After the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Rush Limbaugh co-opted Mandela's legacy as more in line with American conservatism than liberalism. But Limbaugh's praise for Mandela stands in stark contrast to his repeated attacks on him in the past, even characterizing his world view as racial.
On the December 6 edition of his radio show, host Limbaugh argued that Mandela "had more in common with Clarence Thomas than he does with Barack Obama," claiming that he was more like American conservatives because he "insisted on compliance with his country's constitution," whereas liberals, Limbaugh asserted, only care about "skin color and oppression" and view the U.S. constitution as an obstacle:
But Limbaugh's praise of Mandela ignores his past attacks against the South African leader. In 2007 Limbaugh criticized the U.S. foreign policy objectives of Democrats working on Sudan divestment policy, claiming they only wanted to get rid of the "white government" in countries such as South Africa and Sudan and "stand behind Nelson Mandela, who was bankrolled by communists," in a ploy to win the votes of African Americans.
In 2002 Rush Limbaugh compared Mandela to terrorists claiming:
From the December 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Michael Fumento was once fired after it was revealed that he was writing in favor of industry interests while receiving money from those interests and authored a book titled The Myth Of Heterosexual AIDS. The New York Post now thinks you might want to know what he thinks about climate science.
The Post published an op-ed by Fumento on December 5 titled "Global-warming 'proof' is evaporating." In it, Fumento falsely suggested that a slowdown in recent temperatures means that "previous warming may not have been man-made at all" and compared accepting man-made climate change to "cult beliefs" and believing "before Columbus" that the Earth was flat (yes, Fumento appears to need a history lesson about Christopher Columbus in addition to a science lesson).
Like many pseudo-scientific "experts" on climate change, Fumento previously downplayed the dangers of cigarettes while receiving money from the tobacco industry. In the 1990s, Fumento was on the advisory board of the tobacco-funded "Advancement of Sound Science Coaliton" while downplaying the addictive nature of cigarettes and the dangers of secondhand smoke in the media.
It wasn't the last time Fumento took money from powerful industries while writing in favor of them. In 2006 Bloomberg BusinessWeek revealed that Fumento had received $60,000 from agribusiness giant Monsanto while writing columns in favor of both agribusiness and Monsanto. Soon after the revelation, Scripps Howard News Service canceled his syndicated column. Afterwards, Fumento published a public appeal for "patron support" for his writing, boasting that some of his published articles "have 50 hyperlinked citations in pieces only 900 words long."
Fumento, who is a lawyer and has no scientific training, has also previously pushed scientific misinformation. In 1990, Fumento wrote The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS; it only sold 12,000 copies, which he attributed to a conspiracy against him that included his own publisher. Despite the sensationalist title, Fumento did not actually argue that heterosexual people cannot get AIDS. Rather, he suggests that because rates of AIDS are low for the white, middle-class heterosexual people who do not use intravenous drugs, the U.S. is spending too much money on the issue. In order to downplay heterosexual transmission rates, Fumento stated in 1992 that former basketball player Magic Johnson, who contracted HIV, would "eventually probably" be "outed," and in any case probably has more opportunities to "have intercourse with inner-city black women than would a promiscuous heterosexual white basketball player."
GOP candidates are training to better talk about women and women's issues following the disastrous 2012 elections -- but this new rebranding effort will be difficult, given conservative media's toxic rhetoric on women.
Politico reported on December 5 that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is meeting with congressional Republicans and their aides to "teach them what to say -- or not to say -- on the trail, especially when their boss is running against a woman":
While GOP party leaders have talked repeatedly of trying to "rebrand" the party after the 2012 election losses, the latest effort shows they're not entirely confident the job is done.
So they're getting out in front of the next campaign season, heading off gaffes before they're ever uttered and risk repeating the 2012 season, when a handful of comments let Democrats paint the entire Republican Party as anti-woman.
Akin dropped the phrase "legitimate rape" during the 2012 Missouri Senate race, costing himself a good shot at winning his own race and touching off Democratic charges of a GOP "War on Women" that dogged Republicans in campaigns across the country.
This new phase in the GOP's attempt to rebrand the party comes months after the Republican National Committee's (RNC) March 18 post-mortem of the 2012 election, which warned the party was "increasingly marginalizing itself" by alienating women, Hispanics, African Americans, and younger voters.
As Media Matters noted at the time, the rebranding effort always faced a significant obstacle: conservative media. Right-wing talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh played a significant role in popularizing the very brand of Republican politics the party leadership now understands is toxic -- and they are unlikely to change their rhetoric on women just because the RNC and NRCC suggest it.
After all, Limbaugh is the man who launched 46 personal attacks on Sandra Fluke in 2012, including calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute" for testifying in favor of affordable contraception, and little has changed since then. Just in the month of November, Limbaugh compared filibuster reform in the Senate to "allow[ing] women to be raped"; suggested that women in the military synchronize their menstrual cycles so they'd be "ready to be banshees"; read from a misogynistic parody site mocking marital rape; claimed ads promoting Obamacare's coverage of birth control told young women "if you like being a prostitute, then have at it"; and claimed Democrats are turning women "into nothing but abortion machines."
Limbaugh is not alone. Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto has mocked efforts to combat the immense problem of sexual assault in the military, and claimed "female sexual freedom" led to a "war on men." Fox News' Bill O'Reilly attempted to tie the "War on Christmas" to "unfettered abortion." Conservative blogger and Fox contributor Erick Erickson has called Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis "abortion Barbie" and attempted to smear her campaign by suggesting she was mentally unfit for office. And a Fox Business host recently asked if there is "something about the female brain that is a deterrent" to women working as tech executives.
That's just a few of the most recent examples. The list goes on.
If the NRCC is concerned about Republicans being labeled "anti-women," Todd Akin and his "legitimate rape" comments are perhaps the least of their concerns. Conservative media's daily drumbeat of demeaning attacks on women could do more damage to the party's efforts than any single gaffe.
After all, the GOP rebranding effort also included a call for greater Latino outreach, to which conservative media responded with increased anti-immigrant demagoguery and a full-throated effort to destroy immigration reform. At the moment, it seems the conservative media is successfully thwarting the Republican "rebrand" -- leaving the GOP right back where they were in November 2012.
National Review Online (NRO) managed to inaccurately report the findings of a Kaiser Health News article on primarily Spanish-speaking enrollees in California's health insurance exchange as applicable to all Latinos.
For California's health insurance marketplace to succeed, younger and healthier uninsured persons must enroll to balance the risk pool, a demographic that is significantly Latino. Accordingly, health care reform advocates were concerned when October enrollment numbers revealed that only 3 percent of new consumers "spoke primarily Spanish," an indication that outreach to the Hispanic community may be lagging.
NRO, however, inaccurately cited Kaiser Health News' report that "fewer than 1,000 signed up" by conflating this number of primarily Spanish-speaking Californians with all Latinos in general. From NRO:
Fewer than 1,000 Latinos signed up for Obamacare in California in the law's first month, about 3 percent of the state's 31,000 enrollees.
That's an alarming number for a state where Latinos make up approximately 60 percent of the uninsured population, and it comes in spite of nonprofits and Covered California, the state's health-care exchange, spending millions on advertising and outreach to Latinos.
Such efforts don't appear to be getting it done; there are simply too many other hurdles to enrolling Spanish-speakers. The Spanish-language version of the Covered California website has asked security questions in English and misspelled Spanish words like "si" ("sí" is Spanish for "yes," but "si" means "if"), according to Daniel Zingale, senior vice president of The California Endowment, a philanthropy organization making efforts to enroll Latinos.
Calling the exchange's hotline is unlikely to help Latinos, either; the telephone system has given English prompts to Spanish-speakers. It lacks enough bilingual operators and the average wait-time is 18 minutes, as well. If Latinos don't want to apply over the phone or Internet, they're in a jam; Spanish paper applications won't be available until mid-December.
Slow Latino enrollment in California's new insurance exchange certainly is alarming. Some Latinos have limited English proficiency. These percentages are not interchangeable, however, as not all Latinos are primarily Spanish-speaking.
In fact, based on the 2009 American Community Survey, it is estimated that 3/4 of the Latino population speak English, 1/2 are bilingual, and 1/4 speak English only. According to the Pew Research Center, by 2020, the number of Latinos who only speak English at home will rise to 34% of the population.
It is laudable that NRO is suddenly concerned about the uninsurance problem among Latinos and the Affordable Care Act. In discussing solutions to enrollment problems, however, perpetuating stereotypes about Latinos' ability to speak English doesn't help.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum hid the radical implications of a Supreme Court case which could allow for-profit corporations to use religion to discriminate against women and deny employees basic health care coverage, claiming the corporations were merely asking "for some tolerance of their religious belief."
On November 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in two cases in which business owners -- Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties -- argue they should be exempt from an Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement which mandates that large, for-profit corporations must offer employees health plans that cover contraceptives at no additional cost.
On December 2, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum supported the corporations' arguments, claiming that allowing employers to pick and choose what to cover under their health plans based on their religious beliefs was simply an issue of "tolerance" and that the health care law was asking employers to "violate their conscience" by offering contraceptive care:
It seems to me, I mean all they're asking is for an exemption, and for some tolerance of their religious belief, so if a company is owned by someone who doesn't believe that that is ethical, that they should be able to offer a plan that is accepted under Obamacare but that is exempted, that exempts contraception.
I don't understand what the issue would be, with offering a separate version that that employer feels doesn't violate their conscience? How can you ask someone to violate their conscience in the plan that they choose to offer to their employees?
What MacCallum ignores is that religious organizations and certain religiously affiliated nonprofits are already provided exemptions from the contraception mandate. The question posed by these cases to the Supreme Court is whether or not these exemptions should be extended to for-profit, secular companies. If the court rules in favor of the corporations, it would be an unprecedented extension of religious freedom rights and could have radical legal implications, going against the basic tenets of corporate law.
It could also set a dangerous precedent, allowing employers to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against women, and potentially deny all Americans benefits for a wide range of basic medical needs.
Requiring businesses to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no additional cost "was put into place in order to eliminate gender inequality in healthcare," Gretchen Borchelt, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, explained. As Micah Schwartzman and Nelson Tebbe noted in Slate, exempting for-profit corporations would reinstate that inequality, undermining a purpose of health care reform:
[E]xempting large, for-profit corporations from the contraception mandate would significantly burden female employees, along with all the wives and daughters covered by the policies of male employees. Thousands of women would lose all insurance coverage for contraception. That loss would be very real, and it would frustrate a central objective of Obamacare: namely to ensure that women have equal access to critical preventative care.
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the corporations, it will not just put women's basic health care in jeopardy. As MSNBC's Irin Carmon and Slate's Dahlia Lithwick have pointed out, corporations could potentially be allowed to opt out of covering anything that is religiously contested, including things like vaccinations, psychiatric care, and AIDS medications. What if your employer is an Orthodox Jew who wants to refuse coverage for any medication that comes in a gelatin capsule? What if she is a Christian Scientist who doesn't believe in visiting doctors?
Requiring for-profit companies to offer health plans which cover birth control is not an attack on religious liberties. It ensures that everyone, regardless of their personal religious belief, has access to basic health coverage which they can then choose to use or ignore.
Fox News incited Islamophobic fears in its reporting on a weekly swim class at a YMCA facility that ensures the privacy of Muslim girls learning to swim, framing it as evidence that "Sharia law is now changing everything."
In October, a St. Paul YMCA in partnership with the local police department decided to offer an hour long swim practice once a week to give Muslim Somali-American girls between the ages of 5 and 17 an opportunity to learn basic swimming skills, making considerations for the girls' modesty and religious beliefs. On the December 2 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox's Heather Nauert framed this story as evidence that "Sharia law is now changing everything":
NAUERT: Well the minority becoming the majority at one community pool. Sharia law is now changing everything. A YMCA in Minneapolis-St. Paul is starting a swim group for Muslim girls but special considerations have to be made to keep with their religious beliefs. Now this means during the one-hour class, the pool is being shut down, the men's locker room is being locked, and female lifeguards are being brought in. Similar classes are now starting at towns across the Midwest. We'll keep watching this story for you.
Fox's use of an hour-long swim lesson for girls to push the myth that Sharia is taking over is disconcerting to say the least. For many Muslim girls, this class represents their first opportunity to learn these basic skills, and the Star Tribune noted that this is an important and much-needed program for the community, and that "[s]pecial considerations have to be made to address modesty concerns":
Special considerations have to be made to address modesty concerns so that the Muslim girls can swim and not reveal too much of themselves.
St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith had discussions with Britts to let the Y know that, through the department's connections with the Somali-American community, they had learned that such a group was needed.
"I think this is just a great opportunity for them to learn basic skills that we take for granted," said Sgt. Jennifer O'Donnell, who has worked with the Somali community regularly during her time with the department.
"We have to have privacy," said Ubah Ali, Dhamuke's mother.
For years, Ali said she has been trying to find a place where her daughter could swim, but nothing seemed to work. Not knowing how to swim is a safety risk, especially in the state of 10,000 lakes, Ali said.
Fox News' decision to cite this story as evidence of "Sharia law" spreading through the country fits with the network's history of pushing Islamophobia and the myth of "creeping Sharia." In recent history Fox has led a smear campaign against Park51, an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center, claiming it would potentially be a haven for terrorists. The network has also been known to invite discredited anti-Muslim guests on its shows to push fears about Muslims. Fox's pattern of Islamophobia has now reached the new low of presenting swimming lessons for young girls as a problem so worrisome that Nauert promised to "keep watching this story."
Rush Limbaugh is citing an erroneous report about HIV in Greece to falsely claim that half of all recent infections there were self-inflicted for the purpose of receiving government benefits. In fact, the original report on AIDS and HIV in Greece does not confirm a single instance of a person intentionally infecting himself with HIV.
Limbaugh is surely fascinated by this erroneous report because it fits into the false right-wing narrative that government programs that help the poor encourage laziness and dependency.
Limbaugh read from a post about Greece by the British magazine New Scientist during his November 25 radio show:
After reading from the post, Limbaugh attempted to link LGBT people to diseases by saying, "Is that true? Greece is like the gay capital of the world? You heard that? I just had a note flashed to me that says -- well, I don't know about that."
The magazine reported that Greeks who have HIV receive a monthly benefit of 700 euros, which is currently about $945.
For the statistic that half of all recent infections in Greece were self-inflicted, New Scientist cited a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations.
However, the WHO report is incorrect. The WHO's source for this figure is a 2011 study in the British medical journal The Lancet. Here is what the Lancet study actually says:
An authoritative report described accounts of deliberate self-infection by a few individuals to obtain access to benefits of €700 per month and faster admission onto drug substitution programmes. These programmes offer access to synthetic opioids and can have waiting lists of 3 years or more in urban areas. [emphasis added]
Somehow, the "few individuals" mentioned by The Lancet became "half of new HIV infections" in the WHO report.
Furthermore, the "authoritative report" cited by The Lancet says:
An additional factor the committee believed worth considering is the well-founded suspicion that some problem users are intentionally infected with HIV, because of the benefit they are entitled to (approximately € 1,400 every two months), and also because they are granted "exceptional admission" to the Substitution Programme. It is well-known that the Substitution Programme has a long waiting list and that the waiting time can be over 3-4 years. Drug users with a severe chronic condition jump the queue and are admitted in a short period of time. [emphasis added]
So, the original source for this claim merely says that there is a "well-founded suspicion" that "some problem users" of IV drugs had intentionally infected themselves. A "suspicion" is not the same thing as a documented occurrence, let alone "half" of all recent infections.
WHO posted a correction to its study on November 26, explaining that the claim that "about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits" was the result of an editing error:
In September 2013, WHO/Europe published "Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European Region". The report incorrectly states that, in Greece: "HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programmes".
This statement is the consequence of an error in the editing of the report.
Over a period of several days, Fox News hosts and contributors demanded that Rev. Al Sharpton condemn a series of "knockout" attacks that have occurred in several cities. Sharpton condemned the attacks in a speech on Saturday, but Fox has so far failed to report on the condemnation.
The so-called "knockout game" involves young men attacking random people on the street. The violent, unprovoked attacks have sometimes resulted in death. Fox News has intensely covered these attacks, reporting on them largely as racially motivated crime committed by black youths against white victims.
After Rush Limbaugh compared recently enacted filibuster reform to a vote "allow[ing] women to be raped," a spokesman defended the host by saying, "Limbaugh has spent 25 years illustrating absurdity by using extrapolated analogies." Indeed, Limbaugh has a long history of making outrageous, offensive comparisons and invoking rape when discussing politics.
From a November 15 speech at the Freedom Center's 2013 Restoration Weekend:
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November 20 marks the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance - a day to memorialize the members of the transgender community who lost their lives as a result of transphobic hate and violence. Transgender people are disproportionately the targets of hate-motivated attacks, and acts of brutal transphobic violence are a constant reminder of the work that remains to be done on the path to full LGBT equality and acceptance.
Unfortunately, much of this violence is fueled by misinformation and hate speech regularly peddled by right-wing media outlets. Experts on transgender violence have noted that media misinformation about transgender people legitimizes and contributes to the high rates of violence and abuse experienced by the transgender community.
Over the past 12 months, conservative news outlets like Fox News have routinely engaged in transphobic scare tactics and misinformation.
There was the case of former Army Private Chelsea Manning, who was routinely misgendered even by mainstream media outlets, and CNN in particular. One MSNBC guest suggested that offering Manning hormone therapy would "coddle" her. Fox News mocked Manning's gender transition as "confus[ing]" and "bizarre." The Fox & Friends crew ended a segment on Manning's transition by playing Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)," and a Fox host warned viewers not to be "deceived" by outlets referring to Manning as a female. The Daily Beast even published an op-ed suggesting that, as a transgender woman, Manning would have a lovely time being sexually exploited in federal prison.
The Fox News regular broadly credited with creating the false accusation that President Obama omitted the words "under God" from the Gettysburg Address used the same false attack to ask whether Obama would have cut out the words "under Allah" if they had appeared in President Lincoln's famous speech.
Conservative media outlets were forced to issue embarrassing corrections Tuesday after running with the false accusation that President Obama excised the phrase "under God" when reciting the Gettysburg Address for a project organized by filmmaker Ken Burns. Burns has said that he asked Obama to read an early draft of the address, a draft that did not contain the phrase "under God."
Chris Plante, who hosts a morning radio show on Washington, D.C.-based WMAL, actually acknowledged at one point during his November 19 broadcast that an early version of the Gettysburg Address did not contain that phrase. But he still accused the president of plotting to "scratch out the phrase," after emphasizing that Obama was "the first black president." Plante then speculated that Obama would not have scratched out the phrase "under Allah" if it had been in the Gettysburg Address:
PLANTE: What? Barack Obama and his people have the Gettysburg Address in front of them and they're sitting up in leather-winged chairs at the White House with a red pencil going through the speech and they scratch out "under God" and then pass it to Barack Obama and he reads it that way? I mean, how does something like this happen? How stupid are these people? How dishonest are - how fundamentally corrupt, morally and otherwise corrupt, are these people? It is astonishing to me, and it just plays into the stereotype of these people being hostile. If it said "under Allah" would he have still scratched it out?
Earlier in the program, Plante invoked Obama's middle name, Hussein, while opining that it was "kind of peculiar" and "a head-scratcher" that Obama did not say "under God" while reciting the Gettysburg Address:
From the November 18 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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From the November 18 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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