Two congressional Republicans are introducing legislation that advances the conservative media's false claim that the Obama administration recently started making gun buyers disclose their race and ethnicity
Reps. Ted Poe (TX) and Diane Black (TN) are proposing a bill that would change the federal form used for gun background checks by prohibiting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms from asking about race or ethnicity on the form.
The conservative media falsehood started with a September 16 article by Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell, who wrote that a 2012 revision to Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling."
In 2012, the ATF split question 10 into two parts. Now, instead of asking gun buyers to indicate their race or ethnicity from a series of choices, applicants must indicate their ethnicity and race separately:
This change is consistent with similar changes made on Census forms.
Other members of the conservative media took Riddell's claim about an Obama administration "policy change" at face value, asserting that being asked to disclose race and ethnicity on the background check form was somehow a new development.
If the press release from Poe and Black is any indication, the bill is directly premised on the conservative media falsehood. The September 18 release claims, in contradiction to publicly available evidence, "In 2012, the Obama Administration quietly began requiring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to record firearms purchasers' race and ethnicity."
National Review Online misrepresented a recent court decision that could allow an unneccessarily restrictive voter identification law to be implemented in Wisconsin only weeks before the November election.
On September 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction that a district court judge had previously granted to prevent Wisconsin's strict voter ID law from going into effect due to concerns that its disproportionate effect on communities of color violated the Voting Rights Act. After the three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit issued its order, Wisconsin officials announced that they would move forward with implementing the law despite the fact that election officials are not trained in the new photo ID requirements and absentee ballots have already been turned in. This last minute voting change has the potential to keep hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters who lack photo ID from participating in the November election.
Right-wing media quickly downplayed the significance the law might have on the election. On the September 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin managed to point out that the law could affect the outcome of the gubernatorial race in Wisconsin, which shows Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a near-tie with his Democratic opponent Mary Burke. But Tobin minimized the impact of the ID law by erroneously suggesting that "there is only a handful of voters who won't get IDs by election day."
NRO contributor Hans von Spakovsky, a tireless advocate for voter ID laws that suppress the vote of women, minorities, and the poor, also applauded the Seventh Circuit's order, calling it a "stunning blow" for opponents of voter ID. Von Spakovsky overlooked key facts in the case to ultimately conclude there was "no justification for striking down" Wisconsin's law in the first place:
As I explained in an NRO article in May, the district court judge, Lynn Adelman, a Clinton appointee and former Democratic state senator, had issued an injunction claiming the Wisconsin ID law violated the Voting Rights Act as well as the Fourteenth Amendment. Adelman made the startling claim in his opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2008 upholding Indiana's voter-ID law as constitutional was "not binding precedent," so Adelman could essentially ignore it.
However, that was too much for the Seventh Circuit. It pointed out, in what most lawyers would consider a rebuke, that Adelman had held Wisconsin's law invalid "even though it is materially identical to Indiana's photo ID statute, which the Supreme Court held valid in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board."
It was also obviously significant to the Seventh Circuit that the Wisconsin state supreme court had upheld the state's voter-ID law in July ... In fact, the appeals court said the state court decision had changed the "balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief."
In other words, there was no justification for striking down a state voter-ID law that was identical to one that had been previously upheld by both the Supreme Court of the United States and that state's highest court.
Fox News hero and prominent Texas conservative Dr. Steven Hotze warned supporters during a conference call that gay activists want to overturn laws prohibiting pedophilia, calling gay people "perverted and deviant."
On September 10, Conservative Republicans of Texas leader Steven Hotze held a "Marriage Battle Plan" conference call with supporters, aimed at laying out a "battle plan" for combating "pro-homosexual rhetoric and propaganda" in federal courts. The call, which also featured Texas GOP chairman candidate Jared Woodfill, was pitched as "a meeting that liberals will be talking about for years."
Right-wing outlets are claiming that the Obama administration is using the standard form for federal gun background checks to engage in "racial profiling" and to find out "who has guns" because the form asks about race and ethnicity. But the form has asked for this information since at least 2001, and identifying information is destroyed within hours of a background check being processed.
People who buy firearms from licensed dealers are required to fill out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Form 4473, which is processed by the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The form asks buyers for information such as name, height, weight, date of birth, and race and ethnicity.
In a September 16 article, Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell wrote that a 2012 revision of Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling." According to Riddell, the change was made by the ATF "[w]ith little fanfare."
The change in the 2012 revision is that race and ethnicity were separated into questions 10.a. and 10.b.:
The downward trend of female leaders in U.S. newsrooms took center stage at the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) conference in Chicago, with editors calling for better efforts to put women in top editing roles and grooming younger female journalists to eventually take the top spot.
The concerns about the decreasing numbers of female editors were heightened in May when New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was fired. Last week, the influential Nieman Reports -- a publication from Harvard University's Nieman Foundation For Journalism -- devoted an entire article to the subject, headlined, "Where are the Women?"
The Nieman report, by reporter Anna Griffin, stated:
The results of this gender disparity in leadership are especially pernicious in journalism. To best serve the public as watchdogs and truth-tellers, news organizations need a broad array of voices and perspectives. To thrive financially, they must appeal to an equally broad array of potential viewers, listeners, and readers. Plus, content analyses and anecdotal evidence suggest that a newsroom leader's gender can have a subtle but important influence on everything from what stories get covered and how, to who gets promoted and why.
Specifically, Griffin cited ASNE data released earlier this year that women serve as top editors in just three of the nation's 25 largest papers, eight of the 25 largest papers with circulations under 100,000, and three of the top 25 under 50,000. Abramson left the Times after the census was completed; her departure means that now none of the top ten daily papers have a woman at the helm and only two of the top 25.
Griffin also noted a 2014 Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) survey that said women comprise just 31 percent of TV news directors and 20 percent of general managers, "despite making up more than 40 percent of the TV workforce. The same survey found that women accounted for just 23 percent of radio news directors and 18 percent of general managers."
Such data did not sit well with attendees at the ASNE conference, both men and women, who called for improvements.
"You can look at the numbers, there aren't enough women [editors]," said Joyce Terhaar, editor of The Sacramento Bee. "But there aren't enough women in newsrooms."
Anders Gyllenhaal, Washington bureau chief for McClatchy, pointed out that 13 of his company's 29 newspapers are run by women. Still, he said the industry as a whole needs improvements, specifically grooming women better for the top roles.
"It's something you have to look at when you are choosing other editors," he said. "Clearly, there are not enough women editors in the high-profile positions and in the largest papers."
The Washington Post reported this week that WJLA, ABC's Washington, D.C., affiliate, has taken a "subtle but noticeable turn to the right" since being taken over by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. This conservative tilt was on full display this week when the channel ran a news package promoting a baseless conspiracy theory about Benghazi from reporter Sharyl Attkisson.
The Washington Post piece highlighted the concerns of some staff members of local ABC affiliate WJLA, that following the finalization of the sale to Sinclair in August 2014, "some of the stories ordered by Sinclair on a 'must-run' basis don't meet the station's long tradition of non-partisan reporting." One factor in this shift to conservative partisan reporting was announced in July prior to the sale, when Sinclair hired discredited journalist Sharyl Attkisson as an "independent freelance reporter" to "focus on stories that follow the money and waste watch type of investigations."
However, prior to the September 17 opening hearing of the House Benghazi Special Committee, Attkisson ran a dubious report for Sinclair that appeared on WJLA highlighting the unverifiable claims of former State Department employee Raymond Maxwell alleging that some documents were intentionally withheld from the Accountability Review Board investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi:
The same day Attkisson's report ran on WJLA, Attkisson appeared on Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends where she reiterated the report's unsubstantiated accusations. Host Steve Doocy lamented that only a handful of outlets such as Fox and the Daily Signal -- the Heritage Foundation website to which Attkisson occasionally contributes -- were covering this latest so-called "Benghazi bombshell." Attkisson concluded the segment by mentioning that her report was also broadcast to "maybe 30 million local news viewers" through Sinclair's affiliate stations.
Although Sinclair's support of right-wing misinformation has been widely documented and criticized for many years, its increasing influence in local media bodes ill for objective journalism at stations like WJLA.
The Wall Street Journal's problematic relationship with Karl Rove continues as the paper ran a Rove-penned column that's essentially an advertisement for the importance of political groups like American Crossroads -- which he helped organize and still fundraises for -- in swinging control of the Senate to Republicans this November.
In his September 17 column, Rove warns readers that despite a "terrible" midterm environment for Democrats, a "GOP Senate Majority Is Still in Doubt" due to a Democratic cash advantage. According to Rove, "Republican candidates and groups must step up if they are to substantially reduce that gap."
Rove's warning about Republicans' November chances includes a plug for Crossroads' research on ad buys, as well as its conclusions about "swing women voters." Unlike many of his columns leading up to the 2012 election, Rove offers a disclosure that he works with the group:
And on Wednesday American Crossroads' media buyers produced their latest analysis on how much airtime each side has run or reserved in 14 Senate contests. As of this writing, between Sept. 1 and election day, Democratic Senate candidates, party committees and outside groups have run or placed $109 million in television advertising, while Republican candidates, party committees and groups have $85 million in television time. (Disclosure: I help American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS raise funds on a volunteer basis.)
There is also evidence there are limits to the efficacy of the Democrats' "war on women" narrative. Recent American Crossroads focus groups among swing women voters found they resent being treated as single-issue abortion voters, considering it condescending. They want candidates from both parties to talk about broader concerns like jobs, the economy, health care, energy, government spending and national security, and they are more than open to the GOP message.
The language about women resenting being treated as "single-issue abortion voters" directly echoes an advertisement Crossroads GPS has been running in Colorado against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, which features a woman explaining, "We aren't single issue voters...we care about good jobs that support our families."
He concludes the column with a plea for Republicans to "open their wallets to candidates whom they may have never met," or else "they should prepare for two more years of Majority Leader Harry Reid."
Fox News acknowledged that a voter ID law may prevent people from casting votes while discussing the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin -- despite the network's sustained campaign to deny the negative repercussions these laws have on voting.
On September 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved an injunction blocking the state of Wisconsin from implementing voter ID laws that required voters to show photo identification in order to cast their votes. According to Reuters, these new rules are set to go into effect in time for the November general elections.
During the September 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox correspondent Mike Tobin reported on the upcoming gubernatorial election between Governor Scott Walker (R) and Democratic challenger Mary Burke. During a discussion of polling numbers placing the two candidates at a statistical tie, Tobin acknowledged that the implementation of the state's new voter ID laws could potentially impact the election. Claiming that "there is only a handful of voters who won't get IDs by election day," he went on to say that "even a handful can tip the scales" in this election:
Although Tobin was correct in claiming that voter ID laws could have a significant impact on the election, his assertion that "only a handful of voters" won't be able to obtain identification downplays the possibility that hundreds of thousands of voters may be disenfranchised by the law's implementation.
Despite multiple reports showing that the type of voter fraud IDs protect against is virtually nonexistent, Fox News has repeatedly advocated for these laws, even though they have been shown to disenfranchise eligible voters.
Voter ID laws have real consequences on elections. As the Brennan Center for Justice reported in a 2013 study, "free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters," and voter ID laws "make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote."
Conservative media's lengthy campaign to demonize government programs by accusing low-income Americans of using benefits to buy marijuana has culminated in legislation being passed by Republicans in the House of Representatives this week.
Two bills linking government assistance for impoverished families to the legal purchase of marijuana are making their way through the Republican-controlled House. The Preserving Welfare For Needs Not Weed Act, proposed by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and passed by the House yesterday, aims to prohibit the use of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards containing cash benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in stores selling marijuana (At this time, only two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the sale of the drug for recreational use). A second bill, the No Welfare For Weed Act, introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), extends even further -- it aims to ban the purchase of marijuana with SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps.
These bills come on the heels of a concerted effort by Fox News and conservative blogs like National Review Online (NRO) to accuse low-income Americans of using government assistance to purchase recreational marijuana. One month after Colorado legalized the sale of pot, NRO alleged "welfare beneficiaries withdrew thousands of dollars in public-assistance cash from ATMs at weed shops" in the state, a report echoed by Fox & Friends co-host Eric Bolling, who asked, "Are food stamps now going to pot?":
BOLLING: Forty-seven million people are on food stamps nationwide. In Colorado, more than 500,000 are getting food stamps every month. Meanwhile, 348 shops are set up in Colorado to sell pot in the state. And food stamp cards have reportedly been used at pot shops, ATMs, at least 64 times in the short time weed has been legal in Colorado. So are food stamps now going to pot?
In 64 specific times, people used an EBT card to take out cash, presumably to buy pot.
Conservative media's accusation that impoverished families use food stamps and government benefits to buy marijuana, one they've continued to push for months, was echoed by House Republicans justifying their current proposals.
Presenting his bill on September 16, Reichert declared, "We are seeing new abuses of these benefits. In these states, a person can walk into one of the newly opened pot shops and use their welfare benefit card to pay for pot ... This isn't an idle concern. Report examining welfare transactions in Colorado revealed over $5,000 in welfare benefits were accessed in stores selling marijuana in the first month such stores were open."
The link between TANF benefits and pot purchases has yet to be established. In NRO's original report, the blog admitted it could not conclude that any TANF money has been used specifically for the purchase of marijuana, stating, "Some of these establishments sell groceries as well as pot, so there is no way to know exactly how much welfare money was spent on marijuana."
Notably, despite the House bill suggesting otherwise, food stamp recipients are only allowed to use benefits to purchase approved food items and are barred from purchasing alcohol, tobacco, and non-food items. The USDA makes clear that SNAP benefits can't be used to withdraw cash from ATMs (emphasis original):
SNAP benefits can never be withdrawn as cash. Many States allow clients to use a single EBT card to access SNAP as well as cash benefit programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In most States, cash benefits from other programs can be accessed through ATMs.
A Breitbart.com columnist launched a transphobic attack on transgender former Army Private Chelsea Manning, calling her a "traitorous transsexual" and asking if the government had "cut it off yet."
In a September 16 column for Breitbart London, columnist Milo Yiannopoulos attacked Manning - who was convicted in 2013 of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks - for publishing an op-ed in The Guardian about the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Yiannopoulos repeatedly misgendered Manning, asking if the government had "cut it off yet" - referring to Manning's genitalia:
Have they cut it off yet? The penis attached to traitorous transsexual Chelsea Manning, I mean. How else to explain the level of feverish disturbance necessary for the former Private Bradley to pen an op-ed saying we should "let ISIS succeed" in its mission to destroy half the Middle East, murdering, raping and torturing anyone in its way.
Manning, is of course, suffering from a lamentable psychiatric disorder. Normally, we help people like that by giving them access to doctors and drugs.
I don't believe everything the government tells me, and I know it snoops on me more than it should, but do I trust the NSA more than I trust a loopy alleged rapist, Putin's bitch or a psychologically fragile, gender-bending convicted traitor? You bet I do. [emphasis added]
Yiannopoulos also linked to a personal blog post in which he called "transgenderism" a "disease" and suggested that some transgender women are just "marginalised, lonely" gay men crying for help.
It goes without saying that Yiannopoulos' transphobic screed contradicts expert consensus, which has acknowledged transgender identities as "part of the human condition." He relies on the discredited work of former Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatrist Paul McHugh, ignoring current professional medical recommendations about the transgender community.
Pseudoscience aside, though, Yiannopoulos' column is a stark example of the kind of gratuitous hate speech Breitbart.com is willing to publish. Manning's Guardian op-ed had nothing to do with being transgender, but Breitbart couldn't pass up another opportunity to depict transgender people as unstable or deviant.