CNN uncritically advanced presidential candidate Rand Paul's contention that he is "a different kind of Republican" who wants to protect the environment -- ignoring Paul's long track record of voting against environmental protections and denying the science of climate change.
In a May 26 article about Sen. Paul's (R-KY) new book, "Taking a Stand," CNN.com echoed Paul's claim in the book that he is a "tree hugger" who "want[s] our regulatory bodies to protect both our land and water." CNN.com further reported that Paul, who is trying to distinguish himself from a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates, invoked past conservationist Republican presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln while expressing surprise that the GOP has "been branded as a party that doesn't like the environment."
Fox News largely ignored the controversy surrounding Josh Duggar following his recent admission that, as a teenager, he molested young girls, including several of his sisters. The revelations are particularly stunning given that, under the guise of protecting children, the Duggar family has played an active role in the fight against LGBT equality.
On May 21, In Touch magazine revealed that in 2006, Jim Bob Duggar - patriarch of TLC's hit show 19 Kids and Counting - had waited more than a year before telling police that his son, Josh, had confessed to molesting several female minors, including his sisters, when he was a teenager. TLC has since pulled episodes of 19 Kids from its schedule.
The revelations drew widespread criticism in the media, with many outlets pointing out the Duggar family's reputation as a torch-bearer for conservative values and strong involvement in Republican politics and anti-LGBT activism. The revelations look to many like hypocrisy from a family that's become a political powerhouse in socially conservative circles in recent years by wielding its reality show influence to stump for "family values," Republican politicians, and the repeal of legal protections for LGBT people.
But while MSNBC and CNN have reported heavily on the Duggar scandal, Fox News has largely ignored the story. According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News spent less than two minutes covering the story between May 21 and May 25, compared to almost an hour of coverage from the other cable news networks.
During the May 24 broadcast of Media Buzz, Fox News' media critic Howard Kurtz even criticized other media outlets for "piling on" by highlighting the Duggar family's ties to prominent Republican politicians:
The New York Times' public editor Margaret Sullivan has now weighed in on The Times' misleading article advancing baseless industry allegations that the EPA illegally lobbied on behalf of clean water protections. But while Sullivan recognized that the article has some significant problems, she nonetheless defended it as a "solid story" overall.
Those who fault the article for not having its "to be sure" caveats up higher may have a point. And it's possible that the front-page display suggests what [Washington, D.C. reader Ben] Somberg calls a "smoking gun" that doesn't materialize -- though plenty of front-page stories lack that element.
But despite this acknowledgement, Sullivan came to the defense of the reporters who authored the story, declaring that the article "raises important questions" and that it is "a legitimate examination of a worthwhile issue." She also quoted an email from one of the reporters, Eric Lipton, who claimed the premise of the article is justified because "in the view of certain members of Congress, and opponents of the rule, [the EPA's actions] may have violated the Anti-Lobbying Law. That is what the article said."
But there is a major flaw in Lipton's logic -- and it's one that is not addressed in Sullivan's response. Just because opponents of the EPA are claiming the agency violated the Anti-Lobbying Act, that doesn't mean that claim is worthy of a story in The New York Times if it is a completely baseless allegation. And it is a completely baseless allegation.
Media should take note that a new Supreme Court voting rights case with important implications for Latinos is being advanced by Edward Blum, an anti-civil rights advocate with past ties to the right's "dark money ATM" and a long history of using the courts to undermine decades of anti-discrimination precedent.
On May 26, the Supreme Court agreed "to decide whether the Constitution requires only eligible voters be counted when forming legislative districts" in a lawsuit brought by anti-Voting Rights Act (VRA) activist Edward Blum:
The lawsuit was advanced by Edward Blum, whose Austin-based Project on Fair Representation has been litigating for years to roll back affirmative action, Voting Rights Act enforcement and other policies intended to benefit minorities.
The group's goal is to remove noncitizens and illegal immigrants from the legislative district count, but the Supreme Court has the option of considering whether other nonvoters should be excluded in calculating voting district sizes, such as minors, felons and even people who are eligible to vote but haven't registered.
The case represents a massive shift from the current system of calculating total residents and would benefit Republicans by shifting electoral clout away from Democratic-leaning urban areas. The change would dilute Hispanic communities' representation and "devastate" Latino voting power. Although currently focused on undocumented immigrant populations, Blum's latest efforts could also exclude minors, felons and eligible but unregistered voters from being counted, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Project on Fair Representation has seen some success in undermining the VRA. Blum masterminded Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, in which the Court overturned a key section of the VRA that prevented states from making potentially discriminatory changes to election law or district maps without Department of Justice approval. That decision cleared the way for numerous states to pass voter suppression laws in the lead-up to the 2014 midterm elections. In the lead-up to Shelby, Blum was allowed to push falsehoods about the VRA and voter suppression in The Wall Street Journal, while right-wing media figures hyped unfounded fears of voter fraud and distorted the continued need for voter protections.
In addition to voting rights, Blum has gone after affirmative action policies aimed at improving diversity in higher education. Although ultimately unsuccessful in the courts, Blum's affirmative action challenge was based on frequently cited myths about affirmative action's benefits.
Blum's efforts to undermine voting rights and eliminate affirmative action have been bankrolled by the conservative Donors Trust, deemed the "dark money ATM of the conservative movement" by Mother Jones.
Despite Blum's extensive anti-civil rights resume, mainstream media have historically failed to report his ties to conservative dark money, a mistake they should not repeat as his latest voter suppression effort makes its way to the Court.
CNN glossed over how harmful Republican policies threaten women in order to question why female members of the GOP aren't typically considered feminists.
During the May 27 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Carol Costello interviewed former media strategist for the Republican National Committee (RNC), Molly Finn, to discuss why more conservative women aren't considered feminists. Framing the discussion around presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (D) and Carly Fiorina (R), Costello asked "why conservative women rarely come to mind when we think about feminist leaders," while Finn argued, "Just because some people are not necessarily aligning with the feminist label doesn't mean they aren't advocates for women's equality and success." Finn went on to claim that the "women's organizations that came out of the feminist movements of the 60s and 70s, it was kind of a narrow conversation. Women's power, women's political power might have been limited to talking about reproductive rights." Costello then asked whether feminism is "outdated," wondering if "that word feminism [is] sort of deepening the chasm between liberal women and conservative women":
Such a conversation on feminism and conservatism misses an opportunity to examine why conservative women are not generally labeled as feminists in the first place -- their policies and legislation often hurt women. Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, whom Costello cited as an example, is roundly in support of policies that are detrimental to women, opposing legislation to address the gender pay gap, access to reproductive health services, and the Affordable Care Act which "greatly improves women's access" to health care. Republicans more broadly have spent years in a concentrated effort to roll back women's access to reproductive health care, general health care and equal pay.
Fox News has been on the air nearly two decades and some Beltway journalists are still denying the transparent truth about the cable channel and its intricate political machinations. Even some longtime conservatives, such as historian and former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett, now concede Fox News is "brainwashing" the conservative electorate, and that the GOP is being harmed by the network.
Responding to Bartlett at Politico, senior media writer Jack Shafer insists, "Fox in its current incarnation is neither a help nor a hindrance" to the Republican Party. Shafer argues the network, "a news-entertainment hybrid," doesn't really have much impact on the GOP and has not moved the party to the far right. "The Fox tail does not wag the Republican dog," Shafer concludes. Instead, Fox News is just trying to make a buck. Yes, it ventures into partisan politics with "combative programming," according to Shafer. But people like Bartlett who claim the channel's changed or damaged the Republican Party are overstating their case.
The truth is, as Media Matters has documented for years, the over-the-top programming on Fox News, anchored by baseless claims and wild attacks, routinely mirrors Republicans' legislative agenda. The focused misinformation trademarked by Fox News doesn't exist in a vacuum; it's not merely "entertainment" concocted to sell advertising. (Although it does that quite well.)
The programming on Fox News is designed to shape and change American politics, plain and simple. It's designed to do damage to Democrats and Democratic initiatives. It's built to be the marketing arm for the Republican Party, as it hurdles further and further towards the radical right. And quite often, Fox News is successful.
There's a reason that Fox contributor Newt Gingrich once told conservative activists that Fox News helped make Republican Scott Brown's senate "insurgency possible" in 2010. And there's a reason Fox News drafted the theme of the 2012 Republican convention, "You Didn't Build That."
I'm not sure tails can wag much harder than that.
The results of an 18-month survey of advertisements in the National Rifle Association's (NRA) magazine, America's 1st Freedom, squared neatly with the gun group's own tendency to use to fear as a marketing tool.
Media Matters reviewed advertisements that appeared in the NRA magazine from January 2014 through June 2015 and discovered that they appealed to a wide range of fears, including the threat of starvation due to food shortages, the dread of losing the ability to live independently because of declining health, the prospect of a terrorist attack, and the need to carry a collapsible assault weapon in a briefcase for self-protection.
NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre often uses fear to motivate people to support the NRA or purchase firearms.
In a February 2013 column for the magazine, LaPierre argued that Americans needed to buy guns to ensure their "survival" while warning of calamities including, "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. [and] Lone criminals." Prior to the 2014 elections, in a special election edition of America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre urged supporters to back the NRA's preferred candidates while raising the specter of several different terrorist attack scenarios, including an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would kill 9 out of 10 Americans. LaPierre has also warned conservative audiences about the threat of "home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
Advertisers in the NRA's magazine often played on the same fears, urging readers to buy their products to protect against one calamity or another. Similar to other conservative media websites, some of the products advertised in America's 1st Freedom were of extremely dubious value, including an "anti-aging" supplement that had not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and expensive jewelry made from low-cost materials. Some products in the magazine were simply bizarre or retrograde, including an accent lamp that celebrates the Confederacy and a watch that allows users to "Tell Time Like a Man."
"The Light Of The South," an accent lamp featuring the likeness of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and several pieces of Confederacy iconography, was advertised in the NRA magazine for $135 under the tagline, "Southern Pride Shines On." The lamp featured several variations of the Confederate flag as well as two CSA (Confederate States of America) emblems and the dates commemorating the beginning and end of the Confederacy.
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell threw cold water on Fox News' latest faulty Benghazi narrative, characterizing a report that says the Obama administration knew that the attacks were planned in advance as inaccurate. Morell criticized Fox and the media at large for habitually scandalizing the Benghazi attacks based on incomplete or unsupported claims.
Michael Morell criticized Fox News and other media outlets for perpetuating "Benghazi myths" in a May 25 article for Politico, accusing "pundits [who] don't understand intelligence work" of spreading misinformation. Morell lambasted a recent report that claimed that the "Obama administration knew that al Qaeda terrorists had planned" the Benghazi attack "10 days in advance." explaining that the report was based off "raw intelligence" from a single source and did not accurately represent the conclusions of the intelligence community.
"The only thing that newly released document proves," Morell wrote, "is that the people who trot out these reports do not understand the world of intelligence and do not take the time to ask the right people the right questions before publishing the 'news.'" Morell noted that numerous other unclassified documents directly contradict the single Defense Intelligence report scandalized by the media:
The DIA report in question was an "Intelligence Information Report" or IIR. It is what we term "raw intelligence." It was not the considered view of DIA analysts. Often from a single source, these bits of information represent one thread that some intelligence collector has picked up. The all source analysts in the Intelligence Community are charged with looking at that snippet of information and every other bit of available information from communications intercepts, human intelligence, open source material and much more to come up with an overall judgment.
Those all source analysts--without any input or pressure from above--looked at all the available information and determined that there wasnota significant amount of planning prior to the attacks. You don't have to take my word for it. You can look at the briefing slides produced by the National Counterterrorism Center (which is not part of CIA) and coordinated across the Intelligence Community. These slides were declassified over a year ago and were appended to the report on Benghazi produced by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee. In describing the attacks at the State Department facility, the slides say "attackers moving in multiple directions," "attackers do not appear well coordinated" and "no organized effort to breach every building." Not the words one would expect to see associated with an attack planned well in advance.
Morell went on to blast Fox for also cherry-picking from the indictment of Abu Khattala, the only participant in the attacks currently in U.S. custody, to support its Benghazi claims. During the May 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier quoted the indictment in an effort to push the network's faulty assertion that the attack had been pre-planned, claiming that it had noted "premeditation" and demanding Morell answer whether the indictment was wrong. But Morell notes that Baier left out important context from the indictment that indicated "the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack":
What my interviewer failed to share with his viewers were these words from the indictment: "Beginning on a date unknown to the Grand Jury but no later than on or about September 11, 2012...defendant Khatallah did knowingly and intentionally conspire...." (emphasis mine). What does this mean? It means that the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack either. Exactly the point of the intelligence community analysts.
Fox News has similarly continuously seized on every available opportunity to scandalize the attacks on the diplomatic compound at Benghazi. In the 20 months between September 2012 to May 2014, the network aired an astounding 1,098 evening and primetime segments dedicated to Benghazi. Despite numerous reports debunking the network's false narratives surrounding the attack, Fox has relentlessly continued to promote them.
After African-American communities in Baltimore and Ferguson, MO came together to demonstrate against the deadly and racially disparate policies of law enforcement, Fox News branded the protests a "war on cops." But when the story became a mostly white Texas biker gang plotting to kill police with grenades and car bombs, the network took a decidedly less sensationalist approach in its reporting.
Fox host Sean Hannity declared on May 12 that there is a "war on police in America" and tied recent statistics on law enforcement officers' deaths to protestors in Baltimore who took to the streets in response to the unexplained death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
Earlier in May, Fox host Eric Bolling responded to the killing of NYPD officer Brian Moore by suggesting that liberals waging a "war on cops" were to blame. He said, "The 'anti-cop left' in America seems to be ... fueling some of this hatred and, you know, murderous streak that's going on against cops."
On March 12, Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs directed viewers to vote in an online poll that asked, "Has the Obama administration's war on law enforcement contributed, in your opinion, to violence in Ferguson and other communities around the country?"
On the December 29, 2014 broadcast of Fox News' Special Report, contributor Charles Krauthammer responded to the pattern of unarmed black men being shot by police officers by saying, "If there's a pattern here, it's the war on police. I don't see a war on young black men."
But on a major story that involved serious threats against law enforcement, the "people versus the police" warlike rhetoric has been conspicuously absent from Fox's news coverage.
On May 17 in Waco, TX, a shootout between rival biker gangs and law enforcement left nine people dead and more than 190 people in custody. In the immediate aftermath, some gang members issued death threats against uniformed officers. Days later, reports of more violent threats emerged -- members of the Bandidos biker gang who serve in the military were giving their fellow members grenades and C4 explosives, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. CNN reported on the existence of Bandidos "plots targeting high-ranking law enforcement officials and their families with car bombs":
The Bandidos want to retaliate against police for shooting "their brothers" as they came out of the Twin Peaks restaurant, the bulletin says.
The gang has ordered a hit against Texas troopers and other officers, according to the bulletin. Among the threats are running over officers at traffic stops and the use of grenades and Molotov cocktails and firearms.
Fox News reported the threats, but despite the element of military-grade tactics in the story, has completely refrained from describing the plot as part of its much-hyped "war on cops." Instead, the network has played it straight, with just-the-facts news reports read on camera with no accompanying pictures or video.
The contrast is noteworthy, and highlights the double-standard that the media in general has exercised when reporting on the biker club shootout versus how it reported on the protests in Baltimore -- something even CNN noticed.
The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan criticizes the "Trigger-Happy Generation" in her latest column, adding to the increasingly wide range of media figures questioning the merits of "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings" on college campuses. But her attacks in particular reveal a troubling element largely missing from this debate: an honest assessment of the crisis of mental health support for students.
Trigger warnings and safe spaces, in theory, attempt to warn and shield students from material that might remind them of past trauma or reinforce a hostile experience. In practice, they take on many different forms, giving ammunition to both defenders and critics who often see them as overzealous attempts to shield students from reality.
In her May 21 column, Noonan places herself squarely in the critics' camp, labeling on-campus advocacy for safe spaces and trigger warnings as "part of a growing censorship movement." She specifically targets an opinion piece in a Columbia University newspaper, which described in part a survivor of sexual assault wanting greater protection after feeling triggered during a class discussion on the rape scenes in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Noonan argues that the world is an unsafe place, and that students shouldn't try to shape it into something more comforting:
There is no such thing as safety. That is asking too much of life. You can't expect those around you to constantly accommodate your need for safety ... [I]f you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?
Noonan is being flippant, but her dismissive joke actually points to a growing problem: colleges don't offer students enough mental health support, which may be one explanation for the growing trend of students trying to create safe spaces and safe texts for themselves.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and the same day Noonan's column was published, a report released as part of the campaign found that millennials who work (which would include many college students) have the highest rates of depression of any generation. Last year, The Washington Post noted that according to recent studies, "44 percent of college students experienced symptoms of depression, and suicide is one of the leading causes of death among college students."
And victims of rape, intimate-partner violence, stalking, or sexual assault -- which the Columbia University student Noonan highlighted reportedly was -- are "drastically more likely to develop a mental disorder at some point in their lives," according to a 2011 Journal of the American Medical Association study, CNN reported at the time.
These students often don't have access to help, including the therapy Noonan blithely suggested. In 2011, the American Psychological Association labeled the state of mental health on campuses a "growing crisis," and they've continued to track the concerns since. College counseling centers, they explained, "are frequently forced to come up with creative ways to manage their growing caseloads. For example, 76.6 percent of college counseling directors reported reducing the number of visits for non-crisis patients to cope with the increasing number of clients." 88 percent of campus counseling centers surveyed by the American College Counseling Association said they experienced staffing problems due to the increase in demand, the Baltimore Sun reported in 2013.
But as of 2012, only 56 percent of four-year colleges and universities offered on-campus psychiatric services. Fewer than 13 percent of community colleges did as well. The services can't keep up with the rise in demand.
To be sure, not all of the students asking for safe spaces or trigger warnings on their campuses need therapy, nor are they all seeking these spaces because of a general lack of robust mental health service on their campuses. However, I know at least some of them are, because that's exactly what I did.