From the October 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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A pair of recent studies debunk some of right-wing media's favorite rationales for legal "reforms" that make it more difficult for consumers to sue corporate wrongdoers.
Right-wing media have consistently railed against class action lawsuits, despite the fact that such suits make it easier for consumers to group low-value claims together that attorneys might otherwise not take. The Wall Street Journal in particular has been critical of class actions, calling them "frivolous," too expensive, and only beneficial to the plaintiffs' lawyers. In one editorial after the Supreme Court upheld the decades-long use of class actions for investors in securities, the Journal attacked the decision as "a champagne day for trial lawyers ... as the Justices voted to maintain the status quo." In another, the editorial board claimed that class action lawsuits that were filed to help workers recover back wages for the time they spent waiting in security check lines "would benefit lawyers far more than workers," ignoring the potential wage theft at issue.
But two new studies undercut some of the main premises behind the Journal's anti-lawsuit crusade. According to a recent report from the Center for Justice & Democracy, "class actions have not only helped victims of corporate law-breaking, but have also resulted in injunctive relief that protects us all from a wide array of corporate wrongdoing, from employment and civil rights violations to price-fixing and consumer fraud to automotive defects to health care abuses." From servicemember financial abuse to systematic sex discrimination at the country's largest employers, the report analyzed hundreds of class action lawsuits and settlements and found that nearly all of them provided meaningful relief to the plaintiffs who had been injured or defrauded. CJ&D note that "without the class action tool, corporations and businesses can ignore the law far more easily and operate with impunity."
Moreover, the conservative idea that class action lawsuits result in higher costs in the industry with the challenged practices is also suspect -- at least in the context of healthcare. A new study from the Rand Corporation suggests that even though "many believe that fear of malpractice lawsuits drives physicians to order otherwise unnecessary care and that legal reforms could reduce such wasteful spending," states that have enacted such reforms have not seen a corresponding reduction in healthcare costs.
For example, as The American Prospect's Paul Waldman explained, healthcare costs have actually gone up in Texas since the state passed a constitutional amendment that severely limited money damages that could be recovered in medical malpractice suits:
[I]n Texas, they passed a constitutional amendment in 2003 that made it almost impossible to recover meaningful damages from medical malpractice. That was good for doctors -- the number of malpractice claims plummeted, and malpractice premiums went down -- but instead of falling, health care costs in the state actually rose faster than in the rest of the country.
When you ask Republicans what they'd like to do to reform American health care, the first thing out of their mouths is usually "tort reform." But the fact that all the evidence suggests it would do nothing to cut costs is probably not going to dent their commitment to laws limiting people's ability to sue for malpractice. That's because the truth is that conservatives see this as a moral question as much as a fiscal one. "Frivolous lawsuits" make them livid, and as far as they're concerned a frivolous lawsuit getting filed (even if it never goes anywhere) is a greater outrage than someone who was victimized not being able to get compensation.
Class action lawsuits provide a valuable legal remedy for consumers who have been defrauded or injured by large corporations, but right-wing media have often discounted their value and hyped their supposed societal costs. Yet as these recent studies once again demonstrate, conservative justifications behind tort "reform" seem to be based less on sound policy and more on antipathy to a court system that encourages corporate accountability.
After repeatedly using his regular Forbes column to attack gun safety efforts without mentioning that he also writes for the National Rifle Association, Frank Miniter's latest column discloses his ties to the gun group.
In an October 20 column about the relationship between gun laws and law enforcement officers, Miniter added, "Full disclosure: The often politically incorrect truth about guns led me to write the recently published book The Future of the Gun. I'm also a former executive editor of the NRA's magazine American Hunter. I still write for the NRA and for many other publications and am a 'field editor' (an honorary title) for American Hunter."
Media Matters previously criticized Miniter and Forbes for not disclosing his NRA ties in a September 25 column that claimed the gun safety initiatives undertaken by Everytown for Gun Safety and the group's founder Michael Bloomberg were "backfiring."
Miniter's latest column proves the need for the disclosure. In the piece, he cites a discredited survey previously hyped by the NRA in order to create the impression members of law enforcement typically oppose gun safety laws.
A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association defends the controversial practice of openly carrying firearms in public, arguing that firearms are not capable of intimidation.
In an October 20 video, NRA News commentator Billy Johnson took on open carry critics, stating, "Somehow we have completely dehumanized gun violence, and have instead humanized guns. Guns kill. Guns strike fear. Guns intimidate. Seriously? They're just bits of plastic and metal." Johnson also apparently defended the controversial practice of open carrying firearms in Michigan public schools.
Johnson centered his commentary around "a little bit of a dust-up over a law-abiding citizen enacting his right to open carry" in his community. He didn't identify the specific incident, however, stating, "I'm not going to get into the details, because they honestly don't matter."
Johnson stated that he is "baffled by why society is so damn afraid of" open carry and attributed concern about the practice to "our irrational, media-fed hysterical fear of guns." According to Johnson, guns "are no more capable of intimidation than my vacuum is capable of cleaning my house, or my lawn mower is capable of mowing my lawn."
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox News is claiming that Democratic campaigns and supporters are vastly outspending their Republican counterparts during this election cycle, a suggestion that appears to focus on super PACs and ignores the influence of "dark money" spending that favors the GOP.
On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer stated that Democrats have "got a lot of money ... and they're spending it, in some states, 4-to-1 over Republican candidates." National Review Online editor-at-large and Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg repeated a similar claim on the October 13 edition of Happening Now, downplaying secretive right-wing donors like the Koch brothers and arguing that "the reality is, is that most of the money is actually on the Democratic side" in contentious Senate races like the one in Kentucky:
HEATHER CHILDERS (guest host): So, a lot of this also is coming down to money. And we are talking about big amounts of money that are being spent from both sides in these particular states, so how is that going to influence things?
GOLDBERG: Sure, well, it depends on state by state. You know, in some of these places, you just don't have enough physical airtime in the space-time continuum to buy more ads. I mean, people are throwing in -- you know, the Democrats are just announcing [unintelligible] a million dollars into South Dakota. A million dollars probably would buy, you know, who knows how much airtime in South Dakota at this point. And so you're seeing things saturated all over the place. One of the things that has helped Democrats enormously is, they have actually raised vastly more money than Republicans have at a lot of these different levels. They're spending a lot more money. In North Carolina, they're outspending Republicans, I think, 2-to-1, and yet they claim that it's all the evil Koch brothers and their sort of other James Bond-like villains who are throwing all the money into Republicans. When the reality is, is that most of the money is actually on the Democratic side, but a lot of the mainstream media covers it as if, "Oh, it must be the Republicans who are taking advantage of all of this outside money." [emphasis added]
On October 15, Fox News correspondent Jim Angle continued the network's inapt comparison of the Koch brothers to high-dollar Democratic donors. Angle didn't mention that unlike the progressive billionaires and unions he highlighted, conservative activists like the Kochs are unwilling to publicly stand behind the right-wing policies their billions of dollars fund.
Fox News' narrative is misrepresenting the full and current story on campaign spending, which actually shows that a deluge of undisclosed outside money is supporting Republicans and outpacing similar expenditures for Democrats -- especially in the Kentucky contest.
The 4-to-1 statistic that Hemmer used may be a reference to a widely cited report from The Wall Street Journal that found super PACs aligned with Democrats had raised four times more than their Republican counterparts. By focusing on super PAC figures, Fox News is ignoring massive spending from outside right-wing groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fox News contributor Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and the Koch brothers' network of secretive and increasingly political groups. These organizations don't reveal their donors, and sometimes -- depending on the type of ad they are running -- they don't even reveal their expenditures. Groups of that sort have spent more "dark money" -- funds from undisclosed donors -- than Democratic-leaning groups have.
Fox News' report on the Supreme Court's recent order temporarily blocking a Texas law that imposed strict requirements on state abortion providers included references to the horrific crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell, but left out the law's dangerous implications for women's health and access to reproductive care.
On October 14, the Supreme Court stopped implementation of the law, allowing over a dozen Texas abortion clinics to re-open. The law "caused all but eight of the state's abortion clinics to close," according to The New York Times. The challenged restrictions require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the standards of "ambulatory surgical centers" and all doctors "performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital." The court order blocked the former requirement and partially blocked the latter.
The October 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom invoked Gosnell's crimes in its report on the Supreme Court order. Senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano admitted that "the practical effect of [the law] was to reduce the number of facilities in the state of Texas that could perform abortions," but went on to characterize the Texas law as intended to protect women's health and prevent crimes like Gosnell's:
George Will has been dropped by a major newspaper and had a planned speech at a California college canceled for his recent comments dismissing the epidemic of sexual assault. The comments are nothing new for Will, who belittled victims, mocked efforts to codify consent, and attacked what he calls "rape crisis feminists" over two decades ago.
A new commentary video from the National Rifle Association argues that blaming the manufacturer of the assault weapon used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre is "like blaming Kleenex for the flu."
On December 14, 2012, a gunman used a Bushmaster XM-15 E2S assault weapon to kill twenty children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
NRA News commentator Natalie Foster complained about a "lack of accuracy and shoddy research" leading to an anti-gun bias in the media and argued, "Bushmaster, for instance, was blamed for Sandy Hook. It's like blaming Kleenex for the flu" in an October 15 commentary video.
Ted Nugent called for "freedom" or the "evil carcasses" of President Obama and other progressive politicians in a Facebook post where he told followers to support the National Rifle Association and discredited gun advocate John Lott's Crime Prevention Research Center.
Nugent is a longtime member of the NRA's board of directors, conservative columnist, and spokesperson for Outdoor Channel. In his October 14 post, Nugent named President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, "Clinton," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-IL), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) as participants in a "propaganda jihad against our right to self-defense." He added, "JOIN THE NRA! Be the best American you can be. Freedom or their evil carcasses for traction back to it."
Nugent also called on supporters to donate money to the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), a group founded by economist John Lott. Lott's research on gun issues, including his famous "more guns, less crime" theory, has been discredited in academic circles and he has faced credible accusations of data manipulation and fabrication. He often twists statistics on gun violence in order to advance a pro-gun agenda. A recent CPRC report purporting to point out errors in a study on mass shootings from Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety was actually itself riddled with errors that undermined its claims.
Nugent's Facebook post:
The Wall Street Journal is dismissing efforts to convince corporations to be more transparent about their political contributions as "partisan agitprop," despite the fact that the conservative justices of the Supreme Court reaffirmed the need for such transparency in 2010's Citizens United decision.
Although a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum disagree with the court's decision in Citizens United and support a bipartisan effort to reduce the unprecedented influx of campaign spending and "dark money" in politics, the Journal isn't convinced that transparency and disclosure for corporations playing politics is worthwhile. In an October 14 editorial, the Journal complained that groups like the Center for Political Accountability targeted corporations in an attempt to "discourage businesses from participating in politics" by publishing an index that ranks companies based on how transparent they are about their political expenditures. The goal of the index is to encourage corporations to disclose their campaign contributions to their shareholders, since it is the shareholders' money that is financing the political spending in the first place.
But the editorial was unsupportive of the group's activities, despite the fact that the conservatives on the Supreme Court upheld campaign finance disclosures in their majority opinion in Citizens United as indispensable to their decision that corporations can influence elections as freely as actual voters:
Hey shareholders, want some stock tips from a nonprofit outfit that wants to discourage businesses from participating in politics? That's the dubious message from a new index designed to block the political speech of corporations while leaving unions free to donate as they please.
Every year, the George Soros-funded Center for Political Accountability publishes the Wharton-Zicklin index, which ranks companies based on their political disclosure. When the group isn't publishing the index, it spends its time pushing for shareholder proxy proposals that would force companies to disclose their political activity.
The activist group's tactics have also included pressuring companies to cave pre-emptively and disclose political activity for fear of becoming targets. The index ranks companies according to their political transparency and disclosure profile. The Center for Political Accountability then uses those rankings as a truncheon to lobby CEOs to advertise how and how much they spend on campaigns and lobbying.
Most shareholders aren't buying it, but the disclosure gambit deserves to be exposed as the partisan agitprop it is.
A recent CBS Evening News report on unnecessarily strict voter ID laws engaged in the sort of "he said, she said" reporting that ignores the virtual non-existence of in-person voter fraud, a type of false equivalence that media critics have widely condemned.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order that prevented Wisconsin's voter ID law -- one of the strictest in the nation -- from going into effect just weeks before the November elections. Opponents of the law argued that the new identification requirements were not only unconstitutional but would have caused "chaos" at polling places and could have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters who lacked the appropriate ID. A similarly restrictive voter ID law was struck down by a federal judge in Texas that same day, with the judge calling the law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that unfairly discriminated against the poor and people of color.
These types of strict voter ID laws are popular among Republican lawmakers, despite the fact that they are redundant and there is no evidence of widespread, in-person voter fraud -- the type of fraud voter ID laws are designed to prevent. Nevertheless, on the October 10 edition of CBS Evening News, correspondent Chip Reid's segment on the recent legal decisions affecting Texas and Wisconsin's voter ID laws failed to report this simple truth about voter suppression:
Discredited gun researcher John Lott attacked a recent FBI report on active shooter events by suggesting the report called some incidents where no one died "mass killings." In fact the report clearly states, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings," but a rather report on "active shooter incidents" in the U.S.
In September, the FBI released a report on the 160 active shooter incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013. The report found that during the 13 year period, 1,043 people were killed (486) or wounded (557) in active shooter incidents and the number of such incidents is increasing:
According to the FBI, "The agreed-upon definition of an active shooter by U.S. government agencies -- including the White House, U.S. Department of Justice/FBI, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency -- is 'an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.'"
NRA News host Cam Edwards provided a platform for a guest to push a sexist attack against prominent gun safety advocate Shannon Watts in which the guest called Watts a "shrill harridan" and said she "stripped the most basic and threshold abilities of a man" from her husband.
On the October 9 edition of the NRA's radio show Cam & Company, guest and conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter claimed that Watts, who founded gun safety group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, had stripped her husband "of the most basic and threshold abilities of a man; that is to defend his self, his family and his community, by being married to this shrill harridan." Schlichter was unfavorably comparing Watts to actress Annette Bening's American Beauty character Carolyn Burnham, provoking Edwards' laughter.
Fox News is calling recent court decisions blocking voter ID laws a "setback," despite the fact that these decisions will allow more people to engage in the political process.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law -- a law that The New York Times called "one of the strictest in the nation." Even though these kinds of voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of color and in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent, right-wing media outlets has repeatedly celebrated them. National Review Online was highly supportive of Wisconsin's law in particular, and it called fears that the new ID requirements would cause "chaos at the polls" overblown because "there has been no such 'chaos' in any of the other states that have implemented voter-ID laws over the past ten years."
Elsewhere, in Texas, a federal court struck down that state's voter ID law -- another stringent law that right-wing media have described as "a good thing." However, in its ruling, the court called Texas' law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that "has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose."
Yet Fox News was apparently unmoved by the Texas court's proclamation that the right to vote "defines our nation as a democracy." On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said the "timing" of the orders was "very interesting." Her co-host, Bill Hemmer, said the decisions were "the latest setbacks" to laws "meant to crack down on voter fraud":
The timing is interesting, but probably not in the way MacCallum thinks. Although the court's order doesn't say why it stopped Wisconsin's law from being implemented, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston suggested that "the fact that this year's election is less than a month away may have been the key factor." In its brief in the Wisconsin case, the ACLU also argued that "[n]o court has permitted a voter ID law to go into effect this close to an election based on last-minute changes to the law." Had the law been implemented before the 2014 election, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters could have been affected. According to the ACLU and the Advancement Project, state officials would have had "to issue some 6,000 IDs per day between now and the election" to ensure that every eligible voter had the required form of identification.