From wild allegations that health care reform efforts will lead to mass euthanasia to outlandish birth certificate conspiracies, conservative media figures have shown that there is no low to which they won't sink in order to halt a progressive agenda. And Media Matters is fighting back every single day.
Now, as the year closes, we need your help to continue our vital work.
On January 16, four days before President Obama took office, Rush Limbaugh declared on his radio show: "I hope he fails." Those four words set the tone for a year of increasingly unhinged, vitriolic, and conspiratorial attacks on progressive leaders around the country.
Limbaugh has done more than passively "hope" for progressive failure: Along with Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Matt Drudge, and the rest of the conservative noise machine, he has worked hard to try to achieve it. Completing its transformation into the unofficial research and communications arm of the GOP, Fox News has abandoned any pretense of being a legitimate news network in favor of openly advocating against progressives.
While the right-wing echo chamber frequently traffics in misinformation and fact-free fearmongering, a few examples from the past year show that it remains a disturbingly powerful smear machine.
No single example displays the ability of the noise machine to derail substantive policy discussion with misinformation than the outrage over supposed "death panels" in health care reform legislation. Sarah Palin, taking cues from serial misinformer Betsy McCaughey, posted a note on her Facebook page fear-mongering that optional end-of-life counseling amounted to "death panels."
Almost immediately, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, and the rest of the conservative machine ran with the smear -- filling the airwaves with baseless, outrageous accusations that Democrats intended to euthanize the elderly in order to cut health care costs. While Media Matters repeatedly debunked these allegations, they effectively distracted the media from engaging in an accurate, thorough discussion of health care reform for weeks.
Right-wing witch hunt against progressive leaders
This year, the conservative noise machine has aggressively targeted administration officials and nominees. After environmental and green jobs official Van Jones resigned following his targeting by right-wing pundits, Sean Hannity told a crowd, "We got rid of one, and my job starting tomorrow night is to get rid of every other one."
Conservatives also engaged in a witch hunt against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. During Sotomayor's confirmation process, right-wing pundits targeted her with sexist and racist attacks, and repeatedly distorted her past comments in order to paint her as a racist and a radical activist.
More recently, the conservative witch hunt against administration officials and appointees set its sights on Department of Education official Kevin Jennings, smearing him with a wide variety of anti-gay rhetoric and outlandish distortions, including repeatedly falsely accusing him of covering up a statutory rape while he was a teacher.
In recent weeks, the noise machine has turned its attention once again to trying to cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activities are causing global climate change, Since the reported theft of emails from the Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom, conservative demagogues have engaged in an all-out war against climate science, claiming the emails undermine that consensus.
As usual, their allegations are based on gross misrepresentations, but they have predictably used the story in an attempt to derail any productive solutions to the growing problem of climate change.
Just as we have for the past five-plus years, we have spent every day of 2009 aggressively tracking, documenting, and correcting conservative misinformation in the media. As this year has shown, the noise machine has no plans to slow down.
Neither do we.
Thank you for your continued help in holding the media accountable.
Founder and CEO, Media Matters for America