wrote prominent right-wing blogger and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin.
Indeed, the idea that Obama had been rewarded for deliberately weakening the United States was soon a central theme from the right. "They [the Nobel Committee] love a weakened, neutered U.S, and this is their way of promoting that concept," radio host Rush Limbaugh said in an email to Politico. "Obama did make a big show of appeasing Iran during its election crisis," added conservative blogger Ed Morrissey. "Perhaps they should change the award’s name to the Neville rather than the Nobel."
The volume emanating from the right quickly impacted more mainstream reporters. Time‘s Simon Robinson penned an online piece explaining how the award could prove politically harmful to the president, and Nancy Gibbs wrote a widely circulated article for Time as well, this one explaining why the Nobel was "the last thing [Obama] needs." She’s right… we all know the Nobel Prize is something that should be avoided, you know, like cancer. Sigh.
It wasn’t long before the calls started for Obama to turn down the award, from a variety of sources. Malkin, CBS’ Chip Reid, Time’s Mark Halperin, John Bolton, Slate.com’s Mickey Kaus, The Weekly Standard‘s Mary Katharine Ham, and The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg all echoed the theme, among others.
"[H]e has to turn it down — because it is such a joke — that he’ll turn it down and it’s the only way for him make a win out of this," said Fox News’ Glenn Beck. "Only his arrogance will stop him from doing it." For his part, Beck had an explanation for what was really going on, as well as a suggestion for who Obama could hand the award over to.
"These progressives are extraordinarily powerful," he explained, channeling conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. "And this campaign of Barack Obama, this global campaign for Barack Obama, is done by global interests that have extraordinary power. They’re very well connected."
In what had to be a highlight of his lunacy, Beck continued: "The Nobel Peace Prize should be turned down by Barack Obama and given — you ready for this? Oh, this one’s gonna make headlines — should be given to the Tea Party goers and the 9-12 Project." This makes sense, seeing as that the undeniable currents of racism, violence, and xenophobia the Tea Party "movement" embodies represent the very essence of what Alfred Nobel’s prize is all about. Sigh, again.
But at the end of the day, it was El Rushbo who really made headlines. It turned out that the Taliban was also against the Nobel Committee’s decision, something that didn’t give Limbaugh a moment’s pause.
"I think that everybody is laughing" he said. "Our president is a worldwide joke. Folks, do you realize something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn’t deserve the award. Now that’s hilarious, that I’m on the same side of something with the Taliban, and that we all are on the same side as the Taliban."
Speak for yourself, Rush.
Other Major Stories This Week
Limbaugh again trying to Ram his way into the NFL
Almost six years to the day after radio host Rush Limbaugh resigned in disgrace from his brand-spanking new gig on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown for, as CNN reported at the time, "his statement that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed," El Rushbo confirmed this week that he’s interested in buying the St. Louis Rams.
In a statement released to KMOX News Radio, Limbaugh said he and others were "part of a bid to buy the Rams and we are continuing the process. But I can say no more because of a confidentiality clause in our agreement with Goldman Sachs. We cannot and will not talk about our partners. But if we prevail we will be the operators of the team."
In response to the news, numerous sports journalists and figures — including contributors to ESPN, where Limbaugh was briefly employed — have criticized the idea of Limbaugh as an owner, often noting Limbaugh’s history of racially incendiary remarks.
CBSsports.com’s Mike Freeman said, "my head exploded after hearing this Limbaugh news. … Limbaugh is a pungent bowl of stark raving bigoted lunacy." Former NFL receiver Keenan McCardell struck a similar tone, saying, "Limbaugh would definitely hurt" the Rams, "the way he talks makes me think he’s a racist," while the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Bryan Burwell said, "Limbaugh’s American Dream is a potential nightmare waiting to happen for the Rams."
If anyone thought Limbaugh would try to placate concerns over his potential ownership of professional football team by softening his tone, they’d be no doubt mistaken. Just two days after confirming his interest in the Rams, Limbaugh told his audience that basketball was "the favorite sport of gangs." But hey, it wasn’t a dig against football, right?
It’s not surprising then that NFL players are reportedly saying they "wouldn’t play for" a Limbaugh-owned team due to his "flat-out racist" comments.
Here are ten reasons players and fans are justifiably worried.
Right-wing media swine push H1N1 vaccine conspiracy
If you wind up getting the H1N1 virus, you can blame Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. OK, not exactly. But they certainly are doing their best to stir up fears that the H1N1 vaccine is potentially harmful, that shots will be mandatory and that it is all somehow part of a government plot to control people. Which means millions of followers will likely forego getting the recommended vaccine and thus the flu will become an even greater public health problem.
Limbaugh’s fearmongering on the vaccine is rooted in his continued effort to oppose the administration over anything at anytime. Following the administration’s suggestion that everyone get vaccinated, Limbaugh said on his Wednesday program: "I’m not seeing these mass deaths from the swine flu." He added: "All I see is a bunch of typical government panic and hype." Limbaugh continued:
Who put the notion that you gotta have this shot, or this nasal spray — whatever the hell the vaccine is — whoever the hell put in your head the notion that you gotta do it? Government did. The Obama government, to be specific. It is one of my fervent objectives and goals … to convince as many people as possible that the damn government is not God, and nobody in it even comes close to being as competent as you are to run your life. And yet, ‘Oh my God, the government report says …’ The next time you hear ‘The government says…’ don’t believe it. You’ll be healthier, trust me.
Sounding a bit like a 13-year-old who has just been told he has to be home by 10 p.m., Limbaugh attacked HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for encouraging everyone to get the shot telling her, "Screw you, Ms. Sebelius! I am not going to take it, precisely because you’re now telling me I must. It’s not your role, it’s not your responsibility, and you do not have that power. I don’t want to take your vaccine. I don’t get flu shots."
Limbaugh later took his ball and went home, stating, "I’m just like — I’m a contrarian, I’m a non-conformist — you have some idiot government official demanding, telling me I must take this vaccine. I’ll never take it."
As one might expect, Beck’s fearmongering about the vaccine is a little less contrarian and a lot more crazy. Beck has been raising "questions" about the vaccine – thus suggesting it is anything but safe – for the last couple weeks. Last month on his radio show, Beck said:
I am not willing to go on the air with anything because one thing that you get wrong on this and it — it can lead to a lot of death one way or another, you know? If you say, ‘Don’t take the swine flu vaccination,’ and then it turns out that the swine flu this particular wave is virulent and the vaccination would have helped, well then, you know, what role did I play in that? The opposite is true; I say, ‘Everybody take the vaccination,’ and that turns out to be deadly, what role did I play in that? I’m just not willing to do that.
Not to burst your giant head, Glenn, but if the vaccine turns out to be "deadly," I’m sure people will direct their concerns elsewhere. That is, if society is still intact. On the other hand, if people don’t get the vaccine because you suggested not to and they get sick, and God forbid, die from the flu, well, that’s on you, Glenn.
But Beck loves conspiracy theories, and thus devoted his October 8 show to debunking some crazy Internet rumors – thus giving them unnecessary air time — about the government implanting microchips in people via the H1N1 vaccine. He ultimately concluded that the government is not doing this — shocking — but said that such chips exist and people should be watching the government and the corporation developing the chips to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.
In a telling conversation on Thursday night’s O’Reilly Factor, Beck betrayed his feelings toward his audience after O’Reilly asked him if he planned to get the vaccine to which Beck replied, "I’ve decided not to share if I’m going to get it or not." O’Reilly pressed some more saying, "Oh, come on, Beck. Millions of people take their cue from you." Beck, still refusing to give in to O’Reilly’s question, said, Look at this guy. You know, look at this guy. I know they’re like zombies" [emphasis added].
And after Beck joked about getting a chip in his arm if he were to get vaccinated, O’Reilly called him out in a hilarious exchange pitting his view of the Factor‘s journalistic standards to that of Beck’s Fox program:
O’REILLY: Oh, is that what it is now? You think they’re going to inject a chip in everybody’s arm?
BECK: No, no, no. That’s actually one of the reasons we covered it. That is one of the big things on the Internet. They’re going to track you when you –
O’REILLY: They’re going to inject something in you?
BECK: Yes. And we’ve spent a lot of time —
O’REILLY: A lot of time?
BECK: Debunking that. So, there’s no chip coming!
O’REILLY: See, on the Factor, we would spend —
BECK: I know it’s a surprise, but this is why —
O’REILLY: Just wait for me. See, on the Factor we would spend two seconds debunking it: "That’s nuts!"
For once, we actually agree with Bill O’Reilly.
Right’s anti-gay witch hunt marches on
As we said last week, the conservative media is again capitalizing on homophobia in the hopes of political gain, launching an all-out attack against Kevin Jennings, an official with the Department of Education official. The right has claimed that 21 years ago, when Jennings was a 24-year-old teacher at Concord Academy in Massachusetts, he "cover[ed] up statutory rape" by not reporting to authorities a conversation he had with a student who told him about being involved with an "older man."
Media Matters disproved the heart of that right-wing tale last Friday conclusively showing that the former student in question was 16 in 1988, the legal age of consent in Massachusetts both then and now.
And yet this week, the attacks continued, many of which displayed the right’s stunning ability to completely ignore reality whenever it sees fit. A Washington Times editorial pushed the idea that Jennings "violated Massachusetts law" over 20 years ago by "covering up" sexual misconduct. In other words, the Times was still reporting a lie 48 hours after it had been publicly disproven.
Two days later, Jeffrey Lord of The American Spectator wrote yet another piece claiming that Brewster was 15 years old. At this point, the story had been dead for four days, but it didn’t matter. After one of Lord’s readers noted that the issue had already been resolved, Lord still wasn’t convinced. "If Jennings provides that fact and can document it," he wrote, "we will be happy to correct." (He apparently doesn’t consider a driver’s license to be a legal document.) Doubling down, Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York made the same fallacious accusation on the same day.
The baseless attacks continued. Fox News’ Sean Hannity pushed a fabricated link between Jennings and NAMBLA, while Rush Limbaugh said that Obama had empowered "child abusers" and "perverts." The Fox Nation website called Jennings "lewd."
It wasn’t long before the real motivation behind the right-wing media’s passion was made all too clear. On October 6, the right began targeting Chai Feldblum, a lesbian who has been an outspoken advocate for gay rights. She is currently President Obama’s nominee to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Feldblum is a signatory to a 2006 statement entitled "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage" which argues that "marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others." The statement is entirely unrelated to the duties Feldblum would have as an EEOC commissioner, which include enforcement of existing federal laws involving job discrimination and providing oversight of federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies.
But this doesn’t matter to the Right, which immediately twisted Feldblum’s words beyond recognition. A WorldNetDaily article stated that with the 2006 document, she had praised polygamy, a falsehood. And it only got worse from there.
"I’m telling you, the entire federal government is going to have to be fumigated some day when these deviants and degenerates are finally sent packing" wrote WND editor and CEO Joseph Farah. The website CatholicOnline.org also published anti-Feldblum pieces. One, written by Deacon Keith Fournier, claimed that Feldblum "actually believes that the protections provided under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have become outdated," an absurd charge.
"In short," read an editorial from the Traditional Values Coalition published on RightSideNews.com, "she wants the gay agenda to trump the First Amendment and religious freedom to impose the gay agenda on all Americans — including those with strongly held religious beliefs about homosexuality."
The witch hunt goes on, and as it does, the words of Joseph Welch, whose dramatic chastisement of Senator Joseph McCarthy helped to end his immoral campaign, seem to ring louder every day: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?"
This week’s media columns
This week’s media columns from the Media Matters senior fellows: Eric Boehlert looks at The New York Times‘ pointless pursuit of right-wing "buzz" stories; Jamison Foser says The New Republic should apologize for publishing Betsy McCaughey’s dishonest assault on Clinton health care reform efforts in the ’90s; and Karl Frisch declares "all aboard" as the right’s Fox News gravy train rolls on.
Greg Lewis predicts the future health of St. Louis Rams players and fans if Rush Limbaugh buys the team in The Friday Rush, a review of Limbaugh’s radio shows over the past week.
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This weekly wrap-up was compiled and edited by Karl Frisch, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email.