Blog

  • Sports Illustrated's Caitlyn Jenner Cover Story Shows The Importance Of Transgender Visibility

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Cover model Caitlyn Jenner reflects on her athletic career, winning gold at the Summer Olympics 40 years ago, and role of recent reality TV star and transgender icon in the summer issue of Sports Illustrated. The story allows Jenner to tell her own story, while also highlighting the positive impact of transgender visibility in the media, pointing out that her story helps transgender people and their families battle intolerance and isolation.

    Nearly 40 years after her last cover appearance on Sports Illustrated, the magazine again featured Caitlyn Jenner in multi-platform profile in its July 4-11 edition. The profile largely focuses on Jenner’s reflections about her journey both before and after winning the decathlon gold medal at the 1976 summer Olympics. In addition to elevating Jenner’s voice, the story spotlights the positive impact of Jenner’s media presence on transgender people, who “battle not only intolerance but also suicidal thoughts, depression and poverty at staggering rates and who are just gaining a foothold in society.”

    The piece contrasts with sensationalist, irresponsible reporting that has often accompanied stories about Jenner and the transgender community. In May, The Washington Post and CBS both parroted the shoddy, unsubstantiated report of a discredited celebrity biographer, who claimed that Jenner might “de-transition.” Sports Illustrated’s profile of Jenner proves that even high-profile celebrity news can educate readers about transgender people and the importance of transgender visibility.

    From the July 4-11 edition of Sports Illustrated

    If there is no medal, Caitlyn Jenner almost certainly does not become the most famous transgender person in history. She does not become a towering (literally, 6' 4" in heels) public figure who both unifies and polarizes (even within the trans community) while spurring discussion of gender issues in ways that no one else has. She has used her celebrity—earnestly, sometimes naively, on a steep learning curve, with millions watching—to help the 700,000 trans men, women and children in America who battle not only intolerance but also suicidal thoughts, depression and poverty at staggering rates and who are just gaining a foothold in society. “I feel like, now, nobody can say they don’t know a transgender person, because she is that famous,” says Chris Mosier, 35, a transgender male triathlete who represented the U.S. at the world sprint duathlon (cycling and running) championships last month in Spain. “She has brought about this awareness among people who are attuned to pop culture and media. Challenges that trans people face have really come to light since she’s come out.

    If there is no medal, she does not affect the lives of thousands of families trying to find their way in a trans world that many scarcely knew existed. Says Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, adolescent medicine specialist in the care of gender nonconforming children and transgender youth at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, “For parents who are scared or nervous about having a child come out as transgender, it suddenly feels like they’re not the only one, because they remember Caitlyn from the Olympics, and this is real. And for the kids, if they know Caitlyn at all, it’s from the Kardashians, but for them, their life is impacted by their parents’ being more open to their journey. It’s a lot easier for them if they have affirming and supportive parents.”

  • The Inherent Contradiction Behind The NRA’s Anti-Clinton Benghazi Ad

    Star Of Ad Previously Said He Didn’t Hold Clinton Accountable For Benghazi Attacks

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s political action committee released an ad featuring a former CIA contracter present during the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks urging viewers not to vote for Hillary Clinton because of the attacks. But the contractor previously said that Clinton is not accountable for the attacks.

    USA Today reported on June 29 that the NRA Political Victory Fund was launching a $2 million ad campaign which the paper notes is “one of the larger expenditures by an outside group on behalf of the presumptive Republican nominee.” The NRA-PVF titled the ad “Mark ‘Oz’ Geist: Stop Clinton, Vote Trump.”

    The ad features Mark “Oz” Geist, a former CIA contractor who responded to the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi that claimed four American lives, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Geist is the co-author of 13 Hours, a book chronicling how he and other contractors undertook a rescue mission during the attacks. The book was later turned into a 2016 Michael Bay film with a similar title.

    In the ad, Geist, who has endorsed Trump, is shown walking through a cemetery while saying, “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.”

    But Geist has said in the past he does not blame Clinton for the attacks. During a January 2016 appearance on ABC’s Nightline to promote the film 13 Hours, Geist disagreed with the notion that Clinton was “accountable” for the Benghazi attacks, instead blaming the terror group that carried out the attack. According to an ABC News writeup of the interview:

    But while many of Clinton's enemies use Benghazi to hold her accountable, Geist has his own perspective.

    “Do I hold her accountable? No. You know who I hold accountable is al-Sharia,” he said. “That’s who attacked them. That’s who killed the ambassador.”

    In addition, Geist has pushed back on the conservative media myth (which congressional investigations have also debunked) that Clinton or some other high-level Obama administration official issued a “stand down” order that delayed the attempt by him and other contractors to rescue Americans under fire during the attacks. During a September 9, 2014, appearance on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Geist instead blamed the delay responding on the CIA station chief, while attributing no “malice” to the chief’s decisions. From a CNN transcript of the segment (emphasis added):

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The chief of base wasn't telling the contractors to wait out of malice or unwillingness to help those under attack. There is a huge and fundamental difference between a short delay for security considerations and a stand down order.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    TAPPER: I understand that this might just be semantics. But their argument is that Bob wanted to make sure that they got Intel, wanted to make sure you had enough weapons, wanted to make sure there was enough backup. It wasn't a political decision.

    GEIST: Sure, sure.

    TAPPER: Your take?

    PARONTO: My take on that is the first five minutes -- and I've even said this, and I even said this to the committee when we were interviewed. I said the first five minutes, I'll give you that. It is a combat situation. We do need to adjust fire and get ourselves in order. The next 20 minutes, no. Tactically, that's unsound and minutes cost lives. And they died of smoke inhalation, Sean and the ambassador. So, once that comes about in that 20 minute time frame, the decision needed to be made. And we need to go - we need to stay in. Also, we didn't have a rapport with the 17 February militia.

    TAPPER: Right.

    PARONTO: So we are calling - calling- we are relying on somebody to rescue our friends and our comrades and we didn't trust them. We didn't initially trust them. We still don't trust them.

    TAPPER: Mark.

    GEIST: Well, you know, and we've never indicated that there was any malice from them. And why he made the decision. But you have six operators that have probably together almost 100 years of experience in counterinsurgency operations. The question that we have, is why wouldn't you utilize that asset that you have available to get out there and see and put eyes on to find out real true intelligence instead of depending on a local national to get that intelligence.

  • Politico: HarperCollins Backed Away From Lewandowski Book Because Of Concerns About Nondisclosure Agreement

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico reported that former Trump campaign manager “Corey Lewandowski had a $1.2-million offer from HarperCollins to write a book chronicling his time running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but the publishing giant backed away from the deal amid concerns about Lewandowski’s nondisclosure agreement, according to two sources familiar with the talks.”

    The reported action by HarperCollins, which is a subsidiary of News Corporation, is in contrast to CNN’s much-criticized hiring of Lewandowski. Politico reported that a “Republican operative familiar with the talks said that HarperCollins officials were concerned about being subjected to criticism similar to that which CNN faced when it signed Lewandowski as an on-air political analyst under a contract that one CNN source suggested was worth somewhere in the low six figures.”

    From Politico:

    The sources said HarperCollins asked to review a copy of the nondisclosure agreement Lewandowski signed as a precondition of his employment with Trump in order to assess whether the candidate or his campaign would be able to exercise control over anything in the book.

    Lewandowski declined to do so, ultimately leading HarperCollins to decide not to renew its initial offer, according to the sources.

    The Republican operative familiar with the talks said that HarperCollins officials were concerned about being subjected to criticism similar to that which CNN faced when it signed Lewandowski as an on-air political analyst under a contract that one CNN source suggested was worth somewhere in the low six figures.

    Many in the media and political spheres questioned whether Lewandowski would be able to add any analysis that sheds actual light on the Trump campaign because of his nondisclosure agreement. New York Times television critic James Poniewozik called Lewandowski’s hire “dubious,” on Twitter adding “if he’s signed an NDA, it’s indefensible.”

  • Wash. Post Media Columnist: CNN’s Hiring Of Lewandowski Plunges The Network “Into A Sea Of Muck”

    Margaret Sullivan: “An Astonishing Reward For Behavior That Should Cause Him To Be Shunned By Respectable Journalistic Organizations”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan slammed CNN’s hiring of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in an article published June 28.

    Sullivan wrote that even in the “highly competitive, ratings-mad” cable news market, networks can cross a “bridge too far” and that CNN “ran blithely across that bridge and plunged into a sea of muck” by hiring Lewandowski to give political commentary on his former boss.

    Sullivan wrote, “Bringing Lewandowski onboard is an astonishing reward for behavior that should cause him to be shunned by respectable journalistic organizations,” and she called into question the value of hiring someone with a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits him from “uttering a negative word about his former boss on air.” These problems became more evident in Lewandowski’s “milquetoast commentary” on Trump’s June 28 speech, in which he spent five minutes campaigning for Trump. From Sullivan’s June 28 column:

    Even in the highly competitive, ratings-mad, hardball-playing world of cable television, there should be a bridge too far.

    In hiring Donald Trump’s fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, CNN ran blithely across that bridge and plunged into a sea of muck.

    Bringing Lewandowski onboard is an astonishing reward for behavior that should cause him to be shunned by respectable journalistic organizations.

    [...]

    In a deeply reported profile in March, Politico depicted Lewandowski as a bully who once called a female colleague a “c---” in front of co-workers at the Washington advocacy group where he once worked. (Lewandowski would not comment to Politico on the altercation with his female colleague.)

    The profile reported that he was “rough with reporters and sexually suggestive with female journalists, while profanely berating conservative officials and co-workers he deemed to be challenging his authority.”

    [...]

    As campaign manager, Lewandowski banned news organizations from rallies and maintained Trump’s media blacklist, which includes The Washington Post, as well as BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Politico, the Des Moines Register and many others. His hostility included CNN at least once. Noah Gray, a CNN producer covering Trump, tweeted last November that as he filmed the crowd’s reaction to a protester at a rally, Lewandowski ordered him “inside the pen or I’ll pull your credentials.”

  • O'Reilly Calls House Benghazi Report "Political" After It Finds No Evidence Of Wrongdoing Against Hillary Clinton

    Despite This, O’Reilly Helps Fox News Politicize Benghazi

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly tweeted that reports from House Select Committees on Benghazi are “political” and called for President Obama to “name a panel to investigate why he was apparently misled.”

    On June 28, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released their report on the September 11, 2012 terror attack which left four Americans dead in Benghazi, Libya. The committee, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), conducted a two-year investigation into the attack only to conclude that they found no evidence of any wrongdoing by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and “failed to unearth anything” damning.

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly criticized the report in a tweet later that day, calling it “political” and claiming that “Obama should have named a panel to investigate why he was misled. He might not want to know.”

    Fox News has been the leading source for Benghazi misinformation following the attacks, pushing myths and blatant speculation in order to politically attack Clinton and the Obama administration.

    Fox has repeatedly attempted to advance unfounded myths about the attacks, from claiming President Obama was watching the attack live in real-time, to Hillary Clinton telling rescuers to “stand down,” despite the total lack of any evidence to support their outlandish claims.

    Bill O’Reilly himself has been a prominent Benghazi misinformer, repeatedly criticizing Clinton and giving advice to Benghazi committee members on how to implicate her.

  • Univision’s Nightly News Program Ignores Impact On Latinas After Supreme Court Strikes Down Anti-Abortion Law

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In response to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Texas’ HB 2 law, which imposed restrictions causing over half the state's abortion clinics to close, Spanish-language media have widely highlighted the positive impact the decision will have for women, particularly the state’s 2.5 million Latinas of reproductive age. But Univision, the largest Hispanic TV news network, failed to explain how the decision will affect Latinas in its report on the ruling during its most highly viewed news show, Noticiero Univision.

    After the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on HB 2, some Hispanic media outlets explained how the law contributed to the many already existing barriers Hispanic women face in accessing reproductive health care, and specifically noted that the decision will benefit Latinas. The editorial board of La Opinión, for example, said that “in practice, restricting abortion in Texas was a way to punish poorer women,” including many of the 2.5 million Hispanic women of reproductive age living in the state. Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo mentioned in its report that the shuttering of abortion clinics in Texas disproportionately affected “Hispanic women of reproductive age” and explained that many Hispanic women rely on these clinics for all of their reproductive health care needs.

    But Noticiero Univision, Univision’s flagship evening news program, excluded any mention of how the Supreme Court’s decision will benefit women, or Latinas in particular, in its report on the ruling. Univision reporter Juan Carlos Gonzalez interviewed activists and read a statement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, an HB2 proponent, but failed to address the impact of the decision for Latinas.

    According to Pew Research Center, Noticiero Univision had the highest viewership among Spanish-language cable news shows in 2015. Univision and Telemundo both have a history of providing lackluster reporting on the ways Latinas are disproportionately affected by barriers to reproductive health care.

    From the June 27 edition of Univision’s Noticiero Univision (translated from Spanish):

    JORGE RAMOS: The Supreme Court ratified the right to abortion when it threw out the Texas law that complicated access for women to end a pregnancy. The highest court found unconstitutional the restrictions imposed by the Texas law on clinics that practice abortion. Many of these clinics had to close when the controversial law was implemented in 2013. Juan Carlos Gonzalez has reactions and details of the verdict.

    JUAN CARLOS GONZALEZ: The Supreme Court’s decision invalidated the law of the state of Texas that obligated clinics that practice abortion to operate like ambulatory surgical clinics and doctors to have hospital-admitting privileges. The decision, the most important in decades on this controversial issue, made those who favor abortion rights happy.

    JULIO DANIEL DÍAZ: As a man, I don’t have the right to tell women to make a decision about their bodies.

    GONZALEZ: But it was a hard hit for those such as Cecilia Salinas, who has always resided in McAllen, Texas, who are opposed to abortion.

    CECILIA SALINAS: I am 100 percent convinced that only God has the right to decide on the life of any human being.

    GONZALEZ: The measure known as HB 2 was passed by the Texas legislature in 2013, but it was subjected to a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court. Texas Governor Greg Abbott reacted with a statement that said, “The decision erodes states’ lawmaking authority to safeguard the health and safety of women and subjects more innocent life to being lost. Texas' goal is to protect innocent life, while ensuring the highest health and safety standards for women."

    For his part, President Barack Obama commented that he feels pleased that the Supreme Court protected the rights and health of women. Before the law went into effect here in Texas, there were approximately 41 clinics like this. After it took effect, the measure closed about half of them. Since 2008, some 70 clinics in the United States have also stopped providing abortions. Nonetheless, many hope that after this decision, many of them return to their operations. [Univision, Noticiero Univision, 6/27/16]

  • Sad! Conservative Media Resort To Unskewing Negative Trump Polls

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    There they go again.

    Conservative media figures, apparently disheartened by recent poll results showing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump heading in the wrong direction, are once again claiming biased or unreliable pollsters are unfairly weighting results against their party. If this sounds familiar, it’s because they did the same thing in 2012, spending months attempting to “unskew” polls showing Mitt Romney losing, only to watch him be soundly defeated on election day.

    In the run-up to the 2012 election, conservatives consistently complained that polls showing President Obama in the lead were inaccurately counting the gap between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. According to this school of thought, the polls were being “skewed” to show Romney losing. One blogger, Dean Chambers, took the data in the polls and reweighted them with a partisan split friendlier to Republicans resulting in “unskewed” polls showing Romney easily winning. Chambers’ work -- which was more akin to wishful thinking than academic analysis -- was nonetheless widely cited by conservative media as evidence of a concerted effort to influence the results of the presidential election in Obama’s favor.

    The polls were not skewed. An average of 2012 election polling predicted that Obama would win by 0.7%. In reality, the victory was by a margin of 3.86%. If anything the polls undercounted Obama’s support.

    Polls can of course go up and down, and the occasional outlier is inevitable. But the argument that the partisan split that pollsters report as they survey voters is somehow skewed to help Democrats is a conspiracy, not actual analysis.

    Despite this, conservative media are once again pushing the “unskewed” theme as recent polls show Clinton leading Trump.

    This time, the charge against the polls is being led in part by the candidate himself. Trump recently responded to a poll showing him losing with tweets that complained “The @ABC poll sample is heavy on Democrats.  Very dishonest - why would they do that?” and “The ‘dirty’ poll done by @ABC @washingtonpost is a disgrace. Even they admit that many more Democrats were polled.”

    The ABC News/Washington Post poll in question shows Clinton ahead of Trump 51%-39%.

    FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noticed the reboot of the “unskewed” theme and asked, “Has anyone seen Donald Trump and Dean Chambers in the same room together?”

    Conservative media figures have also zeroed in on the ABC/Wash. Post poll for criticism. On Fox News’ Fox and Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said that in the methodology for the ABC/Washington Post poll “they actually talked to 12 percent more Democrats than Republicans,” adding, “According to the Gallup poll, there are 3 percent more Democrats in the country than Republicans, so it looks like they've got a favorite in it.” During the same segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade explained to viewers, “So far Donald Trump leads in most independent polls.” This is true, if by “most,” Kilmeade meant none of the last 21 polls included in Real Clear Politics’ general election polling data.  

    The methodology for the poll, conducted by Langer Research for ABC/Washington Post, addresses the partisan breakdown":

    Partisanship can follow political preferences, and in this poll Democrats account for 36 percent of all adults and 37 percent of registered voters – a non-significant (+3) difference from last month. (The former is numerically its highest since 2009, the latter, since 2012.) Republicans account for 24 percent of all adults and 27 percent of registered voters, about their average in recent years, with the rest independents.

    This accounts for little of the shift in voter preferences, however. Even using the same party divisions from last month’s ABC/Post survey, in which Trump was +2, he’d now be -8. The reason, mentioned above, is his comparatively weak performance among Republicans – 77 percent support – compared with Clinton’s support among Democrats, 90 percent. 

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Clinton with a 13% lead over Trump prompted an outburst as well.

    On Fox News host Sean Hannity’s official website, a blog post complained the poll “is heavily skewed.” On his June 27 radio show, Hannity cited the partisan breakdown and described it as a “misleading poll” because the media is “in the tank for Hillary.”

    Hannity apparently didn’t learn his lesson about attempting to unskew polls in 2012, when he was saying things like, “These polls are so skewed, so phony, that we need to start paying attention to what’s going on so that you won’t be deflated.”

    In a post purporting to highlight “More Polling Tricks” from an “EXTREMELY SKEWED” poll, conservative blogger Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit complained this week that “Reuters freighted their poll with 20 percent more Democrats than Republicans” and concluded that “we can safely say that Trump appears to be in much better shape than the poll suggests and could likely be headed to a landslide victory in November.”

    Hoft made a similar argument in September of 2012, complaining that a CNN poll showing Obama leading Romney “drastically oversampled Democrats to get this stunning result.” He then went on to cite Dean Chambers, who said that when “unskewed” the CNN poll showed Romney leading by eight percent.

    Perhaps remembering how much egg the conservative media had on its face after the 2012 debacle, Fox News contributor Brit Hume tried to steer his fellow conservatives away from repeating their mistakes.

    In an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Hume noted that Trump “couldn’t stop talking” about polls showing him in the lead during the primaries, but now “his supporters, the ones I hear from anyway say that the poll is rigged, and all the rest of it.” Then he told host Martha MacCallum, “I don't think your viewers should pay too much attention to that. Look at the polling averages. Look at all the polls put together, to see what you get. And I think the picture's pretty clear. He's trailing, but not insurmountably.”

  • Three Things Right-Wing Media Still Don’t Understand About Affirmative Action In Education
     

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Right-wing media figures are shocked by the Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas II, which reaffirmed that the consideration of race as a factor in college admissions is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Conservative media have been questioning the validity of affirmative action policies for years, appearing equally baffled by the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 on the same matter. This time around, the confusion was again amplified as right-wing media attempted to cast race-conscious college admissions as “racist,” misrepresent the strict legal scrutiny already in place for these types of policies, and dismiss the numerous educational and economic benefits of diverse colleges.

    Research On Educational Benefits Of Diversity Is “Overwhelming” And “Compelling”

    On his radio show immediately following the release of the new Fisher decision, host Rush Limbaugh read from the synopsis of the majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, in particular focusing on a line stating that schools have a “compelling interest” to seek the benefits of a diverse student body through means other than impermissible racial quotas. Limbaugh was so baffled by the “stunning,” “unbelievable,” and “absurd” reasoning, he had to read the line several times and was left speechless, before exclaiming, “This is so bad, I don’t know how to describe it.” Limbaugh then labeled the numerous and proven educational benefits of student body diversity a “liberal concept, perverted and corrupt as it is,” and an “absolutely vacuous argument that the left has been advancing for years.”

    Perhaps if Limbaugh had read more of the opinion, he would better understand how the Supreme Court could deem “the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity” a “compelling interest.” In fact, the American Educational Research Association and “nine other scientific societies” filed an amicus brief in the Fisher case, “urging the court to consider an overwhelming body of evidence” showing “that student body diversity promotes cross-racial understanding, educational and classroom benefits, and professional development,” and “prevents the harms of racial isolation.” A wide range of businesses, public institutions, and educational leadership once again filed amicus briefs in the case, arguing for the value of race-conscious admissions policies. Coalitions of Fortune 100 CEOs and other major business leaders, former senior military officials, several top professional associations for college professors and admissions staff, and the federal government all filed briefs in support of policies like the University of Texas’ admissions approach.

    Race-Conscious Admissions Do Not “Mismatch” Black And Hispanic Students With Schools

    During the Fisher oral arguments in December, the late Justice Antonin Scalia made headlines for referencing the discredited “mismatch theory” that affirmative action policies place underprepared students of color in schools that are too challenging for them. The flawed assumptions that underscore this theory have likewise pervaded right-wing media’s reactions to the Supreme Court’s decision.

    Several conservative media figures have expressed their confusion and concern that black and Latino students might somehow be disserved by race-conscious admissions policies in social or emotional ways, in addition to struggling with academic “mismatch.” Commentator Heather Mac Donald, for example, denounced the decision, asserting that “race-based admissions preferences” allow students to “come into environments for which they’re not prepared,” leading to academic failure, “the sort of insanity that this country went through last year with the Black Lives Matter protests on campuses,” and a “growing victimology on campuses.”

    But here are the facts: Numerous studies have shown students of color do better in more selective schools, and experts have discredited what little research backs “mismatch theory.” In fact, a brief filed with the Supreme Court in the Fisher case by experts in methodology and statistics urged the court to disregard the most highly cited study supporting the debunked theory, writing that the study “fails to satisfy the basic standards of good empirical social science research.”

    The Court Has Consistently Applied Strict Legal Scrutiny To Federal Affirmative Action Programs

    The facts haven’t stopped conservative media from once again incorrectly characterizing the ongoing legality of narrowly tailored affirmative action programs as a major shift in legal precedent amounting to reverse racism. This time around, right-wing media figures lamented the Fisher decision as propping up “another kind of discrimination” that might be “equally wrong,” “reverse discrimination” or “racist,” and incorrectly suggested that the decision is related to setting impermissible racial quotas for admissions. Rush Limbaugh, in particular, appeared deeply confused, first insisting that the decision relates to racial quotas specifically. Then, after reading a portion of the majority opinion that highlighted the holistic review process at the University of Texas several times, Limbaugh concluded that affirmative action, which he previously understood as a “glorified quota program,” has shifted to something “even worse.” Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro also asserted that Justice Kennedy had “flipped” in his ruling and that “our freedoms are decided” based on whether the Supreme Court justice “had his Metamucil that morning.”

    But the court’s reaffirmation of the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions policy, while a surprising decision for many court experts and affirmative action advocates who feared the court had shifted irrevocably to the right, does not break new legal ground. In fact, Kennedy’s opinion specifically represents a continued belief that properly tailored affirmative action programs remain constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment -- a line of reasoning he has espoused for nearly a decade. The narrow ruling on the Texas holistic admissions approach is the latest Supreme Court opinion to reaffirm what has been a guiding principle since 1978, further detailed in 2003: that the use of race as one factor among many in individualized and holistic considerations of applicants to institutions of higher education remains both necessary and constitutional to ensure the diversity of America's future leaders.

  • Farewell To Fox News’ Benghazi Hoax

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    To the surprise of no one, the Republicans’ four-year partisan inquisition surrounding the terrorist attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, is likely ending with a whimper. With the House Select Committee on Benghazi finally releasing its findings, and the report representing the eighth and (likely) final government investigation into the deadly event, the Benghazi hoax, as sponsored by Fox News for four years, finally comes to an impotent and ignominious end.

    Early indications are that the report, as expected, provides no major revelations. Already undercut by a report from Democratic members of the Benghazi committee that further debunked right-wing myths about the attack, the GOP’s long-awaited Benghazi report is in danger of being met with collective shoulder shrugs.

    Even Donald Trump seems relatively uninterested in kicking the Benghazi can around the campaign trail this year. Yes, he’s made a couple passing references to it and implied grave misdeeds by Hillary Clinton. But there’s been no serious push on his part to highlight the GOP’s endless pursuit. (Last year, Trump actually criticized the Republicans’ investigations as being incompetent.)

    So if Benghazi isn’t being used as an election year battering ram against the Democrats, what has been the point of committee chairman Trey Gowdy’s comically extended inquiry? Anybody with a pulse and a political calendar realized that the final GOP Benghazi report, with its 2016 summertime release, was designed to disrupt Clinton’s White House run. Why else would the committee’s work be extended for two-plus years when it likely could have been completed in six or seven months? (Two years to hold four hearings?)

    Unsure they could defeat Clinton at the ballot box, and lately even more unsure that Trump is competent enough to run a White House campaign, Republicans were hoping and praying for an investigative intervention to stop Clinton.

    It ain’t happening with Benghazi. But anyone who followed the facts, or who reads Media Matters, knew that a very long time ago.

    The whole mindless, partisan endeavor shines a light on what’s gone completely wrong with the Republican Party and the right-wing media. It’s about how shallow, endlessly debunked conspiracies and money-sucking investigations have replaced any attempt to govern and legislate.

    The fact that the GOP’s Benghazi gotcha pursuits have stretched through the entirety of Obama’s second term, and that Obama stands poised to leave office with surging approval ratings, tells you all need to know about the crippling disconnect between the right-wing media and the real world today. (Fox’s Eric Bolling: “I think Benghazi's a much bigger scandal than Watergate.")

    But let’s never forget that the Beltway press claims partial ownership of this slow-motion fiasco, too. The press certainly owns the first three years of the Benghazi charade when journalists breathlessly amplified every slipshod allegation leaked from Republicans on Capitol Hill, or followed Fox News’ lead in hyping an endless series of supposed revelations about the attacks. Sometimes we couldn’t tell who was more anxious to uncover an Obama or Clinton-related “scandal,” the press or partisan conservatives.

    If I had to estimate, I’d say it took until October 2015 -- three entire years of Benghazi news dead ends -- before the D.C. press mostly conceded there’s no there there with regards to this so-called scandal. It took Hillary Clinton testifying for 11 hours on Capitol Hill and Republicans completely unable to advance, let alone confirm, their wild conspiracy theories before the press largely seemed to acknowledge the futility of the whole enterprise. (Accidental truth telling in 2015 by some GOP House members regarding the motivation about the Benghazi committee likely also convinced reporters the endeavor was largely a scam.)

    Unfortunately, this was after several Beltway journalists’ reputations took serious hits when they were caught trusting dubious sources who lied about Benghazi revelations.

    Meanwhile, here’s some distressing context. I wrote this more than 1,300 days ago:

    Benghazi has entered the realm of churning, right-wing myth making. (Think Waco and Vince Foster). The story has become completely detached from reality, and the twisted narrative feeds off itself with constant misinformation that's repeatedly presented as 'fact.' 

    I certainly never thought in the fall of 2012 that four years later I’d still be pointing the Benghazi hoax and highlighting the obvious absurdity of the pursuit. Overall, Media Matters has posed hundreds of fact-checking items on Benghazi and we’ll continue to do so as long as conservatives cling to the fantasy. But that will be much harder to do now without a congressional inquiry to give the wild claims shape.

    The larger point is that Republicans and Fox News have wasted untold time, money and energy pushing a thoroughly discredited pipe dream about how Obama and Clinton are supposedly monstrous people who chose to let four Americans die at the hands of Islamic terrorists and then lied about it. Worse, Obama watched video "in real time" while the terrorists snuffed out American lives. "Support wasn't given," in the words of Karl Rove.

    Vile, vile lies.

    This whole endeavor has been a depressing reflection on how broken the conservative movement has become, and also how the Beltway press simultaneously takes its marching orders from the scandal-obsessed right wing. Like Republicans, journalists seemed to be eagerly holding out hope for an Obama or Clinton scandal to emerge from the Benghazi investigations.

    And of course that faulty blueprint hasn’t just applied to the Benghazi “scandal.” As noted in September last year, ABC World News TonightCBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News together spent just as much time covering Clinton’s email controversy as they spent covering the substance of her entire presidential campaign.

    If we’re truly bidding farewell to Fox News’ Benghazi conspiracy hoax (fingers crossed), there’s another point about context that’s worth stressing one last time. 

    I think one way the GOP and conservative media were able to string the serious press along on Benghazi was that they framed the Benghazi terror attack as an almost-unprecedented event in American history (sadly, it was not) and one that exposed unheard of security failures by Obama’s White House and Clinton’s State Department; it was supposedly an epic fiasco that demanded countless investigations. 

    What the press for most of the last four years refused to do is put the Benghazi terror attack in any kind of historical context.

    Consider these facts under President Ronald Reagan:

    *April 18, 1983: Bombing of U.S. Embassy in Beirut. 63 people were killed, including 17 Americans, including the CIA’s chief analyst in the Middle East, and the Beirut station chief. 

    *September 6, 1983: Two Marines were killed during a lengthy rocket assault on the Marine base at Beirut's airport.

    *Oct. 23, 1983: Bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut. A suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives at a U.S. Marine barracks; 241 U.S. service personnel were killed.

    *Sept. 20, 1984: Bombing of U.S. Embassy annex. A truck bomb exploded in Aukar, northeast of Beirut, outside the annex, killing 24 people, including two U.S. military personnel.

    During an 18-month span, U.S. facilities in and around Beirut were attacked by terrorists four times, killing 330 people, including 262 Americans.

    There was exactly one congressional investigation into the Beirut debacle.

  • Don’t Get Spun By Bogus “New Revelations” In The GOP Benghazi Report

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi are taking advantage of the complexity surrounding the 2012 attacks by trying to pass off old details as “new revelations.” Reporters should be careful not to fall for their spin.

    Among the “many new revelations” the Benghazi Select Committee Republicans claim to show in the press release accompanying their final report on the attacks is that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was preparing for a trip to Libya at the time of the attacks, and that as part of that trip Ambassador Chris Stevens wanted the Benghazi diplomatic facility to be made a permanent Consulate:

    Emails indicate senior State Department officials, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and Huma Abedin were preparing for a trip by the Secretary of State to Libya in October 2012. According to testimony, Chris Stevens wanted to have a “deliverable” for the Secretary for her trip to Libya, and that “deliverable” would be making the Mission in Benghazi a permanent Consulate.

    This has been cited as a “new detail” in The Washington Post, a “new revelation” in The Hill, and a “previously unreported detail” by NBC News.

    In reality, former Deputy Chief of Mission to Libya Gregory Hicks detailed these facts in public testimony before the House Oversight Committee on May 8, 2013 (via Nexis, emphasis added):

    REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Mr. Hicks, why was ambassador Stevens headed to Benghazi? There were a lot of concerns about him. There were a lot of security issues that Mr. Nordstrom had listed in numerous reports leading up to his trip there.

    Why was the ambassador headed there?

    HICKS: According to Chris, Secretary Clinton wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post.

    [...]

    REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): OK.

    Did you tell the Accountability Review Board about Secretary Clinton's interest in establishing a permanent presence in Benghazi?

    Because, ostensibly, wasn't that the reason that the ambassador was going to Benghazi?

    HICKS: Yes, I did tell the Accountability Review Board that Secretary Clinton wanted the post made permanent. Ambassador Pickering looked surprised. He looked both ways on the -- to the members of the board, saying, "Does the 7th floor know about this?"

    And another factor was our understanding that Secretary Clinton intended to visit Tripoli in December.

    This isn’t the only case where Republicans are pushing out “new revelations” that have been previously reported, as Roll Call columnist and Hillary Clinton biographer Jonathan Allen noted:

    The Benghazi story is extremely complex, and “bombshells” have often turned out to be reheated old news. Journalists should be careful not to be a conduit for Republicans efforts to turn such details into new scandals.

    UPDATE: The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reports on one reason why initial stories on the Republican report have been so vulnerable to spin from GOP: Reporters from several outlets were given embargoed portions of the report, but under the terms of their agreement with the committee were barred from discussing it with Democrats until the embargo ended -- at 5 a.m. ET this morning. Wemple notes that this timeline made it impossible for reports to both be released in a timely fashion and include reasoned responses from sources other than the Republicans on the committee or their staff. 

    He concludes that this "should prompt all the participants to examine how they do business, especially considering that reporting on Benghazi has been marred in the past by highly consequential, skewed leaks," but that that won't happen. From Wemple's post.:

    The embargo against news organizations appears to have lifted around 5:00 a.m.; the report was released to the public at around 8:30 a.m.; Benghazi committee Democrats received a paper copy at 7:45 a.m. and a digital one at 8:00 a.m. What this all means is that organizations that received the early peek at sections of the report could check with their Clinton campaign and State Department sources around dawn. The problem: Those sources themselves likely didn’t have the report at that time.

    Upshot: People at the Clinton campaign and the State Department played a great deal of catch-up today. Politico’s story on all of the alleged stonewalling, for instance, first hit the Internet without any specific rebuttal from the State Department itself, the target of much of Politico’s piece. 

    [...]

    Embargoes have existed for years, so there’s nothing terribly new about this rash of silver-platter stories. And many Washington journalists have played ball with this awful institution — including the Erik Wemple Blog. The stories that today resulted from this journo-exclusive culture will surely do well in terms of pageviews and other Internet metrics. They won’t endure, however: Any 800-page report takes days, not hours under the harrowing rules of an embargo, to digest and properly vet. The notion that news organizations were trying to abridge the thing based on partial spoon-feeding and lightning-quick responses from the targets should prompt all the participants to examine how they do business, especially considering that reporting on Benghazi has been marred in the past by highly consequential, skewed leaks. Nothing of the sort, of course, will happen. In any case, the best stories on this report have yet to be published.

    For more information, visit Benghazihoax.com