Fox News' Jana Winter was granted a delay yesterday in a court hearing that will determine whether she will go to jail for doing her job as a reporter, a story that has been largely ignored in the media.
In July 2012, while reporting on the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, Winter broke the story that alleged shooter James Holmes "mailed a notebook 'full of details about how he was going to kill people' to a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the attack, and the parcel may have sat unopened in a mailroom for up to a week before its discovery [in July of 2012]." Her reporting was based on statements from "a law enforcement source."
Because this leak violated a judge's gag order issued in the case, Holmes' defense team is now demanding she reveal her sources. Judge Carlos Samour noted in yesterday's opinion that there exists "the real possibility that Winter may face indefinite jail time in this case as a remedial sanction for her refusal to disclose her confidential sources."
A decision like this, while local in scope, has the potential to stifle necessary and real reporting on the criminal justice system. As National Press Club President Angela Greiling Keane noted:
[A]ttempting to get that information by subpoenaing reporters in order to learn their anonymous sources goes too far. It jeopardizes a value of greater significance. If anonymous sources believe their identities can be dredged up in court, they will be less likely to disclose to the press information of vital public importance. That's not a risk worth increasing.
If Jana Winter goes to prison, this would be a case of criminalizing journalism. Every journalist who picks up a note pad and files a crime report bears the same risk.
Sadly, a Nexis search for "Jana Winter" reveals only a handful of TV segments on CNN and Fox News and less than 100 newspaper stories. With this level of threat to First Amendment rights, Jana Winter should be a household name.
Regardless of one's feelings about Winter's employer, it is incumbent upon all of us who value a free press to speak up on her behalf.
The Washington Post published a problematic op-ed by Betsy Karasik, a Dupont Circle artist described by the Post as a "writer and former lawyer," that argued for the legal acceptance of consensual sexual relationships between teachers and their underage students.
Karasik's column centered on a widely discussed Montana case in which a 49-year-old teacher was sentenced to 30 days in prison after the statutory rape of a 14-year-old student, who several years later committed suicide. This sentence, which many feel was far too lenient and which came after the judge stated that the student was "older than her chronological age," led to a national public outcry.
Karasik, however, found herself "troubled for the opposite reason":
I don't believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.
Karasik does acknowledge that "that teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation."
Responding to yesterday's strike by fast food workers across the country seeking better working conditions and a living wage, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly decided their own stories of working low-wage jobs would do these workers more good.
Limbaugh told his audience about his former job selling tickets for the Kansas City Royals in 1979. That year he was paid $12,000. Limbaugh claimed on that income he "couldn't afford [his] house payment and food." For a family of two -- Limbaugh was married to his first wife at the time -- his income was nearly three times the 1978 baseline federal poverty level of $4,366 and nearly double the poverty line for a family of four, $6,612.
As Limbaugh himself pointed out, his $12,000 salary was the equivalent of $38,610.91 in today's dollars. Currently the poverty threshold for a two-person family sits at $15,510, less than half of Limbaugh's converted salary. The poverty line for a family of four is $23,550.
The workers Limbaugh was lecturing? Their median yearly salary is $18,500, barely above the poverty line for a family of two and $4,500 below the threshold for a family of four.
Limbaugh's experience in 1979 was vastly different than the one faced by low-wage workers today. Limbaugh concluded by claiming that "life is life and we all have self-determination and Martin Luther King understood it."
One of the demands of the 1963 March on Washington was a $2 per hour minimum wage, which according the Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI inflation calculator is the equivalent of $15.27 in today's dollars -- nearly exactly what the workers going on strike yesterday were demanding.
Bill O'Reilly began with his story of scooping ice cream for minimum wage in his teenage years. In 1966, when O'Reilly was 17-years old, the minimum wage was $1.25 per hour or $9.01 in today's dollars -- nearly 24 percent more than minimum wage workers currently make -- putting a then-single O'Reilly well above the 1966 poverty line and nearly reaching the threshold for a family of four. Perhaps O'Reilly should return that 24 percent because according to his rant, guaranteeing a wage is "called socialism" and "the USA is a capitalist country."
Limbaugh and O'Reilly are two white men blessed with amazing communications ability. Neither was born wealthy but they were both able to parlay their talents, combined with some luck, into the upper economic echelons. From those heights they look down at the bottom opposing the concept that employers should pay a living wage and at the same time opposing food stamps, public housing, and other programs that would help bridge the gap for low-income workers. They offer no policy solutions other than if you're not making enough to get by, get another job.
From a position of extreme privilege, they point to their lowly beginnings and ask workers to survive on the same incomes they did. If only those who went out on strike yesterday were fortunate enough to receive the modern-day equivalent of the wages they did.
There is an odd excitement in the right-wing media over an exchange between MSNBC host Karen Finney and conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. The right-wing talker invited Finney on his program after she linked the rhetoric of Ted Cruz to that of Joe McCarthy, an unsurprising comparison considering the Texas senator's previous hunts for communists on the Harvard Law School faculty.
Instead of discussing Cruz's behavior, however, Hewitt decided to discuss the history of McCarthyism, ostensibly defending the Wisconsin senator.
"Was Alger Hiss a communist?" Hewitt asked. Finney responded, "I think that's distracting from the point I was trying to make."
Finney continued, "And the point I was trying to make was, you had Joe McCarthy was on a mission to root out communism in the government, and he did it in such a way that created a hysteria that was very unhealthy for this country. Do you really disagree with me on that?"
Hewitt refused to engage with Finney's question and refused to discuss the damage McCarthy had done, just like he refused to acknowledge the damage to our discourse caused by Ted Cruz's behavior. This is after Finney explicitly stated, "Obviously, spying on this country and betraying this country is absolutely wrong. Of course it is."
Hewitt somehow views Finney's hang-up as a victory. However, what this interview demonstrated was Hewitt's inability to defend the rhetoric Cruz and others use within Hewitt's own party. Instead he chose to engage in a 50-year-old conversation involving Alger Hiss that has no relevance to today's discussions.
Finney later tweeted that she hung up because Hewitt "was interested in a shout fest not an honest conversation." And she was absolutely right.
The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold hyped the size of the federal government out of context, presenting an excellent example of how to construct a misleading statistic.
Writing on the size of the federal workforce, Fahrenhold claims:
Measured another way -- not in dollars, but in people -- the government has about 4.1 million employees today, military and civilian. That's more than the populations of 24 states.
Wow, 24 states. That's almost half the country. Clearly the federal behemoth has grown too big.
Other ways he could have phrased this statement include:
That's less than the population of the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area.
That's less than half the audience that viewed America's Got Talent last week.
Or more accurately:
That's approximately 1.3 percent of the total U.S. population, handling all government business, including delivering our mail, serving in the military, inspecting our food, fighting terrorism, etc.
Farhenthold's statistic was clearly designed to imply to readers that the federal workforce had grown too large and therefore more spending cuts were necessary. Even more misleading than his statistic was his failure to mention that further cuts could actually harm the economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, "the United States had proved too aggressive in carrying out budget cuts, given its still-sluggish rates of growth and high unemployment levels."
Wednesday morning, Benghazi whistleblower attorney Victoria Toensing appeared on Fox News' Fox & Friends as part of a long standing campaign among conservatives to discredit the findings of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report on the Benghazi attacks, authored by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
Toensing delivered what has become the standard conservative myth -- the claim that the ARB report was a "corrupt cover-up to protect Hillary Clinton." She asserted:
Because they were not thorough. There are all kinds of people they didn't interview. They made false statements and they framed four State Department employees to take the blame away from the higher-ups. They did not interview Hillary. They did not interview her top deputy for security, Pat Kennedy.
That is a lie. Pat Kennedy was interviewed by the ARB, a fact Pickering, one of the authors, has made clear. On May 12, Pickering explicitly told CNN's Candy Crowley, "We interviewed Pat Kennedy." This was also pointed out during the May 8, 2013 House Oversight hearing on Benghazi. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) addressed the room, stating:
By the way, defend in statements that Undersecretary Kennedy was not interviewed by the ARB by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen. That is a misstatement of fact. He most certainly was. You can look it up. It is documented. He was interviewed, and he provided evidence. And that evidence was evaluated.
So it is not true that Undersecretary Kennedy was not part of that process. He most certainly was, and I would ask Mr. Chairman that the record so reflect.
In fact, Fox News Host Greta Van Susteren tweeted out this exchange:
So why tell such a blatant lie?
Because Toensing thinks she can get away with it and the right needs to discredit the ARB. Prepared in the aftermath of the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the report detailed more than two-dozen recommendations on improving security for our State Department personnel overseas. It did not cast blame on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama nor did it conform to the narrative conservatives and their allies on Capitol Hill -- namely Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) -- have been selling to the media about Benghazi.
Because both Pickering and Mullen are public servants with reputations beyond reproach, the right has had to work overtime trying to discredit their report.
The simplest way to attack the ARB is to claim their work was incomplete because they failed to interview specific witnesses.
And because the complete list of witnesses who spoke with the ARB remains classified, most often there is no way to respond to these accusations, unless a name was at sometime placed in the public record. Conservatives will continue to make claims about the ARB process, but without citations, the media should keep a watchful eye on which sources they trust.
In The New York Times, media reporter Brian Stelter described the launch of Al Jazeera America as "something a journalism professor would imagine" due to its "Fourteen hours of straight news every day. Hard-hitting documentaries. Correspondents in oft-overlooked corners of the country. And fewer commercials than any other news channel."
The conservative media, however, saw the channel's launch today as an opportunity to spread fact-free Islamophobia.
On Fox News, guest Jim Pinkerton described the network as an "Arab news channel" and went on to claim that "many if not most Arabs probably support what Bin Laden was trying to do in terms of killing Americans" before giving the channel credit for its coverage of the Arab Spring and other global events.
Back in February when it was announced the network had purchased CurrentTV, Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked if Al Jazeera America was "a Trojan Horse for terror":
Mark Levin's newly published The Liberty Amendments is electoral kryptonite for the Republican Party, sure to destroy any political figure who advocates its radical ideas.
The book, which offers 11* constitutional amendments, evokes a certain idealism that would be endearing if the consequences to the lives of millions weren't so horrific. Levin's proposals, of course, set the conservative media's heart aflutter.
Rush Limbaugh gave the book a ringing endorsement, saying on his radio program: "The Constitution's bastardized. It's been bastardized for years. It's been shredded for years. It needs to be reaffirmed. And Levin's book is a series of ideas of how to do it that involves the American people."
Levin isn't just another radio host, as Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus recently said he was receptive to the idea of Levin and Sean Hannity moderating a 2016 Republican presidential primary debate.
In The Liberty Amendments, Levin lays out a conservative dystopian nightmare. Among the most toxic of his ideas would be the redefinition of the Commerce Clause to wipe out nearly all the hard fought protections of the 20th century. By arguing that the federal government's powers under Article 1, Section 8 have been unjustly expanded by the Supreme Court, Levin implicitly acknowledges this debate is over. Instead of accepting this, Levin seeks to alter the clause by limiting the definition of interstate commerce explicitly to "preventing states from impeding commerce and trade between and among the several States."
The results would be disastrous with nearly every legislative achievement since the New Deal wiped out. The Fair Labor Standard Act that established a minimum wage and outlawed child labor would be a thing of the past.
But Mark Levin's proposal to overturn decades of Supreme Court precedent in order to radically redefine the Commerce Clause is not only an assault on the fair labor laws of the New Deal, it would also endanger seminal civil rights laws and national law enforcement authority.
Maureen Dowd launched a snide and hollow attack on the Clinton family that is lacking in substantive criticism but filled with sneering invective and attempts at witty analogies.
Dowd's animus for the Clintons goes back decades and in that time, she's never shied away from peddling conservative lies about Hillary. In 2008, Clark Hoyt, then the public editor of the Times, noted the volume of Dowd's "gender-laden assault on Clinton" which was the focus of "28 of 44 columns" written before June of that year.
The absurd premise of Dowd's latest effort in her anti-Clinton campaign is that "if Americans are worried about money in politics, there is no larger concern than the Clintons." Dowd's claim jumps off a flawed New York Times article earlier this week that unearthed nothing.
Forget the Koch brothers and the hundreds of millions they spend directly influencing in the political process. Never mind the revolving door from K Street to government and back again. Erase the ramifications of the Citizens United decision and the avalanche of corporate money it unleashed on our electoral process from your mind. In Dowd's telling, Bill Clinton and his foundation's work around the world should be the focus of those who care about money in politics.
Like much of Dowd's work, her latest effort is calorically empty, filled with fun analogies, snarky shots, and titillating gossip, but leaving the reader no more enlightened for having read it.
Dowd devotes four full paragraphs to establishing the unremarkable fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton make money giving speeches around the world.
She invokes the "grotesque spectacle" of Anthony Weiner, but offers no explanation of how the travails of the New York Mayoral candidate and his wife connect to Dowd's central thesis of money in politics. But Dowd has never been above taking the cheap shot.
In this week's episode of Maureen hates Hillary and Bill she compares the former first family Wile E. Coyote because "something is always blowing up."
Former administration official and current Clinton Foundation executive Ira Magaziner "continues to be a Gyro Gearloose, the inept inventor of Donald Duck's Duckburg."
Dowd dismisses the work of the Clinton Foundation entirely, writing "we are supposed to believe that every dollar given to a Clinton is a dollar that improves the world. But is it?"
Yet nowhere does she mention the product of the Clinton Foundation's efforts, like the fact that "5 million people" and "500,000 children" around the world now "have access to low cost, high quality AIDS treatments." That is insignificant compared to Dowd's disgust for having to "read the words Ira Magaziner again."
She attacks Magaziner for gathering ideas for a proposal to fight climate change that "never got off the ground" but neglects to mention the annual reduction of "248 million tons" Clinton's C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is expected to achieve by 2020.
Dowd's New York Times column is the rhetorical equivalent of a Cinnabon - it has an alluring smell that draws you in, yet leaves a sick feeling in your stomach when you stare down at the greasy cardboard container and recognize the sheer amount of crap you just consumed.
And that's just the type of analogy Maureen Dowd would love to use.
It's clear in Dowd's mind the 2016 race has begun. With the majority of her recent columns mentioning the Clintons, we can expect her to repeat this pace again - yet all of her columns are united in the absence of a single critical ingredient - substance.
CNN anchor Kate Bolduan confronted Representative Steve King (R-IA) with a very basic question this morning on New Day: "Do you just not like Latinos?"
The anchor framed her query around an exchange the Iowa congressman had with Republican strategist Ana Navarro on Meet the Press on Sunday.
King did not address Bolduan's query, responding, "I think it's pretty clear that Ana didn't veil her bias against me. She didn't address a single fact that I delivered. She simply hurled accusations and baseless allegations."
He went on to defend his track record in Congress, citing his record of passing amendments in the House of Representatives while avoiding the issue of his feelings towards Latinos.
Bolduan refused to let King dodge, telling the Congressman, "I don't want to linger on this too much, but you said Ana Navarro didn't answer any of your questions. You didn't really answer mine either. . . that your comments come across as a thinly veiled bias against Latinos."
King's response -- still not directly answering the question -- was to say that if people interpret his comments that way, "I'd like to have them explain it." He then reiterated his widely criticized statement warning against drug smuggling immigrants.
Bolduan deserves praise, not only for her follow up questions pressing the subject, but for broaching the subject of motivations. Too often reporters, especially on television, are loath to ask questions that cut to the core of the motivations of legislators. This is especially true when it comes to issues that cross difficult boundaries of race and class.
But Bolduan's question deserves to be at the center of the immigration debate as demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and other leading conservatives object to the bill with their usual vitriol.
On issues such as immigration and voting rights, there are clear racial implications to the public policy positions taken by our elected representatives regardless of party or ideology. Part of the media's role should be to unearth these motivations, even when forced to ask uncomfortable questions about bigotry. To not do this simply leaves viewers only partially informed.