Fox News is using the horrific murder of an Oklahoma woman to misrepresent President Obama's gun policy and to falsely accuse him of "wag[ing] a war on the Second Amendment" and of wanting to "ban guns in the hands of everybody except the police."
On September 26 a man who had been recently fired from his job at an Oklahoma food processing plant attacked his co-workers, beheading one with a knife and wounding another. The attack was stopped when the suspect was shot and wounded by the business' CEO, who is also a reserve sheriff's deputy. Local law enforcement has asked the FBI to investigate the crime to determine if there is any link to terrorism.
A September 30 segment on Fox & Friends used the Oklahoma murder to attack Obama, with co-host Steve Doocy asking, "So with yet another example of how guns save lives, why does President Obama and his administration continue to wage a war on the Second Amendment?"
In the discussion that followed, Doocy and guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, pushed a number of myths about actions the Obama administration has taken to reduce gun violence, including falsely claiming that Obama supports banning civilian gun ownership, that Obama wants to use an international treaty to make it "very, very difficult to carry guns," that Obama has ordered doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, that Obama has forced people to disclose their race when buying guns, and that Obama has used executive actions "to limit the uses of guns."
(The segment also included false claims about gun violence generally, including the "more guns equals less crime" conservative media myth and falsehood that civilians with guns could serve as a panacea for public mass shooting incidents.)
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.
A donation website that George Zimmerman used to raise money for his legal defense reportedly "lit up" every time Fox News host Sean Hannity mentioned the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, according to a profile of the Zimmerman family in GQ.
Reporter Amanda Robb's GQ piece focuses on events following the acquittal of Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges stemming from a February 2012 shooting that left Martin, an unarmed Sanford, Florida, area high school student, dead of a gunshot wound. The shooting brought national attention on Zimmerman and also Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law, which played an important role in Zimmerman's acquittal.
Robb spoke with members of Zimmerman's family, and reported that the only media figure Zimmerman "liked" was Hannity, and that mentions of the Martin shooting on Hannity's Fox News show "lit up" donations to Zimmerman's website:
George hated journalists. He blamed them for turning him into a national villain. There was only one media figure he liked: Hannity. Fortunately, Hannity--and especially Hannity's viewers on Fox News--liked him back. George, whose legal debt was in the seven figures, briefly had a website that accepted PayPal donations, and it lit up every time Hannity mentioned the incident on-air.
Robb also reported that the Zimmerman family now lives in seclusion, citing security concerns, and passes time by "watching Spanish-language telenovelas and Duck Dynasty and Real Housewives and Fox News."
Following Eric Holder's announcement that he was resigning, The Wall Street Journal attacked the legacy of the nation's first black attorney general by repeating debunked descriptions of his civil rights work and accusing him of turning the Department of Justice "into a routine instrument of social and racial policy."
On September 25, Holder announced that he will step down as soon as his replacement is confirmed. Right-wing media were quick to celebrate, with Fox News host Andrea Tantaros calling him one of the "most dangerous men in America" because "he ran the DOJ much like the Black Panthers would" and Fox and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham asking, "What are the race-baiters going to do now?"
The Journal joined the opportunity to bash Holder's civil rights legacy as attorney general, claiming in an editorial that he "explicitly turned the Justice Department into a political weapon." The editorial specifically attacked Holder's efforts to curb racial discrimination in hiring, to promote desegregation in Louisiana schools, and to fight election restrictions that violate the Voting Rights Act:
Mr. Holder also turned Justice into a routine instrument of social and racial policy. Under the former head of the Civil Rights Division, Thomas Perez (now Secretary of Labor), Justice used "disparate impact" analysis to force racial adjustments on cities, police and fire departments and banks. The settlements were not based on proven racial discrimination, as traditionally required, but on arcane statistical analyses.
Among Mr. Holder's worst overreaches was filing suit last year to block Louisiana's private-school voucher program. That program overwhelmingly helps the state's poorest minority families escape bad schools. No matter, Justice's statistical cops said the program was unbalancing the "racial identity" of public schools by admitting too many black children into better schools.
In July 2012 the Attorney General invoked the specter of Jim Crow amid a presidential campaign. In a speech to the NAACP, he likened voter ID laws to "poll taxes," an argument rejected by the Supreme Court in 2009.
These three specific complaints have been among right-wing media's favorite myths about Holder and his successful civil rights track record at the DOJ.
Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett wrote a column accurately depicting the college sexual assault epidemic and the fears victims face in reporting these crimes, a stark contrast to his colleagues and fellow conservative media figures who have dismissed, mocked, and stigmatized victims.
In a September 25 column for Fox News' website, Jarrett highlighted the high rate of assault on college campuses, and praised student activists for raising awareness of the often insufficient resources and efforts by colleges to address the problem (emphasis added):
Nearly 20 % of female college students have been sexually assaulted, according to a White House task force.
I suspect the true number is significantly higher. Many young women are reluctant to report it. They keep it secret for fear of embarrassment, shame, retribution, and the trauma of reliving the nightmare during legal or disciplinary proceedings. I get it. There are repercussions. Victims are especially afraid of being stigmatized or ostracized within the tight, insular social circles on campus.
Awareness is on the rise driven, in part, by student activism. Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, angry over how the school adjudicated her claim of rape, has taken to carrying a mattress around campus. Dubbed "Mattress girl" by fellow students and the media, her visually indelible protest has galvanized a growing demand for honesty and transparency. And why not? Schools should be required to publish accurate information about the frequency of assaults. It can be done without breaching individual students' privacy.
Jarrett's column unfortunately stands out among recent commentary about sexual assault in conservative media, where the fact that one in five women are assaulted at college is regularly dismissed. The Daily Caller has called the statistic "bizarre and wholly false," while the Washington Examiner called it "ridiculous."
Moreover, the trust and respect Jarrett treats the victims of these assaults with is unusual. Instead, their stories are often questioned or critiqued, with media figures suggesting that a large number of victims are lying about their assault, or are partly culpable.
The same day that Jarrett's column was published, some of his Fox News colleagues suggested that intoxicated women who are assaulted at college fraternity parties are responsible for their own assaults. Several co-hosts of Fox's Outnumbered defended a Forbes contributor who was fired after claiming that drunk women were "the gravest threat to fraternities" because the fraternity would be liable if a woman was sexually assaulted at a party.
This past summer, Washington Post columnist George Will came under fire for claiming that college efforts to curb sexual assaults were making "victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege." In his column, Will disputed the story of a college rape on Swarthmore's campus, implying he didn't believe the survivor's story qualified as an actual incident of assault. The survivor, Lisa Sendrow, told Media Matters about the violence she had experienced, how Will's dismissal of her story was triggering and damaging to her, and that she was diagnosed with PTSD and received violent threats after her story was first reported.
Earlier this year, a Weekly Standard contributor blamed feminism for sexual assault, because victims abandoned "feminine modesty" which had provided women "protection" from rape. National Review Online writers claimed rape was "instinctive" among some young men, that assaults involve "a large degree of voluntary behavior" from women, and that women are "being taught to believe they were raped." A New York Post columnist dismissed rape as "regrettable sex."
And Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto went so far as to claim intoxicated sexual assault victims are just as guilty as their attackers.
While Jarrett's column is sadly something of an outlier among conservative commentary on the issue, survivors now have one more voice in the media supporting their efforts to combat this epidemic.
Forbes contributor Frank Miniter published a lengthy column arguing that the gun safety initiatives of Everytown for Gun Safety and the group's founder Michael Bloomberg are "backfiring" without disclosing that he writes for Everytown's primary political opponent, the National Rifle Association.
Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, has said he will spend at least $50 million supporting gun safety initiatives this year, including spending on the 2014 midterm elections.*
Miniter's September 25 column offered myriad attacks on Bloomberg and Everytown. Many of the criticisms are in the form of quotations from thoroughly discredited gun researcher John Lott. ("I can't find a single study from Bloomberg's groups that aren't loaded with errors. They have an anti-gun agenda and will lie to achieve it.")
Miniter also wrote, "On the pro-gun side most of the money is coming from the grassroots," and concluded, "Though there are wealthy individuals on the gun-rights side, it's not a stretch to say a few wealthy, out-of-touch billionaires are trying to disarm the people." (The NRA receives millions of dollars from gun manufacturers and other corporations and according to its latest tax documents operated on more than $250 million in revenue in 2012.)
National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent analogized President Obama to a "crack whore" in his latest column for conspiracy website WND.
In a September 24 column, Nugent criticized "politically correct freakzoids" who support animal rights, and suggested that those people were responsible for the election of Obama. Nugent wrote that Obama, "the Chicago community organizer," has been allowed to "increase the national debt like a crack whore in an opium mall":
Unfortunately, in this world of politically correct freakzoids, the inexplicable self-inflicted curse of denial has festered the big lie of so-called animal rights, and these dishonest zealots remain maniacal in their clamor to ban hunting, fishing and trapping.
These are basically the same lying scammers that allowed the Chicago community organizer to weasel his way to the presidency, nearly neuter America's defense system, increase the national debt like a crack whore in an opium mall, abandon security 101 in Benghazi and elsewhere, ignore a gunrunning attorney general, allow an IRS to operate like a third-world gang, unleash U.S. Fish & Wildlife agents to raid Gibson guitars and get away with it, cause America to lose all respect around the world with a foreign policy straight out of the Ann Arbor Hash Bash and cause myriad embarrassments by a government completely out of control.
A new interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that will appear in Elle magazine has given National Review Online an opportunity to once again twist the justice's views on the importance of equal reproductive rights for everyone, regardless of their financial means. As it did in 2009, NRO claimed that Ginsburg's frequent observations that poor women are disproportionately affected by anti-choice legislation may be proof of her support for eugenics -- even though that misinterpretation of her comments has been debunked.
Setting aside its own lengthy history of paranoid rhetoric, the National Rifle Association has released a new video attacking Americans who oppose the carrying of guns in public as "paranoid" because they are afraid of an "inanimate object."
But research shows that laws allowing concealed guns to be carried in public increase aggravated assaults. The permissive laws also worsen deficiencies in some states' permitting systems, meaning felons and other dangerous individuals are allowed to obtain concealed carry licenses.
In a September 24 NRA News commentary video, NRA News commentator Billy Johnson said, "If you are someone who legally carries a gun concealed, you are probably getting tired of being portrayed as paranoid. I know I am."
After touting the supposed virtues of concealed carry, Johnson argued that people who oppose carrying guns in public are "paranoid" because they are afraid of "people who are legally exercising their right to bear arms" and "an inanimate object."
After hundreds of thousands of people participated in what may have been the largest climate change protest in history, National Review Online criticized the event, attacked environmental justice law that seeks to ameliorate health disparities, and misrepresented a study to argue "the effects of pollution on health have been exaggerated."
On September 21, an estimated 310,000 demonstrators took part in the People's Climate March, a multi-city event protesting inaction on climate change and its harmful effects on the planet. Although the Sunday news shows ignored this historic event, National Review Online was quick to condemn it. Editor Rich Lowry called it a "symbolic protest," questioned the settled science of the human causes of climate change, and dismissed advocacy on the dangers of climate change as "anti-industrial apocalypticism."
Lowry's NRO colleague Katherine Timpf specifically criticized protestors in Harlem who were calling for legal action that would protect communities of color from toxic pollutants, a type of civil rights advocacy that is based on decades-old precedent. Timpf complained that "environmental-justice legislation does more harm than good" because "demonizing corporations is not the best method for bringing economic development to a struggling city." Timpf also claimed that "the impact that pollutants actually have on poor communities is questionable," and because of that, she argued, communities of color should embrace the potential economic benefits that a pollution-causing factory might bring:
During one of the march-preparation meetings, the deputy director of the Harlem-based group WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Cecil Corbin-Marks, tells me he's fighting for "global climate policies that focus on the challenges that local communities are confronting."
"Not all communities have the same resources," he says. "People of color are disproportionately affected." He believes that world leaders must unite to stop destructive corporations from spreading the pollutants that sicken minority neighborhoods by causing asthma and cancer.
I don't support his cause. Am I callous and cruel? Am I just ignorant of the suffering of the residents of these areas?
"There is pollution, and it should be cleaned," Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce says during an interview. "But to say that it's happening because of race? No. That's crazy to think corporations sit in boardrooms and design strategies to pollute races. That's Nazi stuff."
Politicians are responsible for keeping the neighborhoods clean, Alford says, so they're the ones who must be held responsible when they're not. All environmental-justice laws do is give these politicians more power.
The Washington Times is continuing its shoddy reporting about the federal form for gun background checks by misleadingly claiming gun dealers will lose their licenses if buyers inadvertently make mistakes on the form.
In a September 18 article, the Times' Kelly Riddell reported on a minor change to the form in 2012, in which a question on race and ethnicity was separated into two boxes. Riddell wrote that the change "has become a headache for firearms dealers, as many people either check off one box or the other. Failure to complete them both results in [a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] violation. When a firearm dealer gets audited by the ATF, one violation -- no matter how minor -- is enough reason to revoke a license."
In fact, the ATF can only revoke the license of gun dealers who commit "willful" violations of federal regulations, which in this case, would entail a seller knowingly processing the flawed form. A buyer's simple failure to "check off one box or the other" is insufficient for a license revocation, contrary to Riddell's description.
As pressure to act on a proposal to expand gun background checks in Pennsylvania builds in the state legislature, an error published by Harrisburg NBC affiliate WGAL is providing fodder to the bill's opponents.
Pennsylvania currently only requires buyers of handguns to undergo a criminal background check. Purchasers of long guns such as shotguns and rifles -- including military-style assault weapons -- can buy these weapons without a background check in "private sales." H.B. 1010 would extend the background check requirement to long guns.
Gun violence prevention group Ceasefire PA recently visited the legislature to lobby for the bill. In support of the bill, Ceasefire PA has argued that the proportion of murders with firearms other than handguns in Pennsylvania has more than doubled since 1998 and that long guns are disproportionality used to kill police officers.
In a September 16 article, WGAL sloppily attempted to share Ceasefire PA's argument for expanded background checks, but instead misstated the nature and year of the claim that Ceasefire PA has made:
Cease Fire says FBI figures show the number of murders committed with long guns has doubled since 1996.
In fact, Ceasefire had argued that the proportion of murders committed with guns other than handguns has increased. According to a September joint report from Ceasefire PA and Center for American Progress Action Fund, FBI data indicates that this figure has increased since 1998 from 8 percent to 21 percent:
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is criticizing the major news networks' lack of coverage of big money in politics, saying he is "disappointed, but not surprised ... that the networks barely covered the issue."
Sanders' press release comes after a recent Media Matters study found that the subject of campaign finance reform was hardly reported on by either the major networks' evening news programs (ABC's World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News, and NBC's Nightly News) or their Sunday talk shows (ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and NBC's Meet the Press). These news programs also largely overlooked the Senate's proposed (and ultimately filibustered) constitutional amendment that would have restored Congress' ability to regulate political spending after the conservative justices of the Supreme Court gutted bipartisan campaign finance law in 2010's Citizens United v. FEC and this year's McCutcheon v. FEC.
Although most of the networks seldom covered the issue, PBS NewsHour, on the other hand, set the standard and broadcast numerous in-depth segments on campaign finance reform, big money in politics, and the Supreme Court decisions that have invited billions of dollars to flow into the federal election system. In fact, PBS NewsHour offered more campaign finance coverage than the other networks combined.
In response to these findings, Sanders called on the media to dedicate more coverage to what he called "the single most important issue facing our country today" and suggested that the networks' insufficient coverage has contributed to the decline of Americans' confidence in the media:
"I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the study's finding that the major networks barely covered the issue of money in politics," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "There is a reason why confidence in the American media is declining," he added. "More and more people say the media is not paying attention to the issues of real importance to the American people. This study confirms that."
The study found that each network devoted less than single minute per month to talking about campaign finance reform. "To my mind," Sanders said, "the single most important issue facing our country today is that, as a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, we are allowing billionaires to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who will represent the wealthy and powerful rather than the needs of ordinary Americans. This is an issue of enormous consequence."
Sanders cited a recent Gallup poll that found Americans' faith in television news and newspapers is at or tied with record lows. The findings continued a decades-long decline in the share of Americans saying they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in newspapers or TV news.
Two congressional Republicans are introducing legislation that advances the conservative media's false claim that the Obama administration recently started making gun buyers disclose their race and ethnicity
Reps. Ted Poe (TX) and Diane Black (TN) are proposing a bill that would change the federal form used for gun background checks by prohibiting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from asking about race or ethnicity on the form.
The conservative media falsehood started with a September 16 article by Washington Times reporter Kelly Riddell, who wrote that a 2012 revision to Form 4473 meant that "[t]he Obama administration quietly has been forcing new gun buyers to declare their race and ethnicity, a policy change that critics say provides little law enforcement value while creating the risk of privacy intrusions and racial profiling."
In 2012, the ATF split question 10 into two parts. Now, instead of asking gun buyers to indicate their race or ethnicity from a series of choices, applicants must indicate their ethnicity and race separately:
This change is consistent with similar changes made on Census forms.
Other members of the conservative media took Riddell's claim about an Obama administration "policy change" at face value, asserting that being asked to disclose race and ethnicity on the background check form was somehow a new development.
If the press release from Poe and Black is any indication, the bill is directly premised on the conservative media falsehood. The September 18 release claims, in contradiction to publicly available evidence, "In 2012, the Obama Administration quietly began requiring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to record firearms purchasers' race and ethnicity."
National Review Online misrepresented a recent court decision that could allow an unneccessarily restrictive voter identification law to be implemented in Wisconsin only weeks before the November election.
On September 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction that a district court judge had previously granted to prevent Wisconsin's strict voter ID law from going into effect due to concerns that its disproportionate effect on communities of color violated the Voting Rights Act. After the three judge panel of the Seventh Circuit issued its order, Wisconsin officials announced that they would move forward with implementing the law despite the fact that election officials are not trained in the new photo ID requirements and absentee ballots have already been turned in. This last minute voting change has the potential to keep hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters who lack photo ID from participating in the November election.
Right-wing media quickly downplayed the significance the law might have on the election. On the September 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin managed to point out that the law could affect the outcome of the gubernatorial race in Wisconsin, which shows Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a near-tie with his Democratic opponent Mary Burke. But Tobin minimized the impact of the ID law by erroneously suggesting that "there is only a handful of voters who won't get IDs by election day."
NRO contributor Hans von Spakovsky, a tireless advocate for voter ID laws that suppress the vote of women, minorities, and the poor, also applauded the Seventh Circuit's order, calling it a "stunning blow" for opponents of voter ID. Von Spakovsky overlooked key facts in the case to ultimately conclude there was "no justification for striking down" Wisconsin's law in the first place:
As I explained in an NRO article in May, the district court judge, Lynn Adelman, a Clinton appointee and former Democratic state senator, had issued an injunction claiming the Wisconsin ID law violated the Voting Rights Act as well as the Fourteenth Amendment. Adelman made the startling claim in his opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2008 upholding Indiana's voter-ID law as constitutional was "not binding precedent," so Adelman could essentially ignore it.
However, that was too much for the Seventh Circuit. It pointed out, in what most lawyers would consider a rebuke, that Adelman had held Wisconsin's law invalid "even though it is materially identical to Indiana's photo ID statute, which the Supreme Court held valid in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board."
It was also obviously significant to the Seventh Circuit that the Wisconsin state supreme court had upheld the state's voter-ID law in July ... In fact, the appeals court said the state court decision had changed the "balance of equities and thus the propriety of federal injunctive relief."
In other words, there was no justification for striking down a state voter-ID law that was identical to one that had been previously upheld by both the Supreme Court of the United States and that state's highest court.