Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett wrote a column accurately depicting the college sexual assault epidemic and the fears victims face in reporting these crimes, a stark contrast to his colleagues and fellow conservative media figures who have dismissed, mocked, and stigmatized victims.
In a September 25 column for Fox News' website, Jarrett highlighted the high rate of assault on college campuses, and praised student activists for raising awareness of the often insufficient resources and efforts by colleges to address the problem (emphasis added):
Nearly 20 % of female college students have been sexually assaulted, according to a White House task force.
I suspect the true number is significantly higher. Many young women are reluctant to report it. They keep it secret for fear of embarrassment, shame, retribution, and the trauma of reliving the nightmare during legal or disciplinary proceedings. I get it. There are repercussions. Victims are especially afraid of being stigmatized or ostracized within the tight, insular social circles on campus.
Awareness is on the rise driven, in part, by student activism. Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, angry over how the school adjudicated her claim of rape, has taken to carrying a mattress around campus. Dubbed "Mattress girl" by fellow students and the media, her visually indelible protest has galvanized a growing demand for honesty and transparency. And why not? Schools should be required to publish accurate information about the frequency of assaults. It can be done without breaching individual students' privacy.
Jarrett's column unfortunately stands out among recent commentary about sexual assault in conservative media, where the fact that one in five women are assaulted at college is regularly dismissed. The Daily Caller has called the statistic "bizarre and wholly false," while the Washington Examiner called it "ridiculous."
Moreover, the trust and respect Jarrett treats the victims of these assaults with is unusual. Instead, their stories are often questioned or critiqued, with media figures suggesting that a large number of victims are lying about their assault, or are partly culpable.
The same day that Jarrett's column was published, some of his Fox News colleagues suggested that intoxicated women who are assaulted at college fraternity parties are responsible for their own assaults. Several co-hosts of Fox's Outnumbered defended a Forbes contributor who was fired after claiming that drunk women were "the gravest threat to fraternities" because the fraternity would be liable if a woman was sexually assaulted at a party.
This past summer, Washington Post columnist George Will came under fire for claiming that college efforts to curb sexual assaults were making "victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege." In his column, Will disputed the story of a college rape on Swarthmore's campus, implying he didn't believe the survivor's story qualified as an actual incident of assault. The survivor, Lisa Sendrow, told Media Matters about the violence she had experienced, how Will's dismissal of her story was triggering and damaging to her, and that she was diagnosed with PTSD and received violent threats after her story was first reported.
Earlier this year, a Weekly Standard contributor blamed feminism for sexual assault, because victims abandoned "feminine modesty" which had provided women "protection" from rape. National Review Online writers claimed rape was "instinctive" among some young men, that assaults involve "a large degree of voluntary behavior" from women, and that women are "being taught to believe they were raped." A New York Post columnist dismissed rape as "regrettable sex."
And Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto went so far as to claim intoxicated sexual assault victims are just as guilty as their attackers.
While Jarrett's column is sadly something of an outlier among conservative commentary on the issue, survivors now have one more voice in the media supporting their efforts to combat this epidemic.
The Atlantic's Molly Ball is the latest media figure to proclaim herself bored of Hillary Clinton, insisting the former Secretary of State offers "nothing new or surprising" and asking, "Has America ever been so thoroughly tired of a candidate before the campaign even began?"
But America isn't tired of Clinton, one of the nation's most popular political figures -- Molly Ball and others in the press corps who insist on obsessing over her every move are.
Polling from Gallup this summer found that a majority of Americans -- and 90 percent of Democrats -- viewed Clinton favorably. Clinton also beat out all of her theoretical Republican challengers in a more recent McClatchy-Marist poll. More than 80 percent of Democrats would be either "excited" or "satisfied" with a Clinton run for president, according to a CNN/ORC poll.
In fact, at the end of 2013, Gallup found Clinton was the "most admired woman" in America -- for the twelfth consecutive year. (Oprah Winfrey came in second, by a wide margin.)
But Ball's September 19 article largely ignored Clinton's widespread popularity to instead claim that there is widespread fatigue with the former secretary of state. Ball's argument centers around the idea that Clinton is not producing enough "spark" or "vision," and criticized her for agreeing with a "laundry list of well-worn leftish ideas" discussed at a recent event at the Center for American Progress, "from raising the minimum wage to paid family leave and affordable childcare":
Granted, these are substantive proposals, and they are controversial in some quarters. But they are broadly popular, and the overall message--that women ought to prosper--is almost impossible to disagree with. The discussion's only spark came from Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, who made a rousing call to action. "I think we need a Rosie the Riveter moment for this generation!"
So Clinton supports popular, substantive proposals that many can agree on -- ideas that have been stymied by a recalcitrant Republican Congress -- and this is a problem, because Ball isn't entertained?
Recently NBC's Chuck Todd discussed "one thing" he thinks Washington media gets wrong: this idea of "Clinton fatigue." "There is a Clinton fatigue problem," Todd noted, "but it's in the press corps. I think there is much less Clinton fatigue in the Democratic Party than there is in the press corps."
The excitement for Clinton -- and her own "well-worn leftish ideas" -- among Democrats was apparent at another of Clinton's appearances this week, the September 19 Women's Leadership Forum, hosted by the Democratic National Committee. Clinton received a standing ovation before and after her speech, and her support for policies such as paid sick leave, equal pay for equal work, affordable childcare, and a living wage received cheers and applause.
A majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, support raising the minimum wage and mandating paid sick leave. These ideas that seem tired to Ball are specific policy proposals that Americans want. It would certainly be more interesting for journalists if Clinton decided to support wildly unpopular new proposals, but it's unclear why any politician's priority should be entertaining reporters rather than promoting policies they think will help the country.
Of course, this is a perfect example of what Media Matters has previously termed the "Goldilocks approach to campaign journalism." When Clinton bores journalists by repeating a popular and substantive platform, she gets criticized, but if she did do something surprising or new, the press will pounce on her for that as well.
A press corps that is constantly looking for a new angle to parse, whether it's Clinton's charm, or body language, or clothing, is going to be bored when there's nothing to say and overly-eager to twist controversy out of anything that seems new.
And a media that is quick to attribute its own personal fatigue to the rest of the nation is going to miss out on the real story.
Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck connected an ongoing National Football League controversy surrounding domestic violence to the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The Fox & Friends host tweeted September 16, "Imagine if everyone that asked for transparency in the #nfl @nfl Demanded that same #transparency in our #government," adding the hashtags "#Benghazi" and "#IRS," references to the terrorist attack and the alleged targeting by the IRS of tax exempt organizations.
Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was indefinitely suspended by the NFL after a video of him punching his now-wife and knocking her unconscious leaked, and the organization came under fire for not previously suspending Rice when he initially admitted to the assault. Fifteen female senators have asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to "institute a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence," and questioned whether the commissioner or other league officials may have attempted to "cover-up" evidence of the abuse.
Fox News has repeatedly attempted to claim the Obama administration engaged in a "cover up" of the Benghazi attacks, with the evening lineup alleging a "cover up" in 281 segments in the first 20 months following the attacks. Network personalities have previous invoked Benghazi in relation to meteorologists meeting with President Obama, the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, Gov. Chris Christie's bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, and Monday Night Football.
UPDATE: Hasselbeck later tweeted at the Huffington Post, which wrote up her comments:
Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks. Nearly 500 segments focused on a set of Obama administration talking points used in September 2012 interviews; more than 100 linked the attacks to a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run; and dozens of segments compared the attacks and the administration response to the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals. The network hosted Republican members of Congress to discuss Benghazi nearly 30 times more frequently than Democrats.
The newly-released 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi documents the experience on the ground the night of the September 2012 terrorist attacks, effectively debunking a number of old media myths surrounding the tragedy.
The book, written by journalist Mitchell Zuckoff and five former CIA contractors who defended the diplomatic post and nearby CIA annex during the assault, is an interesting eyewitness portrayal of the attacks and the heroism the men displayed. But while the book has received ample media attention, outlets are largely ignoring several key points from 13 Hours' narrative that undermine false media narratives about the attacks.
On CNN's The Lead, host Jake Tapper interviewed three of the authors and specifically focused on what he called the "biggest point of contention" between the authors and administration officials, which is their description of the so-called "stand down" order. According to the contractors, though they were ready to leave the CIA annex to defend the diplomatic post almost immediately following the initial distress call, they were asked to wait for approximately 20 minutes as their CIA base chief attempted to contact local a Libyan militia for assistance and develop a plan. They disagreed with the delay and wanted to move in more quickly.
This disagreement was eventually politicized and inflated by media and political figures, who insisted that members of the Obama administration, or then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had ordered rescue efforts to "stand down" permanently and leave Americans to die. But as the contractors explained to Tapper, though they believe they could have done more to save American lives that night had they been allowed to leave immediately, they did not view the decision as one of "malice" towards Americans, nor did they place the blame for the decision on anyone higher up than the base chief.
As the New York Times noted, their story "fits with the publicly known facts and chronology" we already knew about the non-existent "stand down" order. For example, the Associated Press reported last year on the disagreement between CIA leaders and security contractors about the delay to try to gather support from militia allies, citing Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland pointing to the disagreement as a possible source of the "stand down" myth.
The "stand down" order dispute has defined the majority of media coverage on the book. Fox News, which produced a special based on the book, has used the "stand down" reporting in 13 Hours to suggest they've been right all along about it. But Fox figures are moving the goalposts -- they network's obsession with a "stand down" order has revolved around the idea that the administration ordered a forces to not respond that night, which does not resemble the story laid out in the book.
While media have been focused on whether the contractors were ordered to "stand down," 13 Hours actually debunks other myths surrounding the attacks.
WND reporter Aaron Klein's history of outrageous conspiracy theories has already cast serious doubt on the credibility of his new book, The REAL Benghazi Story. But the book itself contains major distortions of reality, including selectively-edited evidence and distorted facts, reconfirming Klein's commitment to pushing convoluted hoaxes.
Klein's book, which Media Matters obtained a copy of in advance of its September 9 release, claims to "expose" the "truth" about the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya, revealing "What The White House and Hillary Don't Want You To Know." Included are a few of the more conspiratorial analyses that Klein has previously pushed at the birther website WND, such as the claim that Benghazi is linked to the Boston Marathon bombing -- because a handful of members of a jihadist group may have taken part in the Benghazi attacks, and that group also "is behind" a magazine "thought to have provided bomb-building instructions" for the accused marathon bombers.
Klein's book does include one seemingly "new" Benghazi theory, which is also entirely false. Klein attempts to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for what he claims is her previously "unreported role" in Benghazi, by falsely claiming she must have personally approved security conditions at the Benghazi compound.
The Benghazi mission was unusual for government buildings overseas, as it featured a CIA annex that was separate from the diplomatic compound, roughly a mile apart. Typically government agencies are housed together in the same building, which is called "co-location." According to Klein, State Department regulations would have required Clinton to personally sign a waiver permitting the Benghazi mission to be set up like this, and thus provided "personal approval of security conditions at the compound":
...it can now be said that Clinton personally provided the legal waivers for U.S. personnel to occupy that death trap of a mission. This largely unreported detail was confirmed in the Senate's January 2014 report on Benghazi. Senate investigators found the Benghazi facility required a special waiver since it did not meet the minimum official security standards set by the State Department.
Some of the necessary waivers, the Senate affirmed, could have been issued at lower levels within the State Department. However "other departures, such as the co-location requirement, could only be approved by the Secretary of State." ... This means Clinton herself approved some aspects of the U.S. special mission, including separating the mission from the seemingly more protected CIA annex. In doing so, did Clinton know she was approving a woefully unprotected compound? If not, then at the very least she is guilty of dereliction of duty and the diplomatic equivalence of criminal negligence.
But the fact is the Benghazi mission did not require this kind of waiver. The State Department regulations Klein is referencing lay out the responsibilities of the Secretary under the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act, or SECCA. But as the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated Benghazi explained, the Benghazi facility was exempted from SECCA. SECCA applies to diplomatic facilities, such as consulates, that are officially notified to the host government. Instead, the special mission in Benghazi was a "temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government," and as such SECCA rules -- waivable or not -- did not apply.
In fact, the document approving the set up and security conditions for the compound has been public since at least September 2013, when it was posted online by Al Jazeera America. It clearly shows the signature of Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy, as well as clearance from a number of other low-level officials.
State's ARB report acknowledged that the Benghazi mission's "'non-status' as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult." They recommended State develop minimum security standards for temporary facilities and encouraged co-location in the future. Clinton accepted the recommendation and began implementing it before leaving office.
Real flaws in security at Benghazi do not, however, justify Klein's attempt to ignore the facts and claim Clinton personally signed waivers approving the compound.
A central question of Fox News' latest documentary on Benghazi has already been answered by official congressional and State Department investigations into the terrorist attacks.
On August 27, Fox announced "13 Hours at Benghazi," a new documentary hosted by Special Report anchor Bret Baier that will reportedly include "exclusive" interviews with three American security personnel who were present for the September 2012 attacks. The production, scheduled to air September 5, is based on a forthcoming book written by journalist Mitchell Zuckoff and the CIA contractors.
According to Fox's announcement, the production will specifically explore "Whether or not military assistance was requested by the security team and whether orders from above hindered their response to the violence that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans."
The problem with this premise is that both of those questions have already been answered by official intelligence investigations.
As the Daily Beast's Eli Lake has explained, on the night of the attacks there was a 23-minute delay between the initial distress call from the diplomatic mission and when the CIA contractors departed the nearby Annex to respond. Despite suggestions from some in the intelligence community that this delay hindered their rescue effort, investigations found no evidence that the CIA operatives were delayed by "orders from above," as Fox's announcement suggests.
Instead, the Senate Intelligence Committee's January 2014 review of the attacks found that during that delay, the CIA's Chief of Base "attempted to secure assistance and heavy weapons" from US allies in the region, and that (emphasis added):
Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.
The State Department's independent Accountability Review Board also found the CIA team was not obstructed by officials:
The departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors; the team leader decided on his own to depart the Annex compound once it was apparent, despite a brief delay to permit their continuing efforts, that rapid support from local security elements was not forthcoming.
Finally, the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republicans, also found no evidence that any response effort was blocked by official orders. According to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), the "bipartisan, factual, definitive report" on the Intelligence Community's actions the night of the attacks "shows there was no 'stand down order' given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening."
Fox's Bret Baier, the host of the upcoming special, reported on the House Intelligence Committee's findings on August 5.
Baier has hosted previous Fox specials on Benghazi and has repeatedly used his Fox News program to promote myths about the attacks and their aftermath. The false claim that CIA contractors received "orders to wait" was also pushed by 60 Minutes' infamous since-retracted Benghazi report, which featured a discredited "eyewitness" account from a British security contractor.
Routine sexist attacks from the National Rifle Association's media outlets are undermining the organization's political effort to reach out to women as a growing demographic.
On August 25, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom attacked prominent gun safety advocate and Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. As Gawker's Adam Weinstein explained, the article featured images of Watts "as a cutout mom with kitchen and housekeeping accoutrements, because moms oughta know their place!" The accompanying article accused Watts of lying about being a stay-at-home mom, because she had for a time run a PR firm out of her house while raising her children.
This offensive depiction of a woman from NRA media seems in stark contrast to the political arm of the NRA, which the very same day debuted several new ads narrated by women -- in a series titled "Good Guys" -- promoting the message that guns are a sign of empowerment for women and that women are an important part of the NRA community. One features a woman lauding the importance of "Mom and Dad"; one stars a woman emphasizing the "courage" it takes to be one of the "Good Guys." Another ad released earlier this month also featured a female narrator driving a pickup truck and attacking Everytown for Gun Safety founder Michael Bloomberg, telling him to "keep your hands off our guns."
Right-wing female commentators have long argued that "guns are the great equalizer between sexes in crimes against women," falsely claiming that guns make women safer. CNN's S.E. Cupp, The Blaze's Dana Loesch, and Fox News' Katie Pavlich have regularly appeared on cable news and published books to promote the NRA as a pro-women organization.
But as Media Matters noted in a feature on the NRA's annual meeting, 2014 seemed to mark a shift for the organization towards focusing increasingly on women and moms. In part that shift is monetary, as advertisers see women as a largely untapped market. It also seems, however, that the shift is in part in response to gun safety organizations, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, who increasingly emphasize how dangerous guns can be for women in abusive situations.
This recent recognition of women by the NRA is undermined, however, by the attack on Watts and the numerous misogynistic and sexist comments from NRA commentators and spokespeople.
Controversial filmmaker and Republican operative David Bossie accompanied Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) when the senator took several reporters to watch him perform surgery in Central America. Bossie's past work, which includes deliberately doctoring evidence to smear the Clintons, has been denounced by fellow Republicans, including Newt Gingrich and former President George H. W. Bush.
According to The Washington Post, Paul visited Guatemala this week to spend some time practicing medicine again (Paul is an ophthalmologist), but the presence on the trip of Citizen's United President David Bossie "cast aside any doubt that the trip was merely an opportunity for the senator to reconnect with his medical roots":
Bossie is the [president] of Citizens United, the group whose lawsuit led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited funds on direct advocacy for or against political candidates. A documentary filmmaker who has shadowed Paul before, he traveled here with his daughter and a film crew equipped with lights, cameras and an unmanned aerial drone for overhead shots. Bossie said little about his plans, other than that his footage would appear in a film either about Paul or an issue of importance to him.
Paul's association with Bossie links him to the operative's shady past. In 1998, Bossie was fired from his job as chief investigator for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- which was investigating alleged Clinton White House finance abuses -- because he released selectively edited transcripts that gave the false impression that then-first lady Hillary Clinton had been implicated in wrongdoing. The full comments revealed that Clinton had done nothing wrong. The Washington Post reported in a May 1998 article that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) told the chairman of the committee upon Bossie's removal, "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee."
Bossie's shady tactics go back even further. In 1992, during the Clinton-Bush presidential race, he was repudiated by George H.W. Bush, who filed an FEC complaint against Bossie's group after it produced a TV ad inviting voters to call a hot line to hear almost certainly doctored tape-recorded conversations. George W. Bush, on his father's behalf, "even sent out a letter to 85,000 Republican contributors encouraging them not to contribute to" Bossie's campaign effort.
Bossie was also reportedly behind the notorious "melon-shooting, staged re-enactment of the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr.," in which then-GOP congressman Dan Burton was widely ridiculed for shooting a melon in his backyard ostensibly to prove that Foster had been murdered, despite reports showing Foster had committed suicide.
This is not the first time Bossie has promoted Paul. In a March 2013 Hill article, Bossie was quoted as praising Paul's filibuster over drone policy, saying "These are the types of events that make you a player, so that in three years you've laid the groundwork and [it's] not just assumed you're going to be a fringe Libertarian and Tea Party-only candidate." Later in the piece, Bossie suggested that Paul could be "taken seriously by establishment Republicans":
Bossie said GOP voters who crave a leader who stands on principle -- and who often questioned Romney's conservative bonafides -- are more likely to view Paul as one of their own.
"Post the 2012 general election debacle, with a nominee who was not a conservative and who lost a race that was winnable ... the Republican institutional voters, as well as the conservative movement within the Republican Party, are desperately looking for principled leadership," said Bossie.
"That is something that has been lacking, and that's where his filibuster will make him stand out."
Bossie noted Paul has already taken "methodical" steps to differentiate himself from his father, "in order to be taken seriously by establishment Republicans."
Paul also attended an event in 2014 in New Hampshire called the Freedom Summit, which was co-sponsored by Bossie's Citizens United. The event was described by Politico as a "cattle call of potential Republican 2016 hopefuls," and the "unofficial start to '16 GOP primary" by the Washington Times.
Image via Gage Skidmore
The Washington Post reporter Dan Balz portrayed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) as a key figure who can help GOP outreach to racial minorities, following Paul's criticism of Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement and their role in the Michael Brown killing. But Balz ignored Paul's previous opposition to the Civil Rights Act, despite having reported on it in 2010.
In his August 14 article, Balz highlighted Paul's opinion piece in Time decrying the response of Missouri police to protests in the wake of the police shooting of the 18-year-old Brown. Paul acknowledged in his piece that race skews "the application of criminal justice in this country" and criticized the "militarization of our law enforcement" -- which Balz characterized as "a shift away" from typical conservative rhetoric. According to Balz, Paul's acknowledgement of racial disparities in particular "sets him apart from others in his party," allowing him to help expand the GOP's base (emphasis added):
Paul is a prospective 2016 presidential candidate and the leading proponent of libertarian philosophy among elected officials. In Ferguson, he has found circumstances almost tailor-made to advance his worldview. In doing so, he continues to set himself apart from others in the Republican Party with the hope of expanding the party's coalition and advancing his own political future.
In this case, he blames the militarization of local police on big government and especially Washington's willingness to provide such materiel to local communities. His comments on race mark another moment in which he is trying to show an openness to the issues affecting African Americans that sets him apart from others in his party.
But in 2010 Balz himself reported that Paul had "embarrassed the GOP establishment" by "questioning parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act."
In an interview while running for his Kentucky Senate seat, Paul had said that while he supported portions of the Act, particularly in regards to ending discrimination by the government, he also believed "in freedom" and "private ownership." When asked if "it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworth's," Paul responded that such action would be "abhorrent" but implied he would support the private owner's right to discriminate.
Racial discrimination by private actors is prohibited by both Title II and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.