Right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt allowed former Florida Governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush to make false claims on his radio program about Indiana's recently passed "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) without challenging Bush's statements, and was wrong about the law himself.
Hewitt, who will be co-moderating a Republican presidential debate, has been described as a more serious right-wing radio host than other conservative figures, and someone who is more likely to hold his guests accountable for their comments. But in this case, not only did Hewitt fail to do that, he also made the same false claims about Indiana's law.
The law, signed by Governor Mike Pence (R), allows individuals and businesses to cite their religious beliefs as a legal defense against discrimination claims of those denied services due to sexual orientation or gender identity. The law is facing extensive criticism, with calls to boycott the state increasing.
On March 30, Hewitt hosted Jeb Bush on his radio show. During the interview, Hewitt asked for Bush's opinion of the law, pointing out that not many Republicans had defended Pence for signing it. Bush said he agreed with the law, claiming it was similar to laws in other states, such as Florida, and at the federal level. Hewitt misleadingly conflated the federal 1993 RFRA currently in effect in the District of Columbia with the newer -- and broader -- state versions of which Indiana is the latest example (emphasis added):
BUSH: I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to be able to be people of conscience. I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all.
HEWITT: Yeah, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed in 1993. It's been the law in the District of Columbia for 22 years. I do not know of a single incident of the sort that Tim Cook was warning about occurring in the District in the last 22 years.
BUSH: But there are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington State who had a business that, based on her conscience, she couldn't be participating in a gay wedding, organizing it, even though the person, one of the people, was a friend of hers, and she was taken to court and still in court. Or the photographer in New Mexico. There are many cases where people, acting on their conscience, have been castigated by the government. And this law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish that there's been some kind of discrimination. We're going to need this. This is really an important value for our country to, in a diverse country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people's lifestyles but allow for people of faith to be able to exercise theirs.
Contrary to Hewitt's and Bush's claims, neither other state RFRAs nor the federal RFRA have the same reach as Indiana's law, which explicitly includes corporations as opposed to only people, and allows religious beliefs to be used as a legal defense against an anti-discrimination claim in civil cases even when the government is not involved.
Three of Rupert Murdoch's largest and most powerful news outlets promoted baseless conspiracy theories that Google is using its alleged "close ties" with the Obama administration to receive favorable treatment and to push its policy agenda. Murdoch has a long history of attacking Google.
On March 24, News Corp's Wall Street Journal reported on the purportedly close ties between the Obama administration and Google after discovering that Google employees have visited the White House multiple times since President Obama took office. The piece went on to allege that Google used its ties with the White House to get favorable action from a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) antitrust probe into the company.
The New York Post (News Corp) went further on March 28 in an article titled "Google controls what we buy, the news we read - and Obama's policies." The article speculated that Google has used its influence and financial contributions to the Obama administration to receive favors including net neutrality regulation, favorable FTC action, and contracts to fix the Affordable Care Act's website. The piece speculated on "what's coming next: politically filtered information."
21st Century Fox's Fox News echoed the New York Post during the March 30 edition of Fox & Friends, with co-host Clayton Morris claiming "the same search engine that controls our news also controls the White House." During the show, Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo claimed that Google was "being investigated, the president dropped it -- net neutrality -- Google wanted the president to go that way." Bartiromo also speculated on whether Google was "editing" the news "to make it more favorable for the president."
But the Wall Street Journal admitted that the "FTC closed its investigation after Google agreed to make voluntary changes to its business practices." And the FTC pushed back critically to the Journal's piece, writing:
The article suggests that a series of disparate and unrelated meetings involving FTC officials and executive branch officials or Google representatives somehow affected the Commission's decision to close the search investigation in early 2013. Not a single fact is offered to substantiate this misleading narrative.
Rupert Murdoch, head of both News Corp and Twenty-First Century Fox, has a history of attacking Google. Murdoch has accused Google of being "piracy leaders," and in 2009 found himself in a war of words against Google and threatened to block his content from the search engine.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier debunked the network's defense of Indiana's discriminatory "religious freedom" law, explaining that the law is broader than both federal law and similar measures in other states.
Last week, Indiana became the center of a political firestorm after the state legislature passed its version of the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA), a law that allows private individuals and for-profit business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a legal defense against claims of discrimination from consumers who have been wrongfully denied services based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. As the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana explained, Indiana's RFRA "may embolden individuals and businesses who now feel that their religious liberty is 'burdened' by treating a member of the LGBT community equally and that their 'burden' trumps others' rights to be free from discrimination."
Proponents of the law, including Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence, have downplayed these potential consequences by incorrectly claiming that the law is noncontroversial because it merely mirrors the federal RFRA and RFRAs in other states. It's a talking point that has been repeated on Fox News, which has so far depicted Indiana's law as a benign attempt to protect the devout from government encroachment on religious freedom.
But during the March 30 edition of Happening Now, Baier deflated his network's defense of the law, explaining to host Eric Shawn that Indiana's RFRA is "broader" than both federal law and other state RFRAs:
ERIC SHAWN: You know, the law was intended to protect personal religious liberties against government overreach and intrusion. So what happened?
BAIER: Well, Indiana's law is written a little differently. It is more broad. It is different than the federal law that it's close to, but different than, and also different than 19 other states and how the law is written. In specific terms, Indiana's law deals with a person who can claim religious persecution but that includes corporations, for profit entities and it could also be used as a defense in a civil suit that does not involve the government. That is broader than the other laws. This is where it's a little different in Indiana's case. You saw governor Mike Pence try to defend the law and say it's just like the 1993 federal law where it's just like 19 other states, but as you look in the fine print, it's not really, and it may be something that Indiana deals with in specifics to line up with the others.
SHAWN: Obviously, it had good intentions. What do you think happened to make it kind of go off the rails this way?
BAIER: Well, how it was structured, Eric. And I think that, you know, there may be good intentions behind it but how it's being interpreted is being a little bit more forward leaning than any other Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the books. What this does politically, obviously Mike Pence has been talked about as a governor thinking about a 2016 run. We don't know if he's going to do it or not. But that interview with Stephanopoulos over the weekend was obviously not a great back and forth in defense of this law that likely is going to have to be at least tweaked, if not changed. [emphasis added]
Tucker Carlson lauded Wyoming Catholic College's decision to reject federal funding and continue its discriminatory practices in the college's admissions and hiring processes.
The school recently chose to not participate in federal student aid programs, citing a desire to distance itself from the federal government's "influence and control." On the March 29 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, host Tucker Carlson interviewed the school's president to discuss his institution's decision. President Kevin Roberts explained that the college was avoiding federal provisions that would require the educational establishment to respect basic protections for the LGBT community in the admissions and hiring processes.
Carlson: What are you concerned that the federal government would force you to do against your faith if you continue to take money?
Roberts: Well, as I said, we're a faithful Catholic college, which means that while we love all people and we have charity toward all, we would have problems with admissions and with employment with a transgendered person or someone with a same sex attraction who wanted to be active and an activist with that. And so, in spite of what people think the church may be changing in terms of the beliefs, we believe that in order to maintain church teaching on those principles that we ought not have strings attached to that federal money.
Carlson went on to ask Roberts if the school's move meant the institution could then set its own standards for hiring. Roberts responded saying Wyoming Catholic College would only selectively discriminate in its hiring and admissions processes:
Carlson: So, does this mean, because you're not going to be taking federal money, that you can have any employment standards that you wish?
Roberts: Well, within reason, right? We're not going to discriminate in other ways, but church teaching is very clear that if we were to have, say, a transgendered student want to apply it's not in line with church teaching. It does not mean we hate that person at all. We love them. But it simply doesn't square with the college we have founded in Wyoming.
George Will ignored Hillary Clinton's substantial accomplishments as secretary of state, senator, and first lady in order to suggest that her support from Democrats is due solely to "identity politics."
In his latest Washington Post column, Will describes the Democratic Party as "adrift in identity politics, cling[ing], as shipwrecked sailors do to floating debris, to this odd feminist heroine," and writes that Clinton's "performance in governance has been defined by three failures." Will goes on to cherry-pick instances from Clinton's career, ignoring her achievements in the White House, Senate, and at State to portray her as a failure.
In citing Clinton's time as first lady, he omits, for example, Clinton's role in the passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which expanded health insurance for children in lower-income households. Will also ignores her pivotal role in the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which eased processes allowing the removal of children from abusive situations.
Clinton also helped to create the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women and used her platform to raise the issue of abuse against women internationally, telling the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women in China that, "It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights."
Will says Clinton's tenure in the Senate was "an uneventful prelude to her 2008 presidential quest," failing to note that she sponsored or co-sponsored 54 bills that eventually became law. These including writing a section of the No Child Left Behind law addressing recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers; co-authoring a law compelling drug companies to conduct pediatric safety tests on products prescribed for children; working with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on language in a defense authorization bill giving members of the military access to the Tricare health system even when they aren't deployed; and sponsoring a bill which would mandate more efficient distribution of flu vaccines.
Going on to describe her appointment as Secretary State as a "consolation prize," Will downplays Clinton's accomplishments during her years in the position. These include opening up Myanmar as the first secretary of state to make an official visit there since 1955, negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas with the help of Egypt in 2012, and tightening international sanctions on Iran to their highest level ever with nearly a dozen countries significantly reducing their purchases of Iranian oil in 2012.
Will concludes by ominously noting, "Another Clinton presidency probably would include a reprise of the couple's well-known patterns of behavior." But readers won't get a clear picture of those "patterns" by reading Will's dishonest column.
The press has almost entirely ignored the revelation that after the "richest man in Wisconsin" made secret donations benefitting Republican Governor Scott Walker, his company received special tax credits for that same donor's company.
By contrast, the media have frequently invoked donations to the Clinton Foundation in their coverage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, baselessly suggesting that those donations create conflicts of interest.
Yahoo News reported March 23 that John Menard Jr., the billionaire owner of a chain of hardware stores in the Midwest, donated over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which "pledged to keep its donors secret." Walker helped generate large, undisclosed donations for the group, according to records unveiled as part of a criminal investigation into whether the interactions of such groups with Walker's campaign committee violated state campaign finance laws. The Club defended Walker in the 2012 recall election, where he prevailed.
Since then, Menard's company "has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records." Walker appointees also scaled back enforcement actions by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "a top Menard priority."
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave a detailed account of the story on her March 24 broadcast:
Yet the pay-to-play allegations swirling around Walker, a possible Republican presidential candidate, have been widely ignored by others in the media.
The story hasn't been covered on the three major broadcast networks, CNN, or Fox News, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters' video archives. The Rachel Maddow Show appears to be MSNBC's only mention of the story. Besides a reprint of an Associated Press article noting a denial of wrongdoing from the Walker administration, the New York Times hasn't covered the story. And the only references from The Washington Post are in a post on the progressive Plum Line blog and the same AP story the Times reprinted.
By contrast, the media has repeatedly raised the specter of "ethical concerns" over donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments and individuals, among others. They have persisted with this coverage despite the clear indications from Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state that the donations did not influence her politically and the reality that the donations went to a global charity, not a fund benefiting her election.
More than 150 writers and professors sent a letter to CBS criticizing 60 Minutes' Ebola coverage, which they described as a "frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent."
According to Politico, former New York Times foreign correspondent and associate professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Howard D. French, along with 150 academics and journalists sent a letter to 60 Minutes' executive producer Jeffery Fager, condemning what they called "many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa." The letter takes issue with 60 Minutes' failure to air the perspective of Africans during their reports on Ebola from areas like Liberia, noting that "the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease." The letter continued:
Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest.
Liberians not only died from Ebola, but many of them contributed bravely to the fight against the disease, including doctors, nurses and other caregivers, some of whom gave their lives in this effort. Despite this, the only people heard from on the air were white foreigners who had come to Liberia to contribute to the fight against the disease.
Taken together, this anachronistic style of coverage reproduces, in condensed form, many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa. To be clear, this means that Africa only warrants the public's attention when there is disaster or human tragedy on an immense scale, when Westerners can be elevated to the role of central characters, or when it is a matter of that perennial favorite, wildlife. As a corollary, Africans themselves are typically limited to the role of passive victims, or occasionally brutal or corrupt villains and incompetents; they are not otherwise shown to have any agency or even the normal range of human thoughts and emotions. Such a skewed perspective not only disserves Africa, it also badly disserves the news viewing and news reading public.
In a statement to the Columbia Journalism Review, a 60 Minutes spokesperson responded that they have invited French to discuss the issue and said that "60 Minutes is proud of its coverage of Africa and has received considerable recognition for it." French told CJR that he "would be happy to speak with them, but the only basis for sincere conversation that I can detect would be engaging on the points of my letter, and they have not done that."
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson defended Indiana's anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law, inaccurately equating it to existing federal legislation to claim the bill is "harmless" and necessary to protect Christians from discrimination.
On the March 25 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson and her guests discussed Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law that creates a broad license for individuals and business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a defense against charges of discrimination. Businesses, religious leaders, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis have all condemned the state's RFRA law for its potential to encourage discrimination against LGBT people in particular.
During the segment, Carlson and her guests falsely equated Indiana's RFRA with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act , which was originally passed in 1993 to prevent the government from passing laws that substantially burdening a person's free expression of religion, with a few exceptions. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA did not apply to the states, resulting in many states passing their own local RFRAs:
But Indiana's SB 101, is not, as Carlson and her guests assert, an exact replica of the federal RFRA. A February 27 letter by 30 legal scholars expressing their concern over the proposed Indiana RFRA explains the distinction between the SB 101 and the 1993 federal law:
The state RFRA bills do not, in fact, mirror the language of the federal RFRA.
The definition of "person" under the proposed RFRA differs substantially from that contained in the federal RFRA, affording standing to assert religious liberty rights to a much broader class of entities than that currently recognized by federal law.
Unlike the federal RFRA, Indiana's RFRA contains an extremely broad definition of "person" that includes organizations, corporations, or companies that are: "compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by an individual or the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes."
As Buzzfeed also reported:
The Indiana bill is broader than federal law. While the Indiana bill says that a "governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion," it also applies those rules to businesses and interactions between private parties "regardless of whether the state or any other government entity is party to the proceeding."
Carlson and her guests also downplayed the opposition against RFRA by noting that the federal bill was originally passed with bipartisan support. But the unforeseen consequences of RFRA have caused many democratic legislators who originally voted on RFRA to withdraw their support of the law. As the same legal scholars explain in their letter (emphasis added):
This parallel between support for the federal RFRA and the proposed state RFRA is misplaced. In fact, many members of the bipartisan coalition that supported the passage of the federal RFRA in 1993 now hold the view that the law has been interpreted and applied in ways they did not expect at the time they lent their endorsement to the law. As a result, the legislators who voted on RFRA have distanced themselves from their initial backing of the legislation.
As legal and religious scholar Dr. Jay Michaelson noted, these unintended consequences amount to a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people, because state RFRA laws could allow "individuals and businesses [to] exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws by proffering religious objections to them."
Portraying Indiana's RFRA as benign legislation identical to the "bipartisan" federal law isn't just inaccurate journalism. It is a part of Fox's larger role in promoting the narrative of Christian persecution to support the passage of a number of state RFRAs now being considered in states across the country. Expect to see Fox continue to misrepresent RFRA as a harmless law protecting "religious liberty" while ignoring the fact that these bills are actually the product of powerful anti-LGBT organizations lobbying to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination.
Mired in conflicts of interest, Watchdog.org's Wisconsin Reporter has remained silent as new information emerges concerning Governor Scott Walker's (R-WI) role in a potential pay-to-play scandal. The site, which echoed defendants calling the investigation a "witch hunt," has previously defended Walker from the allegations of campaign finance violations in over 150 articles.
The Wisconsin Reporter has been a staunch defender of Walker against allegations of wrongdoing stemming from the "John Doe" investigations, the protected state probes into Walker's campaign practices and possible illegal campaign coordination. Since January 1 of this year, the Reporter has published 19 articles either defending Walker or denouncing the validity of the investigations.The Reporter's website includes a special series on the "John Doe" investigations titled "Wisconsin's Secret War," which currently has 186 total entries.
But the Wisconsin Reporter has been silent as evidence reportedly leaked from the very investigation it has covered so heavily revealed potential instances of pay-to-play between a local business man and the Walker administration.
At issue is over $1.5 million in donations made in 2012 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCG), a group that defended the Governor during his 2012 recall election and is directed by Walker's campaign advisor, Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff reported on March 23. The donations were made by hardware store franchise owner John Menard Jr. According to Isikoff, in the years after Walker survived that recall election, Menard's business has benefited from "up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs."
Before the evidence of Menard's donation to WCG became public, the Reporter defended Eric O'Keefe, director of the WCG, against allegations that he and the WCG improperly coordinated with Walker. In multiple articles the Reporter gave O'Keefe and the WCG a platform to deny wrongdoing and undermine the investigation by calling it a "witch hunt." While prosecutors have not commented on the case to the site, O'Keefe told the Reporter, "From its inception, this was a scam, a political pursuit." In an attempt to undermine the case, the Reporter highlighted the growing cost of the investigation, questioned the independence of the chief justice hearing the case, and promoted counter investigations into the prosecution.
The Reporter has not yet mentioned Menard's donation and subsequent tax breaks, a major development in the story that made national headlines. Their silence on the story highlights the conflicts of interest that surround the outlet's reporting on Walker and the "John Doe" investigations.
The Reporter is part of The Franklin Center, a group of web-based media outlets founded in part by EricO'Keefe. The Franklin Center's Watchdog.org media group -- which includes the Wisconsin Reporter -- claims they are "in no way partisan," however the Franklin Center received 95 percent of their funding in 2011 from Donors Trust, a conservative clearing house used to pump money indirectly into politics, and whose chief executive told The Guardian that no donations to the trust would go "to liberals."
The Franklin Center's ties to conservative Wisconsin groups goes beyond O'Keefe and the WCG. In an op-ed in The Capital Times, Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy reported that Franklin Center Director of Special Projects John Connors has also acted as president of Citizens for a Strong America, another conservative group funded by the Club for Growth which was named as a target of the "John Doe" investigation. After apologizing for not disclosing Connors' connection to the case, the Wisconsin Reporter continued to defend Walker and those involved in the investigation.
CORRECTION: This post originally stated that John Connors was personally named in the "John Doe" investigation. While it is unknown if Connors is personally named, he has acted as the president of Citizens for a Strong America, which is named in the investigation. This information was uncovered by the Center for Media and Democracy's Brendan Fischer, not The Capital Times as originally reported.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent called MSNBC host and civil rights activist Al Sharpton a "racist mongrel" and claimed that the only racism he can discern in the United States is "coming out of the White House" during a radio appearance.
Nugent's racially charged attack on Sharpton comes weeks before he is scheduled to appear at the NRA's annual meeting, which will be held April 10 through 12 in Nashville, Tennessee. On April 12, Nugent is scheduled to give a presentation titled "Freedom is not Free and We the People Must Keep It Alive!" According to the NRA, Nugent will "remind Americans that there is a cost for the Freedoms that we enjoy" and tell the crowd "what you can do to keep this country free" during his appearance.
During a March 24 appearance on KFYI's The Mike Broomhead Show, Nugent said that he was "shattered" to learn of racism against African-Americans as a young person, but that "by the late 60s, the 70s, I couldn't find racism. I never saw racism. I never heard of racism. I thought it was a thing of the past in isolated pockets of inbreeding and cannibalism and spiritlessness." According to Nugent, he only became aware of racism again after hearing President Obama's comments on the controversy that surrounded the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, who is African-American, by a white police officer.
Citing Obama's remarks on Trayvon Martin, "the racism of" Attorney General Eric Holder, and "racist mongrel" Al Sharpton, Nugent said, "nowhere can I find racism except coming out of the White House."