Displaying a remarkable lack of self-awareness, Rush Limbaugh tried to convince a caller that "it's a pretty safe bet" that liberals always lie and conservatives never do -- an assertion he backed up with a series of his own lies on everything from abortion to minority vote suppression and the IRS.
On the June 18 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh addressed a caller who expressed interest in hearing both sides -- liberal and conservative -- of any given debate before coming to his own conclusion on the issue. Limbaugh chastised the caller for informing himself in this manner, telling him, "The liberals lie. I do not form my opinions on what both sides say. I form my opinions on what I know to be right." Limbaugh concluded that it's a "pretty safe bet" that liberals are always lying, while conservatives don't lie. In his attempts to prove his theory, Limbaugh turned to some misinformation of his own on the subject of abortion and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The Wall Street Journal is using the Supreme Court's decision to hear a Fair Housing Act case as a springboard to resume its attacks on Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, who has been nominated to be Secretary of Labor.
On June 17, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc., a Fair Housing Act (FHA) challenge to a town's redevelopment plan, which would eliminate houses occupied by low-income, predominantly African-American residents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled, consistently with every federal court of appeal that has considered the issue, "The FHA can be violated by either intentional discrimination or if a practice has a disparate impact on a protected class."
Nonetheless, in a June 18 editorial, the WSJ used the Court's accepting the case to revive an unfounded and oft-repeated right-wing attack on Perez--that he acted unethically in handling a prior Fair Housing disparate impact case--and resume its campaign to undermine effective enforcement of civil rights laws through disparate impact litigation.
Specifically, WSJ repeated the unfounded right-wing accusation that Perez struck an unethical "quid pro quo" deal with the plaintiff in Magner v. Gallagher, another FHA disparate impact case. From the editorial:
On Monday, the Justices agreed to hear a case that bears directly on the legal theory that the Justice Department's civil-rights chief has used to allege discrimination in housing. This is good news for businesses that need the law clarified, though perhaps not for Mr. Perez, who has stretched the ethical boundaries of his office to prevent such a ruling.
But Mr. Perez maneuvered to have the case withdrawn by striking a quid pro quo with the plaintiff in the case, the city of St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Administration may now also lean on Mt. Holly officials to drop the case the way Mr. Perez leaned on St. Paul. But at least the Justices are signalling that they'll make up their own mind rather than let an Administration official mess with their docket for his own political purposes.
On its opinion pages, the Wall Street Journal has been hammering St. Paul's decision to withdraw Magner vs. Gallagher from the Supreme Court as a costly way to extend a lawsuit at taxpayer expense. It has pointed to phone calls reportedly made by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who works in the Justice Department's civil rights division, to Coleman and Grewing.
The Justice Department wasn't acting alone. Many groups that typically advocate for minorities and the poor argued in written briefs that St. Paul was going down a path that could inadvertently gut the Fair Housing Act. Among them were more than a dozen state attorneys general. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of 200 civil rights groups, has applauded St. Paul's decision.
The WSJ also renewed its attack on disparate impact litigation, an effective tool for enforcing civil rights laws.
The case will focus on so-called disparate-impact theory, which uses statistics to allege discrimination. Mr. Perez has used the theory to shake down banks for not lending enough to minorities, despite having no evidence of discriminatory purpose.
In a video interview posted on June 17, WSJ editorial page editor Paul Gigot referred to disparate impact as "his [Perez's] theory," and asserted that the drafters of the civil rights laws "didn't want quotas, which is where we lead with this kind of things, you say, 'a-ha, we must have x percent of people get a loan. That's not the way the civil rights statutes were written." The WSJ has associated disparate impact litigation with quotas before:
Magner was the Supreme Court's first chance to rule on whether "disparate-impact analysis," which uses statistics to prove discrimination and sometimes impose racial quotas, can be used under the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
This is patently false. Disparate impact litigation enables plaintiffs to challenge apparently neutral policies that disproportionately affect one group: "For example, an employer's policy requiring all employees have the ability to lift 50 pounds could disproportionately affect women."
Both the editorial and Gigot's interview ignore the fact that disparate impact litigation is a well-established tool for enforcing civil rights laws.
Nonetheless, right-wing media have been attacking its use in the fair housing context and have shown particular hostility to disparate impact cases brought against banks engaging in discriminatory lending practices.
The June 18 editorial claims that "Perez has used the theory to shake down banks for not lending enough to minorities." In fact, the Department Of Justice secured settlements against lenders, including Wells Fargo and Countrywide, who had charged minority borrowers higher fees and rates.
Finally, the WSJ alleges that "[t] he Department of Housing and Urban Development then rubber-stamped Mr. Perez's power play by issuing a regulation sanctioning disparate impact in housing enforcement."
In fact, as the Solicitor General explained in its brief opposing Supreme Court review in Mt. Holly,
HUD's recent rule reaffirmed its longstanding interpretation of the FHA, as embodies in formal adjudications of FHA complaints. See 42 U.S.C. 3610 and 3612 (Granting HUD broad authority to conduct formal adjudication of FHA complaints.
HUD...has interpreted the FHA--including section 804(a)--to encompass disparate-impact claims in every adjudication to address the issue.
For weeks, Fox News has promoted selective clips of interview transcripts leaked by House Republicans to promote their baseless claim that the White House engineered the Internal Revenue Service's improper screening of conservative groups seeking non-profit status.
Such claims were always speculative. The IRS' inspector general has said that while employees used "improper criteria" to scrutinize conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, that behavior was "not politically biased" and was not driven by the White House. Subsequent testimony leaked by House Republicans has suggested that high-ranking IRS officials in Washington were at first unaware of the improper behavior and stopped it when they learned of it.
The House Oversight Committee's Democrats have now released the full transcript of an interview with another IRS witness which further undermines claims that the White House was at the center of the process. According to the interview subject, a self-described conservative Republican who worked in the IRS' Cincinnati office, an agent he supervised flagged the first Tea Party application that came under scrutiny, asking for guidance on the case.The interview subject denied having had contact with senior IRS officials or the White House about the targeting. According to The Washington Post's Greg Sargent:
In the testimony, the screening manager says that he first became aware of the initial Tea Party application when an "agent who worked for me" asked for "guidance concerning a case for him." The manager testified that in this case he agreed with the agent that "there was not enough information" to figure out whether to grant the group tax exempt status.
"I told him at that point in time I agreed with his thinking," the manager testified, adding that he informed the agent that he would "elevate that issue to my area manager."
"This was the first case that came in that was brought to my attention," the manager continued.
The manager further testified that the Tea Party groups were deliberately grouped together so that they would receive consistent treatment. "There was a lot of concerns about making sure that any cases that had, you know, similar-type activities or items included, that they would be worked by the same agent or same group," the manager testified.
In the testimony, the screening manager also flatly stated he had no reason to believe there was White House involvement.
The screening manager also testifies that he never had any conversation with Lois Lerner, the former director of the Exempt Organizations Division, or former IRS commissioner Douglas Schulmanm about the "screening of Tea Party cases."
It remains to be seen how Fox News will react to statements that so strongly undermine their conclusion. But we have some precedent - on June 9, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, released excerpts from this interview, and said that it showed that "the case is solved" and that the White House had not been involved in the improper behavior. Fox responded by airing his conclusion that "the case is solved" and hosting conservatives to criticize that claim, without laying out Cummings' evidence.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe released a new highly edited video that he's using to suggest there are widespread problems with a government program that provides phones and phone service to low-income Americans.
The Lifeline phone program, which according to the Federal Communications Commission "provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services," has existed for decades and was expanded to include cell phones during the Bush administration. Conservatives have criticized the program repeatedly, which they have called the "Obama phone" for years.
O'Keefe's video, which coincides with the launch of his self-congratulatory book, purports to show O'Keefe's actors receiving free cell phones after telling employees of a wireless phone company that they plan to sell the phones to pay for drugs, other purchases, or bills. The edited video includes a narration by O'Keefe asking if the employees would tell his actors "to sell the phones and break the law."
The raw footage that O'Keefe also released doesn't show any of the featured employees telling the actors to sell their free phones, despite the actors repeatedly saying that they intend to do so and asking about their resale value. As New York magazine's Jonathan Chait explained, the employees only acknowledged that personal property, in the form of these cell phones, can be sold by their owners to buy other things. The raw footage also shows that none of the actors actually received a free phone -- only information about how they could apply for a free phone and the eligibility requirements to receive one, with the actors walking away saying they'd bring their documentation later.
But O'Keefe's edited video is fulfilling its intended effect and is fooling right-wing media. The Daily Mail Online's David Martosko, who wrote the exclusive article about O'Keefe's video, falsely wrote in his headline that the video "catches wireless employees passing out 'Obama phones' to people who say they'll sell them for drugs, shoes, handbags and spending cash." Martosko again wrote that the video:
[S]hows two corporate distributors of free cell phones handing out the mobile devices to people who have promised to sell them for drug money, to buy shoes and handbags, to pay off their bills, or just for extra spending cash.
Again, the raw footage shows that the actors who stated their intention to sell free phones for these reasons never actually received phones.
Fox News has teased a segment on the O'Keefe video for Tuesday's edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Will Fox fall for O'Keefe's misleading framing?
Fox News ran a prepackaged segment that took an immigration expert's comments out of context to stoke fears about the Senate immigration bill and the Obama administration's prosecutorial discretion policy.
In the segment, which appeared three times on Fox News on one day, correspondent William La Jeunesse discussed the cases of two undocumented immigrants who are accused of drunken driving accidents which resulted in the deaths of two police officers. La Jeunesse used these cases to baselessly claim that the Senate immigration bill would allow some immigrants who are criminals and felons to stay if they have family connections in the U.S. The segment included quotes from a pre-recorded interview with immigration expert Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):
Climate change is "just kind of a scam analysis" by "high priests," according to some at CNBC. Rhetoric such as this is not uncommon at the cable business channel, as a new Media Matters report finds that the majority of its coverage of climate change casts doubt on the science behind it.
Watch as CNBC hosts and contributors attempt to counter 97 percent of climate scientists:
So who are these CNBC figures?
Joe Kernen, the co-anchor of Squawk Box, was the most vocal CNBC figure on climate change in 2013, frequently pointing to cold weather to suggest that global warming is not occurring. Kernen has long pushed climate science misinformation. In a 2007 segment, he cited the "The Great Global Warming Swindle," a movie that promoted discredited claims, to criticize singer Sheryl Crow and "An Inconvenient Truth" producer Laurie David for speaking to college students about climate change. In 2011, Kernen co-authored a book titled Your Teacher Said What?!: Trying To Raise a Fifth Grade Capitalist in Obama's America that compared climate scientists to "high priests" whose work should not be trusted.
Major media outlets are misinterpreting testimony from a former high-ranking Internal Revenue Service official to baselessly suggest that Washington, D.C.-based officials were involved in the improper targeting of conservative groups seeking non-profit status.
Those misinterpretations are based on an apparent confusion on the part of journalists over what made the actions of the Cincinnati-based IRS officials who engaged in that scrutiny improper.
On June 16, several journalists were apparently granted access to review the transcript of an interview the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee conducted with Holly Paz, a former Washington-based manager in the IRS tax-exempt unit. The access was likely granted under the auspices of committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been accused of selectively leaking misleading, out-of-context portions of committee interviews in order to damage the Obama administration.
Reporting on the Paz interview, several outlets seized on Paz's statement that she had, in the words of the Associated Press, "reviewed 20 to 30 applications," and falsely claimed this contradicted administration statements that the improper IRS activity had been conducted by IRS officials in Cincinnati.
The Associated Press wrote that Paz's assertion "contradicts initial claims by the agency that a small group of agents working in an office in Cincinnati were solely responsible for mishandling the applications"; ABC's Good Morning America reported (via Nexis) that her "testimony contradicts IRS claims that agents in the Cincinnati field office were solely responsible for targeting those groups"; and the CBS Morning News reported (via Nexis) that Paz said "she was involved in targeting Tea Party groups."
But it is not improper for IRS officials to review the applications of groups seeking non-profit status - in fact, that is their job. The reason the IRS has been criticized is because they used politically slanted criteria to select conservative, but not progressive, groups to receive additional scrutiny. Specifically, the IRS gave additional scrutiny to groups with "tea party," "patriot," and "9/12" in their names. And that criteria was developed by a screening agent from the Cincinnati office, according to excerpts from a congressional interview included in a memo from the Democratic staff of the Oversight Committee.
Paz said she was unaware of these improper procedures, according to the AP:
Paz, however, provided no evidence that senior IRS officials ordered agents to target conservative groups or that anyone in the Obama administration outside the IRS was involved.
Instead, Paz described an agency in which IRS supervisors in Washington worked closely with agents in the field but didn't fully understand what those agents were doing. Paz said agents in Cincinnati openly talked about handling "tea party" cases, but she thought the term was merely shorthand for all applications from groups that were politically active - conservative and liberal.
Paz further testified that when her superior, Lois Lerner, the Washington, D.C.-based director of exempt organizations, became aware that the Cincinnati office was using an improper set of key words to select groups for additional review, Lerner ordered the process stopped.
Not only is this testimony inconsistent with media claims that Paz acknowledged participating in the wrongdoing for which the IRS has been criticized, it actually directly contradicts those claims. This sort of sloppy reporting has surely played a role in misleading the American people into thinking that the White House ordered the targeting of Tea Party groups.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum and contributor Byron York suggested that the President Obama may have scheduled his current trips to Europe and Africa to help his poll numbers even though both trips were scheduled as early as November 2012.
Obama is currently in Northern Ireland attending a G8 summit before embarking on a tour of Africa -- an effort to strengthen economic ties to the continent. On the June 18 edition of America's Newsroom, MacCallum and York were discussing the president's current job approval rating when MacCallum wondered aloud whether Obama was trying to "get overseas and do some traveling and draw the attention somewhere else" in an attempt to "turn the tide." York responded, "Well, he's trying that."
Both the G8 summit and the Africa trip were being planned as early as November 2012, according to the BBC and Politico respectively. At that time, President Obama had just won re-election and had a job approval rating of over fifty percent.
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
In May, the Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military," which found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2010. The report also found that 62 percent of victims who reported their assault faced retaliation as a result. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to the report by calling the assaults "a despicable crime" that is "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people," and General Martin Dempsey affirmed that sexual assaults constitute a "crisis" in the military.
In an effort to address this longstanding problem, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who granted clemency to an officer found guilty of sexual assault, in an effort to obtain more information about why the officer was effectively pardoned. As The Washington Post reported, an Air Force jury found the officer guilty of sexually assaulting a female lieutenant in the back seat of a car, and sentenced him to 60 days behind bars, a loss of pay, and dismissal from the Air Force.
Helms' decision to effectively pardon the officer "ignored the recommendations of [her] legal advisers and overruled a jury's findings -- without publicly revealing why." The Post explained that McCaskill has not placed a permanent hold on the promotion, but is "blocking Helms's nomination until she receives more information about the general's decision."*
Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, dismissed these facts to claim that McCaskill's effort to address the growing problem of sexual assault in the military was a "war on men" and a "political campaign" that showed "signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also claimed that the female lieutenant who reported that she had been assaulted acted just as "recklessly" as the accused attacker, apparently by doing nothing more than getting into the same vehicle as him.
But McCaskill is not trying to re-litigate the case; she is trying to determine why Helms ignored her legal advisers and overturned a jury of five Air Force officers. As the Post explained, advocacy groups charge that "any decision to overrule a jury's verdict for no apparent reason has a powerful dampening effect," contributing to a culture in which the majority of sexual assaults in the military remain unreported.
The Department of Defense report on sexual assault found that while 26,000 service members said they were assaulted last year, only about 11 percent of those cases were reported. The findings listed several reasons why individuals did not report the assault to a military authority, including that they "did not want anyone to know," "felt uncomfortable making a report," and "thought they would not be believed." The report also noted that concerns about "negative scrutiny by others" keeps many victims from reporting their assaults.
Taranto's dismissal of the victim's accounts and his insistence that they were equally responsible for the reported assault is a form of victim-blaming -- the very type of stigmatization that the Department identified as encouraging victims to remain silent about their assault.
While speaking out against the growing epidemic of sexual assaults, Defense Secretary Hagel noted that the Department of Defense should "establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored." But Taranto's victim-blaming approach -- and insistence that efforts to address this growing problem are attacks on men and male sexuality -- is a perfect example of the rhetoric that contributes to the very culture and environment the DOD seeks to eliminate.
UPDATE: Taranto doubled down on his claim that the effort to reduce sexual assaults in the military is leading to a "war on men" on The Wall Street Journal's webshow Opinion Journal Live.
CNN's morning program New Day aired a troubling report on allegations that celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was the victim of domestic abuse, describing her as "subservient" and quoting critics on Twitter saying her subsequent silence on the apparent assault "makes her look weak."
British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband, Charles Saatchi, were photographed this week during what appeared to be a domestic assault. Multiple photographs show Saatchi's hand grasping Lawson's neck during an argument. He later admitted to assault.
Neil Sean, whom CNN identified as an "entertainment reporter," appeared in New Day's packaged report saying the photos showed Lawson being "sort of subservient":
SEAN: She's always portrayed as a very powerful woman, a woman in control. So for her to be so sort of subservient, I think, is a rather telling story.
Later, CNN's Pamela Brown highlighted criticisms from unidentified people on Twitter who are charging Lawson's subsequent silence on the alleged attack "makes her look weak":
BROWN: Of course, we still don't know the full story. But a lot of people waiting for Nigella to come out and say something. People are taking to Twitter saying she needs to come out and address this. That she's this powerful figure, and this makes her look weak, according to some people, that she's not - but this is all a matter of opinion.