Conservative media have revived false comparisons of legal abortion to convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell in the wake of a Senate hearing regarding a proposed bill to prohibit states from imposing unusually onerous regulations on abortion clinics, despite the fact that Gosnell's crimes have nothing to do with legal abortion procedures.
On July 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Women's Health Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) The bill would bar states from enacting laws restricting abortion that are more burdensome than restrictions for similar outpatient procedures.
The hearings sent right-wing media into a frenzy, renewing comparisons between legal abortion and Kermit Gosnell, a former doctor sentenced to life in prison without parole for the three counts of first-degree murder. National Review Online invoked Gosnell in an editorial titled "Gosnell Nation" on July 16. NRO suggested the title of the bill should be renamed to the "Kermit Gosnell Enabling Act of 2014" and provided a detailed description of Gosnell's horrific crimes, claiming the bill would lead to more cases like Gosnell's
A July 15 Fox News report on the bill also cited Gosnell, attributing many new state abortion restrictions to a reaction to his crimes.
But Gosnell's crimes bear no resemblance to legal abortions performed at clinics these state regulations target. The grand jury in Gosnell's case found that "Gosnell's approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low - and break the law. That was his competitive edge." And University of California reproductive health professor Tracy Weitz has explained that Gosnell's actions have "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States," and that his practices are "nowhere in the medical literature."
The Blumenthal bill is intended to prevent the harmful effects on women's health that the rapid expansion of state abortion regulations, known as Targeted Regulations of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws, has had. TRAP laws target abortion clinics for restrictions not imposed on other clinics that provide procedures with similar risk, like colonoscopies. In fact, such onerous and constitutionally questionable regulations have already driven many abortion clinics in the states to close -- which, according to Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller, puts "more women at risk for later term abortions or for illicit abortions outside the medical community."
Since the news of Gosnell's horrific crimes emerged, right-wing media have continuously attempted to tie the case to legal abortions -- the vast majority of which are safe and occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Fox News ran a dishonest report on a proposed bill to prohibit states from imposing unusually burdensome regulations on abortion clinics, hiding the harmful effects that the barrage of onerous state restrictions on abortion have had on access to abortion.
On the July 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Molly Henneberg reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the Women's Health Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The bill would prohibit states from enacting abortion restrictions that are more onerous than placed on similar outpatient procedures. Both Henneberg and host Bret Baier framed the legislation as an attempt to appeal to the Democratic base; the segment also amplified misinformation from its critics and invoked convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell.
Right-wing and even mainstream media have eagerly pushed the suggestion that the recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is "Obama's Katrina" -- an inane comparison that repeatedly surfaces inside the conservative media echo chamber.
Fox News host Bill Hemmer reported that "busloads of illegals" are inundating the small town of Murrieta, California, to stoke fears that immigrants are being sent to towns around the country indiscriminately. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection explained that the immigrants are being transported to other border patrol facilities to alleviate overcrowding and facilitate speedy processing of immigrants.
In June, the Los Angeles Times reported on unsanitary, overcrowded conditions at detainment centers in Texas and Arizona following an influx of unaccompanied minors into the country, necessitating transfers to other facilities.
On July 1, anti-immigrant protesters in Murrieta forced buses transporting immigrants from overcrowded facilities in Texas to reroute to other facilities.
During the July 7 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long discussed the immigration protests in his town with Hemmer. During the discussion, Hemmer reported ominously that "busloads of illegals roll into the town of Murrieta" and asked Long, "How did we reach this point, where your small little bedroom community is inundated?" Long claimed to have no idea why border patrol would send immigrants to his "bedroom community of 106,000," saying that "all of a sudden, the world showed up at our doorstep." He also warned that "you can't just send them all over the country."
Fox News turned to an extremist group that filed an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby to clear up "misinformation" surrounding the Supreme Court decision, never disclosing the bias of the guest.
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that "closely held" for-profit secular corporations like Hobby Lobby are exempt from the so-called contraception mandate, a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employer-sponsored health insurance to cover comprehensive preventive health care, including birth control.
One of Hobby Lobby's biggest supporters was the extreme right-wing Family Research Council (FRC), an organization known for its anti-gay agenda, which filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court backing Hobby Lobby. Yet on the July 1 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum hosted a senior fellow of the organization, Cathy Ruse, to "clear up some controversy and ... misinformation" about the Supreme Court's decision -- without disclosing the apparent bias.
MACCALLUM: Here to clear up some of the controversy and, you know, misinformation, really that is out there over the course of this decision. Cathy Ruse is a senior fellow for legal studies with the Family Research Council.
MACCALLUM: What's your response to all this?
RUSE: My response is to look at what the majority of the justices said, which is, look, these women can still get their free abortion pills and their free contraceptives, but the government has to pay for it. It's not right for the government to conscript unwilling religious believers and force them to do something against their religion.
Throughout the segment, MacCallum allowed Ruse to pile on myth after myth about the Hobby Lobby case. Ruse intimated that the case was partly about "abortion pills," and claimed the government was "conscript[ing] unwilling religious believers" into paying for employees' contraception. She also asserted that "women in America oppose the mandate in greater numbers than support it."
But Ruse's claims are easily debunked. For example, contraception is not an abortifacient, and abortion-inducing medications were not at issue in the case. Additionally, employers like Hobby Lobby were never required to meet minimum coverage standards -- it is insurance companies who were required to cover contraception. It's a requirement that a majority of women support, despite Ruse's claims. A poll by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed 77 percent of women support mandated coverage of contraception in health plans.
Fox has repeatedly propagated myths about the Hobby Lobby contraception case, a leading voice in the right-wing media narrative that conservative Supreme Court justices seemed to echo in their decision.
CNN, Fox News, and evening news shows on NBC, ABC, and CBS largely ignored a June 23 report by the New York Times that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's (R) administration may be tied to a second bridge investigation involving possible securities law violations.
After speakers at a Heritage Foundation event mocked a Muslim student who pointed out the right's overwhelmingly negative rhetoric on Islam, Fox News doubled down on anti-Islam vitriol and viciously attacked the student.
On June 16, the Heritage Foundation held an event to discuss the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Many of the panelists had a well-documented history of inflammatory rhetoric about Islam.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank detailed the event in a June 16 column, noting that the session quickly devolved into conspiratorial attacks on Islam. Milbank wrote that when Saba Ahmed, a Muslim law student, confronted the panelists about their attacks, she was mocked by panelists Brigitte Gabriel and Chris Plante.
But in the days following the Heritage event, Fox News has proved the premise of Milbank's argument correct by viciously attacking Ahmed and other Muslims.
Sean Hannity hosted Ahmed and Gabriel on the June 19 edition of his Fox News show. During the segment, Hannity and Gabriel criticized Ahmed for bringing up conservative treatment of Muslims during a panel about Benghazi, with Gabriel accusing her of trying to steal "the limelight." Hannity claimed that he doesn't "hear a lot of criticism about radicalism and the hijacking of a religion" from moderate Muslims, and asked Ahmed to denounce crimes against women and homosexuals that are justified by some Muslim sects.
Fox News personalities are questioning the timing of the Obama administration's capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected leader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, ignoring the complicated logistics involved in carrying out the dangerous apprehension in an unstable foreign country.
Right-wing media have claimed that the current violence in Iraq is the result of the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and President Obama's willful failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In reality, Iraq refused the terms of a SOFA with the U.S. despite Obama's efforts to maintain a military presence there.
Sean Hannity appears to be hoping for a repeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat, using his considerable influence as a conservative talk show host to promote extreme right-wing candidate Chris McDaniel in a runoff election for the GOP's U.S. Senate ballot slot in Mississippi.
Hannity linked McDaniel's race to that of Virginia's 7th congressional district, which ended June 10 in a surprise victory for conservative outsider Dave Brat. In Mississippi, neither Sen. Thad Cochran nor his opponent McDaniel received more than 50 percent of the vote in the state's June 3 primary, forcing a runoff on June 24.
Conservative talk radio's influence was undeniable in Brat's defeat of Cantor -- radio hosts like Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, and Glenn Beck devoted a significant amount of time to promoting Brat and took credit for his surprise win. On the June 11 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity continued the trend, playing a full campaign ad for Chris McDaniel and hosting the candidate himself. Hannity referenced Cantor's defeat several times and praised McDaniel, who he previously endorsed, as a "solid conservative":
HANNITY: After last night's political earthquake a lot of people saying -- remember some have been predicting the tea party is dead, even though there had been a lot of success actually this election year.
HANNITY: I have always been very, very reluctant to endorse in primaries. Very reluctant. And I decided to get into this race and support Chris McDaniel because I see him as a solid conservative.