Four Planned Parenthood clinics have been attacked in scarcely three months since the anti-choice group Center For Medical Progress (CMP) released the deceptively-edited videos smearing the women's health care provider. But the attacks -- which law enforcement authorities consider possible acts of domestic terrorism -- have garnered very little media attention, revealing the media's willingness to ignore the real and urgent danger women and abortion providers face at clinics, a problem that is far from new.
A clinic in Thousand Oaks, California, was firebombed on September 30, less than a month after a similar arson at a Pullman, Washington Planned Parenthood clinic on September 4. Terroristic attacks also occurred at clinics in Aurora, Illinois on July 19 and New Orleans on August 1.
Since July 14, CMP has released at least 10 videos containing undercover footage of discussions with Planned Parenthood personnel and staff members of private, for-profit biomedical procurement companies. The videos purport to show, and the accompanying press releases allege, that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal tissue and altering abortion procedures in order to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. Scores of media outlets have reported -- and multiple investigations have verified -- that the combined footage shows no illegal behavior by, or on behalf of, Planned Parenthood, and that the words of Planned Parenthood personnel who were secretly filmed have been "grossly [taken] out of context."
Despite the fact that the videos have been widely discredited, right-wing media have repeatedly cited them, using violent language to promote misleading attacks against Planned Parenthood and call for the organization to be defunded by Congress. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson said Republicans who won't vote to defund the health provider "should be destroyed, " and conservative blog RedState called Planned Parenthood "our Auschwitz." Fox host Bill O'Reilly described Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation as "Nazi stuff," while many conservative media figures drew comparisons to the notorious Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, who conducted painful and often fatal human experiments on concentration camp prisoners.
Fox hosts also misled viewers about the services Planned Parenthood offers to wrongly suggest the organization is obsolete, and used needlessly graphic language to imply that Planned Parenthood's practices are violent. Fox correspondent Peter Doocy claimed that he searched Planned Parenthood's website for "fetal baby part prices" but found no results because the sales are a "well-kept secret," and host Megyn Kelly accused the organization of "celebrating its practice of harvesting the organs of aborted fetuses for money."
While there is no definitive evidence the clinic attacks are the result of the vitriolic anti-Planned Parenthood fervor that has emerged following the release and conservative media hype of CMP's deceptively-edited smear videos, it's crucial to note that the incidents have occurred in the midst of the smear campaign. Planned Parenthood regional CEO Karl Eastlund said the arson attacks are "unfortunately a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists."
The violent attacks on Planned Parenthood have garnered very little media attention -- and their relationship to right-wing media's promotion of the CMP smear videos has received even less -- shedding light on the media's willingness to dismiss the real and urgent danger women and abortion providers face at clinics.
The LA Times pointed out that "as long as abortion has been legal in the U.S., abortion clinics throughout the country have been subject to arson and bombings" and "abortion providers have been murdered." And according to RH Reality Check, "A report released in February found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against women's health clinics have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of GOP legislative attacks on reproductive rights."
The Anti-Defamation League called anti-abortion violence "America's forgotten terrorism," explaining, "Anti-abortion violence has actually remained a consistent, if secondary, source of domestic terrorism and violence, manifesting itself most often in assaults and vandalism, with occasional arsons, bombings, drive-by shootings, and assassination attempts." And according to the Feminist Majority Foundation's 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey, which polled 242 abortion provider throughout the country, "nearly 1 in 5" abortion clinics experience severe violence.
And CMP is no stranger to this type of violence -- board member Troy Newman, who is the president of Operation Rescue, once called the murder of an abortion clinic doctor a "justifiable defensive action."
Fox Business' Stuart Varney cited misleading research from the Cato Institute to disparage federal employees, claiming they make 78 percent more than private sector workers. In fact, when compared to private sector workers in similar occupations and with similar levels of education, government employees are often paid less than their private industry counterparts.
On the October 9 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and Fox contributor Tammy Bruce used a misleading report from the right-wing Cato Institute to mockingly claim that federal workers are paid too much. Without any discussion of the different types of jobs performed by government and private sector employees, Varney and Bruce slammed "super, super rich" federal workers for contributing to economic inequality in Washington, D.C.:
TAMMY BRUCE: Well look, they're better than us, aren't they? And they deserve more money because they do such-- much more difficult work, and they're just more important and better people. Look, these are the people that all this-- those are the only people politicians really see. Its unionized of course. It goes through the framework of government and politicians wanting to spend more, make things bigger, make things worse. And they're right on that track.
STUART VARNEY: Look what is on the screen. Six of the top--of the richest neighborhoods are right around Washington, D.C.
BRUCE: But that's very small area of D.C., of course. And the talk about the distance between the poor and the wealthy. You see it. Government--super, super rich. And then those other neighborhoods in Washington, D.C, the poverty, the unemployment, the abandonment. That's classic big government where everybody else get pushed out and the people who genuflect, who pay allegiance to that big federal government get all the money, and everyone else suffers.
According to Cato's October 2015 report, total salary and compensation for an average federal worker in 2014 was $119,934 -- compared to just $67,246 for the average private sector worker. Cato's analysis blamed supposedly generous pay for driving federal budget deficits and demanded that compensation for federal jobs be reduced to better reflect the private sector. Cato even acknowledged that federal workers typically have higher levels of education and professional experience than the private sector as a whole, but still recommended that their compensation be arbitrarily reduced -- a common refrain among right-wing think tanks.
In reality, federal and private sector workers are compensated differently because they perform different jobs and have strikingly different levels of education, on average. According to a January 2012 report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), "33 percent of federal employees work in professional occupations, such as the sciences or engineering, compared with only 18 percent of private-sector employees" and "21 percent of federal employees have a master's, professional, or doctoral degree, compared with 9 percent of private-sector employees."
The same CBO report found that after accounting for education and other "observable characteristics," average federal wages were only 2 percent higher than would be expected in the private sector.
According to the findings of an exhaustive November 2014 review by the Federal Salary Council, federal employees nationwide face an average pay disparity of 35 percent compared to private sector counterparts performing "the same levels of work."
Federal worker occupations and levels of education are too different from that of the private sector to easily compare side-by-side, a fact that even Cato's Chris Edwards -- who authored the study used by Varney & Co. -- readily admitted in a July 23, 2012 interview with The Washington Post:
Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, a conservative think thank [sic],and author of several papers concluding that federal workers are overpaid, acknowledged Monday that "it's hard to make an overall sweeping assessment" of whether private- or public-sector employees make more.
Fox Sports promoted a video in advance of the October 10 U.S.-Mexico men's soccer match that featured clips of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's inaugural campaign speech, during which he used highly offensive language to describe Mexican immigrants. The disparaging comments were edited out of the video.
The promotion was a response to Mexican network TV Azteca's own advertisement for the match, which used Trump's vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric to hype the sports rivalry between the two countries. Fox Sports is owned by 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, which has repeatedly defended the candidate's extreme rhetoric characterizing immigrants as criminals and "rapists," his disparaging language toward children of immigrants, and his problematic immigration policy.
The use of an anti-immigration icon to promote the match also ignores the fact that a significant number of the U.S. national men's soccer team players are the children of immigrants (image via Fusion):
The Democratic presidential candidates will gather in Las Vegas for their first primary debate on October 13, and NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer is urging CNN debate moderator Anderson Cooper to make climate change and clean energy a central part of the discussion.
In a September 29 letter to Cooper, Steyer wrote that while three major candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and Bernie Sanders -- have recognized the threat posed by climate change and taken strong stands on key climate-related issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, Arctic drilling, and the EPA's Clean Power Plan, "the candidates have yet to discuss their specific plans to comprehensively address climate change and build a clean energy economy." That's why, according to Steyer, Cooper has "a unique opportunity to push the Democratic presidential candidates" to "articulate, defend and refine" their climate and clean energy plans.
In addition to making his case based on the urgency of addressing climate change, Steyer's letter cited polls showing that climate change is a "top-tier issue for Democratic voters" and argued that these voters "demand nothing less than a robust discussion" about the issue.
Cooper recently told the Huffington Post that he wasn't aware of Steyer's letter and wouldn't commit to asking about climate change in next week's debate. Cooper did acknowledge, however, that "environmental issues are of great interest" to both Democrats and the country as a whole, and he hinted that it is "entirely possible" he'll ask the candidates about the topic. CNN's Jake Tapper asked several GOP candidates about climate change during the cable network's Republican primary debate on September 16.
But NextGen Climate isn't taking any chances. In an October 7 blog post, the group pointed out that The Washington Post's Greg Sargent also believes that Democratic primary voters "deserve to know more specifics about the contenders' [climate] solutions," and concluded: "You're up, Anderson." NextGen also urged supporters to tweet some climate- and energy-related questions to Cooper:
Because of both the magnitude of the climate crisis and importance of the issue to Democratic voters, NextGen has called on the Democratic Party to add another primary-season debate to its schedule that will focus entirely on climate change and clean energy. But in the meantime, Tuesday's CNN debate presents an opportunity to get the conversation started.
Image at top via Flickr user mroach using a Creative Commons License.
President Ronald Reagan's aides and biographers are organizing to challenge factual inaccuracies in Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's new book Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency. O'Reilly is a serial fabricator whose previous books have repeatedly been criticized for inaccuracies.
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported that O'Reilly's book is "coming under fire from former Reagan aides" and biographers "who are calling it bogus" and "planning a broadside to challenge the book in the coming days." The individuals reportedly include Reagan biographers Craig Shirley, Steven Hayward, Paul Kengor, Kiron Skinner, and "a handful of former Reagan aides."
Shirley said that Killing Reagan "is garbage, total B.S.," while former Reagan national security advisor Richard Allen said the book contains "plagiarism, simplicity and deception."
The DC-based paper noted that the Reagan critics pointed to O'Reilly's writing about Reagan's mental state and a purported brewing staff mutiny as main objections.
John Heubusch, the executive director of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, said O'Reilly's book "does a disservice to history."
In a September interview with Media Matters' Joe Strupp, Ron Reagan called O'Reilly a "snake oil salesman" who doesn't invest "a lot of time or energy in the truth." The late president's son said he doesn't plan to read O'Reilly's book because he's "not interested in his theories."
Questions about factual accuracy are nothing new for O'Reilly and his Killing series, which he has co-authored with Martin Dugard. Killing Lincoln contained a series of mistakes and was criticized for factual errors by Lincoln scholars. Several historians and biographers of General George S. Patton objected to O'Reilly's Killing Patton theory that the World War II commander was assassinated by the Soviet Union.
O'Reilly took a major hit earlier this year when his boasts about his reporting career began falling apart under scrutiny. One of those included his claim in Killing Kennedy -- contradicted by numerous pieces of evidence -- that he personally heard the shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Last week's depressingly predictable news from Oregon about another American gun massacre triggered what's now become a morose tradition of news coverage, not only about the mindless murders themselves, but also about the permanent stain of domestic gun violence. (This morning brought news of yet another campus shooting.) With a presidential campaign underway, the Oregon coverage inevitably crossed over into political and campaign analysis. That meant high-profile Republican candidates weighed in on the issue and often tried to wave off as unfixable the epidemic of gun violence in America, where approximately 290 people are shot every day.
Thanks to a string of truly bizarre ("stuff happens") and thoughtless comments from several GOP candidates, including one that seemed to place some blame on the Umpqua Community College victims for being shot, the so-called gun debate has managed to become even more baseless.
In other words, the Republican field is once again highlighting just how radical the party has become on key issues. And that poses a growing challenge for journalists.
"Rather than engaging in an honest effort to address gun violence and prevent more senseless carnage, practically every G.O.P. candidate has been reduced to repeating a mantra that many of them, surely, cannot fully believe," wrote The New Yorker's John Cassidy this week.
The question becomes how does the press cover the unfolding Republican gun spectacle? And when do reporters and pundits step forward and point out that one side of the gun 'debate' has not only lost touch with reality, but at times has lost touch with common decency? That query goes to the heart of informative political reporting.
Earlier this year, I posed a similar question about the campaign press: How do journalists deal with a lineup of Republican candidates who, ignoring an avalanche of scientific findings, cling to the outdated idea that humans don't contribute to climate change? Do journalists simply tell the truth and acknowledge the obvious holes in their arguments, or do they help carve out a new political space for climate deniers that allows their views to be seen as mainstream?
One example of the shameful Republican gun massacre commentary came from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. After the deadly campus rampage, the GOP candidate disparaged the father of the dead gunman. "He's a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public. He's the problem here," wrote Jindal.
Meanwhile Donald Trump invented facts and claimed these sorts of public shooting sprees have "taken place forever." Trump insisted there's nothing we can do in America to stop them: "But no matter what you do you will have problems and that's the way the world goes."
But it was Ben Carson who unleashed a stunning barrage of ignorant and insensitive comments while Oregon families still grieved.
Carson on gun rights: "There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking -- but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away."
On the victims: "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say: 'Hey, guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"
On arming teachers: "If the [kindergarten] teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn't."
On traveling to Oregon as president to console the victims' families: "I mean, I would probably have so many things on my agenda that I would go to the next one."
It's true that Carson's string of baffling comments drew lots of press attention and condemnation. (Especially when he later told a story about how he had once been held at gunpoint at a Popeyes restaurant and directed the gunman to the employee behind the counter.) But I'd suggest too much of it from the political press corps was restrained in a way that would be inconceivable if, for instance, a leading Democratic candidate had callously placed blame on victims in the wake of a terror attack on American soil.
From The New York Times [emphasis added]:
Like many Republican presidential candidates who have sought to express sympathy for victims while maintaining support for gun rights, Mr. Carson has struggled to address the issue with sensitivity.
NBC News added that Carson had "made a number of eyebrow raising comments since the shooting last Thursday."
Raised eyebrows? Struggled with sensitivity? I don't think that comes close to capturing the imprudence of Carson's remarks. Fact is, I'm not sure journalists know how to deal with a presidential candidate who seemingly places some of the blame on the victims of a mass murder.
Another example of the press not yet able to come to terms with Republican dismissiveness came when scores of journalists rushed to Jeb Bush's defense last week after he suggested "stuff happens," and that the government shouldn't always respond aggressively to crises, including mass murders.
As reported by the Washington Post, Bush said:
"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think that more government is necessarily the answer to this," he said. "I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's just, it's very sad to see. But I resist the notion -- and I did, I had this, this challenge as governor, because we have, look, stuff happens, there's always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."
Certain Bush had simply been "inartful" and that he'd never cavalierly dismiss a mass murder as "stuff happens," many in the press played defense and suggested the quote was taken out of context. But it wasn't. After his "stuff happens" comments, Bush was asked if he had misspoken and he emphatically denied he had: "No, it wasn't a mistake. I said exactly what I said. Why would you explain to me what I said was wrong? Things happen all the time -- things -- is that better?"
According to the Washington Post, Bush then elaborated, likening mass shooting to kids drowning in pools: "Things happen all the time. A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around a pool," he said. "The cumulative effect of this is that in some cases, you don't solve the problem by passing the law and you're imposing on large numbers of people burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder to protect liberty." (Gawker noted that Bush did actually sign a Florida law requiring pool fences after a child in the state nearly drowned.)
"Stuff happens" meant exactly what Bush wanted it to mean: There's nothing the government can do about mass shootings because there's nothing the government can, or should do, about gun ownership. (As governor of Florida, Bush received an "A+" rating from the NRA.)
The kneejerk desire to protect Bush from his own words suggests many journalists haven't come to grips with the idea that Republicans, as a matter of policy, are unwilling to reduce the number of guns in America. And that the shoulder shrug response to the Oregon tragedy indicates they're not going to try.
Journalists should stop shying away from relaying that troubling truth.
The New York Times' Paul Krugman called out the media's fraudulent coverage of the Benghazi committee and Hillary Clinton's email use, for treating the non-scandals as "real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place."
In an October 9 column, Krugman observed that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy "inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty" when he bragged about the Benghazi committee's success in "inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton," exposing how the Fox News manufactured Benghazi hearings "had nothing to do with national security."
Krugman called out media figures who cover topics such as the Benghazi hearings and Clinton's use of email for pretending "that we're having real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place," calling it a "kind of fraudulence":
So Representative Kevin McCarthy, who was supposed to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the House, won't be pursuing the job after all. He would have faced a rough ride both winning the post and handling it under the best of circumstances, thanks to the doomsday caucus -- the fairly large bloc of Republicans demanding that the party cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, or kill Obamacare, or anyway damage something liberals like, by shutting down the government and forcing it into default.
Still, he finished off his chances by admitting -- boasting, actually -- that the endless House hearings on Benghazi had nothing to do with national security, that they were all about inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton.
But we all knew that, didn't we?
I often wonder about commentators who write about things like those hearings as if there were some real issue involved, who keep going on about the Clinton email controversy as if all these months of scrutiny had produced any evidence of wrongdoing, as opposed to sloppiness.
Surely they have to know better, whether they admit it to themselves or not. And surely the long history of Clinton nonscandals and retracted allegations -- remember, there never was anything to the Whitewater accusations -- should serve as a cautionary tale.
Somehow, though, politicians who pretend to be concerned about issues, but are obviously just milking those issues for political gain, keep getting a free pass. And it's not just a Clinton story.
Again, none of this should come as news to anyone who follows politics and policy even moderately closely. But I'm not sure that normal people, who have jobs to do and families to raise, are getting the message. After all, who will tell them?
Sometimes I have the impression that many people in the media consider it uncouth to acknowledge, even to themselves, the fraudulence of much political posturing. The done thing, it seems, is to pretend that we're having real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place.
But turning our eyes away from political fakery, pretending that we're having a serious discussion when we aren't, is itself a kind of fraudulence. Mr. McCarthy inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty, but telling the public what's really going on shouldn't depend on politicians with loose lips.
MSNBC failed to disclose the close affiliation between one of its guests, former Iowa-based radio host Steve Deace, and the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), during a segment on the 2016 election, despite Deace's endorsement of Cruz and his appearances at campaign events for Cruz in Iowa.
The October 8 News Nation segment started by discussing comments by Rupert Murdoch, the executive co-chair of Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, about President Obama. Deace was asked whether he thought a tweet Murdoch recently posted -- that candidate Ben Carson would be a "real black President" as compared to Obama -- would affect the presidential race and Carson's campaign. Deace's response was to rebuke Fox News for attempting to steer the GOP nomination process. Deace said Fox News did not approve of Ben Carson or Ted Cruz, who are both "killing it organizationally" around the country. When Deace was asked about Donald Trump's lead in Iowa polls, he rejected the validity of the polling and said,"If the [Iowa] Caucuses were today, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz would win."
However, during the segment neither Deace nor the MSNBC host disclosed that Deace has close ties to Cruz: he publicly endorsed the senator in August and volunteered for his campaign on the ground in Iowa by appearing at an opening of a new campaign office. Also, according to Deace himself, he was in discussions to help Cruz as far back as August, 2013. In fact, The Des Moines Register reported in March that "Deace served as an informal, unpaid consultant" to Cruz's campaign prior to endorsing him.
Deace has made several appearances on MSNBC, despite the fact that he has mocked the network in commentary pieces for conservative newspapers and blogs. On his radio show, which ended its broadcast deal with USA Radio Network in September, and in his written commentary, Deace is considerably more divisive and partisan than when he is appearing on mainstream media outlets like MSNBC.
Fox Sports 1 host Katie Nolan harshly criticized sports reporters over their friendly treatment of Dallas Cowboys player Greg Hardy, who returned from a suspension for assaulting and threatening to kill his then-girlfriend last year. Several sports journalists appeared to joke with Hardy about "attractive" women and, as Nolan put it, "let him go on about girlfriends and guns."
Hardy was suspended for four games after he allegedly strangled his girlfriend, Nicole Holder, and "slammed" her against a futon and a couch "covered" in firearms. He was convicted by a judge of the assault last year, but that was overturned on appeal after Holder reportedly couldn't be located to testify in a jury trial.
During a press availability this week, a reporter asked Hardy if it would take very long for him to get back in shape, and he responded, "I hope not. I hope I come out guns blazing."
On her Fox Sports 1 show Garbage Time, Nolan responded by calling out the NFL for promoting Hardy's comments, and criticizing sports journalists who asked Hardy whether he found particular women "attractive" and failed to "act with just a shred of human decency":
NOLAN: That guy, facing the media for the first time, said he'd like to come out "guns blazing." That's baffling to me. And not just as a woman, but as a person who majored in public relations. How do you let that comment happen? Oh, I'm sorry, not just let it happen, publish it on the league's official website, endorsing it with your precious shield, which, oh, I noticed has a pink ribbon on it this month because you care about women. That's cool, thanks.
And if you're thinking, relax, the guy used the wrong phrasing, don't get your panties in a bunch, first of all, hey Cowboys fans, thanks for watching the show. But second of all, you're wrong.
See, when reporters asked Hardy questions about his treatment of women, he deflected and insisted on bringing the focus back to football.
But then, when they asked him about Tom Brady, a question about football, here's his response per Brandon George from the Dallas Morning News: "I love seeing Tom Brady. You seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game."
Greg Hardy had to pretend to respect women for twelve minutes. Just twelve minutes. And he couldn't even do that.
And what's worse, no one stopped him. They let him go on about girlfriends and guns, and posted video of it on DallasCowboys.com, because who fucking cares, right? Women won't see it. Women only care about football during those events they run, where they tell them what to cook on game day and give them free manicures.
And then, another reporter, a person I'm supposed to feel is a colleague of mine here in sports media, "asked if Hardy looks forward to playing teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, and whether he finds their quarterback Blake Bortles' significant other attractive."
Christ, guys. Enough. Enough. I see this shit in my timeline, next to a story about Stedman Bailey being fined by the league for pretending to take a nap on a football in the end zone, and it's just like, what are we fucking doing? What matters to you? Seriously? What matters to you? Because expecting a garbage human, who has been punished for being garbage, to come back from his suspension and not immediately resume being garbage, is asking the bare minimum.
And if me hoping that the league, and the Cowboys, and their PR people, and the media, could act with just a shred of human decency, is ruining football for you, then I'm disappointed I guess, in how much we're willing to accept in order to protect our precious Sundays.
This is not the first time Nolan has called out her fellow sports reporters and media outlets for their reporting on violence against women -- even her own network.
In September 2014, in response to the Ray Rice scandal (where the then-Baltimore Ravens running back was filmed hitting his girlfriend so violently she passed out in an elevator), Nolan posted a video online talking about women in the NFL, and in particular, the lack of women in sports media. She concluded by saying:
NOLAN: Women in sports television are allowed to read headlines, patrol sidelines and generally facilitate conversation for their male colleagues. Sometimes, they even let us monitor the Internet from a couch. And while the Stephen A. Smiths, Mike Francesas, Dan Patricks and Keith Olbermanns of the world get to weigh in on the issues of the day, we just smile and throw to commercial.
A lot of people like to justify women's supporting role in sports media by saying, well, they've never played the game so they just aren't qualified to speak about it. Because, God forbid, someone misspeak about the game. But topics like domestic violence and racism and corruption? Let's let Boomer handle those between downs.
It's time for the conversation to change, or at least those participating in the conversation. It's time for women to have a seat at the big boy table, and not where their presence is a gimmick or a concept -- just a person who happens to have breasts offering their opinion on the sports they love and the topics they know.
Because, the truth is, the NFL will never respect women and their opinions as long as the media it answers to doesn't. I'm ready when you are, Fox.
New York Times contributor Bryce Covert highlighted how Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's claim that Democrats promise "free stuff" to court black voters - a narrative widely used by conservative media - "takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits," and is at odds with his own tax plan.
In a September speech during a campaign stop in South Carolina, Jeb Bush claimed that Democrats use "free stuff" in order to sway black voters. As The Washington Post's Phillip Bump subsequently explained, Bush's assertion had a "lack of evidence" and was based on popular conservative myths. Conservative media have spent years propping up similar unsubstantiated claims that Democrats use "free stuff" to entice minority voters and jumped to defend Bush when he parroted their talking point.
ThinkProgress' Bryce Covert explained in an October 8 op-ed for the New York Times that the "free stuff" talking point ignores how "we all get 'free stuff' from the government" such as tax credits, deductions, and exclusions. Writing that Bush "is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes" as his own tax plan would give out more of them, Covert pointed out the disconnect between Bush's comments and his economic proposals:
The Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush got caught sounding like a Mitt Romney rerun recently: He told a mostly white audience that he could attract black voters because his campaign "isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff." The remark comes just three years after Mr. Romney was lampooned for later describing his own message in a speech to the N.A.A.C.P. as one where the listeners shouldn't expect "free stuff."
In each context, it was clear what kind of government stuff they meant, given the voters they were talking about. They meant welfare programs -- cash benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, housing subsidies and other direct spending programs that help the poor -- that are, often unfairly, associated with black Americans.
But the shorthand of "free stuff" also takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits. There's a whole treasure trove of government handouts that aren't dispensed through spending, but rather through the tax code. That doesn't make them any less "free" than a rent voucher or an Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
The government loses about $900 billion in revenue every year on just the 10 largest tax expenditures -- called expenditures because while they aren't direct outlays, they come at a cost just like direct spending. It's a pot that includes credits like the earned-income tax credit and Child Tax Credit as well as deductions and exclusions that help mainly middle-class people reduce how much they owe each April. It also includes special tax rates such as the lower burden on money made through investments instead of a salary. Tax credits mainly help the poor, but the rest help the well off: According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half of the benefits of these expenditures go to the richest 20 percent of American households.
These facts are obscured for most people. While those who get government benefits through spending programs are often aware -- and too frequently ashamed -- of that fact, those who get them through the tax system usually don't realize they've received a handout. In a 2008 poll, 57 percent of people said they had never availed themselves of a government program, yet 94 percent of those same people had in fact benefited from at least one -- mostly through what the Cornell professor Suzanne Mettler has called the "submerged state," or the huge but often invisible network of money spent through the tax code.
Jeb Bush, however, is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes. (According to one analysis of his federal income tax returns, he himself has saved at least $241,000 since 1981 through the mortgage interest deduction.) Just days before he vowed not to promise voters more free stuff, he put out a tax plan that would give out a whole lot more of it.
There are a couple of things in his plan that would benefit low-income Americans, like a boost to the earned-income tax credit. But thanks to proposed changes such as lowering the top income tax rate, ending the estate tax paid by the wealthiest 0.2 percent and even further reducing the rate for investment income, the biggest benefit would be handed to those who are already counted in the richest 1 percent slice of America. And it would come at a cost of at least $1.6 trillion over a decade, according to analysis by the Tax Foundation.
Every four years, politicians stigmatize "free stuff" like food stamps and welfare while courting votes -- and gloss over tax breaks. But the problem goes beyond disingenuous politicians. Statements like these erode support for government. The more "visible" benefits someone has used -- in other words, direct spending programs -- the more likely he is to feel the government has helped him personally. If most Americans falsely think they don't get free government stuff, though, they won't want to offer it to the people they think get it instead.