From the October 20 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The conservative media's meltdown over a Nebraska school district's effort to train teachers about gender diversity demonstrates how conservative misinformation threatens even basic efforts to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.
In late September, administrators from the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district in Nebraska began providing teachers with informational materials aimed at better equipping them to accommodate and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included handouts from the group Gender Spectrum, which works to help develop "a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens."
One of those handouts, "12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness," listed recommendations to help teachers make their classrooms more gender-inclusive, including asking teachers to stop gender-based bullying and avoid the use of gender-specific terms like "ladies and gentlemen." Instead, Gender Spectrum recommended teachers use terms like "readers," "campers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
The school district's distribution of Gender Spectrum's materials sparked controversy when the conservative group Nebraska Watchdog published a report on the handout on October 2. The report was picked up by National Review Online and The Daily Caller before eventually making the jump to Fox News. The network ran multiple segments falsely accusing LPS of "banning" terms like "boys and girls" as part of a "political agenda."
In an interview with Equality Matters, Gender Spectrum's Director of Education Joel Baum criticized the "disingenuous" reporting on his organization's training materials. "They're sharing information about work that's occurring in a school and not being accurate about ... the overall purpose of the work," he said. "[B]y taking various things out of context - like "purple penguins" - they completely trivialize something that's really, really important and misrepresent our work."
Fox's misleading coverage of Gender Spectrum's handouts eventually prompted LPS Superintendent Steve Joel to call a press conference to dispel the network's misinformation. Joel criticized conservative media outlets for peddling falsehoods about the educational materials, calling it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school was forced to waste time and resources responding to calls and questions about the handouts.
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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A Nebraska school district superintendent responded to Fox News' inaccurate reporting about the district's recommendations for accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming students.
On October 9, Fox News ran several segments attacking the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district for distributing informational materials aimed at helping teachers better accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included recommendations that teachers stop gender-based bullying and avoid using gendered phrases like "ladies and gentlemen" when referring to students. Instead, teachers could use phrases like "campers," "readers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson falsely accused the school district of "banning" the use of gendered language, and a Fox News report echoed the claims of one parent who believes the school district was using "taxpayer dollars" to promote a gender-neutral agenda.
Following Fox News' inaccurate reporting, LPS Superintendent Steve Joel announced a press conference to discuss the training materials, according to the Lincoln Journal Star:
At the press conference, Joel aimed "to set the record straight" and correct the "recent confusion and misinformation" caused by inaccurate reporting about the training materials. From Watchdog.org:
[A]fter three FOX News shows derided Lincoln Public Schools' gender sensitivity training on Thursday, the superintendent called a press conference, and with his school board seated behind him, clarified what happened without backing down.
"Our teachers are allowed to use boys and girls in the classroom, and they do so in schools every day across the community," he said in the message to parents. "We are telling our staff to be sensitive to the needs of all students, and those with gender identity issues are particularly vulnerable to bullying and suicide."
During his press conference, Joel called it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school district has had to waste so much time and energy answering questions and fielding calls about the training on gender inclusiveness used during summer teacher training at Irving Middle School, and possibly other LPS schools.
From the October 6 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Fox News misrepresented the latest news about a controversy over the Advanced Placement (AP) history curriculum in Jefferson County, Colorado, falsely portraying a vote by the county's school board as a decision to "mak[e] history courses more patriotic." In fact, the board voted to change the way the school district reviews its curricula, but it did not adopt the supposedly "patriotic" changes to the AP history curriculum, which Fox has been promoting.
Hundreds of Jefferson County high school students have walked out of class over the past few weeks in response to the proposed changes to the AP history curriculum. The original resolution, introduced by school board member Julie Williams, "stated that AP history classes should promote 'patriotism and ... the benefits of the free-enterprise system' and should not 'encourage or condone civil disorder.'"
Fox News has reported on this story several times, including hosting Ken Witt, the conservative president of the school board, to scapegoat teachers unions for supposedly "using students" as "political pawns," despite a statement to the contrary by the president of the local teachers union. Fox host Gretchen Carlson even told students "that if they 'don't like it here,' then they should just 'get out.'" Fox's disapproval of these protests stands in stark contrast to the network's previous lauding of students who stood up against things like healthy school lunches and rules regarding religious texts.
On the October 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Heather Nauert reported on the Jefferson County school board meeting the night before, claiming that the board "voted 3-2 in favor of making history courses more patriotic" while an on-screen graphic read "A Win For Patriotism":
NAUERT: The controversial history plan that sparked massive protests in Colorado still alive this morning despite students, parents, and teachers protesting for days. The Jefferson County School Board voted 3-2 in favor of making history courses more patriotic. There was a bit of a compromise, though. The board will let students and teachers get more involved in that process. [emphasis added]
Nauert's report, however, is misleading. Though she is correct that the vote allows for input from students and teachers, according to reporting from local TV station KUSA and the Associated Press, the board in fact voted 3-2 "to revise procedures for reviewing curriculum but did not specifically approve a review of AP U.S. History." The report continued:
Ultimately the board adopted a compromise proposal penned by Superintendent Dan McMinimee to revise current review procedures to include students, teachers and other community members. But the committee that was approved is not course-specific and has not been charged at this point with reviewing AP U.S. History, according to Marlene Desmond with Jeffco Public Schools.
While another Associated Press report acknowledged that Williams "refused a call to withdraw her original proposal," The Washington Post emphasized that "it's not immediately clear whether the committee will review the history course, only that the meetings must be held in public." In addition, NPR reported that after two weeks of protest in the county, "the original language about patriotism was dropped," though "the resolution still calls for a committee to review course materials."
Meanwhile, FoxNews.com published an Associated Press story that also described the events accurately.
From the October 1 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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After devoting a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials to highlight the "sexual assault crisis on American campuses," Time helped reframe the debate by questioning statistics that illuminate the prevalence of sexual assault.
In September, Time ran three problematic pieces online questioning the validity of statistics that highlight the prevalence of sexual assault.
In a September 29 "Ideas" piece discussing sex crimes on college campuses, Camille Paglia argued that "claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses" have been "wildly overblown." Asserting that most "campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault" are in fact "oafish hookup melodramas," Paglia went on to blame the victim by noting that the assaults had arisen from "mixed signals and imprudence on both sides."
The rush to condemn the statistics and dispute the gravity of sexual assault previously made its way to Time in a September 17 online piece in which Cathy Young called statistics on sexual and intimate violence in the United States from the CDC "misleading" and "inflated," claiming they were part of a "radical feminist narrative" that was unsupported by the data due to a broad definition of what constituted various acts of sexual violence.
A few weeks earlier, a September 2 online op-ed by the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Summers also asserted that the statistic showing one in five college women will experience sexual assault is a "feminist myth." Hoff Summers called the one-in-five statistic -- reported by the National Institute of Justice's study on campus sexual assault -- a "statistical hijinks," deeming the study flawed by an "overly broad definition of sexual assault."
Time's recent ink questioning the validity is troubling given its earlier reporting. In May, Time Magazine offered a comprehensive look at the "sexual assault crisis on American campuses," with a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials. Recognizing the pervasiveness of these crimes, their cover story explained that high instances of the rape at the University of Montana were no outlier among colleges in the United States:
Calling Missoula the rape capital is as misleading as it is ugly. The University of Montana isn't a bizarre sexual-assault outlier in higher education. Instead, it is fairly average. The truth is, for young women, particularly those who are 18 or 19 years old, just beginning their college experience, America's campuses are hazardous places. Recent research shows that 1 in 5 women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college.
By questioning the validity of sexual assault statistics, Time's most recent opinion pieces further stigmatize a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 60% of the time.
From the Center for Security Policy's National Security Action Summit on September 29:
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News of a massive student protest in Colorado against a "conservative-led school board proposal" has prompted Fox News to rethink its stance on student freedoms.
Earlier this week, hundreds of students across six high schools in Arvada, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms amid news of a "conservative-led school board proposal to focus history education on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority." The Associated Press reported that the curriculum proposal would establish a committee to ensure certain history materials "don't 'encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law'":
Student participants said their demonstration was organized by word of mouth and social media. Many waved American flags and carried signs, including messages that read "There is nothing more patriotic than protest."
The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights" and don't "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."
On September 25, Fox & Friends hosted Ken Witt, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, which oversees the Arvada schools, to discuss the protests. Amid chyrons like "Political Pawns" and "Teachers Are Using Students," Witt alleged that the real issue was not the history curriculum proposal, but rather the upcoming teachers union contract :
WITT: That's the unfortunate situation that's going on. I believe that there is a significant amount of union conflict right now that we would like to not have. The issue is that it's easy to get children out. It's easy to use kids as pawns and it's not right. We have a union contract that's expiring in August of this year.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck parroted Witt's allegations, saying, "What concerns me is that what I'm hearing from you, and correct me if I am wrong, is that there is someone else behind this planting it and using these students for their own gain."
Fox & Friends celebrated Sesame Street's 45th birthday by hosting Muppet characters Grover and Abby Cadabby for a light-hearted appearance congratulating them on their longevity. But if the network had gotten its way in 2012, Grover wouldn't have made it past the age of 44 with his show's funding intact.
The Sesame Street program is celebrating the kickoff of its 45th season on PBS, and two iconic Sesame Street characters -- Grover and Abby Cadabby -- visited the set of Fox & Friends on September 17 to answer trivia questions and play and sing with the hosts. Co-host Steve Doocy congratulated the Muppets on their show's durability, and Fox's Heather Childers noted how she "loved Sesame Street as a kid." An on-screen graphic promoted upcoming episodes with the words "More Sunny Days Ahead."
But not long ago, Fox News went all-in attacking Sesame Street and PBS. After then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney called for an end to public funding for Sesame Street and other public broadcasting in 2012, Fox began lobbing personal attacks at the program's most iconic figure -- Big Bird -- in an effort to demonize the show's reception of federal money.
The textbooks that Texas adopts influence those that are chosen by districts across the U.S., which makes it all the more worrying that several textbooks under consideration by the state misrepresent what scientists know about climate change. The distortions in these textbooks mirror the misinformation that has been pushed in Texas media that has contributed to this dangerous ignorance.
A recent review by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) found that several textbooks under consideration by the Texas Board of Education, which includes numerous members who deny global warming, cast doubt on the basic fact that carbon pollution is driving climate change. National Journal explained that since "Texas is the second-largest market in the U.S. for textbooks after California," the textbooks chosen by the board could affect what publishers sell to states across the country.
Some of the misleading claims in these textbooks mirror the misinformation that has been pushed in the state's local media. For example, one textbook presents claims from the Heartland Institute, a climate "skeptic" organization that once compared those that "believe" in global warming to the Unabomber and in the 1990s denied the science demonstrating the dangers of secondhand smoke, as equally credible to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assembles hundreds of scientists to review thousands of peer-reviewed articles on climate change. Some Texas media have similarly treated the Heartland Institute as equally or even more credible than the world's top scientists. For example, a news reporter for the Houston talk radio station KTRH hyped a Heartland Institute report when it was released in April 2014 with the headline "New Report Debunks Climate Change," and in May 2014 turned to the group to rebut an actual scientific report on climate change that was reviewed by a National Academy of Sciences panel. An on-air host at KTRH has also called global warming a "scam."
Other news outlets in Texas have also misrepresented climate science. For example, an East Texas Fox affiliate, KFXK, aired a commentary on September 9 that falsely claimed Arctic sea ice has "expanded":
Fox News lambasted local Texas schools' implementation of Meatless Mondays as anti-scientific "propaganda" that won't improve the environment. But several scientific studies show that reducing meat from the average diet brings considerable environmental benefits.
Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples has been railing against the implementation of "Meatless Mondays" in several Texas elementary schools as "agenda-driven propaganda," and he continued his campaign on Fox News' September 15 edition of Fox & Friends. The lunch programs, taking place in several Texas and California schools, will serve vegetarian meals on Mondays, giving students the option of bringing their own non-vegetarian lunch as well. Staples berated the program as an "agenda-driven campaign" that's "really not sound science," and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed, wondering, "Why should our children be subjected to such propaganda?" And when co-host Steve Doocy asked Staples if Meatless Mondays are "brainwashing," Staples answered: "Clearly, it is," suggesting that it will not be "better for the environment":
Far from "brainwashing," the idea that eating less meat is better for the environment is based on sound science. Many studies show that meat production places a substantial burden on land and water use and contributes substantially to the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. A United Nations agency determined in 2013 that the agricultural sector is the third greatest contributor to global warming, largely due to livestock production. A 2014 study of over 50,000 United Kingdom residents found that switching to a meatless diet can cut an individual's diet-related carbon footprint in half. A study published in Climatic Change also found that greenhouse gas emissions for meat-eaters are substantially higher, meaning that "if agricultural emissions are not addressed ... meeting the climate target [is] essentially impossible" according to science news website Phys.org. Moreover, according a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a non-vegetarian diet uses "2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more primary energy, 13 times more fertilizer, and 1.4 times more pesticides," as a vegetarian diet, concluding that "[f]rom an environmental perspective, what a person chooses to eat makes a difference."
Fox News' morning show Fox & Friends celebrated Back to School week by pushing for armed teachers, rehashing tired myths about healthy school lunches, using slurs for immigrant children, and hosting discredited Fox personality John Stossel without disclosing his problematic history on the issue of education.
On its September 2 broadcast, Fox & Friends hyped the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) in Texas, which has recently armed some of its teachers, hosting a parent with two children enrolled in that school district who supports the program. The segment, which echoed similar Fox & Friends segments on August 27 and August 30, neglected to mention, however, that experts and educators agree that arming teachers is a dangerous practice, a habit the network shares with National Rifle Association.
In keeping with Fox's long-standing tradition of attacking first lady Michelle Obama's healthy school lunch program, co-host Heather Childers reported on Fox & Friends' September 4 broadcast that two New York school districts are pulling out of the program because kids say "the portion sizes are too small and it doesn't taste good."
CHILDERS: Two more schools finding the first lady's healthy lunch program hard to swallow. Two districts in New York are now ditching the menu that Michelle Obama revamped in 2010. The reason? It has increased the cost of the lunches and the number of students buying has drastically dropped. So why are less kids chowing down? They say that the portion sizes are too small and it doesn't taste good.
On September 2, Fox & Friends also hosted a student who is "taking a stand" against these school lunches, with co-host Steve Doocy claiming that students should be able to decide on their own lunches because "they're the customer."
During a "News by the Numbers" segment on September 3, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that educating "illegal immigrant children" would cost $761 million and noted that there are "1,000 in my district alone." Unsurprisingly, Kilmeade neglected to point out that undocumented school-aged children in in the United States have a legal right to access public education on equal terms.
On September 4, Fox & Friends turned to Fox Business Network host John Stossel to attack the Common Core State Standards (a practice the network has regularly engaged in) and to push for-profit elementary schools. This discussion, however, made no mention of Stossel's questionable involvement with teaching materials funded by two foundations described as "the dark money ATM of the right."
Curiously missing from Fox & Friends this week was groundbreaking news out of New York City, where the show broadcasts. September 4 marked the first day back to school for New York City students, as well as the first day of expanded pre-kindergarten "for more than 50,000 of the city's very smallest children." CBS New York reported, "City officials said 51,500 full-day pre-K students were enrolled as of Monday, up from 20,000 last year. They said the number will be up to 53,000 by the end of the month."
The hosts of Fox & Friends roundly endorsed a Texas school district that allows teachers to carry guns, even though security experts reject the idea of armed teachers and civilians with concealed guns have not stopped past mass shooting incidents.
During segments on August 27 and September 2, Fox & Friends hyped plans by the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) to arm teachers this school year. Media reporting on the school district's plans have focused on a sign outside of an Argyle school that reads, "ATTENTION: Please Be Aware That The Staff At Argyle ISD Are Armed And May Use Whatever Force Is Necessary To Protect Our Students."
Co-host Brian Kilmeade told viewers, "Don't mess with this school in Texas, they're armed, they're ready, and letting everyone know about it," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck described the sign as a "great warning there that is meant to protect the kids." While advancing the common but false right-wing media claim that mass shooters target places where guns are not allowed, Kilmeade later added, "If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected."
Fox & Friends proceeded to host Greg Coker, who provides weapons training for schools, to tout armed teachers. What Fox neglected to include in the segment, however, is that Coker actually has a business relationship with Argyle ISD and was responsible for arming their teachers through his "Not On My Watch" program.
According to a document posted on the Argyle ISD website, Coker charges $1,500 per teacher for a 30-hour training course that involves firing 900 rounds of ammunition. (The National Rifle Association, which endorsed armed teachers following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, recommends that teachers receive between 60 and 80 hours of training before carrying a gun in school.)