Displaying a remarkable lack of self-awareness, Rush Limbaugh tried to convince a caller that "it's a pretty safe bet" that liberals always lie and conservatives never do -- an assertion he backed up with a series of his own lies on everything from abortion to minority vote suppression and the IRS.
On the June 18 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh addressed a caller who expressed interest in hearing both sides -- liberal and conservative -- of any given debate before coming to his own conclusion on the issue. Limbaugh chastised the caller for informing himself in this manner, telling him, "The liberals lie. I do not form my opinions on what both sides say. I form my opinions on what I know to be right." Limbaugh concluded that it's a "pretty safe bet" that liberals are always lying, while conservatives don't lie. In his attempts to prove his theory, Limbaugh turned to some misinformation of his own on the subject of abortion and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
From the June 18 edition of WSJ Live's Opinion Journal Live:
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The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
In May, the Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military," which found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2010. The report also found that 62 percent of victims who reported their assault faced retaliation as a result. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to the report by calling the assaults "a despicable crime" that is "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people," and General Martin Dempsey affirmed that sexual assaults constitute a "crisis" in the military.
In an effort to address this longstanding problem, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who granted clemency to an officer found guilty of sexual assault, in an effort to obtain more information about why the officer was effectively pardoned. As The Washington Post reported, an Air Force jury found the officer guilty of sexually assaulting a female lieutenant in the back seat of a car, and sentenced him to 60 days behind bars, a loss of pay, and dismissal from the Air Force.
Helms' decision to effectively pardon the officer "ignored the recommendations of [her] legal advisers and overruled a jury's findings -- without publicly revealing why." The Post explained that McCaskill has not placed a permanent hold on the promotion, but is "blocking Helms's nomination until she receives more information about the general's decision."*
Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, dismissed these facts to claim that McCaskill's effort to address the growing problem of sexual assault in the military was a "war on men" and a "political campaign" that showed "signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also claimed that the female lieutenant who reported that she had been assaulted acted just as "recklessly" as the accused attacker, apparently by doing nothing more than getting into the same vehicle as him.
But McCaskill is not trying to re-litigate the case; she is trying to determine why Helms ignored her legal advisers and overturned a jury of five Air Force officers. As the Post explained, advocacy groups charge that "any decision to overrule a jury's verdict for no apparent reason has a powerful dampening effect," contributing to a culture in which the majority of sexual assaults in the military remain unreported.
The Department of Defense report on sexual assault found that while 26,000 service members said they were assaulted last year, only about 11 percent of those cases were reported. The findings listed several reasons why individuals did not report the assault to a military authority, including that they "did not want anyone to know," "felt uncomfortable making a report," and "thought they would not be believed." The report also noted that concerns about "negative scrutiny by others" keeps many victims from reporting their assaults.
Taranto's dismissal of the victim's accounts and his insistence that they were equally responsible for the reported assault is a form of victim-blaming -- the very type of stigmatization that the Department identified as encouraging victims to remain silent about their assault.
While speaking out against the growing epidemic of sexual assaults, Defense Secretary Hagel noted that the Department of Defense should "establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored." But Taranto's victim-blaming approach -- and insistence that efforts to address this growing problem are attacks on men and male sexuality -- is a perfect example of the rhetoric that contributes to the very culture and environment the DOD seeks to eliminate.
UPDATE: Taranto doubled down on his claim that the effort to reduce sexual assaults in the military is leading to a "war on men" on The Wall Street Journal's webshow Opinion Journal Live.
CNN's morning program New Day aired a troubling report on allegations that celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was the victim of domestic abuse, describing her as "subservient" and quoting critics on Twitter saying her subsequent silence on the apparent assault "makes her look weak."
British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband, Charles Saatchi, were photographed this week during what appeared to be a domestic assault. Multiple photographs show Saatchi's hand grasping Lawson's neck during an argument. He later admitted to assault.
Neil Sean, whom CNN identified as an "entertainment reporter," appeared in New Day's packaged report saying the photos showed Lawson being "sort of subservient":
SEAN: She's always portrayed as a very powerful woman, a woman in control. So for her to be so sort of subservient, I think, is a rather telling story.
Later, CNN's Pamela Brown highlighted criticisms from unidentified people on Twitter who are charging Lawson's subsequent silence on the alleged attack "makes her look weak":
BROWN: Of course, we still don't know the full story. But a lot of people waiting for Nigella to come out and say something. People are taking to Twitter saying she needs to come out and address this. That she's this powerful figure, and this makes her look weak, according to some people, that she's not - but this is all a matter of opinion.
From the June 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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A Wall Street Journal op-ed advocated for police around the country to use New York City's "stop-and-frisk" policy as a model, which has no proven evidence of reducing crime rates and has historically targeted racial minorities.
Stop-and-frisk, the controversial policy which allows police officers to stop and search individuals they consider to be suspicious, is currently under review in the case Floyd v. New York. The New York Police Department has conducted more than four million stops since 2002, and according to a New York Times editorial, a federal judge "noted that nearly 90 percent of the time the police found no criminal behavior." The suit charges the NYPD with illegally detaining these individuals "not because of suspicious behavior but because of their race."
In her Journal op-ed, Heather Mac Donald disputed these charges, claiming that stop-and-frisk policies in New York have "helped the city achieve an astonishing drop in violent crime" and should be New York's "most valued export" along with other NYPD policies to the rest of the nation. She claimed that stop-and-frisks overwhelmingly targeted blacks and Hispanics because "the preponderance of crime perpetrators, and victims, in New York are also minorities," and concluded the crime rate would increase nationwide if the policy were overturned.
But there is no evidence that stop-and-frisk has decreased crime in New York City. New York Magazine noted that while stop-and-frisks have "skyrocketed" in the past decade, non-fatal shootings in the city have remained steady. Stop-and-frisk has done little to identify illegal firearms, as a New York Times editorial noted, as "guns were seized in only 0.15 percent of all stops." And the New York Civil Liberties Union similarly explained that while total violent crime fell in New York City by 29 percent from 2001 to 2010, cities that did not have stop-and-frisk policies saw even larger violent crime declines in the same time period, by as much as "59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore."
In fact, the drop in violence in New York City is part of a trend that preceded widespread use of stop-and-frisk. As the Times reported, New York's sharpest drop in homicides came before 2002, the year stop-and-frisks started rising in New York. Forbes magazine provided the following graph, showing that "the number of murders decreased sharply between 1990 and 1998," while then remaining relatively steady during the period that stop-and-frisks increased dramatically:
The National Review editorial board used the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell to push for an abortion ban it acknowledges to be unconstitutional that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases when the health of the mother is at risk.
Gosnell was convicted on May 13 for murdering three infants while breaking Pennsylvania abortion laws and preforming procedures that bore no resemblance to legal women's health services. Despite these facts, right-wing media have repeatedly sought to use Gosnell's violent acts to attack legal and safe abortion procedures in the United States.
A June 11 National Review editorial took these efforts further by using the Gosnell conviction to promote legislation that would severely limit access to safe, life-saving procedures. The editorial board hyped a bill introduced to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that seeks to ban abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. The bill does not provide exceptions to the ban in cases when the health of the mother is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest, and only permits abortions in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. The National Review acknowledged that "the bill is at odds with current Supreme Court jurisprudence," but urged Congress to "fight" for it anyway, claiming the Gosnell conviction revealed current abortion laws are immoral.
The National Review's endorsement of Franks' bill by linking it to the Gosnell murders ignores the realities of legal abortion in the United States. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Supreme Court has become increasingly anti-choice, repeatedly limiting the rights of women to terminate pregnancies. Currently, the Supreme Court has ruled that abortions are "legal so long as the fetus isn't 'viable,' which is usually around 24 weeks," and abortions performed after that point are already severely restricted by law. The vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetal viability or 24 weeks, and just a few provide an exception when the life of the mother is threatened or in cases of rape or incest. Abortions after week 21 are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions, and are very safe. A medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
As Salon's Irin Carmon noted, many women went to Gosnell's clinic "because they felt they had no alternative." The Gosnell case revealed the need for women to have access to safe, affordable, and legal abortion services -- the same services that Franks' bill seeks to unconstitutionally limit and outlaw. Right-wing media's support for this legislation and continued demonization of abortion puts women's legal right to protect their health under threat.
From the June 8 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Fox News' Bill O'Reilly provided a platform for Tommy Robinson, head of the English Defence League, a violent, extremist anti-Muslim hate group in Great Britain.
O'Reilly hosted Robinson on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss the EDL's efforts to, as Robinson described, "fight for Christianity, fight for our children's future, fight for our culture, and fight for our country's identity, which is completely under attack." Robinson went on to claim that British politicians aren't doing enough to suppress the growth of Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, adding "actions speak a lot louder than words."
Although O'Reilly mentioned press reports describing the EDL as "fascist" and "racist" and described the group's views as "militant" at the beginning of the segment, he failed to note the EDL's history of incendiary and often violent actions. A 2010 "undercover investigation" by The Guardian found that the organization planned protests against Muslim communities in "a blatant attempt to provoke mayhem and disorder":
From the June 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the June 1 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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From the June 1 edition of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry:
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From the May 31 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Sexist comments made on Fox News following the report that a record number of women earn more than their spouses hides the realities of the research, which reveals continued class and gender inequality for women.
Pew Research's May 29 study, which found that mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in a record 40 percent of all American households with children, sparked backlash at Fox News, with several Fox contributors claiming the research revealed the breakdown of American society. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed the rise in female breadwinners was contrary to the natural order and was "tearing us apart," and later doubled-down on his remarks on his blog and radio show, claiming that women who believe "they can have it all" are the "crux of the problem."
The sexism in Erickson's comments has been denounced, even by his own female coworkers at Fox News. The inflammatory rhetoric, however, also serves to hide the facts behind the research: that income inequality and class division are still deeply-rooted problems in America, revealing once again the need for equal pay and a strong social safety net.
What the study highlighted, and what Erickson and his fellow Fox News commentators ignored, is the persistent class divide among mothers. According to the data, married mothers who earned more than their husbands were "disproportionally white and college educated." The single mothers, on the other hand, were "more likely to be black or Hispanic, and less likely to have a college degree." They also made significantly less: single mothers in the study had a median income of $23,000, about a quarter of the median income of couples with a female primary earner. If those single mothers were never married, their median income dropped to $17,400, hovering near the poverty threshold.
Furthermore, though more women may be "breadwinners," women still earn significantly less than men. The report showed that 75 percent of husbands still make more than their wives. In fact, women's wages decreased in 2012, causing the gender-wage gap to widen with women earning only 80.9 percent of what men earned, or about $163 dollars less per week. If men are earning less in their households, as Slate's Amanda Marcotte noted, this means "less money overall for the average American home":
What's really hurting Americans isn't female equality, but growing income inequality between the rich and everyone else. Pitting men against women is simply a distraction from the real economic issues facing us all.
Economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, estimates that if the gender-wage gap were closed, it would grow the U.S. economy by at least three to four percentage points. And as Senator Elizabeth Warren highlighted earlier this year, a recent study showed that flat minimum wage growth over the past 40 years has coincided with increased inequality across a number of indicators. Had the minimum wage grown at the same rate as productivity, workers would currently be making about $22 an hour. Whether men or women are winning the bread seems less important when overall income inequality in the U.S. is getting worse. As The Huffington Post reported, the poor are getting poorer while the rich "just keep getting richer," largely thanks to low tax rates for higher earners and cuts to the social safety net.
Closing the gender-wage gap and providing access for mothers to basic necessities like childcare and family planning services, particularly the lower-income single mothers highlighted in the Pew research, would help the economy. The Center for American Progress found that low-income families can spend an average of 52.7 percent of their income on childcare expenses, and in spite of their rising status as "breadwinners," women still spend "more than twice as much time as men providing primary care to children." Studies show that providing these mothers with affordable access to universal preschool and paid family and medical leave would increase employment and help the economy. And research from the Guttmacher Institute shows that providing women with access to affordable contraception increases workforce participation, economic stability, and children's well-being.
But Fox doesn't want to talk about the benefits to women and families that come from access to equal pay, family planning, or childcare, which is why they turn to demonizing these programs and fearmongering about the dissolution of society instead. The sexist reactions serve to remove reason and fact from the real issue at hand: that women are still unequal, both in the home and the workforce, and fearmongering will only allow that inequality to remain.