Gun Owners of America -- a far-right gun group whose leader has been linked to white supremacists and has suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government -- will host Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to address the group's "activists."
GOA is headed by Larry Pratt, a conspiracy theorist who frequently espouses extreme views on gun regulation. The group is considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association touts itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."
According to an e-mail sent to GOA supporters, Cruz will speak at a "Tele-Town Hall" meeting on May 27. GOA "is surveying and interviewing all of the candidates," but Cruz is the first to agree to address the group:
Cruz, who has received campaign contributions from GOA, previously praised the group as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
Although media sometimes ignore GOA's extremism, the group and its leader ascribe to a hard-right ideology. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign after it came to light that he had spoken at a militia conference alongside leaders of the white supremacist movement. GOA also donated "tens of thousands of dollars" to white supremacy group CAUSE in the 90s.
On the issue of gun violence, Pratt has flirted with the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting were carried out by the government. Pratt has also suggested that politicians who support gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot and recently claimed that rioters in Baltimore should have been shot on sight. Among Pratt's lowlights:
Conservative media are lashing out at a Columbia University student who protested her school's handling of her sexual assault allegation, distracting from yet another report confirming the widespread prevalence of the crime on college campuses.
In 2014, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz made headlines for her senior art thesis, a performance piece titled "Carry That Weight," in which she pledged to carry a mattress whenever she was on campus in protest of her college's handling of her own sexual assault complaint against a fellow student. On May 19, Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia, crossing the stage while carrying her mattress with the aide of four friends.
In a May 20 post for National Review Online, Ian Tuttle attacked Sulkowicz, accusing her of having lied about being assaulted. Pointing to a letter in which Sulkowicz expressed disappointment that her personal social media pages had been sorted through in order to find evidence to cast doubts on her claims, Tuttle wrote that all victims of sexual assault should "by definition" have to "submit one's own private life to scrutiny" if they want their accusations taken seriously and reported. Another post that same day by the Daily Caller's Jim Treacher similarly attacked Sulkowciz, promoting a "@FakeRape" Twitter campaign against her to make the debunked claim that false rape accusation are common.
Right-wing media's attacks on Sulkowicz come as growing evidence suggests that sexual assault is occurring at epidemic levels on college campuses.
A new study released May 20 in the Journal of Adolescent Health "surveyed 480 female freshmen at a university in upstate New York in 2010" and found that about one in five were the victims of sexual assault or attempted rape while in college, and the majority experienced it during their first three months on campus. As the Huffington Post reported, "The results confirm other research that has found about 20 percent of women are victimized by sexual assault in college. A Centers for Disease Control report last year showed 19.3 percent of women are victims of rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes." Quoting researcher Kate Carey, a professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University's School of Public Health, the article noted that this research is further evidence that "rape is a common experience among college-aged women" and there is an urgent need to address it. Carey explained that "if a similar number of young people were breaking their legs in their first year of school, 'we would expect that the community would do something to enhance the safety of the environment.'"
Conservative media have consistently worked to discredit research showing that one in five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men. Their efforts to dismiss the epidemic of campus sexual assault further stigmatizes a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 68% of the time.
Fox News' misleading smear of food stamp recipients as surfing freeloaders found its way into a congressional hearing aimed at examining the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
On May 20, the House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing addressing the "Past, Present, and Future of SNAP." Throughout the hearing, Fox News' misleading 2013 special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" that attempted to make a surfing freeloader "the new face of food stamps" was referenced several times as evidence of abuse within the program.
Fox's misrepresentation of food stamp recipients found its way into the hearing when two members on the committee used the special as anecdotal evidence of abuse within SNAP. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) used Fox's example of a "surfer out in California living on food stamps and eating lobster" as evidence of abuse within the program, though he "forg[o]t which network" aired the special.
Later, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) also referenced "the surfer that was on one of the news channels," claiming, "unfortunately, we see that in our districts, and I hear stories about that every day."
The surfer mentioned by Reps. Gibbs and Yoho was Jason Greenslate who featured in Fox's special as part of Fox News' longstanding history of maligning the poor and misrepresenting food stamp recipients. After it aired, the network delivered physical copies of the special to members of Congress in an attempt to influence a vote to cut SNAP benefits by billions of dollars.
What the special failed to note was the fact that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, the fraud and waste rate in SNAP is roughly only 1 percent. The special also ignored the fact that SNAP kept 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, many of whom are children, and that 82 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled American.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), fought to correct the record by pointing out the "surfer on food stamps" is "not the reality of the program, and it's our job to tell anybody who says it is, that it isn't" (emphasis added):
REP. MCGOVERN: I want to make sure the record is corrected on this, we heard a couple of times mention the guy who is a surfer on food stamps. That is not the reality of the program, and it's our job to tell anybody who says it is, that it isn't. The majority of people on this program are kids, are senior citizens, are those who are disabled. And of those who are able-bodied, the majority of them work. Given the opportunity between working at a job that pays a wage where I wouldn't have to rely on this benefit, or a job that I have to work full-time and I still need to rely on SNAP, I mean, we know what people would decide. So let's not demonize this program by taking some examples that may have appeared on some news show that I won't mention the name of the news show, but anyway. But the point of the matter is we ought to be talking, we ought to make sure that the narrative we are echoing here reflects the reality.
A front-page Wall Street Journal report suggested that a top political appointee in Hillary Clinton's State Department improperly "blocked" documents sought under public records law. But even the article's anonymous sources don't support that allegation.
While career officials are supposed to make the final decisions on the release of documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it is normal for political appointees to play a role in the process. As explained in a 2011 Inspector General report issued as part of an investigation into the role political appointees played in the FOIA processes of the Department of Homeland Security, both political and career officials "should undoubtedly ask questions and offer suggestions while a course of action is under consideration. This is the 'deliberative process' in which government employees must engage in order to make reasoned decisions. "The report noted that it is "appropriate that there be internal debate among DHS employees about DHS programs, and FOIA processing is no exception."
Echoing this understanding of how the FOIA process works, the Journal includes a State Department spokesman's comment that it is "entirely appropriate for certain Department personnel" to be consulted regarding FOIA requests, and a Clinton spokesman's statement that the focus of the article, former State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills, "did not inappropriately interfere with the FOIA process."
A local reporter's five-year investigation into rape kit backlogs in Ohio helped inspire state-level reforms and identify hundreds of serial rapists, evidencing how good reporting can bring about positive change to states' handling of sexual assault -- a stark contrast to conservative media's dismissal of sexual assault that may actually discourage victims from coming forward.
Reporter Rachel Dissell discovered a decades-long backlog of untested rape kits while researching sexual assaults for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. As she told NPR's Fresh Air, the Cleveland police possessed at least 4,000 untested kits, which contain DNA evidence that could be used to identify and prosecute perpetrators. While many factors contribute to why the kits were left untested, Dissell explained that often times the perceived credibility of the victim played a role: "A lot of the victims whose cases didn't go forward and whose kits weren't tested were minorities. They were drug addicts. They had mental health issues -- all kinds of things like that that just really made them the most vulnerable and the least likely to be believed."
Dissell and The Plain Dealer's reporting helped inspire a groundbreaking Ohio law mandating that old and new rape kits be tested, leading to the reopening of nearly 2,000 rape investigations and the identification of over 200 serial rapists or potential serial rapists.
The positive impact of such reporting shines a light on conservative media's comparatively dangerous coverage of sexual assault, which actively reinforces the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to discredit research showing that one-in-five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men.
Glenn Beck's TheBlazeTV argued that the sexual assault epidemic is "completely untrue" by acting out sexual positions and labelling each skit "RAPE!", while George Will asserted that victim has become a "coveted status." Pundits from Rush Limbaugh to The Weekly Standard's Harvey Mansfield have blamed women for the epidemic, while other conservative talking heads stoke fears about a supposed increase in false reports of sexual assault. Others have explicitly blamed victims for their sexual assault, describing sexual assault survivors as "bad girls...who like to be naughty" and lecturing women about the burden of personal responsibility, saying, "It is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
Such disparaging coverage not only stigmatizes victims, it can actually discourage victims from reporting the crimes and their attackers in the first place. And sexual assault is already a vastly underreported crime -- estimates show that sexual assault goes unreported nearly 70 percent of the time.
In her interview with Fresh Air, Dissell described how discrediting sexual assault victims helps their rapists go unpunished: "They knew if they chose the most vulnerable women - the least likely to be believed - that they would never get caught. And I just don't know how that happened. How did we let them outsmart us for all that time?"
Fox News was completely silent after a Christian minister pleaded guilty to plotting to attack American Muslims in New York, continuing a habit of downplaying threats to Muslims and ignoring extremist acts with no ties to Islam.
Robert Doggart, an ordained Christian minister and former Tennessee congressional candidate, was arrested and pled guilty to attempting to recruit "expert Gunners" to aid him in a plot to kill residents of Islamberg, NY, a largely Muslim community at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. RawStory reported on the details of Doggart's plan:
He met with the informant in Nashville and discussed using Molotov cocktails to firebomb buildings in the Muslim community, which was founded by African-Americans who had converted to Islam from Christianity.
Doggart told the informant during a recorded conversation that he planned to bring 500 rounds of ammunition for the M4 rifle and a pistol with three extra magazines - as well as a machete.
"If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds," he told the informant.
He said during a recorded call that the "battalion" he commanded hoped the raid on Hancock, which is also known as Islamberg, would be a "flash point" in a possible revolution.
"So sick and tired of this crap that the government is pulling that we go take a small military installation or we go burn down a Muslim church or something like that," Doggart said.
The Daily Beast pointed out that the media has remained largely silent on the story, wondering at the absence of "the Fox News panic" and noting:
It goes without saying that if Doggart had been Muslim and had planned to kill Christians in America, we would have seen wall-to-wall media coverage. Fox News would have cut into its already-daily coverage of demonizing Muslims to do a special report really demonizing Muslims.
And in fact, Fox News has made no mention of the story at all. What's more, the network does have a history of downplaying threats against Muslims while hyping any Islamic connection to terror it can find. After the Boston Marathon bombings, the network ridiculed former Attorney General Eric Holder for warning against retaliatory acts of violence, ignoring years of threats against Muslims. In 2010, Fox host Brian Kilmeade claimed that "all terrorists are Muslims."
And Fox has reacted to terror attacks committed by right-wing extremists with a yawn. After the Department of Homeland Security released a report on right-wing terror in 2015, Fox News' Eric Bolling claimed "you can't name" instances of right-wing terrorism "in the last seven years," ignoring dozens of examples.
Right-wing media have also been known to fearmonger about often-unsubstantiated Islamic terror threats. Outlets like Fox News, The Drudge Report, and The New York Post hyped an unfounded "jihadist" plot against Fort Jackson in South Carolina. And Sean Hannity and other conservatives promoted an unsubstantiated story of an Islamic State (ISIS) training camp on the U.S.-Mexico border around the same time Doggart was arrested.
Islamberg, the town Doggart was planning to attack, has also garnered Fox News' attention in the past -- a 2007 FoxNews.com article wondered if it was a "terror compound" and a report by Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed the town was home to a group engaging in "guerilla war training."
During a bizarre appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested the Obama administration is engaging in "Nazi stuff" by using ethnic politics, and wants to confiscate all the country's firearms and put people "in jail for even having them."
Jones, America's leading conspiracy theorist, believes the government perpetrated mass catastrophes like the September 11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the Boston Marathon bombing, and several mass shootings. Jones has recently been pushing the conspiracy theory that a military training exercise, Jade Helm, is an attempt to create martial law in the United States (it isn't). Jones is an ally of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul and helped launch his political career.
Fox News executive vice president Bill Shine has dismissed Jones, saying he "wishes he had a platform on Fox News ... That's not going to happen, so he should stick with trying to locate the black helicopters." Some of Carlson's colleagues have dismissed Jones as a "nut job radio guy" who owns a "radical far-right Web site."
Carlson, who is also the founder and editor in chief of The Daily Caller, claimed during the appearance that progressives use ethnic politics and identity politics to divert attention from their "policy failures." He said the strategy is "really dangerous," comparing it to countries where there is a violent ethnic divide. He said of the Obama administration: "They categorize people by race in a way that, you know, you can't even imagine -- 30 years ago you would have said, 'Wait a second, that's like Nazi stuff.'"
Fox News failed to mention that 2,700 children will be booted off Arizona's welfare program in the wake of extreme restrictions pushed through by Republicans in the state.
Arizona legislators voted on May 18 to drastically restrict the state's welfare program, capping the lifetime limit for recipients to one year. As the AP reported, the new rule would be "the shortest window" of benefits in the nation, and "As a result, the Arizona Department of Economic Security will drop at least 1,600 families - including more than 2,700 children - from the state's federally funded welfare program on July 1, 2016."
Yet no mention of the thousands of children and families that stand to lose access to the program was made during a May 20 segment on the vote during Fox News' Fox & Friends. During an interview with Arizona state Senator Kelli Ward (R), co-host Steve Doocy instead focused on state budgetary problems, asking "why was this bill important?" Going on to suggest that the bill was produced to address the frustrations about "the way welfare works in the country," Doocy gave an uncritical platform for Sen. Ward to claim that the measures were simply "necessary" despite the consequences:
But the measure will not only hurt those who need such programs most, it may also increase costs to the state in the long run. As Liz Schott, a welfare policy analyst, explained to the AP: "Long-term welfare recipients are often the most vulnerable, suffering from mental and physical disabilities, poor job histories and little education ... But without welfare, they'll likely show up in other ways that will cost taxpayers, from emergency rooms to shelters to the criminal justice system."
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed a former biker gang leader about a recent biker shootout in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead. O'Reilly's interview with his white guest was a sharp contrast to interviews the host regularly has with African-American guests, where he lectures them about black violence, culture, and family structure.
On May 17, authorities arrested roughly 170 bikers following the deadly shootout between biker gangs and police in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead and 18 wounded outside of a restaurant. According to The New York Times, "Law enforcement officials and gang experts said the conflicts between two motorcycle groups, the Bandidos and the Cossacks, led to the shooting."
During the May 19 edition of his show, O'Reilly interviewed former Bandidos biker gang member Edward Winterhalder to comment on the bloody shootout. During the discussion O'Reilly asked Winterhalder about alleged violence and criminal activity among biker gangs and allowed Winterhalder to explain uninterrupted that "there is a lot of different types of individuals in a motorcycle club" but most are law abiding citizens who "are just regular guys who have jobs, families, and kids ... the only thing they're guilty of is having a little too much fun on the weekends":
Fox News has attacked ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos for participating in Clinton Foundation-affiliated events, calling it a "mistake" that compromises "good coverage." But Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo moderated or participated in at least eight CGI events between 2008 and 2013 while at CNBC.
The Clinton Global Initiative is a nonpartisan initiative of the Clinton Foundation that convenes notable leaders to offer "solutions to the world's most pressing challenges." It holds annual meetings during which participants make charitable commitments. For years, both CGI and the Clinton Foundation were widely praised on a bipartisan basis, with attendees and donors including leading Republican politicians and conservative media moguls. But as Hillary Clinton has emerged as a leading Democratic candidate for president, conservatives have turned on the organization, painting it as a partisan extension of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
Bartiromo has heavily praised President Clinton and CGI, once lauding CGI as "fantastic" and saying Clinton and the foundation have done "so much in terms of raising awareness and money for the AIDS epidemic." Bartiromo was listed as a "member" of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on the program's website.
Bartiromo is the host of Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures and the future host of the Fox Business program Morning Money with Maria Bartiromo. She regularly covers Hillary Clinton on Fox News, according to a search of Nexis.* She moved to Fox from CNBC in January 2014.