Blog

  • WaPo’s The Fix Highlights Journalists “Counseling” Trump Through Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s The Fix highlighted CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s observation that journalists are “counseling [Trump] through interviews,” suggesting answers “instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.”

    Cuomo has noted that during interviews with Donald Trump, interviewers ask questions framed to push him toward a better answer, saying that journalists suggest to Trump, “When you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?” instead of asking open-ended questions. Other journalists such as CNN’s Brian Stelter have criticized media for not pressing Trump hard enough. Stelter said that “we have to address” Trump’s misinformation “head-on as journalists."

    Trump has benefited from countless softball interviews. For example, on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the hosts asked Trump questions such as “Were you right?” following the Brussels terrorist attack. In addition, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly came under fire for her “fluff” interview with Trump on her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents. A May 22 panel on CNN’s Reliable Sources criticized her “softball” interview, repeatedly noting that “she didn’t press him” on a number of issues. Many of her questions directly echoed queries that her colleagues at Fox had asked Trump over the past year.

    In The Washington Post’s The Fix blog, politics and media reporter Callum Borchers highlighted Cuomo’s critique of the way Trump is interviewed and asserted that journalists play an additional role in vetting Donald Trump: “counselors.” Borchers noted that “interviewers do Trump’s job for him -- suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions.” After an analysis of Trump’s interviews on controversial subjects, Borchers said, “Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.” From the May 23 article (emphasis original):

    It's the media's job to vet presidential candidates, so journalists often serve as critics, pointing out inconsistencies and potential weaknesses voters should know about.

    But with Donald Trump, they also play another role, according to CNN's Chris Cuomo: counselors.

    Discussing media coverage on Trump with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Friday, the "New Day" co-host observed what he called "the dynamic of kind of counseling [Trump] through interviews." Cuomo offered a generic example of the kinds questions he's talking about: "Like, when you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?"

    Cuomo's observation is that his fellow interviewers do Trump's job for him — suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.

    A review of Trump interviews on controversial subjects suggests Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.

    Trump, of course, doesn't always take the hint or doesn't care. And it's possible — or perhaps even likely — that reporters aren't so much trying to protect him as simply reacting with disbelief to the often-unprecedented and surprising things he's saying.

    Whatever the cause, the result is that questions to Trump often come with the "right" answer built in. And this habit of throwing him a line could help explain why some voters believe the media have been too soft on the real estate magnate.

    [...]

    The challenge for journalists is to suppress their shock and let Trump speak for himself. Are you endorsing internment camps? Was the Heidi Cruz retweet a mistake? Do you want the KKK's support?

  • Latest Accounts Of Trump Misogyny Allege Unlawful Behavior, But Media Don't Notice

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media coverage of The New York Times’ report detailing allegations of misogyny and sexual harassment on the part of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump virtually ignored allegations of possible illegal behavior and focused instead on one of the women in the report who claimed the Times “spun” her words.

    On May 14, The New York Times published a front-page story titled “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.” The article, based on over 50 interviews, “reveal[ed] unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” by Trump, according to the Times.

    Two of the people the Times referenced in the report were Jill Harth and her former boyfriend George Houraney, who had both “worked with Mr. Trump on a beauty pageant in Atlantic City and later accused Mr. Trump of inappropriate behavior toward Ms. Harth during their business dealings.” The Boston Globe detailed Harth and Houraney's accounts extensively in April, which included accusations of sexual harassment by the candidate against his reported business partner in the pageant, Ms. Harth:

    After a few weeks of negotiating, they came to terms on many aspects of a deal. It was time to celebrate. Trump invited the American Dream executive team, along with at least nine past and present calendar models, to a party at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach in January 1993.

    During dinner, Harth alleged, Trump demanded that she sit next to him.

    “When we got to the dinner table, Donald started right in on the groping under the table, to tell you the truth,” Harth said in her deposition.

    Some of the salacious charges about what happened later that night, based on Harth’s assertions, were reported in 1997 in New York tabloids and the National Enquirer. Trump took her into an empty bedroom — the one normally used by daughter Ivanka, who at the time was 11. Trump forcibly “kissed, fondled, and restrained” her from leaving, according to Harth’s suit.

    [...]

    Several weeks later, Harth again went to Mar-a-Lago for a meeting to discuss the competition. After some of Trump’s business associates left, Harth alleges that Trump forced her into a bedroom, made “unwanted sexual advances,” and began touching her “private parts” and “uttering Svengali-type proclamations of love.”

    Harth said in the lawsuit that she immediately “became nauseated and vomited profusely.”

    A Media Matters analysis found that Harth’s account of sexual harassment was not examined by media on morning, daytime, or evening news programs on CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, or CBS, and was mentioned only once on MSNBC in a report on All in with Chris Hayes. But the Times report suggests that Harth’s story is part of a pattern of “unsettling workplace conduct,” which could constitute allegations of what is legally known as the creation of hostile work environments through unlawful sexual harassment.

    Only one show made this connection about the gravity of the allegations -- ABC’s The View on May 16 -- but co-host Joy Behar didn’t go into more detail beyond saying, “That is called sexual harassment.”

    By contrast, media outlets mentioned Rowanne Brewer Lane’s allegations that the Times “spun” her words at least 40 times. According to the Times, Brewer Lane alleged that Trump had “asked her to change out of her clothes” and “to put on a swimsuit.” Since the publication of the report, Brewer Lane has labeled the account “a hit piece.”

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream transcripts for coverage between May 14 and May 22 on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC using the terms "Jill Harth," "Harth," "Sexual harassment AND Trump," “Trump AND Harth,” "Sexual assault AND Trump,'" and “Brewer Lane.” A supplemental search was conducted using alternate spellings including the terms: “Trump and har” “Trump and herth,” “herth,” “harf,” and “Trump and harf.”

  • How Megyn Kelly’s Softball Interview With Trump Signaled Fox News’ Complete Surrender

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Fox News’ combustible feud with Donald Trump began with a bang last August when Megyn Kelly pressed the candidate on his ugly history of misogynistic language. The hostilities ended with a whimper though, when Kelly last week obediently walked Trump through the now-infamous softball (or “airball”) interview as part of her first Fox Broadcast special.

    Media observers have been lining up to describe just how awful and boring and disappointing Kelly’s sit-down with Trump was, especially after she had made the media rounds promoting herself as a strong, independent journalist who wasn’t going to be intimidated by Trump.

    Instead, she practically bowed in Trump’s presence and produced the kind of “journalism” that Fox News is famous for -- The New Yorker called the interview “a useless exercise, except, perhaps, for those watching from one group: Republicans looking for a script for how to surrender to Donald Trump.”

    Professionally, Kelly’s wilting performance may have set back her dream of becoming the next Oprah or Barbara Walters; of breaking out of the Fox News conservative media word and establishing herself as a TV brand that can appeal to huge swaths of viewers. And maybe bank $20 million annually.

    Based on how the special flopped, she may not have that appeal. Ratings for Kelly’s first primetime television special were meh: she drew approximately five million viewers. The only real buzz the show created was the public mocking of Kelly’s inept interviewing style. (“A carefully modulated kindergarten-teacher demeanor.”)

    While Kelly huddles with her manager and agent and tries to figure out what went wrong after a long-running media love fest, the larger story that’s come into focus is how Fox News, led by Kelly’s genuflection to Trump, has signaled its institutional surrender to the presumptive GOP nominee. Fox News has been bullied and beaten into submission by a Republican front-runner who had the audacity to pick a fight with Roger Ailes and the mass media mouthpiece of the Republican Party.

    Sure, holdouts like Charles KrauthammerStephen Hayes and Greg Gutfeld remain staples on the Fox News lineup; holdouts who have dismissed Trump as a conservative joke for months. But their numbers, and certainly their sway, seem to be shrinking as the cable channel clumsily and belatedly maneuvers itself into its traditional campaign role: a cheerleader for, and ferocious defender of, the RNC.

    Like much of the Republican Party, as well as large portions of the conservative movement, Fox News is fumbling its way onto the “acceptance” mark as it comes to the final stages of its weird grieving process over the Trump nomination. Eight in 10 Republican voters now want party leaders to rally behind Trump, according to the latest New York Times/CBS poll.

    On paper, Trump and Fox seem like a perfect fit since both celebrate bigotry and embrace a kind of divisiveness-on-steroids approach to attack politics. But Fox isn’t used to being pushed around by politicians, let alone by the presumptive Republican Party nominee.

    And the conservative in-fighting led to major branding woes for Fox News:

    By mid February, [Fox’s] perception by Republican adults 18 and over had reached its lowest point in more than three years, and has declined by approximately 50% since January of this year. Coinciding with Trump’s rise to front-runner in the GOP presidential race, Fox News Channel has seen its perception by Republicans slide.

    Today we look at the capitulation landscape and think, well of course Fox News was going to surrender to Trump, right? Fox always backs the GOP front-runner. That logic makes sense today. But how quickly we forget the unprecedented brawl that played out for the last nine months, as Fox routinely found itself stumbling and bumbling; one moment supporting Trump and the next moment angrily lashing out at him.

    Here’s a stroll down the civil war memory lane. We may never see anything quite like it again in conservative politics: 

    2015:

    Rupert Murdoch reportedly orders Kelly to attack Trump at first GOP debate.

    Trump tweet-storms Kelly following the debate.

    Trump and Ailes reportedly smooth over their differences during private conversation.

    Trump launches a personal boycott Fox News.

    Trump drops his boycott.

    Trump spends New Year's Eve palling around with Fox News.

    2016:

    Trump threatens to be a no-show for a Fox News GOP debate.

    Fox releases a scathing statement about Trump skipping the debate.

    Trump calls Kelly “crazy” and “unwatchable.”

    During a post-debate interview, Trump suggests Bill O’Reilly go see a psychiatrist.

    Fox denounces Trump’s “sick obsession” with Kelly.

    Trump calls Kelly an "overrated anchor."

    Kelly meets in private with Trump to request an interview; asks him to stop insulting her.

    Fox airs Kelly’s puff piece interview with Trump. 

    And scene.

    We’re done here folks. Pack up your spectacles because the show is over. All’s that left on stage now are Ailes and Kelly, searching for their pride.

  • Ted Nugent Reelected To NRA Board After 2016 Of Hate

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Ted Nugent was reelected to the National Rifle Association’s board of directors just weeks after he promoted a fake video of Hillary Clinton being shot and during a year in which he caused a national controversy for promoting anti-Semitic material.

    During a May 21 meeting of members  at the NRA's annual meeting in Louisville, KY, NRA election committee chairman Carl T. Rowan announced that Nugent was one of 25 individuals elected to a three-year term on the NRA's board, terminating in 2019. Nugent received the second most votes:

     

     

    As a musician and conservative commentator, Nugent is to many the most recognizable member of NRA leadership. He has served on the gun group's board of directors for more than 20 years. In the group's 2013 board elections Nugent was second only to Iran-Contra figure Oliver North for most votes in favor of reelection. He frequently mixes his pitches for the NRA with inflammatory commentary, such as when he told people to join the NRA while calling for the “evil carcasses” of President Obama and other progressive politicians.

    Nugent is a fixture of the NRA's annual meeting, delivering talks in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. During his speech at last year’s meeting, Nugent talked about shooting Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and called the president “Osama Obama” and offered to charter a boat ride to take Obama “back to Kenya.” At the 2012 meeting, Nugent set in motion a visit with the Secret Service after telling NRA members he would be “dead or in jail” if Obama was reelected as president.

    As the NRA annual meeting wraps up tomorrow, Nugent will deliver a talk called “2016 Election Do or Die for America and Freedom.”

    Nugent’s 2016 has so far been marked by particularly ugly rhetoric.

    • In January, Nugent called for Obama and Hillary Clinton to be hanged for treason for their supposed malfeasance during the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks.

    • Nugent caused widespread controversy in February after sharing an image on his Facebook page that suggested Jews are behind a conspiracy to enact stricter gun laws. After coming under fire from the Anti-Defamation League and other groups, Nugent further claimed that Jewish supporters of gun safety laws are “Nazis in disguise.” As condemnations continued to roll in, even from far-right pro-gun organizations (but not the NRA), Nugent eventually apologized, claiming he did not realize the image he shared that placed Israeli flags next to faces of 12 Jewish American politicians and gun violence prevention advocates had a "connection whatsoever to any religious affiliation."

    • In March, Nugent called a critic with a Hispanic name a "beanochimp" and suggested the man should die.

    • Later that same month, Nugent shared a misogynist chain message about why men supposedly prefer guns over women, which included claims like "guns function normally every day of the month” and “A gun doesn't mind if you go to sleep after you use it.”

    • On March 31, Nugent posted a racially derogatory image on his Facebook page that he said was an advertisement for a moving company called "2 niggers and a stolen truck."

    • In a May 10 post to his Facebook page, Nugent shared a fake video that showed Hillary Clinton being graphically shot to death by Bernie Sanders. He added his own comment: “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

     

  • Stinging Himself: The Latest Embarrassment For Conservative Media Darling James O'Keefe

    James O’Keefe Accidentally Details Plans To Infiltrate Progressive Philanthropist’s Organization On Its Own Voicemail

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Conservative media darling James O’Keefe accidentally detailed his plans to infiltrate and smear progressive organizations on the voicemail of Dana Geraghty, an employee of liberal philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, continuing a string of embarrassing missteps in his attempts at undercover stings.

    After leaving Geraghty a voicemail claiming to be “Victor Kesh,” a “Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation,” O’Keefe held “a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros,” unaware that his phone was still connected to Geraghty’s voicemail. During the call, O’Keefe outlined plans to send an “undercover” operative posing as a potential donor to the foundation in a project he named “Discover the Networks.” O’Keefe’s plot involved using an English orthopedic surgeon with “a real heavy British accent” to secretly film Soros-linked progressive organizations. He later admitted that “some of us just forget to hang up the phone.The New Yorker continued:

    The accidental recording reached farcical proportions when Kesh announced that he was opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page on his computer. He planned to check her résumé and leverage the information to penetrate the Soros “octopus.” Kesh said, “She’s probably going to call me back, and if she doesn’t I can create other points of entry.” Suddenly, Kesh realized that by opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page he had accidentally revealed his own LinkedIn identity to her. (LinkedIn can let users see who has looked at their pages.) “Whoa!” an accomplice warned. “Log out!” The men anxiously reassured one another that no one checks their LinkedIn account anyway. “It was a little chilling to hear this group of men talking about me as a ‘point of entry,’ ” Geraghty says. “But—not to sound ageist—it was clear that these people were not used to the technology.”

    Though O’Keefe’s latest smear attempt has already failed, it continues his tradition of trying -- and failing -- to use deceptive tactics and edited undercover videos to dishonestly attack progressives. O’Keefe previously targeted the Clinton campaign for legally selling a t-shirt, which he described as money laundering. O’Keefe also attempted to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau onto a boat with “props” like a “condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, [and] fuzzy handcuffs” and previously pled guilty to “misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses in connection with an attempted video sting at the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.”

    O’Keefe is best known for his “sting” videos of ACORN, in which he claimed his highly edited tapes were a “nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation” that implicated ACORN employees. Three separate investigations cleared ACORN workers of criminal wrongdoing, and in 2013, O’Keefe and his video partner Hannah Giles agreed to pay an ACORN employee they had smeared a $150,000 settlement.

    Media outlets should consider O’Keefe’s latest botched attack on progressives before they consider promoting his future work.

  • Trump Called NYT Story About His Treatment Of Women “Libelous” But Hasn't Officially Requested A Retraction

    Erik Wemple: This Is “More Corroboration That The Trump Campaign Is Running A Media-Obsessed, Substance-Averse Campaign”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump’s campaign has not asked The New York Times for a correction following its feature on Trump’s behavior with women, according to The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.

    Trump’s campaign highly criticized a New York Timesfeature, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private,” which highlighted multiple women who revealed “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” from the Republican presidential frontrunner. Trump responded to the story, tweeting that the Times “lied” and wrote a “malicious & libelous story” on him. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “They need to do a retraction and they need to actually be fair, because they’re destroying their paper.”

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote on May 20 that campaigns “that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing,” noting that “no such letter has issued from the Trump camp.” Wemple continued that the campaign’s public response and lack of an official request to the Times was “more corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign”:

    Campaigns, celebrities, companies and institutions that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing. Anyone in media is familiar with this species of communication — stern, scolding and sometimes nasty in tone, the letters explain the alleged lapses in reporting, the impact of the alleged lapses in reporting, and the request: A full retraction of the story’s central thesis. Or something along those lines.

    No such letter has issued from the Trump camp, according to the New York Times. “Since the story was published, we have not received any direct communication from the Trump people*. They did not seek a correction or initiate any other action,” writes New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha in an email to the Erik Wemple Blog.

    More corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign. Were the Trump people authentically interested in securing a correction or retraction from the New York Times, they would have sent a letter and sought a meeting. Such an effort would have been a slog, for sure: The New York Times has stood by its story and even issued a statement rebuffing Brewer Lane’s complaints. “Ms. Brewer Lane was quoted fairly, accurately and at length,” noted the statement, in part. As this blog wrote this week, the Trump case against the women story was weak. Yet campaigns that put their gripes in written form can reap significant benefits, as the Clinton campaign demonstrated last summer in blasting the New York Times for its story about Hillary Clinton’s email.

    Perhaps Trump didn’t have the time to muster a retraction request, after all. He may have been too busy calling into a CNN control room to orchestrate favorable media coverage.

    *After this story was published, the New York Times sent a clarification of the circumstances: “A lawyer in Trump’s office called [Executive Editor] Dean Baquet earlier this week. The lawyer did not seek a correction or dispute any facts or quotes in the story. The Times has received no formal requests for a correction or any other action.” The headline was amended to account for this change.

  • Time Magazine Cover Story Fact Checks Right-Wing Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Predator” Myth

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Time magazine’s cover story profiling the fight for transgender equality debunked the anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people endanger women’s safety.

    Time magazine's May 30 cover story, “Battle of the Bathroom,” dissected the high-profile battle for transgender equality centered largely around access to bathrooms. In reporting on transgender equality, many media outlets have uncritically parroted the widely debunked myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people will allow male sexual predators to sneak into women’s bathrooms by pretending to be transgender.

    To debunk the “bathroom predator” myth, Time cited Los Angeles Unified School District’s decade of experience protecting transgender students from discrimination with zero safety issues. Pointing out that “there is not yet any anecdotal evidence that trans-friendly rules have been abused by predators” the article also noted that cisgender men have assaulted women in bathrooms for decades undeterred by “laws and rules requiring sex separation.” Time also addressed the right-wing myth that transgender people are “confused” by citing settled medical evidence that being transgender is not a matter of “choice,” and that there is no medical treatment to “reverse” being transgender.

    From the May 30 edition of Time:

    Yet the specter of a sexual predator abusing transgender-friendly laws continues to frame the debate. Conservatives in Houston successfully overturned a city equal-rights ordinance in 2015 with a ballot measure passed after television ads re-enacted a hypothetical scene in which a faceless man barges in on a schoolgirl in a bathroom stall. “No men in women’s bathrooms” was the simple and effective campaign slogan.

    [...]

    The FBI and local law enforcement do not keep consistent stats on the number of crimes committed in public restrooms, so there is no way to track every claim. “What we’re talking about is probably some sort of assault, maybe some sort of low-level kind of voyeurism,” says Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore. “That stuff goes underreported all the time.” But there is not yet any anecdotal evidence that trans-friendly rules have been abused by predators, or that incidents of violence or sexual assault have increased. For decades, men have sometimes been caught and prosecuted for entering women’s restrooms or dressing rooms, either in drag or dressed as men, to watch or film women. The laws and rules requiring sex separation did not prove a deterrent in those cases.

    The Los Angeles Unified School District, a community of 550,000 students, has allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms they identify with since 2005. “I have never had misconduct by a transgender student. A lot of fears people expressed, we have never realized those, we have never seen them,” says Judy Chiasson, who runs the district’s office of human relations, diversity and equity. “We’ve been doing this for 11 years. It works.”

    The burden for transgender people when it comes to bathrooms is less disputed. A 2016 analysis of a survey of more than 2,000 transgender college students found the rate of suicide attempts increased 40% among those who said they had been denied access to a bathroom. In a separate survey of 100 transgender people in Washington, D.C., 70% said they had been denied restroom access or harassed, and 58% said they had avoided going out in public because they feared being able to find a bathroom. “At some point they had just decided it wasn’t worth it to go out in public and have to deal with the bathroom situation,” says Jody Herman, a scholar at UCLA’s Williams Institute, who authored the study.

    [...]

    Underlying the battle over toilets is a complicated discussion about what it means to be transgender and why it happens. As a matter of science, the issue is largely settled. The transgender experience is not—-as Texas’ Patrick joked–a matter of choice. No transgender American stands before the W on the restroom door and thinks, Whatever.

    “What we have to accept is that the duality–male or female, which we see as a very clear dichotomy–it’s a little bit more complicated,” explains Catherine Dulac, a Harvard professor of biology. The official diagnosis is gender dysphoria, and it is recognized by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and major medical institutions. As with same-sex attraction, there is no treatment to reverse it, and many of the negative effects arrive not from the personal experience but from the social reactions to it.

    For many in this debate, however, these facts are hogwash, peddled by liberal academics with different value systems. “Children have vivid imaginations. This is nothing but an adult agenda being pushed on the backs of innocent children,” says Nancy Stacy, a school-board member in Marion County, Fla., of the transgender experience in school. She recently voted to deny access to a transgender student who wanted to use the boys’ bathroom. For her, the act of changing bathroom rules to match the preference of a student is just the start of a slippery slope. “That would be like me saying, ‘Oh, a child believes she’s Cinderella today, so we’re going to have a horse and carriage on the playground.'”

  • Conservative Opposition To Overtime Pay Brought To You By The National Retail Federation

    NRF Claims Overtime Expansion Will “Demote” Working Americans “To Clock-Punchers”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Right-wing media and Republican politicians blasted the Labor Department’s decision to update and expand overtime protections, clearly taking their cues from the National Retail Federation (NRF) -- a business association known for spreading falsehoods on worker rights. The NRF and its allies are portraying overtime expansion as something that will hurt workers and the economy, ignoring the association’s own report, which found that the change would likely result in new jobs and fewer unpaid hours for retail workers.

    The Department of Labor released an update to overtime rules for salaried employees on May 17, raising the minimum annual salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 -- an announcement that was denounced by right-wing media. Conservative outlets claimed the rule was “interfering” with businesses and would result in less flexibility and possibly lower pay, citing the NRF’s 2016 report “Rethinking Overtime” as proof, but they failed to acknowledge that the NRF has consistently opposed better pay for workers, fair scheduling, and collective bargaining rights. Contrary to claims that the expanded overtime will harm the economy, the NRF’s own report found the overtime rule would lead to over 117,100 new part-time jobs.

    The Wall Street Journal decried the updated overtime rule in a May 18 editorial, claiming employers will lower salaries as a result. The Journal cited the NRF study, which found that businesses will “shift about a third of salaried retail and restaurant workers to hourly status” and bizarrely pointed to the study’s finding that one in 10 workers on salary will work fewer hours (which are already unpaid) as proof that the rule is not in the best interests of employers or workers. Townhall also pushed the narrative that salaried workers working fewer unpaid hours is a negative, citing NRF’s report.

    During NRF’s campaign against overtime expansion, the lobbying group has claimed the new rule is “outrageous” and will force employers “to demote their middle management professionals to clock-punchers.” On the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, NRF senior vice president David French called the rule “a massive overreach.” Earlier that day on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, correspondent Kevin Corke said the rule will mean “more red tape and fewer advancement opportunities” and falsely claimed that “most of the people impacted by this change will not see any additional pay.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed NRF’s statement on the May 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., claiming the overtime rule imposes “more red tape on job creators, which translates into fewer opportunities for people.” In statements released May 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the overtime rule as “more red tape” while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed it was an “absolute disaster” that will end up “hurt[ing] the very people it alleges to help.”

    Despite the coordinated condemnation from conservative media outlets and politicians, overtime expansion is vitally important in a country where 50 percent of full-time workers already work more than 40 hours per week. In an April 21 op-ed in The New York Times, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich argued that many Americans are unaware that overtime protections have eroded over generations, and he noted that working unpaid overtime limits worker productivity and hiring. Reich also pointed out that the proliferation of unpaid overtime contributes to soaring corporate profits.

    The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that overtime expansion will “reduce excessive hours of unpaid work” while adding at least 120,000 jobs in the retail sector -- the very one the NRF claims to represent. The rule change is also expected to change employer behavior; some employers will hire more workers, while other employers will become more efficient. Employees in many instances work unnecessary hours because company cultures value “how much people work (or seem to)” instead of “the quality of their output,” according to an article by professors Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan in the June 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review.

    The NRF has a history of pushing a right-wing, anti-worker agenda. The group opposes collective bargaining and fair scheduling, and was an outspoken opponent of increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour when the debate first gained prominence in 2014.

  • VIDEO: The Repugnant Way The NRA Talks About Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› COLEMAN LOWNDES & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association will surely attack Hillary Clinton during its annual meeting. Members of the NRA’s leadership have attacked Clinton for years with vile and paranoid claims.

    The NRA is holding its annual meeting from May 19-22 in Louisville, KY. On May 20, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and other conservative figures will speak at the meeting’s biggest event, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum.

    The NRA began its opposition to Clinton in earnest during its 2015 meeting with a gender-based attack. While addressing the NRA’s members, LaPierre said of the prospect of electing Clinton after President Obama’s term, “I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.” During that year's leadership forum, LaPierre claimed that Clinton “will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair” to America.

    While LaPierre supplies many of the NRA’s paranoid claims about Clinton and gun confiscation, the organization’s best-known leadership figure, board member Ted Nugent, offers disgusting attacks. Nugent has called Clinton a “toxic cunt,” a “two-bit whore,” and a “worthless bitch,” among other insults.

    Here is how the NRA leadership talks about Clinton:

     

     

     

  • South Carolina’s Anti-Choice Fetal Pain Bill Is “Turning Lies Into Law”

    Nineteen-Week Abortion Ban Contradicts “Medical Consensus” About Fetal Development

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On May 17, South Carolina’s legislature passed a bill to ban abortion after 19 weeks based on the false premise that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks post-fertilization. Armed with a wealth of anti-choice propaganda and right-wing media myths, Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) is likely to sign the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” into law with no exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

    Despite the wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary, assertions about fetal pain have framed right-wing media’s coverage of abortion and supplied talking points for anti-choice politicians to push medically unnecessary laws targeting abortion access. In March,  Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) invoked the idea of fetal pain to sign a dangerous bill requiring Utah doctors to administer anesthesia during abortions performed after 20 weeks. Although South Carolina’s bill does not mandate the use of anesthesia, it is based on the same disputed premise about fetal pain.

    Samantha Allen explained in an article for the Daily Beast that by signing this bill, Gov. Haley not only would make South Carolina “the 17th state in the country to institute a 20-week abortion ban,” but she would “also be turning lies into law.” According to Allen, although the South Carolina bill states that “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by twenty weeks after fertilization,” the majority of credible scientific evidence undermines this fallacious claim.

    Anti-choice legislators claim in the South Carolina bill that fetal reactions to stimuli at 20 weeks post-fertilization prove that the fetuses are capable of feeling pain. In particular, they claim research shows that “a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain.” There is little evidence to support this claim, or other claims of fetal pain prior to 24 weeks of development.

    As Allen explained, the so-called science behind anti-choice legislators’ claims contradicts “the current medical consensus that fetal pain depends on the functioning of pathways in the brain between the thalamus and the cortex.” A 2015 article in FactCheck.org found there was no causal relationship between fetal withdrawal from stimuli and feelings of pain because any “recoil is more of a reflex” that is distinct from “the experience of pain” itself.

    In an interview with Salon, Columbia University Medical Center’s Dr. Anne Davis said these warnings about fetal pain and brain development are “created concerns” that are “based in politics,” not science. According to Davis, a fetus’s brain is not sufficiently developed to perceive pain until 24 weeks gestation. Politicians “can have an opinion about that, but it doesn’t change the information,” she told Salon. A March 2010 report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists affirmed that “research shows that the sensory structures are not developed or specialised enough to experience pain in a fetus less than 24 weeks.”

    Furthermore, Allen noted, two of the three researchers whose work is cited to support fetal pain bills “have already publicly disagreed with the way in which their findings have been used by anti-abortion advocates”:

    In 2013, Dr. Merker told The New York Times that his frequently-cited research “did not deal with pain specifically.” Even Dr. Anand, who believes that fetal pain could start earlier than the literature suggests, told the Times that he used to testify in court cases on abortion bans but that he stopped because “it’s just gotten completely out of hand.”

    In Slate, writer Nora Caplan-Bricker warned that there are compounding negative effects when 20-week bans operate in conjunction with other targeted restrictions on abortion care. She argued that South Carolina’s bill “constricts an already narrow window of opportunity” for patients to access abortion because in “states with multiple restrictions on abortion -- of which South Carolina is one -- women who decide to terminate early in pregnancy can be delayed for weeks or months as they scrape together money or contend with logistics.”

    South Carolina’s anti-choice lawmakers aren’t stopping with a ban on abortion at 19 weeks. As ABC reported, the South Carolina legislature is already hard at work on its next attack on abortion access: “a bill opponents say would essentially ban abortion past 13 weeks.”