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  • NY Times Editorial Board Calls Out Texas Attorney General’s “Legal Assaults” On Transgender Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The New York Times' editorial board criticized Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s recent “bigot[ed]” attacks on transgender people that are based on the “specious” right-wing myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people threaten others’ safety.

    On August 23, Paxton filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services seeking to overturn a section of the Affordable Care Act that bars discrimination against transgender people in health insurance and by health providers accepting federal funds. In May, Paxton led another lawsuit challenging the education and justice departments’ joint guidance directing all public schools to provide transgender students with access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, that are consistent with a student’s gender identity.

    In an August 24 editorial, the Times’ editorial board slammed Paxton for his continued attacks on transgender equality. The board noted that Paxton’s team actively “encouraged” a school district to adopt an anti-transgender policy -- even though “there was no controversy surrounding transgender students” in the district-- because the state’s lawyers knew a case there would be assigned to a favorable judge. The board called out Paxton’s lawsuits for being “based on bigotry” and the “specious claim that” transgender protections “pose a threat to the safety of others,” a debunked talking point peddled by anti-LGBT extremists and right-wing media outlets and figures that the Times’ editorial board has repeatedly called out.

    From the editorial:

    Just days after the federal Department of Education in May issued sensible antidiscrimination guidelines for accommodating transgender students, Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, set out to challenge them.

    His team reached out to tiny school districts in North Texas to persuade them to adopt policies that would require transgender students to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates — which would put them at odds with the Education Department’s new transgender guidelines. Those guidelines direct educators to investigate harassment of transgender students promptly; to use pronouns and names consistent with a student’s gender identity; and to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity.

    [...]

    Zeroing in on North Texas, the attorney general’s office encouraged the Harrold Independent School District to adopt an anti-transgender bathroom policy. The choice of district was no accident. Though there was no controversy surrounding transgender students in Harrold, the state’s lawyers knew that any case challenging the federal policy brought there would be assigned to Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

    [...]

    Judge O’Connor on Sunday issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the Education Department from enforcing its guidelines nationwide. In a 38-page order, he barred the federal government from taking enforcement action against discriminatory policies or practices.

    The ruling, which the Justice Department is expected to appeal, may lead educators around the country to question whether they need to follow the Education Department’s transgender guidelines as the new school year starts. They would be wrong not to; the rules provide a common-sense approach that makes harassment and stigmatization of transgender students less likely.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Paxton is determined to block another important protection for transgender people. On Tuesday, his office filed a new lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services over a regulatory change that sought to expand access to medical care for transgender Americans. This case, too, has been assigned to Judge O’Connor.

    These legal assaults on equal protection for transgender Americans are based on bigotry and the specious claim that they pose a threat to the safety of others. The toll exacted on this vulnerable population is heavy and will remain so as these cases and other litigation involving transgender laws move through the courts.

  • As One Murdoch Company Struggles With Sexual Harassment Allegations, Another Murdoch Publication Debates Marital Rape

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The sexism in Rupert Murdoch’s world continues: Even as the media mogul’s Fox News Channel is facing a torrent of sexual harassment charges, mostly directed at former CEO Roger Ailes, a website Murdoch owns posted a debate over the existence of marital rape.

    Murdoch owns News Corp, which launched Heat Street in February, a digital media site catered toward “center-right and conservative audiences.” On August 14, Heat Street posted a debate about marital rape between its own Louise Mensch, a former Conservative member of Parliament in the U.K., and Vox Day, a white nationalist blogger and WorldNetDaily columnist.

    Vox Day, otherwise known as Theodore Robert Beale, has previously rejected the notion that America is a “melting pot” and advocated for returning to a “traditional white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture” through ethnic cleansing.

    In the debate, Heat Street head Mensch took the position that marital rape can exist in certain situations, when a spouse has clearly said “no.” Vox Day claimed that the only way to “withdraw [sexual] consent from marriage is to divorce.” Drawing some pushback from Mensch, Day argued that giving permanent consent in marriage is the same as signing up for the military, arguing, “You don’t get to withdraw your consent and say, ‘You know what, sergeant? I don’t feel like going out running today. I’m withdrawing my consent.’” From the debate, posted on August 14 (emphasis original):

    Vox Day: Yeah, I think it’s quite obvious that it’s not even possible for there to be anything that we describe as rape within marriage. I find it remarkable that someone would try and claim that it is beyond debate when this new concept of marital rape is not only very, very new but is in fact not even applicable to most of the human race. It’s very clear, for example, in India it’s part of the written law that it’s not possible for, even if force is involved, there cannot be rape between a man and a woman. In China the law is the same.

    LM: Mm-hmm (affirmative) but there’s a difference between saying what the law is and saying what is morally right. You would agree that just because somebody says something is a law doesn’t make it so. Let’s just start with that basic principle.

    Vox: There’s huge difference between morality and legality. I’d be the first to agree with that. The fact of the matter is that the concept of marital rape hangs on consent and because marriage is and has always granted consent, the act of marriage is a granting of consent, therefore it’s not possible for the consent to be withdrawn and then for rape to happen. In fact, the concept of marital rape is created by the cultural Marxists in an attempt to destroy the family and to destroy the institution of marriage.

    LM: I’m going to say that that’s patent nonsense. If you consent to something once it doesn’t mean that you’ve given a blanket consent to it forever. We agree on the definition of rape – that rape is when one party forces sex on the other without their consent?

    Vox: Yes.

    LM: Good. We go that far. Your argument then hinges on the statement that to get married is to give an all time consent forever to sex with your spouse?

    Vox: Exactly. It’s no different than when you join the army. You only have to join the army once. You don’t get the choice to consent to obey orders every single time an order is given. In certain arrangements, and marriage is one of them, the agreement is a lasting one and that’s why it’s something that should not be entered into lightly.

    […]

    Vox: The only way that you can withdraw consent from marriage is to divorce.

    LM: Who says?

    Vox: That that was even settled under the English common law that if you were to say no at any time that was effectively equivalent to a demand for a divorce.

    […]

    Vox: Where is the line drawn?

    LM: It’s simple. It’s quite simple. The line is drawn very, very simply. If the woman says no and means no and I’m going to infer the wrath of eleventy billion feminists by saying there is a problem and all women know it with the no means no standard because quite often you can laugh, you can giggle, you can say, “No, come on” and you don’t mean no and it’s quite obvious from your tone and demeanor. I’m postulating where a woman has clearly said no, clearly meant it, she feels ill, has just had a huge fight with the man, and any number of such very obvious situations. The woman has said at that moment, even though they regularly have sex as a couple, she does not want to have sex and he forces himself upon her. That is clearly rape and it doesn’t take away from the fact that she has an obligation in general to have sex with him and he with her. When you extrapolate that from every single time he feels like it, I see no justification in your argument so far for that leap.

    Vox: Because there has to be a reliable standard. You’re going to have to draw a line at some point between it’s never okay and it’s always okay. There is no line and in fact the way that we know that marital rape is bad law is because virtually no one is ever prosecuted under it. It’s interesting.  

    The debate came as 21st Century Fox’s Fox News Channel, another Murdoch-owned company, is facing sexual harassment claims. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a "sexual harassment/retaliation" lawsuit against former CEO Ailes, who has a long history of sexist behavior, in July. Since then, 20 women have reportedly come forward to allege sexual harassment by Ailes.

    On August 22, former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros also filed a lawsuit against Fox News and Ailes. Tantaros’ complaint alleges that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros.”

  • The New York Times And Trump’s Loopy Note From His Doctor

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Donald Trump

    With Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his media surrogates making unfounded allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s mental and physical well-being and demanding she release more medical records, The New York Times recently addressed the issue of candidate health. In a story headlined "Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Ages 68 and 70, Share Few Health Details," the newspaper claimed that both Trump and Clinton “have been more secretive and selective than many recent presidential nominees in providing up-to-date details about their personal health.”

    The Times article quickly conceded that Trump has been less forthcoming than Clinton. But it’s wildly misguided to suggest Trump and Clinton have treated the issue of medical disclosures in a remotely similar fashion. Yes, each candidate has released a letter from his or her personal doctor evaluating the candidate’s current health. But it’s fantasy to pretend that the two doctors’ letters are comparable.

    And that’s where the Times examination really stumbled, by trying to take seriously the dubious letter from Trump’s doctor that was released last December -- a letter that has been widely derided as a joke. “It purports to be a medical letter, but it is one of the most ridiculous documents ever to emerge in any political campaign,” Kurt Eichenwald recently wrote for Newsweek.

    So committed was the paper to the narrative that both Clinton and Trump were hiding their medical past, the Times ignored the real story: Trump has released no verifiable information about his medical history. None. Because to date, Trump’s only medical release is his very weird doctor’s letter, which remains a completely useless document.

    The brief, vague letter was released 11 days after Trump vowed in December to make public a “full medical report” about his physical health and fitness to serve as president. He bragged that the medical report would “show perfection.”

    To date, there’s been no medical report, just the weird, uninformative letter penned by Dr. Harold N. Bornstein.

    Accentuated by typos -- including a very odd “To Whom My Concern” salutation -- and featuring a website URL that doesn’t work, Trump’s four-paragraph medical letter was filled with strange terms like “astonishingly excellent,” which convey no medical meaning.  

    Dr. Jennifer Gunter dissected the Trump letter for The Huffington Post, noting that doctors "just don't typically write vague, quasi-medical things in letters. ... I would never write anything this terrible for a jury duty excuse or a back to work note. ... It’s medically illiterate.”

    At one point, Trump’s doctor boasted that the Republican nominee’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” But the doctor never explained how he measured Trump’s stamina and strength. Bornstein also claimed Trump had lost “at least fifteen pounds” in the previous year, but he never listed the candidate’s current weight.

    Another gaping hole, as noted by Eichenwald:

    The letter from the Trump campaign mentions nothing about family history, as any normal letter assessing someone’s medical condition would. (Clinton’s does.) Family history is critical in understanding possible diseases that may emerge, particularly those with a genetic link. Trump’s father, Fred Trump, died from complications of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

    Meanwhile, Bornstein in the letter says he’s been treating Trump for decades. But note that the physician is a gastroenterologist, a doctor who treats digestive tract problems. If Trump is in such “astonishingly excellent” health, why has he been going to see a gastroenterologist for nearly half his life? (Clinton’s letter of medical evaluation was written by Lisa Bardack, director of internal medicine in the Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical.)

    None of it makes any sense, which is why the Trump letter has been widely derided as a joke. Yet this week the Times opted to treat the letter as legitimate in an effort to portray Trump and Clinton as equally secretive.

    The truth is, Clinton has released about as much medical information as President Obama did when he ran for president in 2008. By contrast, Trump has released only a baffling, useless document from his gastroenterologist. “The letter provides essentially no medical information,” wrote Gunter.

    The Times is right that there is a candidate in this race who’s being “more secretive and selective” about releasing medical information. But it’s not Clinton.

  • After John McCain Told A Few Jokes, Politico Declared The Return Of The “Straight Talk Express”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    John McCain

    Politico’s report on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) re-election fight could not have been more flattering to the candidate if his press staff had authored it.

    Based on attending a single day of events with McCain, Politico published an August 23 story headlined “The return of ‘Straight Talk’ McCain” that claimed that, at least for that day, he was again “the loose, accessible, happy warrior of Straight Talk Express yesteryear” and was “at ease on the trail” while “running what might be his last campaign in vintage plainspoken style.”

    The fawning article relayed anecdotes from reporter Burgess Everett’s travel to a series of McCain campaign events that day. Readers learn that McCain told several jokes over the course of the day, that he was “relaxed enough to kid around about ethnic jokes” during one event and told a light joke at Everett’s expense at another. Everett also reported that McCain criticized Congress and President Obama, and that when asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the “straight-talker” first dodged the question before eventually saying,“I believe we should do everything we can as Republicans to steer Mr. Trump in the right direction.”

    Somehow the article never mentioned that McCain has endorsed Trump. And despite the paeans to the “plainspoken” McCain, it never found space to bring up how the senator hemmed and hawed his way through a stammering nonanswer after being asked earlier this month if he is comfortable with his choice for president of the United States controlling the nuclear arsenal:

    The Straight Talk Express is back! Congrats to the senator’s campaign press operation.

    Thanks to an intensive, decades-long effort to cultivate the press, McCain has received an unearned reputation from reporters as a maverick and a straight-talker, as detailed in Media Matters’ 2008 book, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media. Yet after his words and actions make clear that he is a Republican like any other, the press regularly finds ways to declare that the “old” McCain is “back.”

     
  • In The Name Of Optics, Beltway Press Renews Its War On The Clinton Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This Sunday’s New York Times front page delivered a curious pair of campaign bookends when the newspaper presented what it framed as problematic reports for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    In the Trump dispatch, the Times detailed how the businesses run by the self-described billionaire are mired in at least $650 million of debt, and stressed “how much of Mr. Trump’s business remains shrouded in mystery.” For a candidate running on his supposed commerce wizardry, the report was highly damaging.

    As for that day’s Clinton campaign woes? According to the Times’ front page, the troubles come in the form of the Clinton family’s global charity: “Foundation Ties Bedevil Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign.”

    The newspaper was never able to explain how the issue was bedeviling or sidelining her campaign, considering her White House run boasts some of the largest summertime presidential leads in decades, but the Times was sure that “the funding of the sprawling philanthropy has become an Achilles’ heel for her campaign.” 

    Republicans have echoed the spin in recent days, and dialed it up to 11. Trump called for a special prosecutor to investigate the foundation’s supposed criminal ways, and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani suggested the charity be indicted as a “racketeering enterprise.” 

    Is it possible a charity could emerge as bad news, or represent bad optics, for a presidential candidate? Certainly. For instance, if a politician is connected to a foundation that’s been caught ripping people off, siphoning off contributions, or misleading donors about the work being done. But none of that applies to the uniquely transparent Clinton Foundation. (See here for helpful context that’s usually overlooked in Beltway press coverage.)

    The charity represents a thriving philanthropic operation that assists people around the world, while brandishing esteemed charitable credentials. It’s a charity that’s helped more than nine million people get lower-cost HIV/AIDS medicine, and a foundation that also tries to improve global health and fights against economic inequalitychildhood obesity, and climate change.

    And it’s a charity that boasts an “A” rating (the frequent conservative refrain that the foundation spends 85 percent of its budget on "overhead" represents a lazy smear).

    That’s what the Times dubs Clinton’s “Achilles' heel”? It’s almost like someone posed a collective challenge to the press: Try to turn landmark charitable giving into a bad-news story for the Clintons. (Boy, have they tried.)

    How did we get to this absurd place -- to this absurd disconnect -- where the press depicts a wildly successful and transparent charity as some sort of ominous web of political deceit supposedly drenched in shadowy payments? And why do optics trump humanitarianism when it comes to the Clinton endeavors? 

    This truly does feel like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Keep in mind, when the Clintons left the White House in January 2001, they could have chosen virtually any path they wanted. But they didn’t start a hedge fund, they don’t speculate on real estate, and they’re not charging $800 an hour as D.C. lawyers or lobbyists. They founded a charity. (And yes, they give speeches.)

    The Clintons in recent days have taken steps to address what would be clear conflicts of interests with the foundation if she were elected president. The Clinton family announced the foundation would stop accepting money from foreign donors. Also, after the election the charity will seek out partners to absorb much of the foundation’s work, leaving it dramatically smaller in size and scope.

    Still, the media’s latest hand-wringing foundation pile-on (i.e. shut it down!) represents a textbook example of the press joining forces with Republicans to push talking points about the Clintons and dubious ‘scandals.’ Eventually after much chasing and little success, the press usually retreats and presents the supposedly scandalous affair as bad optics, or complains that it raises troubling questions.

    In the last two years, the Times and Washington Post have published more than 200 articles about the Clinton Foundation, according to Nexis. I’m guessing if there were any blockbuster revelations to be found, we’d know about them by now.

    Like the endlessly monotonous email pursuit, the press long ago lost sight of what the actual Clinton Foundation wrongdoing was supposed to be. Last year, the overexcited headlines insisted foundation donors had influenced Clinton while she served as secretary of state, to the point where she altered U.S. policy to please fat cat supporters.

    But that’s never been proven to be true. Not even close.  (Time has conceded, “The suggestion of outside influence over U.S. decision-making is based on little evidence.”)

    Those allegations of heavy-handed influence peddling and favor-granting have faded and now, at least this week, the supposed foundation ‘scandal’ revolves around how meetings at the State Department were scheduled by Clinton aides. Talk about a major downgrade.

    Like clockwork, the press is treating as very big, and troubling, news the Associated Press report from Tuesday, which claims that of the non-government workers and foreign representatives Clinton met with or phoned with as secretary of state, 85 of them were Clinton donors. The implication being that if you gave to the foundation you were then granted special access to the State Department.

    Even if the contact between donors produced no wrongdoing (and there’s no suggestion it did), “it’s the number” of meetings that is causing Clinton “some heartburn,” according to CBS News.

    But why? Clinton ran the State Department for approximately 1,400 days and during that time she met or phoned 85 people who have donated to the Clinton Foundation. Why is that supposed to be scandalous? The AP also omitted key context, such as how many of those donors gave to the foundation years before anyone knew Clinton would become secretary of state? And how many of those donors were also granted meetings with previous Republican administration secretaries of state?

    We don’t know. Instead, we’re left with breathless reporting about how meetings were scheduled at the State Department. That’s the controversy. Talk about the ultimate process story.

    Yet incredibly, it’s the Clintons’ charity success that still warrants long-running, and often microscopic, coverage. It’s the Clinton Foundation that raises ‘troubling questions,’ not the fact that Donald Trump lies about his charitable giving.

    Note: If Hillary Clinton bragged about giving tens of millions of dollars to charities but only actually gave $10,000 of her own money, the way Trump apparently did, the outraged D.C. press corps would denounce her for days and all but demand she drop out of the race.

    But the foreign funding!, cries the press. The possible conflicts of interest! It’s all so uniquely Clinton-esque we’re told.

    But is it? As David Corn noted in Mother Jones last year:

    Anyone who wanted to gain favor with the Bush clan while George W. Bush was president could have anonymously donated an unlimited amount of money to his father’s foundation, and now that Jeb Bush is in the hunt, anyone looking to fashion a relationship with the Bushes can contribute millions to either of these Bush foundations and keep that connection a secret.

    So yes, the Bush family foundations can receive millions from foreign donors. And the Bush family foundations don’t reveal who the donors are. But it’s the Clinton Foundation that’s criticized in the press for disclosing all of its donors.

    Trying make sense of that pretzel logic. You can’t. It’s simply the press demanding there be a separate, higher, and often hysterical standard for the Clintons.

  • Muhammad Yunus Is A Decades-Long Clinton Friend And A Nobel Prize Winner. Donations Aren't Why She Met With Him.

    The "Scandal" Requires Reducing International Business And Non-Profit Leaders To "Clinton Foundation Donors"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Associated Press is reporting that “more than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation” and scandalizing the information as “an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” That report is currently rocketing through the media.

    This level of media hysteria would make sense if favors were being granted to individuals because they were donors. But that speculation falls apart when the story gets down to specific cases, because many Clinton Foundation donors are internationally prominent figures in the business or non-profit worlds – the very sort of people one would expect to be meeting with a secretary of state in any administration.

    According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.”

    So who are these Clinton Foundation donors that the AP  notes met with Clinton? Famed Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus is one, and eleven paragraphs of the AP story detail meetings and interactions between the internationally known figure and Clinton and her staff over assistance he sought that was first reported last October.

    Yes, Yunus-controlled organizations have donated between $125,000 and $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation, mostly as annual fees to attend Clinton Global Initiative meetings. But it’s completely absurd to suggest that “Clinton Foundation donor” is a major part of Yunus’ identity, or the reason why he might command attention from the secretary of state.

    As the AP notes, Yunus “won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest ‘microcredit’ for poor business owners.” He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is incredibly well-credentialed and almost universally celebrated. According to the Financial Times, beginning in 2007, tensions began between Yunus and Bangladesh’s government when Yunus “suggested he might establish his own political party to clean up Bangladesh’s public life.” Yunus was ultimately forced out of his managing director position at Grameen Bank in 2011 just months after the prime minister publicly denigrated microlenders as “bloodsuckers of the poor.” During that period, Clinton repeatedly received requests for help from Yunus, spoke with him on the phone, and after he was ousted met with him and publicly urged the government to halt their efforts to “seize control of Grameen Bank's effort to find new leaders.”

    And this wasn’t Clinton’s first encounter with Yunus - the Clintons have ties to the economist that go back decades before the foundation even existed. They brought Yunus to Arkansas in 1983 to learn more about how microfinance could be used in the state, and Bill Clinton talked about his work during his 1992 presidential campaign.

    Politico’s Blake Hounshell pointed out the oddity of portraying Yunus as a “Clinton crony” rather than a victim deserving of Clinton’s aid:

    In addition to Yunus, here are the other people who met with Clinton detailed in the report:

    • S. Daniel Abraham, the “billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace.”
    • Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity companies in the world, with a massive charitable giving arm to match.
    • Nancy Mahon “of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder,” whom the AP suggests met with Clinton to discuss “a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.”
    • Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda, whose “company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.”

    All are Clinton Foundation donors or work for organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation. But they are also exactly the sort of people you would expect to meet with any secretary of state. The suggestion of malfeasance only makes sense if you ignore any reason Clinton could have to meet with these individuals other than their status as donors to an international charity.

  • Fox Claim That Half Of Clinton State Dept. Visitors Were Donors Undermined By AP Report

    Associated Press Explains That Report Only Includes Her Meetings With People Outside The Government

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News personalities deceptively cited an Associated Press report to claim that half of all of Hillary Clinton’s visitors during her tenure as secretary of state were donors to the Clinton Foundation. But the AP only included her meetings with people “outside the government,” and the report made clear that her actions do not appear to violate the law. 

    A review of State Department calendars showed “at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton … donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs,”  according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press.

    Fox News argued the report was proof of “influence peddling,” claiming it found over 50 percent of all Clinton’s meetings at the State Department were with Clinton Foundation donors. Stuart Varney, guest host of Your World with Neil Cavuto, called the AP report “clear evidence” of “a round robin of influence peddling” because Clinton “holds meetings half the time” with donors: 

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): This late report from the AP, roughly half the people who had meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had contributed money to the foundation. That is clear evidence, it seems, of influence peddling, doesn't it? You can't laugh that off, can you? 

    [...]

    You give money to a foundation. The foundation is headed by the Clintons. Hillary Clinton is secretary of state. She holds meetings half the time with with people who have given money to the foundation. That's a round robin of influence peddling. 

    The AP report makes clear that the meetings “do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former President Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009.” Additionally, AP explains that 154 meetings “did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives”:

    More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

    At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. 

    [...]

    The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. 

    [...]

    The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives. Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP's calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.

  • TV News Misses Golden Opportunity To Recognize Title IX During Rio Olympics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    As thousands of athletes from around the world descended on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, broadcast and cable news programming missed a golden opportunity to discuss the incredible legacy of the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women’s sports in the United States and around the world -- Title IX.

    One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2016 Summer Olympics was the sheer dominance of American athletes in general, and American women in particular. American swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles finished the games with four gold medals each (and five medals overall) and, at just 19 years old, they both are widely considered the most dominant athletes in their respective sports. Meanwhile, as the United States men’s basketball team struggled before coalescing in the gold medal match, the American women’s team blasted every opponent en route to a sixth consecutive Olympic championship.

    According to The New York Times, the United States brought home 121 medals from Rio, far outpacing China (70) and Great Britain (67) for first place, and became the first nation in 40 years to lead all nations in each medal category: gold, silver, and bronze. As was the case in 2012, more than half of that total medal haul (61) was won by American women, whose unparalleled athletic success would have been unlikely without the unique progressive legacy of the Title IX provision in federal education policy, which prevents sex discrimination in federally funded programs like school sports. From the Times:

    The United States is one of the few countries to embed sports within the public education system. And equal access to sports for women comes with legal protections, gained with the education amendment known as Title IX in 1972 and the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in 1978.

    About one of every two American girls participates in sports in high school. Of the 213 American medalists in individual and team sports in Rio, according to the [United States Olympic Committee], nearly 85 percent participated in university-funded sports.

    “Those things don’t exist elsewhere in the world,” said Donna Lopiano, a former executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate, not only because of their legal rights but because women in other parts of the world are discriminated against.”

    Broadcast And Cable News Ignored Importance Of Title IX Despite Flood Of Olympic Coverage

    A Media Matters review of broadcast evening news coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, as well as cable evening and prime-time coverage on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC between the days of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics revealed only two substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American or international Olympians. A similar lack of interest was on display on the major Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC.**

    A review of available Nexis transcripts from August 5 through August 21 returned 259 results mentioning the Olympics in Rio, including just two references to Title IX’s role in encouraging and supporting female athletes and women’s sports: NBC Nightly News and PBS NewsHour each mentioned the legislation during Olympic segments on August 18 and August 19, respectively. By contrast, there were dozens of mentions of American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s infamous and unsubstantiated story of being robbed at gunpoint outside a Rio gas station.

    Major print outlets including like The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today gave Title IX special attention in 2016, but their television counterparts once again dropped the ball. Title IX was also conspicuously absent from print and television coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to a February 2014 Media Matters analysis.

    Title IX’s Global Legacy At The Olympic Games

    As noted above, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which was authored by Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) and signed into law by President Richard Nixon, has left an indelible mark on women's sports over the past 44 years. But American women aren't the only beneficiaries of the legislation; Title IX’s prohibition against gender discrimination at most educational institutions is a major contributing factor in making American universities a magnet for athletes from around the world.

    Stanford University, the most successful athletic institution in the world this year in terms of Olympic medals, produced a number of American women medalists -- including burgeoning swimming stars Ledecky, Maya DiRado, and Simone Manuel. It also produced Greek pole vault gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi. If not for Ledecky, the most successful women’s swimmer of the summer would have been Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, an alumna of the University of Southern California. (Controversial Russian swimmer and two-time silver medalist Yulia Efimova, though not an alumna of the school, is coached by Southern Cal head coach Dave Salo.) Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller, an alumna of the University of Georgia, edged out former Southern Cal sprinter Allyson Felix to win gold in the women’s 400-meter. Canadian swimmer Chantal van Landeghem, another Georgia alum, took home a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay alongside teammate and Ohio State University graduate Michelle Williams. Canadian track and field star Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who won a bronze medal in the heptathlon, attended the University of Oregon.

    This is just a snapshot of the Title IX impact that was on display at the 2016 Summer Olympics, but broadcast and cable news almost completely ignored the success story, despite offering a torrent of Olympic-centered stories and features.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening and prime-time (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS) from August 5, 2016, through August 21, 2016. Media Matters also reviewed Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, and NBC during the same time period. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: olympics or rio or title nine or title 9 or title ix.

    The following programs were included in the data: World News Tonight, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press**, PBS NewsHour, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, The Five, Special Report, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, Hannity, MTP Daily, With All Due Respect, Hardball with Chris Matthews, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.

    **NBCUniversal pre-empted Meet the Press on August 14 and August 21 to air exclusive coverage of the Olympics on NBC.

  • Read These Tweets To Understand How The Media Are Screwing Up Their Clinton Foundation Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Journalist and Yale political science lecturer John Stoehr criticized the media for picking up the latest accusations of pay-to-play behavior at the Clinton Foundation when there is “no evidence to suggest” that such a scheme was established.

    After the conservative activist group Judicial Watch published emails showing supposed pay-to-play behavior by then-Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, media outlets quickly repeated the story despite a lack of evidence that anything improprietous happened. Judicial Watch has a history of conning media into covering bogus Clinton-related stories, leading outlets to ignore new evidence and even undermine their own reporting in the process.

    In a series of tweets, Stoehr criticized the media coverage of Judicial Watch’s allegations, saying it proves the thesis of a 1996 Atlantic piece called “Why Americans Hate the Media.” Midway into his argument, he addressed the idea that Clinton’s actions constitute pay-to-play misbehavior, saying “This is not pay-to play. There’s no evidence to suggest it, no matter how much the right-wing group Judicial Watch urges to the contrary":

  • It's Not Just Roger Ailes: New Claim Alleges Fox News Institutionally Enables Sexual Harassment

    Echoing Past Complaints, Former Fox Host Andrea Tantaros Claims Fox Executive Covered Up For Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox News, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and top executives at the network, including the man who replaced Ailes as one of the heads of Fox News. Tantaros is the most recent of several people to accuse high-level Fox News executives and personalities of perpetuating and enabling sexual harassment in the workplace.

    Tantaros’ complaint, filed on August 22, alleges that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros”:

    Plaintiff Andrea Tantaros, by her attorneys, Judd Burstein, P.C., complaining of the Defendants herein, as and for her Complaint, alleges:

    [...]

    2. ... Fox News masquerades as defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.

    3. In recent months, other women have finally, laudably come forward to reveal Defendant Roger Ailes (“Ailes”) as the sexual predator that he is. However this Complaint is not just about Ailes; it also gives life to the saying that ‘the fish stinks from the head.’ For Ailes did not act alone. He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation, and retaliation.”

    The “concerted effort to silence Tantaros” is nothing new regarding allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News. According to a 2004 sexual harassment suit filed against Fox host Bill O’Reilly, O’Reilly allegedly threatened a former employee, saying, “If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born,” and adding, “If you cross FOX NEWS CHANNEL, it’s not just me, it’s [FOX President] Roger Ailes who will go after you.” In another instance in 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court against News Corp.’s Fox News Network LLC” contending that “Joe Chillemi, a Fox vice president who supervised its advertising and promotions departments, sexually harassed and subjected” Kim Weiler, a former Fox employee, and “other women to a hostile work environment, routinely using obscenities and vulgarities to describe women or their body parts.” According to Weiler’s complaint, “Fox retaliated against Weiler for complaining about discrimination.” After settling the EEOC complaint, Fox News agreed not to enable sexual harassment in the workplace by retaliating against victims.

    According to Tantaros’ new complaint, after she reported the sexual harrasment, “Ailes initially retaliated against Tantaros in a host of ways,” such as “crafting and placing insulting stories about Tantaros” on websites, and “arranging for, and giving, Tantaros permission to participate” in an interview in which the interviewer “asked outrageous questions concerning, inter alia, her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer stood by and made no effort to intercede or stop these entirely inappropriate questions.”

    Tantaros’ lawsuit also names as a defendant Bill Shine, who was named a co-president of Fox News by Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, after Ailes’ resignation. According to the complaint, when Tantaros met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’”

    Tantaros’ complaint highlights an apparent larger and pervasive problem throughout Fox News Channel: a workplace culture that reportedly encourages inappropriate behavior and ensures such behavior will be ignored or even covered up. If these reports are accurate, simply removing Roger Ailes from his position as president does not address the ongoing “effort[s] to silence” reports of illegal sexual harassment in the workplace by other Fox News executives and senior staff.