From the December 7 edition of ABC's This Week:
A Rolling Stone article about campus rape and how universities respond to sexual assault has raised an important debate about what the proper standards for reporting on sexual assault should be -- but it's crucial that whatever standards are ultimately chosen, they don't make it impossible to tell these stories.
A University of Virginia student named Jackie told Rolling Stone that she was gang raped in 2012 by members of a campus fraternity, and that campus administrators failed to investigate her story when she reported it. Jackie was one of several students in the piece who criticized UVA's response to sexual assaults, and the school is currently under federal investigation for its handling of such cases.
The Rolling Stone article initially received widespread acclaim and triggered swift action from UVA. But it has since come under fire from critics who say that the magazine violated journalism best practices, particularly with regard to its handling of the alleged assailants. Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article, and Rolling Stone, have since explained that they corroborated Jackie's story by talking to dozens of her friends, in part to ensure that she had consistently told the same story for years, but were unable to reach the accused rapists (one of whom is identified with the pseudonym "Drew" and others who are not identified at all) for comment -- a fact which was omitted in the article. (UPDATE: After the publication of this post NPR's David Folkenflik brought to our attention that in an interview with him, Erdely said she had not contacted the alleged assailant at the request of Jackie. Her editor Sean Woods made similar statements to The New Republic. These comments appear to contradict other statements Erdely gave to Slate and Woods gave to The Washington Post, on which the criticisms referenced in this post were based.)
A number of journalists have criticized Erdely for this omission. Slate's Hanna Rosin and Allison Benedikt wrote that the "basic rules of reporting a story like this" include doing everything possible to reach the alleged assailant, and, if one is unable to do so, including a sentence "explaining that you tried -- and explaining how you tried." They criticize Rolling Stone for failing to include such a sentence, writing that this is "absolutely necessary, because it tells readers you tried your best to get the other side of the story."
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple took this critique a step further, saying that Rolling Stone had "whiff[ed]" with the article and suggesting they should have held the piece until they were able to name the accused in print (Erdely says she had agreed to Jackie's request "not to name the individuals because she's so fearful of them"), or find some other "solid" evidence:
The publication says it didn't name the perpetrators because Jackie is "so fearful of them. That was something we agreed on," Erdely commented. That's a compelling reason -- to hold the story until Jackie felt comfortable naming them; or until she filed a complaint; or until something more solid on the case emerged.
In voicing these concerns about Erdely's journalistic practices, these reporters are proposing that there is a standard these types of stories should meet -- perhaps before they can even be published -- which includes a high bar for finding of proof, including doing everything in the reporter's power to identify and contact the accused, informing the reader of those attempts, and possibly going as far as to include their name and perspective in the piece.
Reporters may find such standards appropriate. Sexual assault, and particularly gang rape, is a terrible crime, and it is logical that journalists would want to tread carefully when assessing the validity of accusations. Rosin's and Benedikt's argument that it would at the very least have been simple for Erdely to include a sentence noting she had attempted to reach out seems reasonable.
However, previous reports on sexual assaults -- including from the Post and Slate -- have not met these standards, and have not come under similar scrutiny or criticism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson, who has said he was not involved in the editing of this particular piece, tweeted several examples of reporting on sexual assault in which publications did not include any mention of ever attempting to contact the accused for comment and did not name the alleged perpetrator.
Conservative media have adopted a "blame feminism" approach to many of the world's problems, including rape and the lack of infrastructure funding. Here are 11 times right-wing media blamed feminism for creating the crisis of the day:
1. Ben Carson blamed the unrest in Ferguson, MO on the "women's lib movement."
2. Conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds accused feminists of derailing infrastructure funding.
3. Rush Limbaugh blamed feminism for the NFL's punishment of football players.
4. On Fox News, Laura Ingraham suggested gender equality and "political correctness" were to blame for a security breach at the White House because the intruder was able to overpower a female security agent.
5. In the wake of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, the extreme conservative website WND blamed domestic violence on feminism.
6. The Weekly Standard blamed the epidemic of campus sexual assault on feminism being "in control of America's colleges and universities."
7. On June 15, Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday accused feminists of trying to "end" Father's Day.
8. The hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered agreed that feminism is to blame for boys falling behind in school.
9. During a March 31 Heritage Foundation panel commemorating Women's History Month, conservative columnist Mona Charon cited the alleged "disintegration of family function" as one of feminism's many "failures."
10. In a discussion on Fox News' The Five about a female teacher who had sex with her 15-year old student, co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed "women who do this feel like it's not as stigmatizing as it was before," insisting that "there's something about feminism that lets them know 'I can do anything that a man does, I can even go after that young boy. I deserve it.'"
11. In 2012, Rush Limbaugh claimed that feminism is "ruining women."
In response to questions from Media Matters about whether the university had considered Will's comments on sexual assault before deciding to honor him, MSU spokesman Jason Cody said in a statement that Will was selected in recognition of his "long and distinguished career as a nationally recognized journalist" rather than "in reference to any individual viewpoint." He added: "In any diverse community there are sure to be differences of opinion and perspective; something we celebrate as a learning community. We appreciate all views, and we hope and expect the MSU community will give the speaker the same respect."
MSU's decision to honor Will is already drawing criticism from a prominent women's rights group. "George Will's continued attacks on campus rape survivors make him an unfit speaker for any University," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet. "George Will may have a right to publicly speak out against survivors of sexual violence, but schools like Michigan State University should know better than to honor Will's dangerous views with honorary degrees and a speaking gig at commencement."
Conservative columnist George Will is scheduled to speak at Michigan State University this month during graduation ceremonies, despite ongoing controversy surrounding his past comments on campus sexual assault.
The Detroit News reported that Will is scheduled to be a commencement speaker at the December 13 ceremony, and will receive "an honorary doctorate of humanities."
Will's previous speaking engagements at universities have come under fire after he published a syndicated column in June disputing the evidence that 1 in 5 women on U.S college campuses experience sexual assault, while arguing that efforts to fight sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." His remarks received widespread criticism from U.S. senators, media, and women's equality groups.
In October, Scripps College of Claremont, Ca. canceled an appearance by Will, with college president Lori Bettison-Varga explaining in a statement that because Will had questioned "the validity of a specific sexual assault case that reflects similar experiences reported by Scripps students," they would not move forward with the speaking arrangement.
Hundreds protested another Will appearance, at Miami University of Ohio in October. Nearly 1,200 students, faculty, and staff signed a letter stating that hosting Will "sends the wrong message to current students, prospective students, and their families about the tolerance of rape culture and predatory sexual behavior at Miami University," according to the Miami University Women's Center. The speech also drew criticism from professors at the school's Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies program and the national women's rights group UltraViolet.
At that speech, a student who identified herself as a sexual assault survivor told journalists that Will claimed treatment for victims was "worth it ... only for real survivors of real rape."
Michigan State University is currently under federal investigation for its handling of sexual assault accusations. On December 1, MSU's president posted a note about the school's efforts to combat sexual assault on campus, including "frank conversations and open dialog" to build a "culture of respect" (emphasis added):
As I said in my September 2 letter to the campus community, sexual assault is a serious problem on American college campuses, and ours is no exception. It will take leadership from all quarters to create the change necessary. I commend our students for the way they have stepped forward. Featured below is a video created by Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) as part of the national It's On Us campaign. And earlier this year, a group of eight current and recently graduated students released a documentary film, "Every Two Minutes," with a powerful message about the impact of sexual assault. This kind of work encourages frank conversations and open dialog, while at the same time building a culture of respect and concern for one another.
I encourage all members of the Spartan community to watch these videos. But I ask you to do more. Take it upon yourself to address this issue in whatever way you can. Sexual assault is everyone's problem, and it's on all of us to take action, whether that means protecting a fellow Spartan from sexual violence, providing support to a survivor, or raising awareness on campus or in your home. Members of the MSU community must not be passive.
Image via Miami University's Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies program.
From the November 19 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:
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From the November 18 edition of CNN's CNN Tonight:
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From the November 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News' Outnumbered helped Kirk Cameron justify his recent instruction to women on proper etiquette during the Christmas season, a defense that offers a glimpse into what drives Cameron and the network's campaign against the imaginary War on Christmas.
Cameron, an evangelical Christian made famous for his role in ABC's Growing Pains, took to Facebook on November 13 to instruct women on the necessity of remaining joyful this Christmas while cooking and decorating the home so as not to ruin the holiday for their families. Cameron was promoting his new Christmas movie, Saving Christmas, which promises take a stand against people "who really want to put a big wet blanket on" Christmas by saying 'Happy Holidays' or opposing Christmas plays in schools. In his post, Cameron directed women, "The joy of the mom is her children's strength, so don't let anything steal your joy ... Let your children, your family, see your joy in the way you decorate your home this Christmas, in the food that you cook, the songs you sing, the stories you tell, and the traditions that you keep."
Cameron's remarks received widespread criticism, but he defended his lecture the next day on Fox News' Outnumbered. Rejecting the characterization that he was directing women not to work outside the home, Cameron told his female co-hosts that he was merely praising stay-at-home mothers for their work and sacrifice.
Co-host Sandra Smith assured Cameron that even though some women perceived his remarks to be offensive, "I know what you meant by it, and I believe in what you said." Hosts Andrea Tantaros and Kirsten Powers meanwhile expressed sympathy for Cameron and asked how he handled having his words twisted and sensationalized by media outlets.
Cameron's proposed solution to saving Christmas -- a smiling mother making food for her family -- adopts a striking 1950s pop culture view of motherhood, families, and our nation as a "Christian" country. It's not surprising Cameron's fantasy found safe harbor on Outnumbered as his view is echoed in Fox's annual crusade against the imaginary War on Christmas. Bill O'Reilly has already waged his first battle of the 2014 Christmas season, railing against losing "all our traditions" to Muslims and other religions and last year, Megyn Kelly infamously argued that both Jesus Christ and Santa Claus were white. Outnumbered's defense of Cameron's view of motherhood at Christmastime offers a window into what Fox's War on Christmas is really about -- the desire to return to a fictional past full of all-white, Leave It To Beaver families.
From the November 14 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Fox News host Neil Cavuto took aim at one of his own network's favorite smears against Hillary Clinton -- that she's too old to run for president.
Fox News has gone to great lengths to scandalize Clinton's age in the run up to 2016 -- Hosts have questioned whether being a grandmother would hurt Clinton politically, and when Fox contributor Karl Rove claimed Hillary Clinton suffered from brain damage after a fall, network figures ran defense for him and amplified the smear. One contributor even accused Clinton of needing plastic surgery before running for president. (Notably, both John McCain and Ronald Reagan, Fox favorites, were older when they ran for president than Clinton will be if she decides to enter the 2016 race.)
But this week Fox host Neil Cavuto broke from his colleagues, blasting a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate for making the same smears against Clinton.
In a November 9 Politico interview detailing his 2016 presidential aspirations, Sen. Paul (R-KY) suggested that former Secretary of State Clinton, who is 67, may be too old to successfully campaign for president. Paul claimed that it's not "certain" Clinton would win the Democratic nomination because "it's a very taxing undertaking to go through. It's a rigorous physical ordeal, I think, to be able to campaign for the presidency."
Cavuto called out Paul on the November 11 edition of Fox News' Your World, calling his criticism of Clinton "so base and so cheap." Such "over-the-top-cheap shots" could undermine GOP efforts to expand their base, Cavuto said, noting the sexist nature of the attack and emphasizing that Paul has not criticized the age of other politicians like Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Paul's own father Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Cavuto went on to highlight Clinton's achievements as Secretary of State, saying "I think it's fair to say that Hillary Clinton was up to the physical rigors of the job and then some."
A Media Matters study on the coverage of key policy issues in nightly news' midterm election broadcasts finds that 65 percent of network news segments that dealt with the midterm elections failed to discuss the policy issues most important to the American people.
Fox News celebrated historic Republican victories in the midterm elections by applauding the party for answering calls for diversity, a celebration that overlooks GOP policies that harm women and minorities, policies the network has relentlessly advocated.
Republicans made history in Tuesday's midterm elections, electing a handful of younger and more diverse candidates to Congress. Mia Love became the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, and Tim Scott from South Carolina became the first black man elected to the Senate in the south since Reconstruction. Republicans Joni Ernst and Shelley Moore Capito became the first women to represent their states in the Senate.
The next day, Fox News pointed to these midterm victories as evidence that Republican policies are not harmful to women and minorities. On America's Newsroom, anchor Martha MacCallum wondered, "So what does this mean -- the election of a lot of women last night -- in terms of the war on women that we heard so much about in the last presidential election?" She asked whether these wins mean "that whole discussion is no longer relevant." Later on Outnumbered, Andrea Tantaros applauded Republicans, saying the GOP has "finally responded to the call that they need diversity."
Fox does not have a history of treating diversity as a virtue. Only days ago, Fox hosts advocated for an "older white guy appreciation day" and claimed that "the white Republican power structure is afraid of black Americans." This is the same network that has discouraged women from voting, denied the existence of gender pay inequality and white privilege, and argued that there has to be a downside to a woman president (such as women being too preoccupied with other things to run for office).
And although these Republican gains in diversity are a step in the right direction, they don't negate GOP policies that are harmful to women and minorities -- policies for which Fox has relentlessly advocated.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan magazine for writing about politics and endorsing candidates on the same day Fox's Megyn Kelly teamed up with the magazine for a Facebook Q&A.
Cosmopolitan expanded its coverage to include politics in August, launching its "#CosmoVotes" campaign which focuses on candidate endorsements, coverage of "women-centric issues," and a "social media effort" to encourage readers to vote, particularly in the upcoming midterm elections.
On the November 3 edition of The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan's foray into politics, suggesting the magazine is "taking it a step too far," because "they basically say some kind of snarky words about any Republican candidate, calling them 'troubling,' 'an extremist who rails against the poor,' 'an anti-choice radical.'" Carlson noted that other women's magazines have covered the 2014 midterm elections highlighting both Republicans and Democrats, but questioned Cosmopolitan's decision to endorse certain candidates, saying, "A lot of people are probably wondering why fashion magazines are getting into politics and actually endorsing candidates but that is the world that we live in now":
From the October 31 edition of Premier Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the October 31 edition of Salem Radio Network's The Mike Gallagher Show:
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