Fox & Friends Sunday falsely claimed that raising the minimum wage would harm female workers, contributing to what they called the "phony war on women" -- but women make up the majority of minimum wage earners, and would significantly benefit from a raise.
On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Anna Kooiman and Independent Women's Forum Executive Director Sabrina Schaeffer pushed several debunked minimum wage myths, falsely claiming that a majority of workers making minimum wage are younger, and suggesting that Democrats who wanted to pay women more were in fact hurting families and workers, contributing to the "phony war on women" (emphasis added):
SCHAEFFER: The reality is a majority of minimum wage earners are working part time. The majority are younger workers 16-24, about 50 percent are, so it's not quite this dire situation where you have the head of households who are not able to care for their families. And there are -- when the price of something goes up, people tend to buy less.
KOOIMAN: So you're saying it's continuing this phony war on women?
SCHAEFFER: Yeah, of course, and you know, this is definitely sort of a legislative aim looking towards looking at the midterm elections but really what would help people is robust job creation because that's what gives workers -- all workers, especially women who need often part time or flexible work arrangements, more opportunities we want more jobs, we want different kinds of jobs, a variety of jobs, we want women who need part-time work to be able to find it, they're going to have better negotiating powers, higher wages when we have a stronger economy overall.
Kooiman concluded the segment by suggesting raising the minimum wage was not a "long-term solution" that would help "job creation."
In fact, women make up the majority of minimum wage earners and would benefit disproportionately from an increase in the minimum wage. ThinkProgress reported that according to research from the Center for American Progress, "two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women," (despite making up only 48.3 percent of the total workforce) making women "far more likely to benefit from a wage increase" than men:
Furthermore, as sixty percent of women are the primary or co-breadwinner in their household, raising the minimum wage would have a significant positive effect for families. The majority of minimum wage workers are adults over the age of 25, and despite Fox's fearmongering, numerous economic studies have shown that increasing the minimum wage would have little effect on jobs and could even increase hiring, while boosting the economy in the short run. Finally, the Economic Policy Institute found that the declining value of the minimum wage was a major contributing factor to growing levels of economic inequality, weakening low-wage workers' bargaining position.
Raising the minimum wage would benefit over 13 million women and 30 million American workers overall -- but that still hasn't distracted Fox News from its long history of campaigning against raising the minimum wage.
Megyn Kelly's staunch rejection of sexist rhetoric on Fox raises the question of whether she will press Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) on the sexist treatment of his former aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, in a new report on the George Washington Bridge scandal he commissioned.
In the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, Christie commissioned the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to investigate and find out who was responsible for the unnecessary lane closures that gnarled traffic for days on the busy bridge. The resulting report largely absolved Christie of responsibility for the lane closings, but has come under fire for the investigator's ties to the Christie administration and their failure to interview key witnesses.
The report also faced heavy criticism for the sexist, "unusually personal" treatment of Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff. Bridget Anne Kelly was not interviewed by the investigators, however the report nonetheless concluded that she was the only person in the governor's office involved in the lane closings and lobbed a number of personal, sexist attacks against her. From The New York Times (emphasis added):
Gov. Chris Christie, seeking to stanch the damage the scandal had caused to his political fortunes, fired her [Kelly] as his deputy chief of staff after that, calling her "stupid." But the report commissioned by Mr. Christie and released Thursday doubles down on a strategy of portraying Ms. Kelly as duplicitous, weeping frequently and dependent on men for approval and stability.
Though the lawyers who wrote the report did not interview her, they explain her conduct in unusually personal terms -- she is out of the office attending to a family member who had been hospitalized; a brief relationship "had cooled" at the "behest" of the man, Mr. Christie's campaign manager, Bill Stepien.
The report raises these details but does not explain how or why they would have prompted her to send the damning email. It simply concludes that "events in her personal life may have had some bearing on her subjective motivations and state of mind."
Ms. Kelly's friends also said that they were struck by what they felt was a gender bias in the report, noting that the personal language describing Ms. Kelly is not used to describe David Wildstein, even though he is pegged as her co-conspirator.
During a segment of Fox News' The Five, guest co-host Brian Kilmeade continued his history of sexism while discussing a blog post by a federal judge who wrote about the attire of women lawyers in the courtroom.
In a March 25 blog post, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf called himself a "dirty old man" while offering three rules for young women lawyers to follow when considering how to dress for court. In the post, he comments on the "ample chest" of one such lawyer and advises others to "tone it down" so that law clerks won't label you "an ignorant slut":
Around these parts there is a wonderfully talented and very pretty female lawyer who is in her late twenties. She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.
In a recent case involving this fine young lawyer every female law clerk in the building slipped in and out of the courtroom to observe her. I am not exaggerating. I later learned that word had gotten around about this lawyer's dress. Acknowledging that the lawyer was really good, the consensus of the sisterhood was uniformly critical. "Unprofessional" was the word used most often. To a woman, the law clerks seethed and sneered. They were truly upset.
From the foregoing, and in my continuing effort to educate the bar, I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court:
1. You can't win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it.
2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury.
3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.
Slate's Amanda Hess reminded Kopf that as a federal judge, "he's responsible for making sure that his personal weaknesses don't interfere with his judgment and that he refrain from making statements that would reasonably make one type of attorney feel uncomfortable approaching his bench."
During the March 27 edition of Fox News' The Five, the show's co-hosts agreed the judge "had a point" in harshly criticizing the attire of young women in the courtroom. Brian Kilmeade then asserted that women should in fact use their assets such as "a great body and a great figure" to get ahead in the courtroom:
KILMEADE: If you could try a case, and you have an asset which is a great body and a great figure, you've got to do everything you can to be successful. So if it means somebody in the jury is going to be swung to your side because of the fact that you work out ... then go ahead and do it.
This isn't the first time Brian Kilmeade has commented on women's appearances in the workplace. During a November 16, 2012 segment of his radio show, Kilmeade told listeners that Fox finds female hosts by going "into the Victoria's Secret catalogue" and saying "can any of these people talk?"
Kilmeade also has a history of other sexist behavior on air that once even prompted then-Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson to walk off-set after commenting that "women are everywhere. We're letting them play golf and tennis now" and later telling viewers that he is "pretty much not sexist."
In honor of Women's History Month, Media Matters looked back at seven examples of women standing up for their rights on cable news, be it in response to right-wing opposition or simply to further awareness of gender disparities.
Right-wing media have spent nearly a decade making false claims about birth control -- and now those falsehoods have found their way into the mouths of Supreme Court justices.
The Supreme Court on March 25 heard consolidated arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, which examine whether for-profit businesses can deny employees health insurance coverage based on the owners' personal religious beliefs, a radical revision of First Amendment and corporate law. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga argue they should not be forced by the government to provide their employees insurance which covers certain forms of contraception, because they believe those types of birth control can cause abortions.
The owners are wrong. Medical experts have confirmed they are wrong, repeatedly and strenuously, including experts at the National Institute of Health, the Mayo Clinic and the International Federation of Gynecology. The contraceptives Hobby Lobby objects to -- which include emergency contraceptives like Plan B and long-term contraceptives like Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) -- delay an egg from being fertilized, and as the former assistant commissioner for women's health at the FDA noted, "their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one."
Despite this overwhelming medical evidence, the myth that some of the contested forms of birth control are "abortifacients" has gone all the way to the Supreme Court -- and now has been repeated by some of the justices themselves. During the oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Antonin Scalia responded to a point made by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the lawyer for the government, by referring to "birth controls ... that are abortifacient."
JUSTICE SCALIA: You're talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That's not terribly expensive stuff, is it?
GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, to the contrary. And two points to make about that. First, of course the -- one of the methods of contraception they object to here is the IUD. And that is by far and away the method of contraception that is most effective, but has the highest upfront cost and creates precisely the kind of cost barrier that the preventive services provision is trying to break down.
Justice Stephen Breyer, while describing the position of the Hobby Lobby owners, also referred to "abortifacient contraceptives."
This misunderstanding matters because it could determine the outcome of the case. In order to win, a majority of justices may have to understand there is a compelling government interest in facilitating equal access to contraceptives across health insurance plans. It is an entirely different and more difficult question if the justices examine whether there is a compelling interest in the government facilitating access to abortion. Even though federal law explicitly prohibits federal funding of abortion and these birth control methods are not abortifacients, if the justices mistakenly think abortion is involved, this case becomes far more dangerous.
So whether the employees of for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby are guaranteed access to basic preventative health care could ultimately come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether for-profit companies are considered religious persons, a drastic change to constitutional corporate law, could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether the rights of gay and lesbian employees are respected, and whether taxes, vaccines requirements, minimum wage, overtime laws are all upheld could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions.
This simple lie about birth control could set up a chain of events that drastically alter health care by rewriting First Amendment and corporate law in this country -- and it's a lie that comes straight from the media, who have been pushing it for almost a decade.
Studies came out as early as 2004 pushing back on the idea that Plan B caused abortions, but Media Matters has repeatedly noted the tendency of journalists to get their facts wrong when addressing the issue. In 2005, CNN host Carol Costello gave a platform to a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills because she thought they were equivalent to "chemical abortion." In 2007, Time magazine called the morning-after pill "abortion-inducing," while an AP article pushed the false Republican claims that emergency contraception destroys "developing human fetuses." In 2010, The Washington Times repeatedly equated emergency contraception to abortion.
And there was Lila Rose, the anti-abortion activist who in 2011 released videos heavily edited to deceptively portray practices at Planned Parenthood clinics, and who has equated contraception to "abortion-inducing drugs" which she claims exploit women. Rose and her mentor, James O'Keefe, defended their manipulation and falsification of evidence as "tactics" against the "genocide" of abortion, and she was supported and promoted on The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity's America, The Glenn Beck Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, while her work was been featured by Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and National Review.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, and medical experts including the Institute of Medicine recommended including comprehensive coverage for contraception as part of the preventative care provisions, right-wing media freaked out, calling it "immoral" and "a way to eradicate the poor." Fox News ignored the overwhelming support for the resulting contraception policy, instead pretending that Catholic hospitals and employers were being victimized -- even as exemptions and accommodations were included for churches and religious nonprofits. By 2012, Fox News' Michelle Malkin was referring to the contraception regulations as an "abortion mandate." Now, right-wing media figures have used the Hobby Lobby case and others to bring back this lie, from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal, while Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have become particularly fond of discussing these "abortifacients."
As Media Matters has previously explained, right-wing talking points demonizing birth control made their way into the amicus briefs presented to the court before the case was even argued, and Justice Scalia in particular has been known to repeat verbatim right-wing myths, such as the dubious idea that if the Supreme Court upheld the ACA the federal government could ultimately require consumers to purchase broccoli.
But the presence of the "abortifacient" lie during oral arguments takes this worrying tendency to a new level, raising the prospect that right-wing media's lies could potentially determine the outcome of a crucial case for religious and corporate law, hugely damaging reproductive rights in the process. If women lose the guarantee for their basic preventative health care, and corporations are granted even more flexibility as "persons" with religious rights, right-wing media will be partly to blame.
Will Mark Levin's vulgar analysis of Hillary Clinton finally be enough to keep top GOP officials off his show?
On the March 21 edition of his radio show, Levin highlighted a Gallup poll showing that the majority of respondents, 18 percent, feel Clinton's gender is the most positive aspect of her potential presidency. Levin summarized the results by asking "Hillary Clinton's gender? Do they mean her genitalia is her top 2016 selling point? Is that what that means?" Levin later said "But the key is it's her genitalia. That's why so many people would vote for her. I wonder if Bill Clinton would vote for her because of that. He seems to -- well, he likes genitalia but maybe not hers":
Levin has a long history of offensive commentary on his radio show. He has accused President Obama of abusing children, compared marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, compared supporters of the Affordable Care Act to Nazi "brown shirts," and advocated for Obama to be impeached.
Despite this rhetoric, prominent conservatives have given tacit approval to Levin's views by appearing on his show. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) called into his show as recently as February. Levin hosted House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to talk about the new budget agreement reached in December. Levin criticized Ryan's budget deal with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) later that month.
Levin's hateful rhetoric has also earned him praise from the conservative community -- he was recently named the winner of the Conservative Political Action Conference's Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award. He is also listed as one of the speakers on the NRA's "Leadership Forum" in April, speaking alongside other prominent conservative GOP leaders like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Right wing media have repeatedly pushed the myth that contraceptives are affordable and accessible for all women, denying the disproportionate barriers to access many women experience -- access which is currently facing further challenges in the Supreme Court.
From the March 23 edition of MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki:
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Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson has apologized for reporter Patrick Howley's sexist and inappropriate comments about Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray, but Howley has a history of pushing misogynistic rhetoric at Carlson's outlet.
On March 19, Howley sparked backlash for tweeting "Not to make an obvious point, but who the Hell would want to pump Rosie Gray?" and "'Pumping' @RosieGray must be the most traumatic experience since Somalia," in response to a blog post which had pushed the sexist and crude suggestion that Gray got her Buzzfeed stories through a sexual relationship with another reporter. Howley and Carlson, his Daily Caller boss, subsequently apologized to Gray for the tweets, and Howley has deleted his entire twitter account.
Howley's comments were disgusting. But they were not terribly surprising -- he has previously dismissed rape culture, tweeting it "has nothing to do with rape. It's a smear for the sports, beer culture that libs hate," and his writing for the Caller has included inappropriate and demeaning attacks on women.
From the March 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the March 19 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' Rush Limbaugh Show:
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MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski highlighted the need for a "national conversation" on the gender wage gap and called on Republicans to either "come to the table" on the issue or "be quiet." Such a turnaround will be difficult while Fox News remains the communications arm of the GOP, as the network has consistently perpetuated sexist rhetoric and dismissed workplace inequality as a "myth" not worth covering.
A recent report from the American Association of University Woman (AAUW) found that, one year out of college, women on average are paid just 82 percent of what men make and noted that the gap tends to grow over time. According to the report, this discrepancy between men and women's earnings has not improved in the past decade. A 2012 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research explained that "[w]omen's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations -- whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women." As Think Progress has reported, women make less than their male peers regardless of their education level, industry, job, or location.
Brzezinski stressed the necessity of promoting a "national conversation" to address these issues, but Fox News and other conservative media have already hijacked the conversation and are undermining the possibility of open debate. Fox's Bill O'Reilly refused to acknowledge the pay gap as a real issue and questioned the point of disucssing it, while Fox's John Stossel has repeatedly attempted to debunk what he describes as "gender myths" like the pay gap. Radio host Rush Limbaugh has dismissed arguments about the pay gap as "tripe" and claimed that wages are only stagnant for people who "don't do good work."
Though Brzezinski noted that the gender wage gap discussion is "rife with so many ways the Republican Party could really help address some of the issues," Republicans face a major hurdle in engaging with such issues while Fox News remains the GOP's communications arm.
One of right-wing media's leading voices on what should or should not define the institution of marriage has said that same-sex marriage will lead to legalized incest and polygamy, and has argued instead for a definition of matrimony that requires women to consent to sex with their husbands as often as possible, regardless of their "mood." Now the media figure -- talk-radio host Dennis Prager -- is being embraced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Prager, a conservative talk show host, author, and contributor to National Review Online, will host a fundraiser on March 19 for McConnell, who is in the midst of a competitive reelection campaign against Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell, who voted against closing the gender wage gap in 2012, is losing female voters by a large margin. Given Prager's history of inflammatory rhetoric on gender equality issues, McConnell's decision to attend a Prager-led fundraiser is an interesting demonstration of the weight of the conservative talker's influence in right-wing circles.
Indeed, Prager has been a leading voice in the conservative fight against marriage equality, and his views are often extreme. He has said that marriage equality will lead to the legalization of polygamy and incest and that tolerance of the LGBT community will lead to "fascism in America." He compared the 2013 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling on Proposition 8 to the Egyptian military coup of the country's elected government.
From the March 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' Rush Limbaugh Show:
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New research confirms that providing women access to free birth control does not result in women having sex with more partners -- a false claim that has been repeatedly pushed and promoted by conservative media, and which contributes to their efforts to stigmatize women's sexuality.
Providing women with no-cost contraception did not result in "riskier" sexual behavior (defined by the researchers as "sex with multiple partners") but did reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, according to a comprehensive study from the Washington University School of Medicine.
As Amanda Duberman noted at the Huffington Post, having new empirical data to push back on the moralizing arguments against birth control is helpful, but raises the question: "why do we care?" The fact that researchers felt the need to study this particular claim about birth control at all reveals an "implicit stigmatization" of women's sexuality (emphasis added):
It is a small, pervasive set of voices that leads researchers to consider "multiple sexual partners" over the course of an entire year "risky sexual behavior."
The past decade of research has confirmed what women's health advocates already knew: the benefits of reducing barriers to birth control access far outweigh any subjectively determined adverse effects.
What's unfortunate is that making a case for something many women need relies on the implicit stigmatization of their sexuality. That researchers and health advocates need to presume harsh judgement of sexually active women to convince skeptics of birth control's utility just reminds us how far we have to go.
Duberman is right; it should not matter whether women have more or less sex when taking birth control pills. But it's not just a small set of conservative political voices pushing this offensive criticism of women's sexuality and inspiring scientific research. Conservative media have played a role in forcing this conversation, repeatedly slut-shaming women who use birth control and insisting that anyone who supports government funding for free contraceptives is equivalent to a prostitute.