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Biased, Smothered and Covered

As CNS' Matt Cover moves on to a new right-wing website, let's review his atrocious record of questionable and false reporting.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/18/2013

Matt Cover announced in an April 5 tweet that reporter Matt Cover was leaving the "news" organization and moving to Rare, the new conservative website backed by newspaper and cable operator Cox Media Group. The Rare website states that Cover is the content editor.

If Rare was looking for someone to parrot right-wing talking points and get facts embarrassingly wrong, Cover is their guy.

ConWebWatch has previously examined Cover's record of false and misleading claims made early in his CNS tenure. Let's take a look at the latter part of Cover's CNS career and show Rare what it's getting, shall we?

"Christian identity"

Cover's most notorious screw-up came in a January 2010 article in which he claimed that Erroll Southers, onetime nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration, "described groups that were a domestic security threat as being 'anti-abortion' and 'Christian-identity oriented.'" Note Cover's lowercase usage of "identity," meaning that he's claiming Southers was calling all Christians a security threat.

As ConWebWatch documented, Southers was clearly referring to a far-right extremist movement called Christian Identity, which has in fact been known for violence. But that didn't stop Cover from making the same error in an article six days later. Despite the obvious falsehood, CNS has never corrected Cover's work, and his error remains to this day.

Repeating right-wing talking points

Cover wrote in a Sept. 14 article: "Average retail gasoline prices have more than doubled under President Obama, according to government statistics, rising from $1.84 per gallon to $3.85 per gallon."

If Cover sounds like he's merely regurgitating right-wing talking points, that's because he is: As it so happens, a group called the American Energy Alliance was running an ad at the time making that exact same claim, with the tag line, "Tell Obama we can’t afford his failing energy policies." The American Energy Alliance is a group funded by oil industry executives, specifically the Koch brothers.

Cover made the very same attack in a Feb. 12 article: "The average price of a gallon of gas has increased 96 percent since President Barack Obama first took office in 2009, according to figures from the Energy Information Agency (EIA)." But Cover's implication that Obama is solely to blame for the rise in gas prices is disingenuous. Cover hints at the reason for the disparity by conceding that "Gas prices took a sharp dive during the recession," but he ignores the fact that experts have said that market factors, not federal policy or anything Obama has done, is to blame for the rise in gas prices. Cover is also disingenuous in noting that gas prices "reached all-time highs" in 2008 but failing to note who was president at the time. (Hint: It was a Republican.)

Cover published two CNS articles on the same day in February 2012 that do nothing but regurgitate Republican National Committee attacks.

In the first article, headlined "On 3rd Anniversary of Obama's $787B Stimulus, Unemployment Sets Record," Cover wrote: "The Republican National Committee (RNC) highlighted this and dozens of other facts in a 52-page book listing some of the biggest failures of the Obama stimulus. The book is entitled, Obamanomics: Stimulus Deconstructed, Three Years of Failed Policies." In the second, headlined "Three Years Later, Some of the Stimulus’ Odder Projects: Basket Weaving, Polka Training, Rats on Meth," Cover states that "The hit parade of stimulus projects are the focus of a report from the Republican National Committee called ‘Where did all the Money Go?’ which gives a state-by state breakdown of questionable stimulus projects and failed government investments."

A third article the same day by Cover attacking the stimulus didn't credit the RNC, but the project it features -- "a $35,000 grant to the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance to support apprentice basket weavers and help fund the Maine Indian Basketmakers Festival" -- comes straight from the RNC report Cover referenced in the other article.

In none of these articles did Cover make any apparent effort to talk to anyone else -- he's just copying-and-pasting Republican talking points.

Playing partisan

Cover's CNS work was also eager to make misleading attacks on the Obama administration and defending (or covering up for) conservative politicians.

In a November 2011 article, Cover bizarrely defended the booing of Michelle Obama and Jill Biden at a NASCAR race, since after all NASCAR fans are conservatives who liked George W. Bush:

First Lady Michelle Obama was booed at a NASCAR Race in Miami, Fla., on Sunday, after she appeared with Second Lady Jill Biden to give the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines!” command to begin the race. In contrast, when President George W. Bush launched a Daytona Beach NASCAR race in 2004, he was cheered by the crowd.

Some liberal media outlets, including the Gawker Web site which first reported the story, were critical of the booing against Michelle Obama, with Gawker calling it an “ugly reminder of how personally some have taken the political divisions in our country.” YahooSports derided NASCAR fans as “disgusting bozos” and “redneck fools” over the incident.

However, that NASCAR fans are largely conservative, and thus probably are not Obama fans, should not come as a surprise. In 2004, many of the sport’s top drivers publicly endorsed President George W. Bush for reelection.

Cover offered no evidence to back up his claim that Gawker is a "liberal media outlet."

Here's how Cover began a February 2012 article:

President Obama – in a speech to the United Auto Workers union – said that “trying to climb to the very top” was not what America is “about,” saying that it was “greed” and that in reality “we’re all in it together.”

Count all of the separate quotes in that paragraph that Cover has cobbled together to paint a distorted, cherry-picked version of what Obama said. Here's what Obama actually said in the relevant section of his speech, with the words Cover cherry-picked for his lead paragraph in bold:

OBAMA: I was telling you I visited Chrysler’s Jefferson North Plant in Detroit about a year and a half ago. Now, the day I visited, some of the employees had won the lottery. Not kidding. They had won the lottery. Now, you might think that after that they’d all be kicking back and retiring. (Laughter.) And no one would fault them for that. Building cars is tough work. But that’s not what they did. The guy who bought --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What did they do?

OBAMA: Funny you ask. The guy who bought the winning ticket, he was a proud UAW member who worked on the line. So he used some of his winnings to buy his wife the car that he builds because he’s really proud of his work. Then he bought brand new American flags for his hometown because he’s proud of his country. (Applause.) And he and the other winners are still clocking in at that plant today, because they’re proud of the part they and their coworkers play in America’s comeback.

See, that’s what America is about. America is not just looking out for yourself. It’s not just about greed. It’s not just about trying to climb to the very top and keep everybody else down. When our assembly lines grind to a halt, we work together and we get them going again. When somebody else falters, we try to give them a hand up, because we know we’re all in it together.

In other words, Cover is misleading about what Obama said, and doing some radical cherry-picking to do so.

In a May 2012 article, Cover quoted Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz accusing Republicans of "making sure that we would redefine rape." Cover offered up a deceptive defense of Republican attempts to insert the term "forcible rape" as an exemption in a bill that would ban federal funding for abortions, claiming that "the bill did not change the criminal definition of rape under federal law or any other law whatsoever." In fact, the term "forcible rape" is not defined in the federal criminal code, and could be read to exclude non-"forcible" instances of rape, such as statutory rape, from cases that would be eligible for federal funding for an abortion.

Related articles on ConWebWatch:

Mistaken Identity

CNS' Fossil-Fueled Bias

Matt Cover wrote in a June 2012 article following the Supreme Court decision ruling that President Obama's health care reform plan is constitutional: "The White House said Friday that the Obamacare insurance mandate tax is a penalty for not having insurance – a statement that directly contradicts what the Supreme Court ruled Thursday."

But Cover made no mention of the fact that an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Eric Fehrnstrom, was pointing out that "the governor has consistently described the mandate in Massachusetts as a penalty" -- and went on to defend that description.

In a Jan. 31 article, Cover wrote: "In a final regulation issued Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assumed that under Obamacare the cheapest health insurance plan available in 2016 for a family will cost $20,000 for the year." That's not true at all -- pointed out that "the IRS made no such declaration about the future cost of health insurance plans."

Inventing math

A September 2011 article by Cover began with a hyperbolic claim:

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study of employer-provided health insurance plans, the ObamaCare health reform law could have accounted for as much as 50 percent of the spike in insurance premiums in 2011.

Cover then immediately contradicts that with the following two paragraphs:

The Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which specializes in health care issues, found that health insurance premiums had jumped by 9 percent in 2011, up from a 5 percent annual increase since 2007.

Drew Altman, president and CEO of Kaiser, first said that the premium increase was not because of ObamaCare but then went on to say that the ObamaCare law probably accounted for 1 to 2 percentage points of that increase, which he further explained in a column today (see below).

But one to two percentage points of nine percentage points is not "as much as 50 percent." Cover then embarked on some extremely creative mathematics to try and prove his opening paragraph correct:

According to the study, health insurance premiums for employer-provided coverage – the most common type – have been rising at a steady rate of about 5 percent each year.

This year, however, that rate jumped to 9 percent for family coverage and 8 percent for single coverage.

This means that ObamaCare was responsible for anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the 4 percentage point jump in insurance premiums this year.

Got that? Five percent of the 9 percent increase doesn't count. By magically reducing that increase to 4 percent, Cover can then invent a line of attack by blaming Obamacare for "as much as 50 percent of the spike in insurance premiums in 2011" -- even though it has no basis in reality.

Anti-Holdren obsession

As part of CNS' weird obsession with Obama adviser John Holdren, Cover co-wrote a March 2012 article with Pete Winn featuring this shocking discovery:

Obama Science Czar Dr. John P. Holdren, an ardent environmentalist who has called for an end to the auto industry since the '70s, owns two automobiles.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Holdren and his wife, Dr. Cheryl E. Holdren, have active registration plates for a 2000 Subaru Legacy and for a 2004 Toyota Prius – with both of them co-owners of both vehicles.

That's right -- Cover and Winn consider somebody owning a car to be news.

Shilling for the oil industry

A May 2011 article by Cover carries the headline "Democratic Leaders Mislead on Gas Prices, Oil Taxes, Says Energy Expert." The "expert" in question is Institute for Energy Research senior vice president Dan Kish, who told Cover that "eliminating tax write-offs for oil companies will not have any effect on gas prices."

Unmentioned by Cover: Kish's organization is a conservative think tank funded by the oil and energy industries.

According to ExxonSecrets, ExxonMobil has given $307,000 to the Institute for Energy Research since 1998. It has also received funding from other petroleum-related entities, including Koch Industries and KBR.

Cover began his article with the flat assertion that "Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate continue to make misleading statements about the effect their plans to raise taxes on oil companies would have on gas prices." At no point does Cover describe the political ideology of Kish or his group.

Given that CNS, as a division of the Media Research Center, is rather cozily in bed with the energy industry -- it has received more than $400,000 from ExxonMobil, and MRC vice president Dan Gainor holds the title of T. Boone Pickens Fellow -- it's almost fitting that one of Cover's final articles for CNS is an April 5 piece uncritically spouting the oil industry's stance on a new federal regulation to lower sulfur pollutants in gasoline:

New regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at eliminating sulfur emissions from cars and light trucks would have little benefit for the environment and could raise gas prices, according to a study produced for the American Petroleum Institute (API).


“Simply put, as proposed, the Tier 3 regulation will impose significant costs on making gasoline. And a study we commissioned by the environmental consulting group Environ concludes that ozone benefits touted by EPA would be only marginal at best,” API Group Director for Downstream and Industry Operations Bob Greco said on a conference call Thursday.

Since Cover is acting as an industry shill, not an actual reporter, he made no effort to seek anyone out for reaction to the API's stance.

And that's what Rare can expect from Matt Cover.

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