An LGBT activist in Houston, Texas shut down a local TV news host's misleading questions about the city's non-discrimination ordinance, dismantling a right-wing lie about non-discrimination protections that has infected local and national media coverage of the fight for LGBT equality.
In July, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) - which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and a host of other factors - must be repealed or put on the ballot for a vote in November. Opponents of the ordinance have spent months falsely claiming that HERO would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender - a myth that local media outlets have been all too willing to run with.
But during the August 2 edition of Houston's ABC 13 Eyewitness News' "City View," local LGBT activist Noel Freeman shattered the transgender bathroom myth:
FREEMAN: Non-discrimination ordinances that are LGBT-inclusive have existed in the United States for more than 40 years. And in those 40 years across the entire country, zero, zero times has somebody committed an act in a bathroom and claimed a non-discrimination law as a defense.
It's simply not true. The fact of the matter is it has never happened across the entire country in 40 years. It's never happened. Plano went through this about a year ago. They said it was going to happen, it didn't happen. San Antonio, two years ago, didn't happen. Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, 10, 15 years ago - didn't happen. It's just not true.
Somebody who's intent on breaking the law doesn't care what the law is. But the reality is that Houston has laws that makes that illegal. And so the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance isn't anything about this lie and this bathroom myth that's being presented by opponents of the issue.
Freeman is right: in state after state and city after city with LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances, conservative horror stories about public restrooms have never come true.
But Houston media outlets continue to take the right-wing "bathroom lie" seriously, uncritically repeating it in their coverage of the HERO debate despite the fact that it's been proven false in every other Texas city that's adopted a similar non-discrimination law.
So while it's great that Freeman was able to debunk that lie so effectively, he shouldn't have had to.
Stone wrote in a July 28 tweet:
He also asked on July 12 whether Navarro is a "quota" hire:
Martin is an African-American commentator who works as a syndicated columnist and as the host and managing editor of TV One's NewsOne Now. He was previously a CNN contributor. Navarro is a Hispanic CNN political commentator and Republican strategist. She is a longtime friend and former employee of former Gov. Jeb Bush and worked for him in Florida.
Trump's presidential campaign paid Stone's company, Drake Ventures, a total of $30,000 in April and May, according to Trump's most recent campaign filing. Stone has a long history of advising Trump, and is reportedly "among the team advising Trump on messaging for" the August 6 Fox News debate.
The Trump campaign recently fired political adviser Sam Nunberg "after racially charged Facebook posts he allegedly wrote were uncovered." Nunberg, CNN and others noted, is "an associate of political strategist and former Richard Nixon aide Roger Stone."
Stone is a professional dirty trickster who once formed an anti-Hillary Clinton group with the acronym "C.U.N.T." after he tried "to come up with words for B.I.T.C.H. and just couldn't do it." He's also endorsed birther smears against President Obama and the smear that Michelle Obama is on tape calling white people "whiteys."
Stone's recent tweets include harsh attacks against the Bush family. He wrote, "I'd rather drink my own piss than see spoiled ,elitist crook Jeb Bush in the White House"; claimed Barbara Bush "was stinking drunk at Jeb's announcement #blotto #bombed #shit-faced"; and tweeted that the "The Bush Crime Famiy" has "a history of privilege, money, fraud, drugs, murder and ambition."
Veteran presidential campaign correspondents and media experts are criticizing Fox News' unprecedented role as a gatekeeper in the Republican primary.
This week, Fox News will host the first primary debate of the cycle. The event is something of a coup for the network, which has been exerting increasing control over the Republican electoral process over the past decade. The debate will be limited to 10 candidates, based on their standing in a series of national polls that Fox itself is selecting. Fox News' debate rules have been criticized by several candidates and Republican activists for a variety of reasons, including that the network is overriding the importance of early voting primary states by essentially narrowing the field several months early.
People inside the network have also expressed frustration with the debate process with an anonymous Fox personality reportedly telling New York magazine that it's "crazy stuff" to have Fox News head Roger Ailes essentially "deciding who is in - and out - of a debate."
In comments to Media Matters, veteran campaign reporters, media reporters, and ethicists criticized Fox's influence.
"Should Fox be playing this role?" asked Eric Engberg, a former CBS News correspondent who covered presidential campaigns from 1976 to 2000. "I think given Fox's ideological bent and that Roger Ailes has spent most of his career working on political campaigns, this whole thing is a sham."
As Media Matters has documented, candidates have been flocking to the network to get face time with its influential hosts and reach its conservative audience, which in turn boosts interest in Fox. In some cases, candidates and groups supporting them have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Fox ads to help bolster their image and hopefully increase their national polling ahead of the debate.
In a segment laying out how super PACs supporting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry had made a large ad buy on Fox News and other cable networks ahead of the debate, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained, "So, Fox News set that rule for the Republican Party, and now, Fox News gets to cash in on that rule by getting all of the Rick Perry super PAC money in the form of his national ads. It's a nice racket, right?"
"That sounds to me like either extortion or bribery, I don't know which," Engberg said. "You don't know whether Fox has indicated to these people that they would be wise to buy more advertising. It has a smell of corruption about it because it mixes money with open political campaigning."
The New York Times reported on June 4 that Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire "fear candidates are too focused on getting on television to enhance their poll standing, when they should be out meeting voters in town halls and greasy spoons." Former chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa Matt Strawn lamented that "now we have put network executives, quite frankly, in charge of winnowing the field instead of actual voters." Newspapers in early primary states have also "mounted an insurrection against Fox News" by co-sponsoring a candidate forum before the Fox debate.
"It's obvious that the early primary states and the Iowa caucuses have suffered a blow from the way Fox is managing things," Engberg added. "There is less focus on Iowa and New Hampshire because all of the candidates' staffs felt the most important thing is going to be this televised debate on Fox, especially if it is going to be the first ... We can call it the Roger Ailes primary. One television executive has taken control of the process of deciding. It has a smell of one-man rule about it."
David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun TV critic, called the Fox control of the debate "a game changer."
"Instead of going to the states where the primaries and caucuses are held, they are spending money on TV to reach a mass audience," he said. "Worse, and this is the part that's really kind of mind-boggling, is that Fox is going to pick the 10 people based on the polls and there's a line in there that says they judge the polls and they're picking them. And now you have people like Rick Perry and [Marco] Rubio saying that the way to reach the line it takes to be picked by Fox is spend millions of dollars to advertise on Fox ... This is not an appearance of conflict it is a straight conflict."
Adam Clymer, a former New York Times political correspondent between 1972 and 2000, called the approach "inevitably messy," later stating, "Fox is both an advertising and news media for them, with the fact that some of them have been paid commentators before. In theory you would like to have somebody making the decision about who participates who is not involved in covering the news."
Walter Mears, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Associated Press campaign reporter who covered every general election presidential debate from 1976 to 2000, was also a panelist for the 1976 vice presidential debate. He urged an "impartial organization" running the debate.
"Some of them have been Fox commentators, and now they're players," he said of the candidates. "In the worst case you would have conservative sweetheart questions directed to these guys. I would suspect that they will go to some lengths to try to appear impartial and appear even-handed so that it won't look to be contrived and controlled. The shift to the right compelled by Fox News has changed the definition of what's an impartial producer for a debate."
Marvin Kalb, former host of Meet the Press, said Republican candidates have drifted ideologically to Fox, and Fox to them: "Buying time to win acceptance to a debate is only the latest twist in a long-standing drama. Up until now, buying time provided face time; now, in addition, it may win a place in a debate whose ground rules the network sets."
For Walter Shapiro, who covered nine presidential campaigns dating back to 1980 for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon and others, the Republican Party is also to blame for "the total abject surrender to the TV networks."
"By going first, Fox has made a mockery of the debates and it is because [Republican National Committee Chair] Reince Priebus punted and the RNC punted and said to Fox, 'you figure it out,' that much is clear," Shapiro said. "This is a Republican forum."
He later added, "Fox played a major role in making Donald Trump the central story on the Republican side. This is the moment where Republicans should begin to realize that Fox is a business entity concerned with ratings, with the elevation of Trump to the detriment of the rest of the Republican party."
Jon Stewart has been one the most influential American voices in the last half-century, especially when it comes to calling out Fox News' lies. To celebrate his last week on The Daily Show, here are some of our favorite moments:
The Best Of Jon Stewart Taking On Fox News
Jon Stewart has been one the most influential American voices in the last half-century, especially when it comes to calling out Fox News' lies. To celebrate his last week on The Daily Show, here are some of our favorite moments. We're going to miss you, Jon!Posted by Media Matters for America on Monday, August 3, 2015
Additional research by John Whitehouse and Eric Wuestewald.
The Washington Post's George Will likened legal abortion to "barbarism" and "a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies."
Will cited the debunked notion that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue -- a smear manufactured from a conservative group's recent series of deceptively edited videos -- to accuse the women's health organization of running "federally subsidized meat markets" in a July 31 column. The Fox News contributor claimed that those who support women's ability to make their own reproductive choices see fetuses as lacking "a moral standing superior to a tumor or a hamburger in the mother's stomach." He went on:
The nonnegotiable tenet in today's Democratic Party catechism is not opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline or support for a $15 minimum wage. These are evanescent fevers. As the decades roll by, the single unshakable commitment is opposition to any restriction on the right to inflict violence on pre-born babies. So today there is a limitless right to kill, and distribute fragments of, babies that intrauterine medicine can increasingly treat as patients.
We are wallowing in this moral swamp because the Supreme Court accelerated the desensitization of the nation by using words and categories about abortion the way infants use knives and forks -- with gusto, but sloppily. Because Planned Parenthood's snout is deep in the federal trough, decent taxpayers find themselves complicit in the organization's vileness. What kind of a government disdains the deepest convictions of citizens by forcing them to finance what they see in videos -- Planned Parenthood operatives chattering about bloody human fragments? "Taxes," said Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., "are what we pay for civilized society." Today they finance barbarism.
Despite Will's declaration that taxes "finance barbarism," Planned Parenthood does not use any federal money for abortion procedures -- it's been unlawful for nearly 40 years.
His smears are further undermined by the Post's own editorial board, which called out conservative efforts to attack Planned Parenthood based on the deceptively edited videos:
That truths were distorted to paint an inaccurate and unfair picture of a health organization that provides valuable services to women -- as well as to demonize research that leads to important medical advances -- doesn't matter to antiabortion activists. Or, sadly, to the politicians who pander to them.
Planned Parenthood is under virulent attack for the role a small portion of its affiliates play in helping women who want to donate fetal tissue for medical research. The antiabortion group Center for Medical Progress has orchestrated a propaganda campaign accusing the nation's largest provider of abortions of profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue, a charge refuted by Planned Parenthood.
None of the videos released shows anything illegal and, in fact, the full footage of Planned Parenthood executives meeting with people presumed to be buyers for a human biologics company include repeated assertions that clinics are not selling tissue but only seeking permitted reimbursement costs for expenses. Indeed, the Colorado clinic featured in the videos refused to enter into a contract with the phony company because of its failure to meet its legal and ethical standards.
In an interview with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Face the Nation host John Dickerson ignored new controversial comments from the former Arkansas governor and Fox News host about using the FBI or U.S. military forces to stop legal abortions throughout the country.
On July 31, The Topeka Capitol-Journal reported that Huckabee stated that if he was elected president, he would stop legal abortions from being performed. When questioned by reporters during two campaigns stops in Iowa if he would use federal troops or the FBI in order to prevent abortions, Huckabee stated he would resort to utilizing all means available to end constitutionally protected abortions (emphasis added):
In response to a question from the audience at the Pizza Ranch in Jefferson, Iowa, Huckabee said he would "invoke the Fifth and 14th Amendments for the protection of every human being."
Both amendments contain due process protections against depriving people of life without due process of law.
"Would that be a huge controversy?" the former Arkansas governor asked. "Yes."
But he argued that scientific advancements have now verified that unborn babies are human beings -- information he said wasn't necessarily available when the Supreme Court issued its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
"I will not pretend there is nothing we can do to stop this," Huckabee said at the event, where a Topeka Capital-Journal correspondent was present.
At his next stop, in Rockwell City, Huckabee answered follow-up questions from the correspondent, saying: "All American citizens should be protected."
Asked by another reporter how he would stop abortion, and whether this would mean using the FBI or federal forces to accomplish this, Huckabee replied: "We'll see, if I get to be president."
He said he would use all resources available to protect U.S. citizens.
On the August 2 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host John Dickerson failed to confront Huckabee on his suggestion that he might order troops to interfere with women's reproductive health decisions. Dickerson instead focused on Huckabee's July 25 remarks comparing President Obama's negotiations of the Iran deal to the Holocaust. Watch the full interview below:
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan agreed with concerns that the paper subjects Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to tougher scrutiny than other 2016 contenders, promising to evaluate the Times' future coverage of Clinton for its fairness.
Sullivan already strongly criticized the paper on July 27 for its now twice-corrected report that relied on anonymous sourcing to claim that two inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton's email use. In reality, the probe was not criminal and was not focused on Clinton personally. The faulty report, for which Sullivan condemned the Times' for running a "sensational" story with "major journalistic problems" before it was ready and for not being transparent with readers about revisions, is still facing heavy criticism from veteran journalists.
On August 1, Sullivan highlighted critiques from readers and media observers who expressed concern that the error-riddled Clinton email story reveals the Times' pattern of taking "an unfairly critical edge" against Clinton, and Sullivan agreed (emphasis added):
Arlene Williams, a longtime subscriber, wrote and objected to "what I see as jaded coverage concerning Hillary Clinton." News articles and opinion columns are "just consistently negative," she said. And Ben Lieberman of Acton, Mass., said The Times seemed to be "on a mission to cut her down to size."
These readers aren't alone. The press critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen wrote on Twitter: "I have resisted this conclusion over the years, but after today's events it's fair to say the Times has a problem covering Hillary Clinton." Rachel Maddow said last week on MSNBC that the attitude of the national press corps, including The Times, is, "Everything Hillary Clinton does is a scandal." And James Fallows of The Atlantic called what he sees as a Times "Clinton vendetta" a "serious lapse," linking to a letter the Clinton campaign wrote in response to the Times story.
Mr. Purdy and the executive editor, Dean Baquet, insist that this scrutiny is necessary and that it is being done fairly. Because Mrs. Clinton stirs such strong emotions, they say, there are bound to be unending complaints from both her supporters and detractors.
But I agree with this sentiment from a reader, Evan Hannay, who is troubled by some of the Clinton coverage: "Hillary deserves tough questions when they are warranted. But it is undeniable that she is already facing significantly tougher coverage than any other potential candidate." He thinks The Times should make "a promise to readers going forward that Hillary is not going to be treated unfairly as she so often is by the media."
Last Thursday, I handed Mr. Baquet a printed copy of Mr. Hannay's email and asked him to address it.
To that end, he told me that he has urged reporters and editors to focus anew on issues stories. And he pledged fairness. "I'm happy to make a promise that she'll be treated fairly," he said, though he added, "If you look at our body of work, I don't believe we have been unfair." One testament to that, he said, was an investigative piece written by David Kirkpatrick shortly after the 2012 Benghazi attacks, with conclusions seen as favorable for Mrs. Clinton, who was then secretary of state. It came under heavy attack from the right.
But the Times's "screw-up," as Mr. Baquet called it, reinforces the need for reporters and their editors to be "doubly vigilant and doubly cautious."
Times readers (and on their behalf, I, too) will be watching and evaluating that over the next months. No one should expect a free ride for Mrs. Clinton. But she certainly deserves a fair shake.
The New York Times' Maureen Dowd's latest tired attack on Hillary Clinton involves a lengthy comparison of the Democratic presidential candidate to disgraced New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Dowd spent nearly half of her August 1 column spearing Clinton with dubious pseudo-scandals and comparisons to quarterback Tom Brady, recently suspended from four NFL games for his role in the use of deflated footballs in January's AFC championship game. "It turns out Tom Brady and Hillary Clinton have more in common than you would think," Dowd claimed, calling the two "[a] pair of team captains craving a championship doing something surreptitious that they never needed to do to win." She went on:
Brady had his assistant terminate his Samsung phone the day before he talked to an investigator about Deflategate. Hillary set up a home-brew private server, overruling the concerns of her husband's aides, and erased 30,000 emails before the government had a chance to review them to see if any were classified.
Brady and Hillary, wanting to win at all costs and believing the rules don't apply to them, are willing to take the hit of people not believing them, calculating that there is no absolute proof.
They both have a history of subterfuge -- Brady and the Patriots with Spygate, Hillary with all her disappearing and appearing records.
In stretching to link Clinton to Brady, Dowd echoes right-wing media pundits desperate to spin any news into an attack on the leading Democratic presidential candidate. Such attacks are old territory for Dowd. For more than 20 years, Dowd has been attempting to smear Clinton by any means necessary, even stooping to pushing sexist tropes and taunting nicknames. According to a Media Matters analysis of 195 of Dowd's columns written during her tenure at the Times, more than 70 percent painted Clinton in a negative light.
The New York Times' latest botched story on emails from former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton shows why reporters shouldn't trust leaks from anonymous partisan sources, Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote in an August 1 op-ed in The Huffington Post.
Cummings, the ranking minority member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, detailed how the Republican-led investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attacks "has been plagued by a series of inaccurate, partisan leaks designed to attack" Clinton. The Times' recent rush to rely on anonymous "Capitol Hill" sourcing falsely claiming Clinton was the target of a potential criminal investigation -- which resulted in the paper having to issue multiple corrections and answer questions about its credibility -- is only the most recent example of reporters failing to verify information from anonymous sources when it comes to Clinton:
Congressional investigations into the attacks in Benghazi have been plagued by a series of inaccurate, partisan leaks designed to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Many of these attacks rely on anonymous sources to describe -- and often mischaracterize -- documents reporters have not seen.
Last week, the New York Times fell victim to this ploy, reporting that "[t]wo inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information."
I believe the Times' errors, like many before them, could have been avoided. I learned the truth on Thursday -- before the Times' story ran.
The Times' Executive Editor has suggested that its reporters could not have done anything differently because they relied on anonymous senior government officials, which the paper's Public Editor later explained included tips from "Capitol Hill."
I disagree. The Times could have insisted on seeing the documents they were describing. Or, if the Times spoke with Republicans in Congress, even off the record, they could have checked their facts with me or other Committee Democrats.
Unfortunately, this rush to print anonymous, unverified claims against Secretary Clinton is not unique.
Just last month, Politico was forced to correct a front-page story that relied on an anonymous source who apparently provided doctored information about an email that was produced to the Select Committee, rather than seeing the documents or contacting my office. Chairman Gowdy refused to investigate or condemn this leak.
Similarly, in May 2013, an anonymous source provided a description of an email from NSC staffer Ben Rhodes that misrepresented statements he made about the Benghazi talking points. CNN ultimately reviewed the email and reported that the information had been "seemingly invented" by the source.
Reporters have an obligation to ask why these sources demand to remain anonymous while refusing to provide copies of the documents they are peddling. No scoop should be too good to verify.
But the core problem is that these anonymous sources have an agenda, which is to manufacture facts to attack Secretary Clinton.
The Indiana State Department of Health found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood clinics in the state in regards to the handling of fetal tissue donations after an investigation sparked by a shady anti-choice organization's heavily edited videos was completed.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence -- a Republican who has long championed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood -- ordered an investigation by the Indiana State Department of Health in cooperation with the state's Office of the Attorney General on July 16, citing "the recent video referencing Planned Parenthood's alleged trafficking of aborted fetal tissue." The move came just days after The Center for Medical Progress released a deceptive video claiming that Planned Parenthood was "selling aborted baby parts" that was roundly called out by the media for "show[ing] nothing illegal" and having selectively edited footage. The investigation was launched despite the fact Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky "does not participate in any tissue donation program."
On July 30, Indiana officially cleared Planned Parenthood clinics in the state of wrongdoing, finding "no evidence of any laws being broken" in the handling of fetal tissue, according to an Associated Press report. Pointing to letters from the Indiana Department of Health to the clinics investigated which stated that the agency was "unable to find any non-compliance with state regulations" the report noted that "the complaint is closed":
The Indiana Department of Health said in a statement Thursday that an investigation found no evidence of any laws being broken. Health department inspectors investigated the Indiana facilities on July 21.
Letters from the health department to the three Indiana facilities dated Tuesday and released to the media by Planned Parenthood said the agency had completed its investigation into the Planned Parenthood facilities that perform abortions in Indiana. The letters said the agency was "unable to find any non-compliance with state regulations. Therefore, no deficiencies were cited." The letters say the complaint is closed.
The state has the authority to license and regulate abortion clinics and to inspect them, the Health Department said. Federal law prohibits the buying and selling of human body parts or trafficking in tissue from an aborted fetus.
Indiana's findings further underscore the flimsy nature of The Center for Medical Progress' claims and reinforce the fact Planned Parenthood has simply been discussing legal reimbursement for fetal tissue donation.
UPDATE: On July 29, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that they had also "found no evidence that" Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state were participating in fetal tissue donation programs and that the organization's health centers are "are fully compliant with state and federal laws regarding the disposition of fetal tissue ... There is no evidence that PPLM is involved in any way in the buying or selling of tissue." The investigation was requested by state Representative James L. Lyons Jr. (R), who called for an examination of Planned Parenthood based on the Center for Medical Progress' deceptively-edited undercover videos.