Students and alumni at Santa Clara University are protesting an upcoming speech by syndicated columnist George Will. After Will "trivialized" campus sexual assault victims in a 2014 column, he has faced widespread opposition at schools that have hosted him. Last year, Will was uninvited from a speech at Scripps College and protested by hundreds of students at two other schools.
Will first came under fire after his June 2014 column dismissed "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault,'" and argued that efforts to combat campus sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges."
A petition at Change.org states that the signatories are "extremely disappointed" with Will's inclusion in Santa Clara's President's Speaker Series on October 8. "We find Will's flatly dismissive statements about sexual assault, climate change, and the Pope not only disrespectful," the petition states, "but contrary to the very spirit of a speaker series dedicated to 'engaging people and ideas that shape our world'" (emphasis added):
While we believe that hosting speakers with a wide range of political viewpoints is vital to the intellectual life of the university, publications by Will demonstrate that he is not interested in the kinds of presentation and discussion that make this series a successful contribution to the mission of the university.
Will has repeatedly issued statements that both trivialize the problem of campus sexual assaults and invalidate the experiences and feelings of sexual assault survivors. Moreover, his recent claim that national and local efforts to combat campus rape have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges" is not merely misguided, but deeply misogynistic and ignorant.
The invitation of Will, at considerable financial cost to the university, sends a profoundly contradictory message to our campus community and particularly our students. At this year's university convocation, President Engh talked about the need for students, faculty, staff -- and the institution as a whole -- to respond with more courage and concern to the problem of violence against women, particularly on college campuses across the country.
Featuring George Will in the President's Speaker Series also undercuts the dedication of many universities (including SCU) to promoting sustainability, an effort Will derides as a silly "progressive gesture." Moreover, leading climatologist Michael Mann notes, "George Will is known for grossly misstating the science of climate change." Ironically, in a recent opinion piece titled "Pope Francis's fact free flamboyance," Will described Pope Francis as embracing ideas "impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary," with the "intellectual tone of fortune cookies."
Last October, Will was uninvited from a speaking engagement at Scripps College, after the school's president said Will had "trivialized" sexual assault cases, including one "that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students." Later in the year, hundreds showed up to protest a speech Will gave at Miami University in Ohio, while over a thousand students signed a letter criticizing the speech. Some students at Michigan State University also turned their backs on Will during his recent commencement speech. Other students and faculty at MSU even held a separate commencement ceremony, and Michigan Senator (and MSU alumna) Debbie Stabenow condemned the decision to host Will.
Image of Miami University protest courtesy of the Facebook page of the school's Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.
Discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson will host a weekly news show on Sunday mornings starting October 4 on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, which include ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox affiliates. Attkisson has a lengthy record of shoddy, inaccurate reporting, and she has pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory that the government hacked her home electronics.
Discredited reporter Ed Klein is back with another book, Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary. Like his previous output, Unlikeable features supposedly insider accounts of conversations and behind-the-scenes dealings of the most powerful politicians in the country. And, like his previous work, the book reads like a conservative fever dream translated into a screenplay.
Klein's previous books -- which have forwarded outlandish smears like the claim that Chelsea Clinton was conceived when Bill raped Hillary -- have been roundly criticized by a wide range of reporters, including many conservatives. His supposed reporting has been labeled "bullshit," "smut," "junk journalism," and "fan fiction." Unlikeable finds Klein living up to his reputation.
Blood Feud, Klein's 2014 book about the supposed war between the Obamas and the Clintons, was reportedly dropped by a HarperCollins imprint because it "did not pass a vetting by in-house lawyers." BuzzFeed additionally reported that HarperCollins had "concerns about the reporting quality." (The book was eventually released by conservative publisher Regnery, which also published Unlikeable.)
Despite his complete lack of credibility, Klein can still rely on certain sections of the conservative media to celebrate his supposed scoops every time he puts out a new book, and Unlikeable has been no different. Klein's new "reporting" has garnered a series of headlines in recent weeks in the New York Post, and Klein himself has been given a platform to promote the book this week on Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Fox Business.
But no matter how badly conservative media might want Klein's latest to ring true, Unlikeable is undermined by dubious sourcing and sloppy research.
For instance, one chapter opens with a quotation supposedly from Obama Senior Adviser (and frequent Klein villain) Valerie Jarrett ominously declaring, "After we win this election, it's our turn. Payback time."
This supposed quote has been bouncing around conservative websites and message boards for years. In 2012, Right Wing Watch tracked down the quotation's questionable origins, and discovered a convoluted series of anonymous sources overhearing other anonymous sources:
[A]n anonymous source supposedly within the Obama campaign supposedly overheard a representative from Jarrett's office make this statement and attributed it to Jarrett herself; it was then passed along to some pseudonymous source named "Wall Street Insider" who then forwarded it to [conservative blog] The Ulsterman Report ... and it eventually ended up on Glenn Beck's radio program where the quote was treated as entirely legitimate.
Fittingly enough, the Ulsterman Report routinely published interviews with anonymous highly-placed sources in the government that didn't pass the smell test.
Even WND, a birth certificate-obsessed conspiracy website not exactly known for high editorial standards, reported of the supposed Jarrett quotation in 2012, "The quote, however, is suspect and is at best four steps removed from Jarrett herself." Meanwhile, Klein, who regularly touts himself as serious reporter, found it compelling enough to use as a chapter header.
In another chapter, Klein's source is allegedly a "well-known cardiologist," who claims to have been asked by Bill Clinton "to review Hillary's medical records." The cardiologist explains in an interview with Klein that politicians often fear doctors will leak their medical information "to the press ... But doctors are discreet." The doctor ("who requested anonymity") then proceeds to talk about Hillary Clinton's supposed ongoing medical problems:
Bill was so concerned that he asked a well-known cardiologist to review Hillary's medical records. After looking over her cardiograms and X-rays and other records, the cardiologist recommended that Hillary travel with a full-time physician who would keep her under constant observation.
"Most politicians are reluctant to be monitored by a doctor because they fear that if the results are leaked to the press, the information might harm their chances of election," the cardiologist said in an interview for this book. "But doctors are discreet. And in Hillary's case, it is very important that she be monitored on a daily basis. Her symptoms-- the fainting-- are very worrisome, especially for someone of her age. I have a lot of experience with political candidates and have seen the toll that the stress of a campaign can take. It's stressful for young candidates, and for older ones like Hillary, it's beyond belief."
As Salon's Simon Maloy (formerly of Media Matters) explained, Klein's "hot scoops" are usually "based on anonymous 'sources' who always happen to be present when the most powerful people in the country cook up their various schemes and conspiracies, and who then provide verbatim details of those highly scandalous conversations exclusively to Ed Klein."
Apparently, the Clintons keep repeatedly inviting these anonymous sources back to intimate dinner parties and important meetings and divulging their deepest secrets to them, thereby allowing Ed Klein to continue publishing books.
Another of Klein's favorite tactics, regularly on display in Unlikeable, is using sources that have simply heard, after the fact, about private conversations they were not present for -- but which they can nonetheless recreate in impressive detail.
In one instance, President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Jarrett have a private conversation in the White House about their supposed hatred of Clinton, which Klein somehow reproduces word-for-word based only on "sources who spoke to Jarrett":
While Jarrett gave her briefing, the president paced, his head bowed, deep in thought. Jarrett was happy to see Hillary in trouble. Obama wasn't so sure. He felt a great deal of animosity toward both Clintons, and he smiled when Jarrett told him of Hillary's latest travails, but he didn't want to see the Democratic Party lose the White House.
"It's all her own fault," he repeated over and over, according to sources who spoke to Jarrett. "Bill should have advised her better. He should have made her goddamn behave, follow the rules."
Barack plopped down in a chair and let out a sigh.
"Dumb, dumb, dumb," he said. "Just goddamn dumb." (emphasis added)
BuzzFeed's Katherine Miller mocked the many absurd passages in Klein's last book Blood Feud -- highlights include Hillary Clinton swirling a glass of wine and saying of Obama to her old college friends, "You can't trust the motherfucker." Miller described Klein's book as reading "like stilted fan fiction, featuring dialogue that no human has likely said or will probably ever say until you read it aloud to friends and family."
Unlikeable continues the trend. In the below scene, President Obama and Hillary Clinton argue in the Oval Office about Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state:
But before Jarrett could intercede, Obama spun around and looked directly at Hillary.
"There is nothing I can do one way or the other," he said. "Things have been set in motion, and I can't and won't interfere. Your problems are, frankly, of your own making. If you had been honest. . . ."
Hillary interrupted him.
"There are always haters out to get the Clintons," she said. (emphasis added)
While Obama gets to sound like a Bond villain, Clinton has a habit of violently clearing off desks in fits of rage. An unnamed "Foreign Service Officer" tells Klein that "after a telephone argument with President Obama, she took her right arm and cleared off her small working desk, sending pictures, glasses, everything crashing to the floor."
A few chapters later, Clinton does the same thing to her husband's desk:
"You've thrown us in the crap again!" she screamed. "I've never been this pissed off at you! I don't think you really want me to be president."
Bill looked up over the rim of his eyeglasses, which were perched on the tip of his nose.
"Calm down," he said.
His air of nonchalance only made Hillary angrier, and with a sweeping motion of her arm, she shoved everything off the top of his desk, sending papers and an expensive piece of Chihuly blown glass flying onto the floor.
"Jesus!" Bill said.
He got up to retrieve the Chihuly sculpture, which fortunately wasn't damaged. He put it carefully back on his desk. He had one of the largest private collections of Chihuly glass in the country.
"You don't care about anything but that fucking piece of glass," Hillary said. (emphasis added)
Clinton also sends a water glass flying across her office in a fit of rage (according to the unnamed "Foreign Service officer," who saw it "with my own eyes").
Unlikeable finishes with a strange and out-of-nowhere epilogue that issues dire warnings about the "new normal" in America. According to him, "long-accepted standards and codes of behavior" have been turned "upside down." Features that are "unacceptable," "abnormal," and make America "coarser" apparently include:
Support for same-sex marriage has doubled over the past decade to 60 percent.
In less than thirty years non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up a majority of Americans.
Bruce Jenner, once the picture of masculinity, is canonized for being castrated.
The average American woman now weighs the same as the average American man did in the 1960s.
He concludes: "Conservatives rightly fear that decadence will lead to the fall of the United States just as surely as it led to the fall of Rome."
Klein's "fan fiction" perfectly follows conservative mythology -- down to the very last page.
Chris Cillizza has written more than 50 posts mentioning Hillary Clinton's emails since March on his Washington Post politics blog The Fix, nearly all of them issuing dire warnings about the supposedly "massive political problem."
The New York Times first wrote about Clinton's email during her tenure at the State Department on March 2, when they falsely reported she had violated federal requirements by using a private email account. Since then, mainstream media outlets have attempted to find some scandal in the email story, often pushing various falsehoods and being forced to issue corrections after the fact. To date, there has been no evidence of any lawbreaking.
Cillizza has been a major contributor to this effort, repeatedly claiming the email story "just keeps getting worse" and that it's "not going away," while claiming Clinton has an "honesty problem" and should "start panicking."
Just this week, Cillizza wrote a post headlined "Just when you thought the e-mail story couldn't get worse for Hillary Clinton ..." The post misleadingly tried to repackage old email stories as new developments in the "scandal."
Searching Nexis for pieces written at The Fix with Cillizza's byline, Media Matters found over 100 blog posts that mentioned Hillary Clinton in the headline or first paragraphs since March 2. Roughly half of those posts also mentioned Clinton's "email," "e-mail," or "server" at least once. Only a handful of the headlines suggest any good news for the Democratic frontrunner for president.
Media Matters presents 50 headlines representative of Cillizza's coverage on Clinton's emails:
An anonymous writer claimed in a Daily Beast article that the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) -- a key player in the Iran deal fight -- is connected to an Iranian family known as the Namazis, who supposedly support the deal only to make a "fortune" from future economic sanctions relief. But the author provides little evidence to support his claim of clear financial incentives in the slim connections between NIAC and the Namazis, while NIAC denies those alleged ties. The piece also rehashes "dishonest" attacks against NIAC and their connections to the Iranian regime. Moreover, experts say the sanctions relief will benefit the entire Iranian economy.
The New York Times announced that current Washington Bureau Chief Carolyn Ryan was stepping down to become a political editor, and would be replaced by Washington Editor Elisabeth Bumiller. Ryan was bureau chief for less than two years, and during that time the paper published a series of flimsy and often inaccurate reports about presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, causing other media figures and their own public editor to heavily criticize the paper.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz published an opinion piece in USA Today using Fox News talking points to advocate for the full defunding of Planned Parenthood.
That could result in millions of Americans losing access to crucial health care -- all thanks to a handful of lies pushed by conservative media.
Cruz's August 20 op-ed relies heavily on the deceptive videos from the Center for Medical Progress, which used possibly-illegal methods to capture undercover conversations with Planned Parenthood figures. Those videos cropped out crucial context to demonize the organization's abortion procedures. Cruz provides no evidence of wrongdoing, but demands both that Planned Parenthood's federal funding must end and that the Department of Justice must prosecute "any potential criminal actions."
The videos have been repeatedly debunked by mainstream media outlets, and a poll has shown that they have done little to change the fact that a majority of Americans still support Planned Parenthood receiving federal funding.
But that doesn't appear to matter to right-wing media or the GOP. Instead, conservative media figures have promoted the videos and continued to loudly condemn Planned Parenthood, and Republican politicians have happily joined the chorus and called for the organization to be defunded.
And the deception is plentiful. Cruz falsely claims the CMP videos show "senior Planned Parenthood officials ... heartlessly discussing killing unborn children in order to sell their body parts," echoing an allegation made in conservative media. They do nothing of the kind; as many have noted, in reality the videos feature discussions of legal donations and the associated minor reimbursement fees. Cruz misleadingly claims that "Planned Parenthood receives about 45% of its funding from government sources," without explaining that much of that is in the form of Medicaid dollars, as low-income families use Planned Parenthood for STD testing, cervical cancer screenings, breast exams, and birth control prescriptions.
And Cruz parrots the newest right-wing media attack: the dishonest argument that "ending taxpayer funding of abortion providers will have little impact on a woman's access to healthcare" because providers such as "Community health centers, charities, state health departments and other government entities" already provide those services.
This is a false, and dangerous, claim.
There are many places in the country where Planned Parenthood is the only health provider. About half of Planned Parenthood clinics are in rural areas, where there are often no local providers at all, or none who have the capacity to offer reproductive health services.
When you close a Planned Parenthood clinic in those areas, you create a public health crisis -- for women and men.
In Indiana, for example, after funding cuts forced five Planned Parenthood clinics to close back in 2011, the state became the center of "an exploding HIV outbreak." The Planned Parenthood clinics -- which had not provided abortions -- had been the only providers to offer HIV testing to both men and women before they were shuttered. Now the state is struggling to deal with the avoidable epidemic.
And in Texas, Republican lawmakers now reportedly regret their systematic defunding of Planned Parenthood, because of the "devastating effect" cuts have had on health care in the state. According to Joseph Potter, the principal investigator at the Texas Policy Project at the University of Texas (emphasis added):
The drastic budget cuts caused many clinics to close, and those that remained open had to curtail their services, especially providing the more expensive and more effective contraceptive methods such as IUDs and implants. Many Texas lawmakers, including Republican legislators, now realize that these massive cuts adversely affected women and were a mistake.
Potter's investigation further found that many of the remaining health care providers "simply do not have the trained personnel and experience in women's health care" necessary to provide the services the Planned Parenthood clinics had, and many women faced severe challenges in trying to change their health care provider. Ultimately, fewer Texas women "have received contraceptive services, fewer use highly effective methods, some have had unintended pregnancies, and some have had abortions they would not have had if not for these policies" (emphasis added).
Potter concluded: "If Congress were to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, many of the challenges that Texas now faces would play out on a much grander national scale."
Over 6.5 million Americans live in Indiana; nearly 30 million live in Texas. And that's just the beginning, if conservative media and GOP politicians have their way.
This is how the playbook works: deceptive videos made by right-wing activists get promoted by conservative media outlets. They get enough attention, and provide enough shock-value, that it gives GOP politicians ammunition to pick up the lies and run with them in legislation across the country.
This has happened before, and will likely happen again, because right-wing activists know they can manipulate the media to push their propaganda.
So now Ted Cruz, a senator and a Republican presidential candidate, is advocating in the pages of the highest circulation paper in the country for a full-scale government attack on health care, using myths and deception ready-made for him by this right-wing propaganda machine.
But how many millions of Americans have to lose access to health care before the cycle stops?
An NPR article on the government inquiry into classified emails cited two former government officials to criticize Hillary Clinton's handling of her private email server when she was secretary of state. However, the article did not disclose that the former officials have conservative ties, with one of them advising GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
In the August 19 article, NPR extensively quoted Ron Hosko, who was identified only as previously leading "the FBI's criminal investigative division." Hosko suggested that emails which were sent to Clinton -- and which have since been retroactively classified in an interagency dispute over classification levels -- might represent "serious breaches of national security":
"I think that the FBI will be moving with all deliberate speed to determine whether there were serious breaches of national security here," said Ron Hosko, who used to lead the FBI's criminal investigative division.
He said agents will direct their questions not just at Clinton, but also her close associates at the State Department and beyond.
"I would want to know how did this occur to begin with, who knew, who approved," Hosko said.
NPR did not mention that Hosko is currently the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), a right-wing non-profit that claims to defend police officers fighting criminal charges, but which has come under scrutiny for financial ties to other conservative groups, such as the Federalist Society and the American Spectator. The chairman of LELDF is Alfred Regnery, the former president of conservative publisher Regnery Publishing, whileboard members include Ken Cuccinelli, the former Republican nominee for governor of Virginia; J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican politician and senior fellow at the Family Research Council; and Edwin Meese III, a former Reagan administration official who reportedly helped orchestrate the devastating 2013 government shutdown.
In December 2014, Hosko also wrote a column for USA Today arguing that "police weren't the problem in Ferguson." The column blamed the Obama administration and "radical activists" for "exacerbating the problems in Ferguson" and contributing "to an epidemic that will most adversely affect those for whom they claim to advocate."
The NPR article also cited an interview that former NSA Director Michael Hayden gave on MSNBC's Morning Joe, where Hayden said about Clinton's email use: "Put legality aside for just a second, it's stupid and dangerous."
"I've signed on as an adviser to Gov. Bush because he asked me and because he represents what I feel is the right position, which is the Republican internationalist position," Hayden said. "If you're looking for one sentence as to what a new president should do with regard to foreign policy: Get involved, and stay involved."
Fox News hosts Eric Bolling and Sean Hannity falsely claimed the latest video attacking Planned Parenthood "proves" that the organization has failed to obtain proper consent from women for fetal tissue donations. In fact, as other media outlets have noted, the accusations in the video are focused on a separate organization known as StemExpress.
At the 2016 Republican primary debate last night, the Fox News moderators appeared reasonable, effective, and pointed in their questions to the candidates. And that was the point of the whole charade.
Fox did exactly what Media Matters predicted they would. Moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace took advantage of the low expectations mainstream journalists and many Americans have of their network. They knew millions of people who don't watch Fox as obsessively as we do would be tuning in, many of them expecting to see the brand of Fox they've heard so much about, full of conservative bias and incoherent arguments. And they knew how much power rested in surprising those viewers -- in convincing even just a handful of mainstream journalists that Fox can be legitimate.
The strategy worked. Because the moderators managed to look like real journalists for a little over two hours, they're getting intense praise from mainstream media outlets, such as Politico (emphasis added):
For more than two hours, the trio that won widespread praise in 2012 for hard-hitting questions once again demonstrated that Fox News would offer no safe harbor for Republican candidates.
And the New York Times (emphasis added):
There was more than just good television at stake. For the journalists of Fox News, the debate offered a potentially defining moment in front of millions of people, during one of the most anticipated political events of the year. This was an opportunity to demonstrate that their network is not, as its critics have charged, a blindly loyal propaganda division of the Republican Party, that Fox journalists can be as unsparing toward conservatives as they are with liberals, and that they can eviscerate with equal opportunity if they choose.
But that last clause from the Times is crucial: "if they choose." Because the other 364 days a year, Fox News does not choose to hold Republicans accountable for their extreme and misinformed positions on women's rights or welfare or immigration; instead they do create that "safe harbor" for Republicans to come up with their wild misconceptions and hateful rhetoric -- the same misconceptions they "choose" to blast those same Republicans for last night.
Fox has two fundamental goals: make lots of money by broadcasting entertaining television, and bolster the Republican Party. Last night, they succeeded in doing both, even in the moments where it might have seemed like they had no patience for the Republican candidates' pandering.
Because Fox chief Roger Ailes knows that the best way for Fox to bolster the Republican Party in the long-term is for mainstream journalists to trust Fox -- for the "blindly loyal propaganda division" to appear, even just for one night, as credible. Propaganda doesn't work, after all, if you know it's propaganda.
So even if many of their questions actually did reinforce Republican orthodoxy (such as claiming that deceitful videos attacking Planned Parenthood shed "new light on abortion practices"), the Fox moderators made sure they spent most of their time looking like attack dogs ready to take on the Republican candidates.
But it's worth looking closely at how that played out, and what exactly mainstream media outlets are now praising. Getting the most attention is perhaps one of the biggest of the so-called "Megyn Moments" of the night, in which Kelly momentarily appears out-of-step with Fox rhetoric and calls out a bit of right-wing nonsense. Her tendency to do this every once in a while successfully distracts from her standard misinformation, and helps feed the exact narrative about Fox's potential for credibility that they were desperate to encourage last night.
"Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter," she began. "However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.'"
Quickly dismissing Trump's attempt to shrug these comments off with a crude joke, she beat on: "Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?"
To be clear, it is definitely remarkable to hear a Fox News host even mention the "war on women," something the network and the Republican Party have worked hard to minimize. And Trump deserves to be held accountable for these comments.
But it's not exactly an act of remarkable journalism to ask such a question -- pointing out Trump's raging sexism is something any competent journalist should be expected to do.
Moreover, Fox has had ample time to hold him accountable for these comments before. Trump has been winning the "Fox News Primary" for the last three months, appearing on the network more times than any other Republican candidate in the race.
Yet his sexism has certainly not been a regular topic of the fawning interviews he typically receives on the network. Instead, Fox has worked very, very hard to promote Trump, and the fact that he was standing at center stage last night due to his soaring poll numbers was certainly aided by the network.
While network figures have criticized Trump in the past, Fox's shift during the debate to fully acknowledging Trump's nasty side is notable. But it once again says more about Fox's calculus for the evening and our own low expectations than it does about Trump himself.
In his review of the evening, Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman explained that according to his sources, key to that calculus was Fox's fear that the winner of the night would be Trump, at the expense of the network's moderators:
During a meeting at Fox late last week, according to a source, senior Fox executives discussed a more worrisome scenario: What would happen if Trump won over the audience and moved the crowd to boo moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace on live television? What if Trump was able to direct his base of supporters to stop watching Fox? To prevent that from happening, Ailes needed a way to keep the audience firmly on the side of his moderators.
The questions posed last night to all of the candidates were carefully considered, and key to the strategy behind those questions was keeping the audience on Fox's side, not on the side of the actual candidates running for president. That isn't a strategy for good journalism, or for aiding a thoughtful electoral process. That's a strategy of control.
Fox may have realized they can no longer control Trump; but they're definitely trying to maintain full control over the mainstream narrative about their "credibility," and thus the Republican primary.