Fox News suggested HGTV ran afoul of the First Amendment when it canceled an upcoming reality show following reports of the hosts' extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism.
HGTV cancelled its forthcoming reality show Flip It Forward following revelations that the hosts, Jason and David Benham, had an extensive history of anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim activism. Examples of the brothers' reported hate speech include David Benham likening the fight against gay marriage to that against Nazi Germany, and participation in protests against "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation." Benham has publicly highlighted Leviticus' punishment of death for gay sex and protested in front of mosques shouting "Jesus Hates Muslims."
After rushing to defend the brothers by claiming they were being punished for their Christian views, Fox News is now suggesting HGTV's decision to cancel the show violated the Benhams' First Amendment right to free speech.
On July 10, Fox News host Steve Doocy interviewed Jason and David Benham while an on-screen graphic declared they had been "fired for faith." Doocy argued, "You were fired for having an opinion. I mean, there's this thing called the First Amendment where people are entitled to their opinion and their Christian beliefs as well."
But the First Amendment does not protect individuals from being fired by private employers, as it does not limit the actions that private employers may take based on employees' speech. The First Amendment Center explained:
The First Amendment does not limit private employers. The Bill of Rights -- and the First Amendment -- limit only government actors, not private actors. This means that private employers can restrict employee speech in the workplace without running afoul of the First Amendment.
HGTV did not violate the First Amendment rights of the Benhams by dropping their show. As Columbia Law's Suzanne Goldberg pointed out in an interview with CNN, it was most likely a decision to protect the business' brand following widespread outcry against the Benhams' comments. Even David Benham told CNN that he does not hold a grudge against the network, telling Erin Burnett, "It was too much for them to bear and they had to make a business decision."
From the July 9 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
Loading the player reg...
Mere weeks after right-wing media loudly defended racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy with erroneous allegations of a "federal land grab" of his property, the same conservative outlets are now advocating for a border fence that would require an immense seizure of private lands.
In the first half of 2014, thousands of children fled across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape rising violence plaguing their home countries in Central America. Anti-immigrant figures in the right-wing media have responded by stoking nativist insecurities, erroneously suggesting the children pose public health and safety concerns and that they will be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely.
Many of these figures have also returned to calls for a fence to be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham made the completion of a border fence part of her personal plan to address holes in the nation's immigration policy in a manifesto titled, "The Government Vs. The People: Rebuilding Trust In The Midst Of The Illegal Alien Tsunami".
On Fox News July 9, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum floated the idea of prioritizing appropriations to construct a border fence over money for humanitarian care and administrative personnel to facilitate customs hearings. On July 8, Fox guest Pat Buchanan said in an appearance on Hannity, "Why cannot the government say 'Look, let's get together, we do need a secure fence, a double- or triple-link fence, all along the border of the United States with Mexico'?"
About a week earlier, contributor Charles Krauthammer advocated for a border fence, saying, "If fences don't work, why is there one around the White House?"
Calls for a fence often lack context or details -- and in MacCallum's case, drastically misinform on the cost of such an endeavor. In particular, conservative media tend to ignore the fact that, in order to complete a border fence, the federal government will have to seize, through eminent domain, the private property of American landowners from Texas to California.
Media figures across the board have endorsed right-wing author Dinesh D'Souza's latest film, America: Imagine a World Without Her, despite the fact that the film is based on a book with extreme, racist rhetoric. Here are five media figures who have given D'Souza's works their stamp of approval.
In the second quarter of 2014, women comprised just over one-third of weekday cable news guests invited to discuss issues relating to the American economy. The disparity between men and women still marks an improvement over previously measured trends in gender diversity among cable news outlets.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum suggested the construction of a border fence would be a cost-effective strategy for dealing with the influx of children fleeing Central America across the U.S.-Mexico border, but she underestimated the real cost of construction by billions of dollars.
On July 8th, Politico reported that President Obama requested $3.73 billion in emergency funds from Congress "to address the influx of child migrants crossing the Southwest border and Rio Grande from Central America." The funds would be used for border enforcement, humanitarian assistance for unaccompanied children, and immigration courts.
During an interview with Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) on the July 9 edition of America's Newsroom, MacCallum criticized the Obama administration for requesting $3.7 billion to address the humanitarian crisis which she claimed would only "plug the hole" when the "most recent estimate" for the cost to build border fence was only $6.5 billion:
MACCALLUM: 3.7, and we just listened to sort of a detail of where the money goes -- a lot of it is into facilities and for judges and that kind of thing as you say. It was interesting -- we looked back this morning at the latest estimate -- the most recent estimate we could find for what it would have cost to build the fence across the border and that's about six and a half billion dollars. So now you've got a 3.7 billion dollar request to basically -- you know -- plug the hole and take care of the people who came through it.
But MacCallum is wrong. According to the New York Times, the $6.5 billion figure MacCallum cited was merely an estimate of the cost to "deploy, operate and maintain" the existing border fence, which currently covers 650 miles, not the cost to extend the fence across new territory. In fact, the Times also reported that Customs and Border Protection projected the cost of finishing one fence across the southern border of the U.S. to be more than $22 billion, not including costs to acquire land and maintain the fence:
In 2009, the Congressional Search Service reported that the Department of Homeland Security had spent roughly up to $21 million per mile to build a primary fence near San Diego. The cost had ballooned as the fence extended into hills and gullies along the line.
The same year, Customs and Border Protection estimated costs of building an additional 3.5 miles of fence near San Diego at $16 million per mile. Even this lower figure would yield a rough projection of $22.4 billion for a single fence across the 1,400 miles remaining today.
These estimates do not include the costs of acquiring land, nor the expense of maintaining a fence that is exposed to constant efforts by illegal crossers to bore through it or under it or to bring it down. In March, Customs and Border Protection estimated it would cost $6.5 billion "to deploy, operate and maintain" the existing border fencing over an expected maximum lifetime of 20 years. The agency reported repairing 4,037 breaches in 2010 alone.
Fox continues to offer misinformation and advocate anti-immigration policies, recommending the federal government respond to the increasing numbers of of children fleeing gang violence in Central America by building multiple fences and militarizing the border.
From the July 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing and even mainstream media have eagerly pushed the suggestion that the recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is "Obama's Katrina" -- an inane comparison that repeatedly surfaces inside the conservative media echo chamber.
As Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) faces a repeal effort at the ballot box, Houston media outlets need to do a better job of correcting right-wing misinformation about the ordinance, holding its opponents accountable, and ensuring that LGBT advocates are no longer pushed to the sidelines of the debate.
HERO is likely headed to the November ballot after a coalition fighting to repeal the measure announced that it had collected 50,000 signatures to place HERO up for a repeal vote.
On May 28, the Houston City Council voted 11 to six to approve HERO, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. A coalition dubbing itself "No Unequal Rights" immediately launched a repeal drive, and the campaign's July 3 announcement that it had collected nearly three times the required signatures sets the stage for a divisive four-month slog. The repeal fight is likely to be especially damaging for Houston's LGBT community; scholars note that public referenda on LGBT rights can easily become dominated by misinformation campaigns.
In the coming months, Houston media outlets have the opportunity to correct their frequently problematic and misleading coverage of HERO . Here's how:
HERO opponents have focused particularly on the measure's protections for transgender people, asserting that affording transgender individuals equal access to gender-appropriate facilities will make it easier for sexual predators to assault women and children. But the transgender bathroom myth is completely baseless. Independent experts in states and cities that have already adopted transgender protections report no problems stemming from the laws, with one sexual assault victims' advocate calling the myth "beyond specious."
Still, in the month after HERO passed, local media outlets in Houston gave significant play to the transgender bathroom myth.
The coalition leading the repeal crusade might be called "No Unequal Rights" - ostensibly because the ordinance grants "special rights" to the LGBT community. But the ordinance establishes the same non-discrimination protections that already exist in several Texas cities.
Outlets should note that HERO isn't just an LGBT ordinance. It bans discrimination based not only on sexual orientation or gender identity, but also sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information, or pregnancy.
From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News host Bill Hemmer reported that "busloads of illegals" are inundating the small town of Murrieta, California, to stoke fears that immigrants are being sent to towns around the country indiscriminately. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection explained that the immigrants are being transported to other border patrol facilities to alleviate overcrowding and facilitate speedy processing of immigrants.
In June, the Los Angeles Times reported on unsanitary, overcrowded conditions at detainment centers in Texas and Arizona following an influx of unaccompanied minors into the country, necessitating transfers to other facilities.
On July 1, anti-immigrant protesters in Murrieta forced buses transporting immigrants from overcrowded facilities in Texas to reroute to other facilities.
During the July 7 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Murrieta Mayor Alan Long discussed the immigration protests in his town with Hemmer. During the discussion, Hemmer reported ominously that "busloads of illegals roll into the town of Murrieta" and asked Long, "How did we reach this point, where your small little bedroom community is inundated?" Long claimed to have no idea why border patrol would send immigrants to his "bedroom community of 106,000," saying that "all of a sudden, the world showed up at our doorstep." He also warned that "you can't just send them all over the country."
The conservative media is falsely accusing JPMorgan Chase of giving its employees an "LGBT loyalty test" thanks to dishonest reporting by a number of anti-LGBT activists.
In a June 29 blog post, National Organization for Marriage (NOM) co-founder Robert George shared a message from an employee at JPMorgan Chase, who alleged that an internal employee survey had included a question asking employees to indicate whether they were any of the following:
1) A person with disabilities;
2) A person with children with disabilities;
3) A person with a spouse/domestic partner with disabilities;
4) A member of the LGBT community.
5) An ally of the LGBT community, but not personally identifying as LGBT.
George baselessly asserted that the survey was a warning to anti-LGBT employees:
The message to all employees is perfectly clear: You are expected to fall into line with the approved and required thinking. Nothing short of assent is acceptable. Silent dissent will no longer be permitted.
Breitbart.com's resident anti-LGBT extremist Austin Ruse picked the story up shortly thereafter, accusing Chase of giving its employees an "LGBT loyalty test":
Ruse also reported that a second source had confirmed the existence of the Chase survey after questions were raised about the authenticity of George's original report.
In a July 4 blog post for Crisis, Ruse brought his characteristic paranoia to bear, declaring that the workplace is now "hostile territory" for anti-gay conservatives and warning that "the dominant sexually correct mafia" was coming for their jobs:
Ads urging five major newspapers to drop George Will following his offensive column demeaning campus sexual assault victims are being sponsored by the women's rights group UltraViolet and highlight a survivor who first told her story to Media Matters.
The ads seek the removal of Will's syndicated column from the Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Orlando Sentinel, The Detroit News, and Richmond Times-Dispatch. The group has been running an online petition urging The Washington Post, Will's flagship paper, to drop him as well.
"Rape is a crime that keeps women from having equal access to essential services, like education, and addressing that is essential to equality," Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a release.
At issue is Will's June 6 column that sparked outrage from women's organizations, U.S. senators, and college rape survivors for suggesting that sexual assault victims -- or people who Will decided were only claiming to be sexual assault victims -- enjoyed "a coveted status that confers privileges." To make his point, Will relied on an anecdote from a Philadelphia magazine article about a young woman from Swarthmore College, implying that he didn't believe her story qualified as an actual incident of assault.
That woman, Lisa Sendrow, spoke with Media Matters in an interview published earlier this week, stating: "I absolutely have not received any privileges from sexual assault. [Will] has clearly never experienced the fear of sexual assault ... He clearly has no idea how hard it is to sleep, to walk around, thinking at any moment this person that you live down the hall from could come out."
Since the column was published, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced it would stop running Will's column, while the Tribune Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold declined to run the particular campus rape column, telling Media Matters it was "misguided and insensitive."
A statement from Sendrow is included in UltraViolet's press release about the ad campaign, in which she notes that survivors are "further victimized by people like George Will" when their stories are "dismissed, diminished, and brushed aside."
The ads are running online through banner advertisements and Facebook in the cities where the newspapers are located.
UltraViolet also offered the testimony of "Elizabeth B," another survivor of campus sexual assault, who said: "In my junior year of college I was assaulted by a serial rapist while walking from campus to my apartment. People from the police to other students questioned my story or made comments that suggested I was responsible. George Will's destructive column brought the pain of that trauma right back for me, and makes it even harder for survivors to come forward. He has a right to free speech but no god-given right to write a biweekly column in the Washington Post or anywhere else."
From the July 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
Conservative media dismissed the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which granted closely-held corporations the right to deny employees contraceptive coverage through their employer's health plans if they believe the contraceptives conflict with their religious beliefs, claiming that women still have access to contraception because a generic form of birth control is available at drug stores for low cost.