With the nation's attention turned toward the growing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, media figures have called on President Obama to speak out more forcefully on the situation and race relations in America. But Obama's past statements on race have been met with attacks from conservative commentators, blasting Obama for "promoting racial division" and "exacerbating racial tensions."
Voices currently urging the nation's first black president to say more on race ignore the marked history of conservative media figures' accusations of race-baiting in response to Obama's previous remarks:
Geraldo Rivera is once again citing alleged appearance as a mitigating factor in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, evoking footage of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie to contextualize potential police motive for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
While newly released video footage purports to show 18-year-old Brown robbing a convenience store prior to his death, Ferguson police have emphasized that the suspected crime is entirely unrelated to the police stop and subsequent shooting that resulted in Brown's death. According to the town police chief, Brown was stopped because he was "walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic."
This fact did not stop Fox News host Rivera from citing Brown's appearance in the video as potential evidence to the justification of Brown's death.
In an August 15 editorial for Fox News Latino, he wrote that even though police don't link the alleged robbery to Brown's police stop, "At the very least, watching the surveillance video of Brown allegedly robbing the convenience store should alter our perception of the victim. According to Rivera, "The portrait of the kid as an unarmed, innocent, college-bound youth ruthlessly shot in the back while trying to surrender seems incomplete at best." A few days later in a Fox News appearance, Rivera predicted that "menacing" footage of the unrelated robbery could lead to the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed Brown:
RIVERA: The white jurors will look at that convenience store surveillance tape. They will see Michael Brown menacing that clerk. The white jurors will put themselves in the shoes of that clerk. They'll say, of course the officer responded the way he did. He was menaced by a 6' 4", 300-pound kid, 10 minutes fresh from a strong-armed robbery. The officer was defending himself. The white jurors will put themselves in the white officer's place. The black jurors will see Michael Brown, despite his flaws, as the surrogate for every black youngster ever shot.
In both instances, to illustrate his point, Rivera invoked the appearance of Trayvon Martin. Citing surveillance video of Martin, a black teenager wearing a hoodie in a convenience store prior to his shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman, Rivera wrote that the teen looked "like every 7/11 robbery suspect ever caught on tape."
Martin's appearance led to the acquittal of his killer, Rivera claimed, because "the jury of six women, five white and one Hispanic ... saw the young man through Zimmerman's eyes, threatening and dangerous."
The Fox host gained notoriety in 2012 for blaming the shooting death of Martin on his hoodie, what Rivera deemed "wannabe gangsta," "thug" attire. And despite promising in early 2014 to discontinue using the phrase "thug," which he conceded was akin to "the new n-word" following Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's explanation that the words carried the same racial connotations, only four months later Rivera returned to using the pejorative on the Fox News airways.
Take a look at Rivera's record of using appearance as an explanatory variable when it comes to the shooting deaths of black teens:
As first lady, Michelle Obama has campaigned against childhood obesity. In response, male right-wing media figures have launched personal attacks at her, culminating in Fox News host Keith Ablow declaring that Obama should "drop a few" pounds before commenting on nutrition.
Anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins has appeared on Megyn Kelly's shows more than all other Fox News programs combined over the past two years.
Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization that was labeled an anti-gay "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010. He has called pedophilia "a homosexual problem," claimed that gay men "recruit" children into homosexuality, and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality. His organization regularly produces anti-gay propaganda depicting gay people as abnormal, unnatural, and destined for "eternal damnation."
He's also one of Megyn Kelly's most frequent guests on Fox News. Kelly - who was once hailed as a harbinger of a "gay rights revolution" at Fox - has hosted Perkins more than all other Fox News programs combined in the past two years, according to an Equality Matters analysis. Hailed by Kelly as "a captain of the Religious Right," Perkins has become a familiar face to viewers of Kelly's shows:
Between America Live - Kelly's former Fox program - and The Kelly File, Kelly's shows account for 17 of Perkins' 30 Fox News appearances since the conclusion of the 2012 GOP primary season, when his cable news influence peaked:
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly is under pressure to apologize for his inflammatory comments on "ghetto neighborhoods" and black culture. These recent comments follow a long history of O'Reilly, the self-styled culture warrior, using his platform at Fox to lecture the black community and hearken back to a time when society functioned more smoothly because white culture was unified. O'Reilly portrays himself as the moral and intellectual authority on how to solve the problems he says plague black communities and black culture, decrying "race hustlers" and prescribing harmful "solutions" to issues like the mass incarceration of black men.
Here's a look at how O'Reilly talks about the black community's "culture":
The racially charged and conspiratorial rhetoric protesters spewed at child migrants on their way to temporary housing in Murrieta, California, closely mirrored some of conservative media's favorite xenophobic talking points.
In the first week of July, hundreds of protesters gathered in Murrieta to voice opposition to the planned housing of migrant detainees at the federal Border Patrol station in the city, blocking buses and forcing them to return to the Border Patrol station in San Diego. The buses contained unaccompanied minors and women with children, awaiting deportation proceedings after crossing the U.S. border in Texas to flee violence in Central America.
These protests, along with a preceding Murrieta town hall on July 3, were full of invective -- protesters charged that the "illegal aliens" carried dangerous diseases and were possibly members of gangs and drug cartels. The crowds demanded that the government simply send the children back, screaming chants of "go home" and "U.S.A."
The protestors were so full of vitriol that immigration officials rerouted the migrants' buses to San Diego, citing safety concerns for the women and children aboard.
Media Matters for America researcher Lis Power contributed to this post.
On June 30th, five male justices held that "closely held" for-profit secular corporations like Hobby Lobby are exempt under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) from the so-called "contraception mandate." Right-wing media predictably cheered and mocked women's access to contraception, even though the decision was based on a series of myths.
Here are eight women explaining why the Hobby Lobby decision is dead wrong:
Fox News host Martha MacCallum described the pending Hobby Lobby case -- a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that all employer-sponsored health insurance cover contraceptives as part of preventive services -- by repeating four right-wing media myths in the span of 17 seconds. MacCallum adopted the false narrative of the religious owners of the for-profit, secular chain store and its supporters during the June 25 edition of America's Newsroom:
1. "The Hobby Lobby case, which challenges the Obamacare conception mandate that requires ..."
As political science professor Scott Lemieux explained, "there is no 'contraception mandate.' Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all. ... What is erroneously described as a 'mandate' simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards." In other words, Hobby Lobby can avoid contraception coverage by providing no health insurance at all -- but it may not hold its employees hostage by sponsoring health insurance policies that are not complaint with the ACA.
2. "... that employers provide ..."
As Georgetown Law professor Marty Lederman has written, it would be the federal government that requires the insurance companies -- not Hobby Lobby -- to meet the minimum coverage standards that include comprehensive preventive services, including birth control. According to Lederman, "Once the HHS Rule goes into effect, it would not be the Greens who 'directed' the Hobby Lobby ... insurance plans, in any real sense, to cover contraception: That would, instead, be a legal requirement imposed by the government -- and it's a requirement that applies to any and all such plans throughout the nation, whether sponsored by an employer or not."
3. "... free access to conception methods ..."
It turns out that so-called "free" birth control isn't actually free. In fact, "it is misleading -- and politically dangerous to say so," according to Jodi Jacobson, editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check, because "if you have insurance, you pay for it, either by virtue of your labor or out of your own pocket, or, depending on the situation, both. And under the ACA, it is now mandated that your insurance plan cover certain benefits without a co-pay. This does not make them 'free.' It means that you are paying for that service as part of your premium. You earned it, you paid for it, it is yours. If you pay for it, you deserve to get it."
4. "... as part of a comprehensive Obamacare health policy, includ[ed] in that would be some drugs which could trigger abortion."
Despite the fact that Hobby Lobby "sincerely believes" that some contraceptives result in the termination of a pregnancy, the science simply does not support this claim. According to The New York Times, "It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion ... is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents' definition of abortion-inducing drugs."
Following the announcement that U.S. Special Operations forces had captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News' coverage has been notable for a word that's been missing.
Since 2012, Fox News has referred to numerous Benghazi reports -- which typically just rehash their tired smears about the attacks -- as "bombshells." But in the hour after news of the arrest, nobody at the network has called the latest development a "bombshell."* (Instead, Fox is busy questioning the timing of the arrest.)
Here's a video demonstrating Fox's use of "bombshell" to describe everything but a major development in the story:
*Based on a transcript search of Media Matters' internal video archive.
A new Delaware law that would restore the rights of stockholders to bring class action lawsuits without fear of having to pay legal costs if they don't win every single part of their legal claim is being slammed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). But even right-wing media outlet Forbes isn't sold on their arguments.
In May, the Delaware Supreme Court surprisingly ruled in ATP Tour v. Deutscher Tennis Bund that corporations were allowed to unilaterally add bylaws forcing the loser in shareholder litigation to pay all the associated legal fees. These sorts of "loser pays" provisions are atypical in the U.S. but have been promoted by conservative organizations like the Chamber and the ILR under the guise of ending "frivolous lawsuits." Ultimately, though, such provisions have the effect of deterring or outright blocking many meritorious class action lawsuits brought by victims of corporate malfeasance.
In response to the state supreme court's holding in ATP Tour, Delaware legislators have proposed SB 236, a bill that would reinstate the normal prohibition on "loser pays" bylaws. The ILR is already registering its vocal opposition to the bill, arguing that it will leave corporations vulnerable to "abusive litigation."
Usually, right-wing media can be counted on to recycle the Chamber and ILR's pro-business talking points, in particular The Wall Street Journal editorial board. This time, however, even Forbes' Daniel Fisher questioned ILR's arguments. According to Fisher, who has supported anti-consumer provisions like forced arbitration clauses in the past, "opponents of SB 236 may be pushing too far" by promoting a loser pays system:
The bill's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Bryan Townsend, said he will set the bill aside for a while amid vocal opposition by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, according to the Wilmington News Journal.
The bill seems to restore the status quo by affirming the limited liability nature of corporations, where shareholders can only lose money to the extent of their investment. But the ILR said the proposed law -- passed, it noted, on "an extraordinarily expedited basis" -- would reverse a decision that "gives corporations a way to protect their shareholders" against the costs of "abusive litigation."
By pushing to retain the option implied by the ATP Tour decision, opponents of SB 236 may be pushing too far. Delaware courts have granted them ample tools to deal with shareholder litigation and chipping away at limited liability might be a cure that is worse than the disease.
Fisher's skepticism of ILR's issues with the bill are well-founded. According to Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice, the Delaware Supreme Court's decision not only runs afoul of the basic concepts of contract law by allowing corporations to unilaterally change the rules of the game on their investors, it makes it "far easier for corporations to insulate themselves from accountability if they cheat shareholders or break the law. By contrast, the vast majority of courts in the U.S. disapprove of this kind of loser-pays provision."
It's not just states like Delaware that are threatening the viability of investor class action lawsuits, one of the best ways for defrauded stakeholders to get legal relief from the corporation who harmed them. Any day now, the Supreme Court will issue its decision in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund, a case that could make it nearly impossible for investors who have been the victims of corporate fraud to join together as a class and sue. Watch Bland explain in two minutes how Halliburton could be yet another in a long line of pro-business decisions from the conservative majority at the Court: