The Fox News all-out war on AOC means they’re really afraid of her, as they should be

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York

Over the weekend, Fox News published a story (3/17/19) on a recent Gallup poll that asked the public about their opinions on Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The headline claimed that her unfavorable rating had “skyrocketed”—rising 15 points since last September—and that “most people” now viewed her negatively.

In doing so, the network committed two notable journalistic sins—one of commission and one of omission. First, the headline itself was a “sloppy falsehood”, as the Gallup poll from February only found a plurality of the public (41 percent vs. 31 percent)—and not a majority, or “most people”—rating Ocasio-Cortez unfavorable rather than favorable.

But second—and more importantly—the story conveniently left out the key role that Fox News itself has played in damaging the public reputation of the Congress member, thanks to a relentless propaganda campaign over the past six months. It’s a chilling case study in the self-fulfilling nature of the right-wing messaging machine.

Ever since her shocking primary upset of Democratic Party fixture Rep. Joe Crowley last fall in New York’s 14th District, Ocasio-Cortez has drawn the white-hot spotlight of the press. Young, outspoken, and, at times, unfiltered or imprecise, the representative has quickly built a national presence after only a few months in office, thanks in part to her push for unapologetically big and uncompromisingly progressive platforms, like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. In addition, she’s become a media phenomenon thanks to her massive social media following, which has in turn spawned numerous ham-handed attempts by conservatives to attack her online, which consistently backfire.

Conventional right-wing media outlets don’t bother with engaging her directly, however. As her profile has risen, so too have their concerted attempts to target her with unflattering, distorted coverage. And perhaps no place in the conservative media firmament is as obsessed with tracking Ocasio-Cortez as Fox News. Her name appears so frequently on the network, in fact, that she even has her own keyword tag to allow online readers to follow their coverage.

Fox News also has keyword tags for two other outspoken freshman female Democrats in Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib—both of who are practicing Muslims and are also strongly in favor of policies like the Green New Deal. So it’s a not-so-subtle signal about Fox News’ institutional assessment of threats to conservatism that it gives the same organizational treatment to three young, newly elected women of color as it does for the Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democratic Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer.

This kind of audience guide is admittedly necessary when your news organization is executing a non-stop propaganda campaign. In the 134 days since Election Day, Ocasio-Cortez’s name appeared in 1,173 separate stories on Fox News alone. Even if many of those stories referenced her only tangentially, that still adds up hundreds upon hundreds of stories or segments focused squarely on her. (This sensationalistic stalking has not gone unnoticed by Ocasio-Cortez, who jokingly calls the network “AOC TMZ”—”no offense to TMZ.”)

To be clear, bird-dogging a politician’s policies or rhetoric is fair game if the motivation is to hold him or her accountable. But even a cursory perusal of Fox News’ output finds that an overwhelming majority are not good-faith efforts at accountability. Instead, they are intentionally framed to fearmonger or distort Ocasio-Cortez’s policies, if not heap contempt and insults on her personally. Since many Fox News viewers are already psychologically primed to disbelieve, if not outright disdain Democrats, the cumulative effect of a campaign of this magnitude is utterly predictable: Many Republicans who had never heard of Ocasio-Cortez before the midterm elections have now absorbed and accepted Fox News’ incessant denunciations of her.

To see a microcosm of how the right-wing messaging congealed around—and against—Ocasio-Cortez, consider Fox News primetime host Tucker Carlson’s own personal journey. Just days after the midterm election (11/14/18), he was on-air sheepishly admitting Ocasio-Cortez “has a very good point” in her criticism of the unfair aspects of the New York/Amazon deal.

Three months later, however, there was little interest in making common cause with her left-wing populism. Instead, Carlson (2/13/19) could be found mocking her as a “screechy moron” and a “theocrat,” while fueling conspiracy theories that she would use the Green New Deal to give “control of the entire US economy to the Democratic Party.” And this kind of vicious, unhinged coverage is the rule, not the exception.

During just the past week, for example, Fox News has run more than three dozen separate stories or video segments focused on or referencing Ocasio-Cortez—an average of more than five a day. By comparison, the network had just 21 similar stories listed under its Nancy Pelosi tag during the same period.

Below is just a sampling of the “straight news” coverage of Ocasio-Cortez on Fox News this week:

AOC Draws Ire Ripping ‘Your Thoughts and Prayers’ After Christchurch Mosque Shootings (3/15/19)

Former Adviser: Reagan Would Be ‘Angry’ Over Ocasio-Cortez’s Insuration [sic] He Was Racist (3/13/19)

Company Founded by Ocasio-Cortez in 2012 Still Owes $1,870 in Taxes (3/10/19)

The opinion programming on Fox (and Fox Business News) during the past week is if anything even more relentless and less subtle:

Ocasio-Cortez’s Ignorance Proves Admissions Fraud Is the Symptom, Not Cause, of America’s Education Crisis (3/16/19)

Ocasio-Cortez Again Proves She’s Clueless on Economics (3/15/19)

Stuart Varney: Ocasio-Cortez Is So Far Out of Line That She Must Surely Be a ‘Bubble’ (3/14/19)

John Stossel: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Pushes Tax Myths That Will Bring Economic Disaster (3/13/19)

Puzder: AOC Doesn’t Know What Socialism, Capitalism Are (3/13/19)

Former Greenpeace Official: Green New Deal Is Completely Crazy (3/12/19)

Fox News is, of course, far from alone here. Ocasio-Cortez has now supplanted Nancy Pelosi as the go-to bogeyman and punching bag for the conservative press, no matter how absurd the depths they must sink to to make it so. (One standout example: a long, rambling March 2 New York Post hit piece that bashed Ocasio-Cortez for hypocrisy because she a) rides in cars and planes, and b) failed to compost a sweet potato peel and threw away two plastic garbage bags in an Instagram cooking video.)

But there is a payoff—and the Gallup poll is the manifestation of Fox News’ successful propaganda campaign. For, in this latest poll, only 22 percent of Republicans now had no opinion or hadn’t heard of Ocasio-Cortez, a mark notably lower than the 32 percent of independents and 29 percent of those from her own party who said the same. Last fall, Gallup (10/5/18) found 43 percent of Republicans had no opinion.

Tellingly, the number of Republicans who rated her unfavorably increased by 21 percentage points—from 52 percent to 73 percent—which happens to be the exact same percentage of Republicans who formed an opinion of her between the fall and winter. That is some powerful convergence.

Fox News wasn’t alone in effectively erasing those who like Ocasio-Cortez. The CNN write-up (3/16/19)  of the Gallup poll used a clickbaity headline—“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Polls Like Donald Trump: Poorly”—that failed to acknowledge that members of Congress generally fare poorly in nationwide polling. Another pundit’s summation of the poll, which the congressmember herself called out on Twitter (and which has since been deleted), offered a telling bit of demographic gerrymandering around who counts as the default to the press: “AOC is underwater with every group except women, nonwhites and 18–34-year-olds.” This works out to “everyone”—meaning white men 35 and older—being roughly one-fifth of the adult population.

And because Ocasio-Cortez’s net fav/unfav ratings fell slightly among independents and rose by a net 8 percentage points among Democrats, the Gallup poll’s result stands as a proxy for the effectiveness of right-wing partisan branding. Or, as the Gallup survey notes, “The fact that Republicans are more likely to have an opinion of her than Democrats helps explain her overall net-negative rating.”

That inconvenient truth, not surprisingly, never made it into this weekend’s Fox News write-up. But the urgency behind the network’s round-the-clock anti–Ocasio-Cortez campaign shows no sign of relenting. Perhaps most especially because of one of the few, not-so-negative headlines to pierce the veil of Fox News’ propaganda back in January. And it’s worth pointing out that this story’s headline about “most voters” actually got it right this time:

From Raw Story


This weeks delusional Dumb-ass award goes to Trump and his loony friends at FOX news

Lyin’ ass Trump retweeted a completely false claim from Charlie Kirk that some protesters in France had chanted “We want Trump.”……………………That never happened.

Tucker Carlson agreed with the claim of his guest that feminists are trying to “disappear males” from the planet.

Fox & Friends lauded Trump’s pick of former Fox anchor Heather Nauert as UN ambassador, saying that she is “very smart.” (She thought D-day was the high point of US-German relations)

Laura Ingraham went on an off the wall crazy rant about the left, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and child pornography (she really scares us)

Ingraham compared people who protest Confederate statues to ISIS.

Fox guest and GOP Rep. Louis Gohmert went on an anti-Semitic rant about George Soros that the Fox host later tried to distance the network from.

Lou Dobbs called climate change a UN plot. (of course, he did)

A Fox host complained that people who rely on government programs like food stamps don’t feel enough shame.

Sebastian Gorka called the Democratic Party “fundamentally un-American.” (he would know)

NRATV said that coverage of school shootings contributes to “the wussification of America.”

from Media Matters


Not even “Dear Leader” Trump, can be above criticism — or the law

Very conservative Retired Army officer Ralph Peters blows the whistle on Fox News and Trump

You could measure the decline of Fox News by the drop in the quality of guests waiting in the green room. A year and a half ago, you might have heard George Will discussing policy with a senator while a former Cabinet member listened in. Today, you would meet a Republican commissar with a steakhouse waistline and an eager young woman wearing too little fabric and too much makeup, immersed in memorizing her talking points.

This wasn’t a case of the rats leaving a sinking ship. The best sailors were driven overboard by the rodents.

As I wrote in an internal Fox memo, leaked and widely disseminated, I declined to renew my contract as Fox News’s strategic analyst because of the network’s propagandizing for the Trump administration. Today’s Fox prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.

Four decades ago, as a U.S. Army second lieutenant, I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution.” In moral and ethical terms, that oath never expires. As Fox’s assault on our constitutional order intensified, spearheaded by its after-dinner demagogues, I had no choice but to leave.

My error was waiting so long to walk away. The chance to speak to millions of Americans is seductive, and, with the infinite human capacity for self-delusion, I rationalized that I could make a difference by remaining at Fox and speaking honestly.

I was wrong.

As early as the fall of 2016, and especially as doubts mounted about the new Trump administration’s national security vulnerabilities, I increasingly was blocked from speaking on the issues about which I could offer real expertise: Russian affairs and our intelligence community. I did not hide my views at Fox and, as word spread that I would not unswervingly support President Trump and, worse, that I believed an investigation into Russian interference was essential to our national security, I was excluded from segments that touched on Vladimir Putin’s possible influence on an American president, his campaign or his administration.

I was the one person on the Fox payroll who, trained in Russian studies and the Russian language, had been face to face with Russian intelligence officers in the Kremlin and in far-flung provinces. I have traveled widely in and written extensively about the region. Yet I could only rarely and briefly comment on the paramount security question of our time: whether Putin and his security services ensnared the man who would become our president. Trump’s behavior patterns and evident weaknesses (financial entanglements, lack of self-control and sense of sexual entitlement) would have made him an ideal blackmail target — and the Russian security apparatus plays a long game.

As indictments piled up, though, I could not even discuss the mechanics of how the Russians work on either Fox News or Fox Business.

All Americans, whatever their politics, should want to know, with certainty, whether a hostile power has our president and those close to him in thrall. This isn’t about party but about our security at the most profound level. Every so often, I could work in a comment on the air, but even the best-disposed hosts were wary of transgressing the party line.

Fox never tried to put words in my mouth, nor was I told explicitly that I was taboo on Trump-Putin matters. I simply was no longer called on for topics central to my expertise. I was relegated to Groundhog Day analysis of North Korea and the Middle East, or to Russia-related news that didn’t touch the administration. Listening to political hacks with no knowledge of things Russian tell the vast Fox audience that the special counsel’s investigation was a “witch hunt,” while I could not respond, became too much to bear. There is indeed a witch hunt, and it’s led by Fox against Robert Mueller.

The cascade of revelations about the Russia-related crimes of Trump associates was dismissed, adamantly, as “fake news” by prime-time hosts who themselves generate fake news blithely.

Then there was Fox’s assault on our intelligence community — in which I had served, from the dirty-boots tactical level to strategic work in the Pentagon (with forays that stretched from Russia through Pakistan to Burma and Bolivia and elsewhere). Opportunities to explain how the system actually works, how stringent the safeguards are and that intelligence personnel are responsible public servants — sometimes heroes — dried up after an on-air confrontation shortly before Trump’s inauguration with a popular (and populist) host, Lou Dobbs.

Dobbs has no experience with the intelligence system. Yet he ranted about its reputed assaults on our privacy and other alleged misdeeds (if you want to know who spies on you, it’s the FGA — Facebook, Google and Amazon — not the NSA). When I insisted that the men and women who work in our intelligence agencies are patriots who keep us safe, the host reddened and demanded, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the — you fill in the blank.” As I sought to explain that, no, the NSA isn’t listening to our pillow talk, Dobbs kept repeating, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the — fill in the blank.”

Because I’d had a long, positive history with Dobbs, I refrained from replying: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the talk-show host.”

I became a disgruntled employee, limited to topics on which I agreed with the Trump administration, such as loosened targeting restrictions on terrorists and a tough line with North Korea. Over the past few months, it reached the point where I hated walking into the Fox studio. Friends and family encouraged me to leave, convinced that I embarrassed myself by remaining with the network (to be fair, I’m perfectly capable of embarrassing myself without assistance from Fox).

During my 10 years at Fox News and Fox Business, I did my best to be a forthright voice. I angered left and right. I criticized President Barack Obama fiercely (one infelicity resulted in a two-week suspension), but I also argued for sensible gun-control measures and environmental protections. I made mistakes, but they were honest mistakes. I took the opportunity to speak to millions of Americans seriously and — still that earnest young second lieutenant to some degree — could not imagine lying to them.

With my Soviet-studies background, the cult of Trump unnerves me. For our society’s health, no one, not even a president, can be above criticism — or the law.

I must stress that there are many honorable and talented professionals at the Fox channels, superb reporters, some gutsy hosts, and adept technicians and staff. But Trump idolaters and the merrily hypocritical prime-time hosts are destroying the network — no matter how profitable it may remain.

The day my memo leaked, a journalist asked me how I felt. Usually quick with a reply, I struggled, amid a cyclone of emotions, to think of the right words. After perhaps 30 seconds of silence, I said, “Free.”

Parkland victim strikes back against this weeks worst person

Worst person of the week Ingraham v. Hogg

Update: Fox News show host Laura Ingraham announced on her show late Friday that she is taking next week off, after almost a dozen advertisers dropped her show after the conservative pundit mocked a teenage survivor of the Florida school massacre on Twitter.

Fox News show host Laura Ingraham announced on her show late Friday that she is taking next week off, after almost a dozen advertisers dropped her show after the conservative pundit mocked a teenage survivor of the Florida school massacre on Twitter.

Up to ten advertisers have abandoned Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s weeknight show as a direct result of her snark attack on MSD student activist David Hogg. The companies pulling their ads include TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hulu, Johnson & Johnson, Wayfair, Nestlé and Nutrish, Jos A Bank, Jenny Craig and Stitch Fix. (update: add Liberty Mutual, Ruby Tuesday, Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas)

A spokesman for TripAdvisor said the company doesn’t “condone the inappropriate comments made by this broadcaster. In our view, these statements focused on a high school student, cross the line of decency.”

Fox Has not commented but Ingraham’s Twitter mockery of Hogg, followed by his call for an ad boycott, clearly left a mark. Ingraham  insincerely  apologized but Hogg said he’ll only accept the apology if she denounces the way Fox “has treated my friends and me in this fight.” This has stirred even more criticism of Hogg in right-wing circles…

We all have to remember that Hogg and his peers are still high schoolers. It’s easy to forget that when you’re staring a computer screen, launching Twitter grenades. Yes, IMHO, the students sometimes go too far, with harsh rhetoric that hurts their cause. Gun rights proponents have gone way too far in their responses to the students. The attacks and conspiracy theories only reinforce that these students have a lot of political power right now…Brian Stelter CNN

Nate Silver tweeted Thursday: “The thing about the Parkland students isn’t that they’re always spot-on — they’ve had better and worse moments as communicators. But they’re at least as effective at politics as most professional pundits who have done it for years. Naturally, that’s very threatening to the pundits…”

This is the same racist Fox News personality that tried to bully Lebron James and Dwayne Wade telling them to “shut up and dribble”

Fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara just happened to be probing Fox News, oops

President Donald Trump’s decision to fire U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara happened as Bharara’s office was reportedly probing Fox News over its alleged failure to inform shareholders about repeated settlements for allegations of sexual harassment and assault by former Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and other executives against female employees. Reports indicate Trump may pick one of Ailes’ former lawyers to replace Bharara.

Fox News Faced Numerous Sexual Assault And Harassment Allegations

Ailes Left Fox News Amid Flurry Of Sexual Harassment Allegations. In early July, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued the network’s CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. Carlson’s attorney told The Washington Post that 25 women had “come forward with what they describe as similar harassment claims against Ailes that stretch across five decades back to his days in the 1960s as a young television producer.” 21st Century Fox tasked a law firm with conducting a review of Ailes’ conduct and “the initial findings were damaging enough that the Murdochs decided they had to escort Ailes out,” according to CNN’s Brian Stelter. New York national affairs editor Gabriel Sherman reported that sources briefed on the investigation said former Fox News host Megyn Kelly told investigators that Ailes had also sexually harassed her. [The Washington Post, 7/22/16; CNN, The Lead with Jake Tapper, 7/21/16; New York, 7/19/16]

Fox’s Culture Of Sexual Harassment Extends Beyond Ailes. The New York Times reported on July 23 that Fox News may have “a broader problem in the workplace,” that extends beyond Ailes after at least “a dozen women” told the Times that “they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors.” [The New York Times, 7/23/16]

Fox Recently Settled With Former Contributor Over Sexual Assault Allegation That Resulted In Executive’s Firing. The New York Times recently reported that Fox settled with former network contributor Tamara Holder in February for more than $2.5 million after the said she was sexually assaulted by an executive at the company’s headquarters two years ago. The Times reported that Fox “investigated her claims, and the executive, Francisco Cortés, the vice president for Fox News Latino, was terminated, according to two people familiar with the matter.” [The New York Times, 3/8/17]

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Was Investigating Fox Over Sexual Harassment Settlements

CNNMoney: “Fox News Under Federal Investigation Over Ailes Settlement Payments.” CNN senior media reporter Dylan Byers reported on February 15 that the Justice Department had for months been investigating Fox News over failing to inform shareholders about settlements with employees who had pressed charges against Ailes for sexual harassment.

ABC News: Preet Bharara’s “Office Is Conducting A Criminal Investigation Into Fox News.” ABC News reported that Preet Bharara’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which includes much of New York City where 21st Century Fox is headquartered, was “conducting a criminal investigation into Fox News.”

The Hollywood Reporter: Former Fox Host Andrea Tantaros’ Attorney Suggested Fox Settled Multiple Harassment Lawsuits Without Reporting Them In SEC Filings. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a lawyer representing former Outnumbered host Andrea Tantaros, one of the Fox employees suing over sexual harassment, said he received a subpoena from federal investigators requesting testimony from another Fox client, which he said meant Fox had settled multiple lawsuits without reporting them in its SEC filings.

Bharara Was Fired By Trump After Being Asked To Stay On

Bharara Agreed To Remain As U.S. Attorney After Meeting Trump In November. As The Washington Times reported, Bharara met with President Donald Trump in late November and “confirmed he accepted Mr. Trump’s offer to stay on the job.” Then Sen. Jeff Sessions, whom Trump had nominated to serve as his attorney general, also asked Bharara to stay in the job.

Attorney General Sessions Then Asked All Obama-Era U.S. Attorneys, Including Bharara, To Resign. On March 10, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked all 46 U.S. attorneys remaining from the Obama administration to resign. [Los Angeles Times, 3/10/17]

Bharara Was Fired After Refusing To Resign. The Associated Press reported that after refusing to resign at the request of Sessions, Bharara was instead fired from his position as a U.S. attorney. [The Associated Press, 3/11/17; Twitter, 3/11/17]

NY Times: A “Pending Investigation” Of Bharara’s Appears To Focus On How Fox News Structured Settlements Of Claims Brought By Network Employees.” The New York Times reported on March 10 that it was “unclear what effect [Bharara’s] departure might have” on his office’s ongoing investigations g, including a “pending investigation [that] appears to focus on how Fox News structured settlements of claims brought by network employees.” [The New York Times, 3/10/17]

Trump May Replace Bharara With Former Ailes Lawyer Who Helped Him With Harassment Damage Control

Bloomberg: New York Lawyers Speculate Marc Mukasey Will Be Nominated To Replace Bharara. Bloomberg reported on March 11 that “speculation is already building for who will be nominated by Trump as a permanent replacement” for Bharara and that “Many suggest it will be Marc Mukasey, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP with close ties to former New York Mayor and sometime Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani.” [Bloomberg, 3/11/17]

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman: Bharara’s Firing “Ignited Speculation That It Was Designed To Blunt Investigations Like The Fox News Probe.” In a March 12 article, Gabriel Sherman, who has reported extensively about Ailes and Fox News, wrote that Bharara’s firing could be a “win” for Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch because “the prospect of indictments” in Bharara’s investigation of Fox was “a serious problem” for the network.

Full story here at Media Matters:

The supposedly “very religious” rightwing Vice-President Pence is a liar

“Hearing that story today was the first I’d heard of it,” Pence said on Fox News Thursday, adding that he “fully support[s] the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.”

“Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government’s interests,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wrote.

“Lt. Gen. Flynn’s General Counsel and Principal, Robert Kelley, confirmed that they were hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests…….When asked whether the firm had been hired because of Lt. Gen. Flynn’s close ties to President-elect Trump, Mr. Kelley responded, “I hope so,'”

Flynn Intel Group, Inc., received $500,000 for four months of work from Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. Flynn was hired to lobby the U.S. to extradite Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen, whose been accused of planning the attempted coup against Erdogan last year.

Rachel Maddow calls BS on Pence claim he never knew about Flynn’s Turkish contract

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow continued her investigations into President Donald Trump’s complicated ties to foreign governments. Tonight’s installment was about the tangled web of retired Gen. Michael Flynn’s connections to Russia and now Turkey.

In an interview with Bret Baier on Fox News, Vice President Mike Pence said that the story about Flynn and Turkey was “hearing that story today is the first [he’s] hearing of it.”

Maddow noted that Baier didn’t ask Pence when he heard about Flynn. Yet, twice when asked about the topic, Pence went out of his way to state that it was “the first time he’d heard about it”.

“That cannot be true,” Maddow said bluntly. “It is impossible this is the first Mike Pence has heard of it. Mike Pence was the head of the [Trump] transition, while all of those news stories of Mike Flynn being on the Turkish government’s payroll were breaking. He was the head of the transition when Mike Flynn was being vetted for the National Security Advisor job. He was the head of the transition when Congress formally notified the head of the transition that Mike Flynn appears to be on a foreign government’s payroll. He was the head of the transition when Mike Flynn’s personal lawyers came and told the transition that Mike Flynn maybe needed to register as a foreign agent.”

However, Pence now claims that he’s only now hearing about the information. Maddow called it absolute bunk.

“It’s something to pick someone manifestly unfit for the job of National Security Advisor to be National Security Advisor, that’s one thing,” she continued. “It is another thing when you bring somebody on board to a top national security position while they’re also on the payroll of a foreign government! And you either don’t notice or you don’t care.”

Maddow noted that Flynn sat in on the president’s daily intelligence briefings and that he had top national security clearance while getting paid by Turkey. She said that it was a “third level of scandal,” however, when someone like Pence begins to make utterly implausible denials that he knew anything about it.

Watch the commentary below:

From Raw Story and Newsmax

Propaganda from “Foxnews Climategate” continues to poison the public’s perception

climate gate

The tree-ring divergence problem, at the center of 2009’s “Climategate,” can be explained by normal changes in light intensity Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty In November 2009, climate skeptics had their day in the sun when an anonymous hacker posted years worth of emails sent back and forth between some of the world’s most prominent climate scientists, working with the Climate Research Unit (CRU). Buried within these thousands of emails were a handful of fragments that skeptic seized on as proof positive that climate scientists had fabricated the idea of man-made global warming. After the emails were made public, a media frenzy ensued; “Climategate” culminated in deep investigations into the legitimacy of the science that backed of the theory of a man-made global warming. Ultimately, the CRU scientists were acquitted of any malfeasance, and their science was verified to be clean, but the events had a significant impact on public perception.false news

Five years later, a new study published in Nature Communications may help cool the lingering fallout from Climategate. The study, led by Alexander Stine of San Francisco State University and Peter Huybers at Harvard University provides a compelling scientific explanation for the issue at the center of the 2009 controversy: the tree-ring divergence problem.

Scientists are nearly 100 percent sure of the world’s daily temperatures for the last 150 years or so—which is when we started to keep daily weather records. But before that, it’s a little less clear. So many climate scientists, on both sides of the debate, have come to use tree rings, in conjunction with other proxy measurement tools like coral growth, isotope variation in ice cores, ocean and lake sediment records, and more, in order to reconstruct temperatures changes over years.

“The tree-ring records are in many ways the best record we have,” says Stine. “There are trees all over the Earth, and they have this annual resolution, which very few of our proxies do.” Trees reflect a more ring ringshuman time scale; ice core records show temperature changes across time periods on the order of millions and millions of years, while trees rings track changes year by year. In temperate climates (like much of the U.S.), trees only grow during the part of the year referred to simply as the growing season. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the spring and summer. In a good growing season—where there’s plenty of precipitation and warm temperatures for months on end—the resulting growth ring will be relatively wide. In poor growing seasons, the rings will be narrow.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty decent proxy for those years before thermometers and recordkeeping. The problem, though, is that since the 1960s, arctic tree-ring growth seems to not match the actual temperature records we have. Thermometer measurements show a sharp jump in temperature in the late 20th century. This is one of the primary arguments for man-made climate change: as the global population increased, and we began to build bigger and more industrial cities, and rely more on fossil-fuel based travel in cars and planes, humans greatly sped up the warming of the planet. But arctic tree-ring records don’t back this up. In fact, they seem to indicate a decline in temperatures during those years. This is called the tree-ring divergence problem, and has been recognized, accounted for, and written on extensively—not the least notably by Keith Briffa, one of the CRU scientists singled out as supposedly burying data after the emails were leaked, in a paper published almost a decade before Climategate.

Briffa had put forth—and the scientific community had long-since accepted—the notion that this “divergence issue” was actually a strong decline in tree sensitivity to temperatures after 1960—and not the temperature themselves. In fact, Stine says, if you look more closely at the numbers you can see that year to year, the rings on an individual tree in the Arctic Circle still do change size with year to year temperature changes—there is just a “systematic underprediction by the tree rings” that began in the mid-20th century. “And when you average all the trees, everything goes away except for that systematic underprediction.”

In 2009, critics from latched on to one email in which Phil Jones, at the time the head of the CRU, wrote that in a recent graph (prepared for a World Meteorological Organization Report) he used “Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

It was unfortunate phrasing. Jones was referring to the famous “hockey stick” graph used by by Michael Mann, the director the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, in an article published in the journal Nature, in which he combined a number of different data sources to show overall global temperature increase over the years. According to Mann, the criticism was simply a “cynical misrepresentation” of Jones’s email, which he tells Newsweek “spoke of something that was already well known to the scientific community—that tree-ring density data should not be used to depict temperatures after 1960.” Following the release of these emails, Mann was extensively investigated for any scientific misconduct—and completely acquitted.

Today, Mann says that the whole Climategate fiasco was based around the misconception that the only evidence there is for climate change from the paleoclimate record (i.e., the record of the climate change throughout the entire history of earth) was from tree rings. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he says. “[There are] multiple independent lines of evidence for human-caused climate change. And the most important evidence for modern warming comes from instrumental measurements—thermometers—not paleoclimate data.”

Stine points out that in most of the scientific papers at the time, researchers would typically plot tree-ring records and thermometer records next to each other—then make an argument about the gaps between the two. “I don’t think you need to argue too hard to convince me that thermometers are better than tree-ring records,” says Stine. “What got turned into a big hoopla was the putting together of a summary graph, to say ‘this is our best interpretation of what the numbers have been.’”

Nevertheless, Stine and Huybers set out to explain the tree-ring divergence data—mostly, Stine says, because he wanted to get a better sense of what the Earth’s most ancient trees are actually able to tell us. Their solution is simple, elegant, and intuitive: global dimming. Since the 1960s—exactly when tree-ring data started to go awry—“there’s been large scale decreases in the amount of light that’s reaching the earth,” says Stine. It’s fairly easy to see why, too. In rapidly industrializing parts of the world with fewer emissions laws—like Southeast Asia—the light decline is particularly steep, and continues into the 21st century. On the other hand, in areas like the U.S. and Europe, you see a rapid decline in the middle of the 20th century, but then light levels steady themselves later on—right around the time most air pollution laws were put into place.

Trees of course, need light to grow—they use photosynthesis to turn light energy into chemical energy to fuel all their activities, including their growth. “My hypothesis,” says Stine, “is that the light is directly affecting tree growth: You turn down the lights, you turn down tree growth.

In the scientific community, skeptics of human-induced climate change have mostly been silenced; the 2014 National Climate Assessment published Tuesday unequivocally laid global warming and its resulting environmental impacts at the feet of human civilization, stating ominously that “climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”

But the specter of Climategate continues to haunt public perception. The Pew Research Center has been tracking climate change beliefs since 2006. In that year 77 percent of Americans thought that there was “solid evidence the Earth is warming” and only 17 percent thought there was no evidence; in 2009 the believers had dwindled to 57 percent while skeptics grew to 33 percent of the population. In 2013, the numbers had moved closer, but not quite, to where they were seven years earlier, with 67 percent believing in climate change and 26 percent expressing skepticism. Likewise, Gallup polls tracking what percentage of Americans attribute global warming to human influences show it hovering around 60 percent until 2010, when it dropped down to 50 percent; it has since climbed steadily back up, reaching 57 percent in 2013 and 2014.

Though Stine and Huybers’s study provides a good explanation for why tree-ring data doesn’t match thermometer readings (and one that Briffa and others had actually suggested as early as 1998), Mann doesn’t think it matters much. “I don’t see how this or any other study is relevant to the issue of ‘undoing’ any ‘damage,’” says Mann, who reiterates that that the “the only wrongdoing was the criminal theft of the emails in the first place.”

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, was also dragged through the mud in 2009, and he also calls into question the lack of serious investigation into the email hacking. “All of the scientists were exonerated,” he tells Newsweek, “While not a single investigation was made of those climate change deniers who misused and abused the records, and no one has been brought to justice for stealing the emails.”

Today, the CRU homepage continues to boldly and unapologetically display a graph showing drastic global temperature increases.