ESPN.com Helps Launch False "Obama Wants To Ban Fishing" RumorS

Conservative websites are up in arms this week over the Obama administration's new plan to outlaw recreational fishing in America. It's an egregious abuse of executive power, slightly mitigated by the fact that it's not remotely close to being true.

It all starts with an opinion piece written by Robert Montgomery for ESPN Outdoors, that opens with this ominous sentence: "The Obama administration will accept no more public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing some of the nation's oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters." Which almost immediate led to this headline on the website Gateway Pundit:

Obama's Latest Assault on Freedom– New Regulations Will Ban Sport Fishing

The only problem is that these "regulations" don't exist. What Montgomery was writing about is the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force that has been charged by the White House with developing a comprehensive federal policy for managing the nation's waterways. Yes, they are interested in conservation and they are interested in setting new guidelines for fishing policies—but that includes commercial fishing policies that are threatening to deplete our food supply. Except they haven't even gotten that far yet. All they've released is an interim report [PDF] that discusses what their goals are, none of which involve a ban on fishing. In fact, from what I can tell it's completely generic legalese that contains no actionable policy recommendations in it all. It says zip about recreational fishing, never mind any sort of plan to curtail it.

But that didn't stop other websites from running with the idea of Little Billy getting hauled off to Leavenworth for catching a minnow down by the crick. And, of course, tying it directly to Barack Obama's insatiable lust for power, even though he's probably forgotten that he even created it. (Read between the lines, sheeple! Just look at the contempt for sportsmen written all over his face!)

One blogger muses: "That a bill like this could even get this much serious consideration is an indication of just how far left Obama has shifted the federal government." Again ... there is no bill, so it's kind of hard to consider it seriously. Most of these outraged complaints make reference to the ESPN column, but none seem to notice that it contains no evidence supporting their claims.

Montgomery even admits in his piece that the report makes no mention of sport fishing and that "the task force has shown no overt dislike of recreational angling." But it doesn't stop him from assuming that this is due to a secret plot to wipe out private fisherman, rather than complete indifference to something they have no interest in regulating. (You'd think a conservative would be thrilled to know the government doesn't care about his hobby.) The Bassmasters Tournament isn't really a threat to the dolphin population. In the mind of the anti-government paranoid, however, there's a straight line from "marine spatial planning" in the Gulf of Mexico to FBI agents putting police tape around your backyard pond.

Will the task force eventually recommend a lot of things that conservatives hate? Probably. Should they have kept the public comment period open longer to allow sportsman to have their say? Maybe. But even the snootiest of snooty liberal elitists isn't stupid enough to ban fishing. After all, once all grandmothers and disabled kids are shipped off to their Aleutian Islands concentration camps to save money on medicine they're going to need some way to feed themselves.

Public input period for federal fishery strategy has ended [ESPN.com]
Right-wing media eagerly spread absurd claim that Obama plans to "ban sport fishing" [Media Matters]

UPDATE: ESPN offers a "clarification" and reminds you that it's just like, someone's opinion, man.