Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza compared unrest during the Ferguson protests to the beheadings carried out by the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State.
Speaking on the August 21 edition Newsmax's The Steve Malzberg Show, D'Souza opined on the heated protests that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. D'Souza likened the actions in Ferguson to the Islamic State terrorists who beheaded innocents. From BuzzFeed (emphasis added):
MALZBERG: I just want to concentrate on Holder for one more second and his going down there and his saying what he said, do you believe that that prejudices a grand jury -- could prejudice a jury? And could it result in the prevention of a fair trial for the officer?
D'SOUZA: I think this is a really -- this is a serious issue, because here you have guys like, you have Obama, you have Holder, and you have Al Sharpton. Now, can a cop acting under the exigencies of his job expect justice if those three guys were deciding the outcome? I mean, it seems really clear that they are fostering an atmosphere in Ferguson that basically goes, "Let's declare that this guy is probably guilty and let's see what we can do to put him up against the wall." The idea that he would get impartial justice is becoming highly questionable, so this has become a real problem.
Now, historically, blacks have faced this problem and it looks like what we're seeing is a kind of complete flip, so that we're going from one set of injustices to another. And that's, you know, what the common thread between ISIS and what's going on in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct a perceived injustice, it's perfectly OK to inflict all kinds of new injustices. Behead guys who have nothing to do with it. Go and loot shops from business owners who are not part of the original problem whatsoever. And all of this is then licensed by the left and licensed to some degree by the media.
A new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union that offers a "complete factual record of stop-and-frisk activity" in New York City between 2002 and 2013 has found that this unconstitutionally performed policing tactic was largely ineffective at reducing violent crime, a clear rebuttal to right-wing media's frequent justifications for the practice.
Right-wing media have long supported stop-and-frisk policies that allow police officers to stop, question, and pat down "suspicious" pedestrians. Although stop-and-frisk when correctly practiced is generally legal, the racially discriminatory version employed by the New York Police Department was determined to be unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013. The judge in that case determined that "at least 200,000 stops were made without reasonable suspicion," which "resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause."
Nevertheless, right-wing media complained loudly about the decision, accusing the judge of "substitut[ing] her own view of the world, her own utopian view of how the world should be for the way the real life is, for the people who are trying to get by, not get killed, not get robbed, not get raped on the streets of New York."
Fox News has been particularly vocal in their support for stop-and-frisk, with Bill O'Reilly continually insisting that stops reduce crime because "the police take the guns and they pat down people" and that without it, "more black Americans and more Hispanic Americans are going to die." O'Reilly has also stated that stop-and-frisk "is racial profiling, but it's really criminal profiling." Most recently, frequent Fox guest Bo Dietl, a former New York police officer, argued that scaling back stop-and-frisk was "ridiculous," because, he claimed, it made the streets less safe for law enforcement. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy agreed, and suggested that the police were "demoralized" after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced reforms to address unconstitutional policing tactics. Other Fox hosts have erroneously claimed that stop-and-frisk is responsible for New York City's declining murder rate.
But the NYCLU's comprehensive report, which analyzes 12 years of stop-and-frisk data from NYPD records, debunks right-wing media's claims that this controversial law enforcement tool was essential for public safety. From the report:
The NYPD often sought to justify the large number of stops on the grounds that the stop-and-frisk program was critically important to recovering guns and thus reducing shootings and murders. The NYPD's data contradict this argument.
Between 2003 and 2011, annual stops increased dramatically, but gun recoveries, which were always a tiny percentage of stops, moved up and down and any increases were quite small. During that same time, the number of shooting victims remained largely flat and murders moved up and down. By contrast, in 2012 and 2013, recorded stops dropped dramatically. At the same time shootings and murders dropped dramatically.
As The Washington Post explained, "to the extent that supporters have argued that stop-and-frisk makes cities safer, the above chart is a fair rebuttal."
Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown loved an anti-Obamacare documentary from his former employer so much that he's now screening it for New Hampshire voters.
Brown's campaign website states that he is hosting "a special screening" of the Fox News documentary Live Free or Die: Obamacare in New Hampshire on August 22 in Dover, New Hampshire. Brown's campaign describes the special as "the documentary that" incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne "Shaheen doesn't want you to see." Brown also promoted the event on his Facebook page and Twitter account.
Fox News has engaged in an all-out effort to elect its former network contributor to the Senate from the Granite State. That has included airing the August 8 Live Free or Die special anchored by Bret Baier. The documentary was tailor-made for Brown's campaign, touting the upcoming election while raising concerns about the Affordable Care Act.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party criticized the "faux documentary" as "a blatant attempt to prop up their former employee's campaign, full of half-truths and misleading rhetoric." Even one of Brown's Republican primary opponents, former Sen. Bob Smith, has criticized Fox's pro-Scott Brown coverage as "shoddy" and "not fair and balanced."
In 2013 and 2014, Brown used his Fox News employment as a launching pad for his long-discussed run for Senate from New Hampshire, with the network's apparent approval. He's said that working for Fox News "really charged me up to" run for office again.
Brown has dismissed criticism that Fox News is helping his campaign. When asked on August 12 on WGIR about a reported fundraising email Shaheen sent criticizing Fox's documentary, Brown replied, "to think somehow that Fox is doing something for me because I was a, you know, part-time contributor, it's laughable ... she wants to talk about and run a fundraising ad off of a commercial or a show of some sort that basically is right on everything. How about she comes and does an ad and talks about why she voted for this."
Fox paid Brown $108,000 as a "part-time contributor" in 2013.
The Brown campaign did not return a request for comment as of posting.
Controversial filmmaker and Republican operative David Bossie accompanied Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) when the senator took several reporters to watch him perform surgery in Central America. Bossie's past work, which includes deliberately doctoring evidence to smear the Clintons, has been denounced by fellow Republicans, including Newt Gingrich and former President George H. W. Bush.
According to The Washington Post, Paul visited Guatemala this week to spend some time practicing medicine again (Paul is an ophthalmologist), but the presence on the trip of Citizen's United President David Bossie "cast aside any doubt that the trip was merely an opportunity for the senator to reconnect with his medical roots":
Bossie is the [president] of Citizens United, the group whose lawsuit led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited funds on direct advocacy for or against political candidates. A documentary filmmaker who has shadowed Paul before, he traveled here with his daughter and a film crew equipped with lights, cameras and an unmanned aerial drone for overhead shots. Bossie said little about his plans, other than that his footage would appear in a film either about Paul or an issue of importance to him.
Paul's association with Bossie links him to the operative's shady past. In 1998, Bossie was fired from his job as chief investigator for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- which was investigating alleged Clinton White House finance abuses -- because he released selectively edited transcripts that gave the false impression that then-first lady Hillary Clinton had been implicated in wrongdoing. The full comments revealed that Clinton had done nothing wrong. The Washington Post reported in a May 1998 article that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) told the chairman of the committee upon Bossie's removal, "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee."
Bossie's shady tactics go back even further. In 1992, during the Clinton-Bush presidential race, he was repudiated by George H.W. Bush, who filed an FEC complaint against Bossie's group after it produced a TV ad inviting voters to call a hot line to hear almost certainly doctored tape-recorded conversations. George W. Bush, on his father's behalf, "even sent out a letter to 85,000 Republican contributors encouraging them not to contribute to" Bossie's campaign effort.
Bossie was also reportedly behind the notorious "melon-shooting, staged re-enactment of the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr.," in which then-GOP congressman Dan Burton was widely ridiculed for shooting a melon in his backyard ostensibly to prove that Foster had been murdered, despite reports showing Foster had committed suicide.
This is not the first time Bossie has promoted Paul. In a March 2013 Hill article, Bossie was quoted as praising Paul's filibuster over drone policy, saying "These are the types of events that make you a player, so that in three years you've laid the groundwork and [it's] not just assumed you're going to be a fringe Libertarian and Tea Party-only candidate." Later in the piece, Bossie suggested that Paul could be "taken seriously by establishment Republicans":
Bossie said GOP voters who crave a leader who stands on principle -- and who often questioned Romney's conservative bonafides -- are more likely to view Paul as one of their own.
"Post the 2012 general election debacle, with a nominee who was not a conservative and who lost a race that was winnable ... the Republican institutional voters, as well as the conservative movement within the Republican Party, are desperately looking for principled leadership," said Bossie.
"That is something that has been lacking, and that's where his filibuster will make him stand out."
Bossie noted Paul has already taken "methodical" steps to differentiate himself from his father, "in order to be taken seriously by establishment Republicans."
Paul also attended an event in 2014 in New Hampshire called the Freedom Summit, which was co-sponsored by Bossie's Citizens United. The event was described by Politico as a "cattle call of potential Republican 2016 hopefuls," and the "unofficial start to '16 GOP primary" by the Washington Times.
Image via Gage Skidmore
Fox News' The Kelly File hosted 2012 Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to attack President Obama's foreign policy and rewrite the history of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
President Obama on August 7 authorized limited airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq to prevent "genocide" and protect Americans in the region. The Islamic State released a video of its murder of American journalist James Foley on Tuesday, citing the U.S. airstrikes and demanding an end to them. The airstrikes prompted a right-wing media backlash blaming President Obama for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, which they accused of increasing the danger posed by the Islamic State.
On August 21, Fox host Megyn Kelly accused President Obama of a reversal on "whether he did or did not order the withdrawal of all of our troops," and of making the decision not to leave a residual force in Iraq. After making this assertion, she asked 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney whether Obama "is misleading the American people." Romney claimed President Obama had made "extraordinary errors with regards to the Middle East," and cited the lack of "the Status of Forces Agreement that would allow us to have troops in Iraq" as a fundamental cause contributing to the growth of the Islamic State and the danger it represents.
Contrary to this attempt to rewrite history, President Obama did not refuse to negotiate a SOFA with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to leave behind American forces. His attempts to negotiate the SOFA were thwarted by the Iraqi government, whose parliament was unwilling to approve the agreement -- approval that was made necessary by a precedent set in 2008 by President Bush.
Time reported in 2011 that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq was "an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending" the existing SOFA. The AP also noted that the Iraqi government stopped the SOFA negotiations when it became unwilling to grant American troops legal immunity -- protections "common in nearly every country where U.S. forces operate," and similar to those guaranteed in Bush's 2008 SOFA. Colin H. Kahn, the senior Pentagon official responsible for Iraq policy during the first three years of the Obama administration, explained:
Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, told U.S. negotiators that he was willing to sign an executive memorandum of understanding that included these legal protections. But for any agreement to be binding under the Iraqi constitution, it had to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. This was the judgment of every senior administration lawyer and Maliki's own legal adviser, and no senior U.S. military commander made the case that we should leave forces behind without these protections.
Unfortunately, Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular (only in Iraqi Kurdistan did a majority of people want American G.I.s to stay). Maliki was willing to consider going to parliament to approve a follow-on agreement, but he was not willing to stick his neck out.
So when Iraq's major political bloc leaders met in early October 2011 in an all-night session, they agreed on the need for continued U.S. "trainers" but said they were unwilling to seek immunities for these troops through the parliament. The die was thus cast. Obama and Maliki spoke on Oct. 21 and agreed that U.S. forces would depart as scheduled by the end of the year.
Fox News turned to misleading statistics and sensational rhetoric in a renewed attack on government anti-poverty relief programs, federal workers, and public pensions.
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott invited Fox Business contributor Charles Gasparino to discuss concerns regarding the scope and sustainability of government benefit programs. The two falsely portrayed government employment as a "growth industry" and made a confusing comparison between the total number of Americans receiving so-called "welfare" and the population of Russia. Gasparino lamented that more "stigma" is not attached to receiving federal aid or "living in a housing project," before falsely concluding that public pensions face a "huge looming crisis" and are, in essence, "Ponzi schemes":
GASPARINO: I don't think Americans are against handing people a check if they really need it, if they're starving, if they need welfare, if they need a helping hand. But we have a cultural situation in this country where it is more than that, where it is almost acceptable. The stigma is gone about accepting that check.
GASPARINO: We've become the old Soviet Union! If you threw in the state numbers, it would even be bigger. The pension issue that I brought up is one of the huge looming crisis out there. It's essentially a Ponzi scheme.
Scott's initial claim that "nearly 110 million Americans live in households on welfare," is misleading. According to the United States Census Bureau, in the fourth quarter of 2012 roughly 109.6 million Americans resided in a household receiving "one or more means-tested programs." These include housing assistance, disability and survivor benefits, numerous nutritional assistance programs, Medicaid, and forms of "cash assistance." Only 5.4 million individuals lived in homes receiving from the benefit program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as "welfare."
The portrayal of government employment as a "growth industry" is also false. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, total government employment across local, state, and federal agencies has declined significantly during the Obama administration and over the past seven years. Total government employment was roughly 22.6 million when President Obama took office in 2009, declining to 21.9 million today:
Gasparino's final claim that public employee pensions are "a Ponzi scheme," is incorrect. A February 2011 report by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) demonstrated that most of the long-term funding shortfall in public pensions is a result of the 2007-2009 economic crisis and the accompanying stock market downturn. Baker concluded that the debate on pensions had been "seriously misrepresented" and that most public pensions appeared "easily manageable" over the long term.
Fox News and Gasparino have a long history of misappropriating terms like "welfare" and relying on sensational comparisons of pensions to "Ponzi schemes," in addition to unsubstantiated correlations between the number of recipients of a government program with completely unrelated population statistics.
A Washington Post article about sexual assault on college campuses failed to provide crucial context about how rare false reports of these incidents actually are.
After the White House formed a task force in January to address the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, a wave of bipartisan efforts to address the problem have pushed the issue into the national spotlight.
In the August 20 article, the Post discussed the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses by centering the issue around how those accused of the crime were "fighting back against what they call unfair disciplinary systems and publicity that threatens to shatter their reputations." The Post also aired concerns from "some of the accused" that the nationwide push to curb campus sexual assault "has led to an unfair tipping of the scales" against alleged perpetrators.
But at no point did the Post report that the rate of false reports of sexual assaults is low. Most rigorous research puts the rate at between 2 percent and 8 percent, according to a recent report published by the National District Attorneys Association's National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women.
Studies like the recent national survey conducted for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have also found that colleges not only routinely fail to investigate sexual assault allegations, but when they do, some institutions actually "afford certain due process elements more frequently to alleged perpetrators than they do to survivors."
The perpetuation of the myth of widespread false reports has serious consequences. According to the White House report on sexual assault, this myth in particular "may help account for" low rates of both the reporting of sexual assault and arrests of perpetrators:
Many factors may contribute to low arrest rates, and these cases can be challenging to investigate. However, research shows that some police officers still believe certain rape myths (e.g., that many women falsely claim rape to get attention), which may help account for the low rates. Similarly, if victims do not behave the way some police officers expect (e.g., crying) an officer may believe she is making a false report -- when, in reality, only 2-10% of reported rapes are false.
While many national outlets are dismissing the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry as political payback, Texas journalists warn that such claims are misguided, incomplete, and the product of a "rush to judgment."
On August 15, news broke that Perry was being indicted for "abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant," both of which are felonies.
The charges relate to Perry's threatened and completed veto of $7.5 million in state funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit.
The case claims that the threat and veto were retaliation against Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat and the head of that unit, who ignored Perry's call for her to resign after she was convicted of drunk driving. At the time Lehmberg's unit was investigating corruption in a program Perry had heavily touted; if she had resigned, Perry would have appointed her replacement.
Following the announcement, a split has emerged among press covering the story. Much of the Lone Star State media has covered it as a valid legal proceeding and part of a greater picture of misconduct, while national media are treating Perry's indictment as mere politics.
The New York Times editorial board speculated that it "appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution." Liberal New York magazine reporter Jonathan Chait labeled the indictment "unbelievably ridiculous." A USA Today editorial dubbed it a "flimsy indictment," while The Wall Street Journal called it "prosecutorial abuse for partisan purposes."
But Texas journalists say many on the national level don't know the facts and context and are too quick to judge from afar.
"The national pundits -- and some of them are very thoughtful people -- tend to focus first and most easily on the politics," said Wayne Slater, a columnist at the Dallas Morning News. "How does this particular event help or hurt that candidate in the potential horse race? Many reporters in Texas know Perry and are much more familiar with the details in this case, the fact that these are Republicans investigating this and that Perry has a history of hardball politics in forcing people out. This is a much more nuanced story than some in the Beltway understand."
Slater adds, "Rick Perry is getting good press because he has been masterful in the way he has framed this as a matter of partisan politics. Instinctively political journalists and reporters and outlets at some distance understand that Perry is winning the politics at the moment and that his narrative of events really comports with their general sense of how things work, that politicians threaten people and coerce people."
Forrest Wilder, who is covering the story for the Texas Observer, noted in a recent piece that the criminal complaint against Perry filed in June 2013 by Texans for Public Justice was assigned to a Republican judge who then appointed a former prosecutor in the George H.W. Bush administration as special prosecutor. In comments to Media Matters, Wilder said the charges were something "we should take seriously."
With the nation's attention turned toward the growing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, media figures have called on President Obama to speak out more forcefully on the situation and race relations in America. But Obama's past statements on race have been met with attacks from conservative commentators, blasting Obama for "promoting racial division" and "exacerbating racial tensions."
Voices currently urging the nation's first black president to say more on race ignore the marked history of conservative media figures' accusations of race-baiting in response to Obama's previous remarks:
Fox News host Keith Ablow continued his attacks on First Lady Michelle Obama's weight, suggesting the first lady is a hypocrite on nutrition standards because photographs he claims to have seen prove, in Ablow's mind, that Obama has "struggled with her own weight" while in the White House.
Ablow was widely criticized after he dismissed the first lady's school nutrition efforts on the August 12 edition of Fox's Outnumbered, because he determined "she needs to drop a few" pounds. His comments engendered a widespread backlash, including from his own Fox colleagues. Ablow went on to defend his comments the next day to Politico, saying he was "not taking food advice from an American who dislikes America" and "has not been consistently a picture of fitness."
On the August 21 edition of Outnumbered, Ablow doubled down on his offensive comments, citing unspecified "images online" as proof of Michelle Obama's personal hypocrisy on fitness:
ABLOW: Well, listen, first, let's provide some context. The context was to remind people the draconian standards set by the first lady in her school lunch program, such that children are throwing their school lunches away. They're inedible. They won't eat them. And what I was reacting to was the hypocrisy. Let me phrase it slightly differently. For someone who has struggled with her own weight, which I think she would agree with -who has struggled so many of us have -- for someone like that to say we're going to set draconian standards and dial everything so far down thatit's inedible.
FAULKNER: How do you know she struggled with her weight?
ABLOW: Well, okay, because I know from the images online that she has struggled with her weight or chosen -- or chosen to be much heavier than at other points in the administration. Maybe she's chosen it. You're saying how do I know she's struggled. Maybe she didn't struggle. Maybe she chose to be a larger woman for some --