Washington Post syndicated columnist George Will dedicated his most recent column to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL), praising the governor's plans to go after public-sector unions, but got some basic facts wrong in the process.
Rauner has quickly become a favorite among right-wing media figures, both during his gubernatorial campaign and since his election in November. The Wall Street Journal and National Review have also lauded Rauner for his February 9 executive order blocking public-sector unions from collecting "fair share" fees from state employees they represent. Although state employees are not required to join, their union is nevertheless required to represent every state employee -- including nonmembers -- during contract negotiations. Without fair-share fees, nonmembers would get all the benefits of unionization without having to pay for it. Rauner's order would effectively institute "right-to-work" rules for state workers without the headache of getting approval from the Democratic majority in the state legislature first.
In his February 25 column, Will called Rauner's election "this century's most intriguing political experiment" and endorsed the governor's plan "to change Illinois's political culture of one-party rule by entrenched politicians subservient to public-sector unions." Will went on to support Rauner's executive order on union dues, but completely bungled basic facts about the order and the ongoing legal challenges surrounding it:
By executive order, Rauner has stopped the government from collecting "fair share" fees for unions from state employees who reject joining a union. This, he says, violates First Amendment principles by compelling people to subsidize speech with which they disagree. The unions might regret challenging this in federal court: If the case reaches the Supreme Court and it overturns the 1977 decision that upheld "fair shares," this would end the practice nationwide.
Rauner hopes to ban, as some states do, public employees unions from making political contributions, whereby they elect the employers with whom they negotiate their compensation. Rauner notes that an owner of a small firm that does business with Illinois's government is forbidden to make political contributions. Rauner also hopes to enable counties and local jurisdictions to adopt right-to-work laws, thereby attracting businesses that will locate only where there are such laws.
Fox News is reporting on an unsubstantiated rumor that the Obama administration has a "secret plan B" to deal with the fallout of an upcoming Supreme Court case that could invalidate tax credits for millions of Americans. But administration officials have repeatedly denied that such a plan exists -- and there is little the administration could do to restore the credits if the court strikes them down.
On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, a case that could block the availability of health care subsidies for consumers who purchased insurance over the federal exchange, which operates as the sole health insurance marketplace in the 37 states that don't operate their own. The lawsuit is based on a right-wing misinterpretation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that claims that the law allows the IRS to provide tax credits only to those who bought insurance over "Exchanges established by the State," and not the federal government. In addition to the congressional authors of the ACA, the vast majority of health and legal experts agree that this strained reading of the law is not only incorrect, but contrary to the way the Supreme Court generally interprets statutes -- as a whole, and in context.
Despite the lawsuit's clear flaws, right-wing media have acted as a booster for its potential to gut the ACA -- and only recently figured out that without the subsidies, millions of Americans would be faced with ruinous health care costs. As The New York Times explained, "if the court decides to limit federal tax credits, the result could essentially be the creation of two American health care systems. The haves -- in mostly Democratic states -- may not be impacted, while the have-nots -- in 37 mostly red states -- could face spiraling costs."
But now Republicans are attempting to shift the blame to the Obama administration by claiming that the administration actually does have a super-secret contingency plan, and multiple statements to the contrary are an effort "to influence the court ahead of the March 4 arguments," according to The Hill.
Even though the administration has said that there is no such plan -- secret or otherwise -- Fox News was happy to pass along this unsubstantiated rumor on the February 26 edition of America's Newsroom. In a report about a congressional hearing on the ACA, Fox's Doug McKelway stated that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell would be facing questions about the administration's "contingency plans" if the tax credits are struck down. McKelway went on to report that "there are rumors circulating that senior HHS officials do have a secret plan B should the Supreme Court rule against Obamacare":
Emily Miller, chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG (Fox 5), has given different accounts of a 2010 "home invasion" in order to "squeeze the story for additional terror" in support of her pro-gun advocacy, The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reported.
Miller has recently faced scrutiny because she works for Fox 5 as a reporter who frequently covers local gun laws while also appearing at local pro-gun rallies as an activist for gun rights. WTTG, for the first time, identified Miller as "a proponent of Second Amendment rights" before her latest report on D.C. gun laws.
In her book Emily Gets Her Gun ...But Obama Wants to Take Yours and while serving as the gun blogger for the conservative Washington Times, Miller described becoming involved as a gun advocate after a home she was watching for a friend was burglarized on January 1, 2010. The incident led Miller to write a series of articles on navigating the requirements to own a gun in D.C. which turned into a book that also alleged President Obama is plotting to disarm Americans. In conservative media circles Miller has become a go-to voice for pro-gun commentary and she often shares her burglary account to set up her often misleading arguments in favor of looser gun laws.
In a February 26 article, Wemple, who writes a reported opinion blog on the media, described how Miller has changed her account of the burglary in order to "please" a pro-gun audience.
In her first post for Washington Times' gun blog and in her book Miller described encountering "a man coming from the house" and hours later realized he had been inside and taken her wallet after receiving a phone call from her credit card company.
But in subsequent tellings, including a dramatization of the story by the National Rifle Association for it's All Access series, Miller claimed to have encountered the man inside of the home and needing to "talk him out of the house without" being harmed.
National Rifle Association radio and television host Cam Edwards claimed that people who argue against concealed carry as a solution to rape on college campuses "are OK with" sexual assaults that could supposedly be prevented by guns.
At least 10 state legislatures are considering NRA-backed legislation to allow students to carry concealed guns on campus, and advocates for guns on campus have increasingly argued that arming students will help address the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Critics have pointed out that, among many other problems with this argument, campus sexual assaults often involve alcohol.
During the February 24 edition of the NRA News radio program Cam & Company, Edwards asserted that opponents of guns on campus believe that in "almost every sexual assault, there is alcohol involved," so a "gun wouldn't help." Because of this, Edwards said, opponents of guns on campus are "OK with some sexual assaults occurring when they could be prevented."
Edwards went on to describe the position of those who say that guns on campus are not a solution to sexual assault: "So what they're saying is, they are OK with real sexual assaults happening -- whether they acknowledge that they are saying this or not, ultimately their position is that they are OK with real sexual assaults happening because they are afraid of accidents that might take place if campus carry were allowed."
In fact, Edwards is mischaracterizing recent arguments against guns as a solution to campus sexual assault, which have pointed out that guns will not actually make women on campus safer.
Conservative media are reacting to a terrorist threat against Mall of America by calling for people to be allowed to carry concealed guns in more places even though no evidence exists that civilians with concealed carry permits stop mass attacks.
During a February 22 appearance on CNN, Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson told visitors to Minnesota's Mall of America to be "particularly careful," citing a video released by Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab that called for an attack on the shopping center. Local law enforcement say there is "no credible threat" to the mall, but that Mall of America has "implemented extra security precautions."
Shoppers visiting Mall of America are not allowed to carry firearms, although one local lawmaker is attempting to change that policy in light of Al-Shabaab's threat. As a reaction to the September 11 terror attacks, Mall of America created its own 150-member counterterrorism security force that is "modeled after similar units in Israel." Local police also have a unit dedicated to the mall.
Conservatives have used the threat to question the mall's no guns policy for shoppers and to push the myth that places where guns are not allowed are particularly dangerous.
On February 24, Outnumbered co-hosts Andrea Tantaros, Stacey Dash, and Kennedy along with guest and Fox News contributor Bo Dietl all endorsed carrying concealed guns in Mall of America. Kennedy suggested that Mall of America is a "gun-free zone" and argued that such an area "really is an invitation" for terrorists. Tantaros falsely suggested that the gunman in the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting was "taken down" with a firearm to advance the carrying of guns. In fact, the shooter in that incident committed suicide.
Fox News Host Sean Hannity is criticizing singer John Legend's Oscars speech, which invoked the civil rights movement and the ongoing fight for racial and social justice. In response to Legend's completely accurate statement that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is under attack today, Hannity disagreed and appeared to argue that the seminal civil rights law was irrelevant to strict voter ID laws.
On February 22, Legend and co-writer Common won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Glory," from the film Selma, a historical drama about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s fight for equal voting rights. In his acceptance speech, Legend noted that the civil rights struggle represented in the movie continues "right now": "We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now, in this country, today."
On the February 23 edition of his show, Hannity complained that Legend "decided to make all things political." Even though Legend didn't explicitly bring up voter ID laws in his speech, Hannity went on to suggest that it was inappropriate for Legend to "equate the Voting Rights Act with showing an ID to get to vote so we can keep honesty and integrity in our elections ... I like John Legend as a musician, but he doesn't know anything about politics":
Joe Scarborough endorsed allowing students to carry guns on college campuses based on the evidence-free argument that making campuses "gun-free zones" invites mass shootings like the Virginia Tech massacre that could have been prevented by armed students.
In fact, an analysis of mass shootings in the United States over the past 30 years found no examples where an armed civilian ended an attack or any evidence that places that do not allow guns invite mass shootings. Furthermore, research has indicated that students who possess guns at college are more likely than their peers to engage in risky conduct, suggesting that arming students could have substantial risks.
Scarborough endorsed students carrying guns on campus as a preventative measure against mass shootings on the February 19 edition of Morning Joe. He said, "I can tell you that you have campuses as gun-free zones and you put up signs all over the place, you invite people to come in and do things like they did at Virginia Tech. I can guarantee you where I went to school at the University of Alabama somebody would not be able go room by room by room picking off students and teachers. They would get to about the second or third room, and boom, it would be over."
The Wall Street Journal is celebrating a ruling from a lower-court judge who has temporarily blocked President Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion over undocumented immigrants by repeating a litany of right wing-media myths, some of which were repeated in the legal decision itself.
On February 17, federal district court Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction that will block the Department of Homeland Security's implementation of the president's recent executive actions on immigration in the face of GOP opposition to immigration reform. These actions, which will defer deportations for some undocumented immigrants and were scheduled to open the application process today, have long been criticized by right-wing media as "unconstitutional," despite the fact that there is plenty of legal and historical precedent for the order.
Hanen's ruling -- which not only goes against other recent lower-court rulings, but also Supreme Court precedent -- found a receptive audience at The Wall Street Journal. The Journal has been particularly critical of Obama's immigration actions, erroneously suggesting the administration had not sought a legal justification for his order before issuing it and denouncing Obama for acting "on his own whim because he's tired of working with Congress." In a February 17 editorial, the Journal commended Hanen, calling his decision "a vindication of the 26 states that brought the challenge and, more significantly, for the rule of law":
Last November the Department of Homeland Security published memos instructing immigration enforcers to disregard federal laws that require deportation of the undocumented and place strict limits on who may work in the U.S. The White House and DHS claim this "deferred action" is nothing more than routine prosecutorial discretion, as if the department is merely conceding that its officers cannot hunt down and deport the millions of illegals in the country.
Judge Hanen dismantles that fiction. As he points out, the DHS memos amount to "a massive change in immigration practice" that reorders "the nation's entire immigration scheme." Instead of the historical norm of forbearance in individual cases, the memos devote 150 pages to detailing a blanket policy for whole classes of immigrants -- meaning that discretion is "virtually extinguished," as Judge Hanen writes.
The memos also actively bestow benefits that Congress never granted, such as the right to work, obtain Social Security numbers, and travel to and from the U.S.
The editorial is a rehash of myths about the executive action. For example, it is true that Congress never granted undocumented immigrants "the right to work," but neither did Obama's executive order. Undocumented immigrants who qualify for deferred action will become eligible for work authorization permits, not because of Obama's order, but because of a federal law that was passed in 1986 under Ronald Reagan.
Media outlets are reporting that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) will attempt to block the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general on the grounds that the president's "illegal executive amnesty for illegal immigrants would be implemented" by the nominee. However, in reports about the January 28 hearing in which Vitter explained his "huge concern" about the "unconstitutional" executive actions on immigration, both mainstream and right-wing media failed to note that the statutory provision the senator relied on was not only the wrong one, it was out-of-date.
Lynch, the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, has been widely praised across the political spectrum, and multiple conservatives -- including current Republican senators -- support her nomination. Her credentials are so strong, even right-wing media favorites called to her confirmation hearing by GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed she was unobjectionable. Nevertheless, from the moment President Obama nominated Lynch, conservative media have attempted to smear her -- attempts that have been riddled with spectacular mistakes.
Right-wing media are now hitching their opposition to Lynch to the positions of Vitter, who has repeatedly stated he will do his best to block the nominee's confirmation because she does not oppose the president's executive actions on immigration. On her radio show, Laura Ingraham hosted Vitter and agreed with his opposition to Lynch because of her support for "executive amnesty," repeating the debunked myth that Lynch believes there is a legal right for undocumented immigrants to work. Breitbart.com, which has struggled mightily to successfully criticize the nominee, also highlighted Vitter's obstructionist intentions toward Lynch, noting that "Lynch's outspoken support for President Obama's executive amnesty" was in part responsible for the current Republican delay on an up-or-down vote.
Mainstream outlets have reported on Vitter's antipathy toward Lynch as well, based on her support for the "reasonable[ness]" of the justification for the immigration actions. These reports have specifically noted that the senator laid out his case for the illegality of deferred action for certain undocumented immigrants at her recent hearing, where he accused the administration of flouting the law by assigning Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to the Department of Homeland Security. As Vitter said during the hearing, "I've read the plan, and the plan as I read it is for all of that to be done in the Department of Homeland Security. So my question would be, what is the statutory basis to allow that, when under the statute -- not some order, not some legal opinion -- the statute, the law, word by word it says the attorney general is in the middle of that decision[.]" The Washington Post, for example, included a photo of the oversized copy of 8 U.S. Code § 1182(d)(5) that Vitter displayed as he repeatedly questioned the nominee for agreeing with the White House's legal defense of the immigration actions. Vitter finally remarked, "Well, again, I'll have to be following up for the fourth time, but that'll be a central question. The plan is not for the attorney general to be in the middle of this at all. The statute says that 'the attorney general is.' Why aren't we following the statute?"
Unfortunately, both right-wing and mainstream media reporting on Vitter, the January 28 hearing, and his opposition to Lynch have failed to note that Vitter's questioning was referring to the wrong part of the law, which has since been superseded.
From the February 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
From the February 12 edition of CNN's New Day:
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Right-wing media are celebrating Gov. Bruce Rauner's (R-IL) executive order blocking public-sector unions from collecting "fair share" fees from the state employees they represent, even though there is no precedent for such a move. National Review and The Wall Street Journal are praising Rauner for "thinking creatively" by effectively turning Illinois into a "right-to-work" state without legislative approval, even though those same outlets have criticized President Obama for issuing lawful executive orders without Republican input.
Rauner's order specifically targets "fair share" dues that nonmembers in unionized workplaces pay to cover the cost of union representation for their collective bargaining agreements. Illinois law already prohibits fair share fees (as opposed to full membership dues) from being used to fund union political activities, but Rauner nevertheless issued his executive order and wrongly claimed that "an employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree." A number of states have passed "right-to-work" laws that target these kinds of dues with the express purpose of weakening the bargaining power of unions. But Rauner saved himself some time by ignoring decades of Supreme Court labor-law precedent and imposing the "right-to-work" standard on state employees without running it past the legislature first.
Right-wing media are not particularly concerned with Rauner's unilateral and legally questionable antics. Rauner's lawyers, however, apparently realize the unusual nature of this executive action. On the governor's behalf, they have defensively filed a lawsuit asking a district court to preemptively declare his order legal on the radical assumption that all union activity -- even that related to collective bargaining -- is inherently political.
In a February 11 post, National Review writer Patrick Brennan applauded Rauner's "daring" and legal manuevering, celebrating that "Rauner's Illinois is in limbo -- and, duly elected, he deserves credit for putting them there." The Journal also praised Rauner in a February 10 editorial for "thinking creatively" since the "Democrats who have a supermajority in the state legislature won't make Illinois a right-to-work state."
This is an interesting about-face on executive orders from these outlets, which have attacked Obama's executive action on immigration in the face of an obstructionist GOP-controlled House as an "abuse of power" and "executive overreach" -- despite there being plenty of legal and historical precedent to support Obama's orders. In a November 16 editorial, the Journal argued that it would "support more liberal immigration but not Mr. Obama's means of doing it on his own whim because he's tired of working with Congress." Similarly, in a November 6 editorial, National Review complained that for Obama to "act on immigration without engaging the country's new congressional majority would be a defiance of the legislative branch, and of the American electorate."
But Rauner's order gets a pass from National Review now, because it is enough that "after a deep legal review, he thinks the fair-share fees are unconstitutional forced expression."
Apparently Rauner's deep legal review involves rewriting the basics of labor law. As the Illinois Economic Policy Institute explained, Rauner's claim that "state workers are forced to pay union dues for political purposes" is "false":
Illinois law does not prohibit labor organizations with state collective bargaining agreements from contributing to elected officials, but it also does not mandate that workers must pay for political activities that are endorsed by their representative union. The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act requires all employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement to pay their "fair share" of the cost of collective bargaining and contract administration. Fair share dues "shall not include any fees for contributions related to the election or support of any candidate for political office" but an employee can make "voluntary political contributions in conjunction with his or her fair share payment" [emphasis added]. Since the 1988 Communications Workers of America v. Beck case in the U.S. Supreme Court, unions are authorized to collect from non-members only fees and dues necessary to perform collective bargaining operations, and workers can object to paying a portion of their dues toward political activities.
As conservative Justice Antonin Scalia explained in a 1991 labor law case, nonmembers who don't pay dues "are free riders whom the law requires the union to carry -- indeed, requires the union to go out of its way to benefit, even at the expense of its other interests. In the context of bargaining, a union must seek to further the interests of its nonmembers; it cannot, for example, negotiate particularly high wage increases for its members in exchange for accepting no increases for others." Without compulsory fair share dues for the collective bargaining agreement from which both non-members and members benefit, unions face a serious "free rider" problem and threat to their financial viability.
Which, for the National Review and the Journal, is clearly the point.
There's no question that the current makeup of the Supreme Court is less sympathetic to the labor movement than it has been in the past. In 2014, the conservative majority ruled that home care workers in Illinois (who are paid with state Medicaid funds but are not full-fledged public employees) cannot be compelled to pay dues to a union they don't want to join, but ultimately declined to strike down a 1977 case that allows public-sector unions to collect "fair share" dues from nonmembers. Even though Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion questioned the "foundations" of that 1977 ruling -- basically inviting a challenge like Rauner's -- the case is still good law.
In light of this precedent, some might call Rauner's actions an appeal to the "judicial activism" they frequently condemn. The WSJ, on the other hand, is calling this "thinking creatively."
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, who writes a reported opinion blog on the media, criticized Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate WTTG chief investigative reporter Emily Miller for speaking at a gun rights rally in Annapolis, Maryland, noting that "Miller's appearance puts WTTG in a bind vis-a-vis Maryland politics."
Miller addressed gun advocates at a rally organized by Maryland Shall Issue, the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, and other Maryland gun groups on February 10 outside of the Maryland State House. After the rally, which also featured speeches by representatives from Maryland gun rights groups and Maryland legislators, attendees were urged to lobby lawmakers to loosen Maryland's gun laws.
As a reporter for WTTG, Miller often covers gun-related issues. Prior to joining WTTG in 2014, Miller was the senior opinion editor for the conservative Washington Times and ran the paper's guns blog. Miller has been a frequent source of conservative misinformation about gun violence.
The Supreme Court will soon hear King v. Burwell, a right-wing challenge to the Affordable Care Act that could strike down the subsidies that Americans rely on to purchase health insurance. Here is a media guide to some of the health care and legal experts -- including conservative industry groups, members of Congress, and state officials -- who are asking the Court to reject the challengers' reading of the ACA, which flouts common sense and rules of statutory interpretation.
Discredited gun researcher John Lott misled about a controversial NRA-backed law that is being used to challenge Pennsylvania gun ordinances, the same day he hoped to testify as an expert witness in a related lawsuit.
In 2014, Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation that expanded the scope of a longstanding Pennsylvania state preemption law that limits the ability of local governments to pass gun ordinances that go beyond state gun laws. The new law, Act 192, expands how the preemption law can be enforced with an unusual provision that gives gun rights groups a special status to sue the local municipalities who allegedly violate the state preemption law.
The NRA has called the law "a much-needed protection for gun owners in the Keystone State" and has already moved to sue several Pennsylvania cities over local gun laws. Philadelphia Magazine called the law "astonishing" and "appalling" because the special "standing" to sue, carved out for gun rights groups under the law, means "[t]he NRA can sue -- and it can win without having to show that anybody actually had their rights violated." The magazine also noted that the law would allow the NRA to capture Pennsylvanians' tax dollars in the form of attorney's fees granted to the victor of a lawsuit under the law. Prior to the enactment of Act 192, the NRA had attempted to sue a Pennsylvania municipality, but had its lawsuit dismissed for lack of standing.
In a February 6 opinion piece for The Patriot-News, a Harrisburg newspaper, Lott misled in two ways about the scope of Act 192 in order to normalize the law's unusually broad standing to sue. Lott's piece was appended with the note that he is "serving as an expert witness in Friday's case against Harrisburg."