Justice & Civil Liberties

Issues ››› Justice & Civil Liberties
  • Mother Jones Highlights Financial Impact Of Protecting Abortion Clinics From Violence

    While Right-Wing Media Deny Clinic Violence’s Severity, Clinics, Providers, And Patients Across The Country Are Dealing With The Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Although right-wing media have denied the severity of anti-choice violence against abortion providers and clinics, a Mother Jones report on the closure of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, WI, demonstrated the widespread impact such threats are having on access to reproductive health care.

    On August 22, the Appleton, WI, Planned Parenthood clinic was forced to close its doors due to security concerns -- leaving “any patient who does not live in Madison or Milwaukee” without a nearby provider, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin director of government relations Nicole Safar.

    Mother Jones’ Becca Andrews highlighted the major role the financial demands of protecting the clinic from a rising tide of anti-choice violence played in state Planned Parenthood officials’ decision to close the Appleton facility.

    In July 2015 the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood employees. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers, “which coincided with the release of [CMP’s] heavily-edited, misleading, and inflammatory videos beginning in July.”

    As Andrews noted, this upward trend of violence ultimately “culminat[ed] in the Colorado Springs clinic shooting,” where gunman Robert Lewis Dear was accused of killing three people and injuring nine more. Prior to the November attack, the FBI had warned of a possible uptick in violence against abortion providers, including the possibility of “lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement."

    In spite of this, right-wing media have not only carried water for CMP’s discredited allegations, but also largely dismissed concerns about the severity of clinic violence prompted by their release. For example, on the June 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly downplayed the dangers of clinic violence, claiming he was unable to remember a time when “a Christian blew up an abortion clinic.” In December 2015, Fox News contributor Erick Ericson wrote that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted” and suggested that such violence was only “getting rarer.”

    The Appleton clinic had actually already “experienced violence” prior to CMP’s attempted smear campaign, as Andrews explained. In 2012, “anti-abortion activist Francis Grady threw a homemade explosive device through a window and damaged a small exam room” at the Appleton clinic. But the clinic re-opened after this 2012 attack; it was the Colorado Springs shooting -- and the resulting security concerns -- that spurred it to close its doors permanently, as the costs of “providing more security” were simply too high, Andrews reported.

    In a statement to The Associated Press, the chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Chris Williams, explained that because of the building’s size and age, the clinic “was just not going to be able to meet the more stringent and scrutinized approach” developed by Planned Parenthood in the wake of the Colorado Springs attack. In an additional statement to The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Williams noted that although the Appleton clinic wasn’t subject to a specific threat at the time of its closure, Planned Parenthood deals with “constant threats” against its affiliates across the country.

    Along with underscoring the severity of anti-choice violence, Mother Jones’ Andrews also outlined the consequences the closure of the Appleton clinic would have on reproductive health care access in the state. She wrote:

    The closure means women will now have to drive 200 or 300 miles to one of the other Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinics, or go as far as Chicago or Minneapolis. Another option would be in Marquette, Michigan, where a single Planned Parenthood-affiliated physician provides abortions, but the scheduling is infrequent and can be unpredictable.

    Planned Parenthood’s Safar echoed this sentiment, noting that due to Wisconsin’s stringent anti-abortion restrictions and a critical shortage of providers, “there is a great need” for abortion access. She said that even with clinics in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee, “many women” were “having to go somewhere else.”

    This blog has been updated for accuracy.

  • NRA’s Ted Nugent Makes “Vote For Donald Trump” Pitch: Hillary Clinton Is A “Lying Hypocrite Bitch”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent urged his supporters to vote for GOP nominee Donald Trump in a racially charged rant that labeled Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a “lying hypocrite bitch.”

    In a August 24 post on his Facebook page, Nugent claimed that gun-related homicides “are largely the result of recidivistic, gangster, ‘black lives don’t matter’ punks killing other recidivistic gangster, ‘black lives don’t matter’ punks.”

    “Not you. Not me. Leave us the hell alone!” Nugent added.

    In fact, according to an analysis of a Centers for Disease Control study, “more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related.”

    Nugent then downplayed the danger to the public posed by assault weapons, ignoring their ubiquitous involvement in public mass shootings, before calling Clinton a “Scammaster lying hypocrite bitch.” He concluded his post by writing, “Vote for Donald Trump and make America Great Again”:

    This year Nugent has called for Clinton, along with President Obama, to be hanged for treason and also shared a fake video of Clinton being shot to death, writing, “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

    Both the NRA and Nugent have endorsed Trump for president. 

  • As One Murdoch Company Struggles With Sexual Harassment Allegations, Another Murdoch Publication Debates Marital Rape

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The sexism in Rupert Murdoch’s world continues: Even as the media mogul’s Fox News Channel is facing a torrent of sexual harassment charges, mostly directed at former CEO Roger Ailes, a website Murdoch owns posted a debate over the existence of marital rape.

    Murdoch owns News Corp, which launched Heat Street in February, a digital media site catered toward “center-right and conservative audiences.” On August 14, Heat Street posted a debate about marital rape between its own Louise Mensch, a former Conservative member of Parliament in the U.K., and Vox Day, a white nationalist blogger and WorldNetDaily columnist.

    Vox Day, otherwise known as Theodore Robert Beale, has previously rejected the notion that America is a “melting pot” and advocated for returning to a “traditional white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture” through ethnic cleansing.

    In the debate, Heat Street head Mensch took the position that marital rape can exist in certain situations, when a spouse has clearly said “no.” Vox Day claimed that the only way to “withdraw [sexual] consent from marriage is to divorce.” Drawing some pushback from Mensch, Day argued that giving permanent consent in marriage is the same as signing up for the military, arguing, “You don’t get to withdraw your consent and say, ‘You know what, sergeant? I don’t feel like going out running today. I’m withdrawing my consent.’” From the debate, posted on August 14 (emphasis original):

    Vox Day: Yeah, I think it’s quite obvious that it’s not even possible for there to be anything that we describe as rape within marriage. I find it remarkable that someone would try and claim that it is beyond debate when this new concept of marital rape is not only very, very new but is in fact not even applicable to most of the human race. It’s very clear, for example, in India it’s part of the written law that it’s not possible for, even if force is involved, there cannot be rape between a man and a woman. In China the law is the same.

    LM: Mm-hmm (affirmative) but there’s a difference between saying what the law is and saying what is morally right. You would agree that just because somebody says something is a law doesn’t make it so. Let’s just start with that basic principle.

    Vox: There’s huge difference between morality and legality. I’d be the first to agree with that. The fact of the matter is that the concept of marital rape hangs on consent and because marriage is and has always granted consent, the act of marriage is a granting of consent, therefore it’s not possible for the consent to be withdrawn and then for rape to happen. In fact, the concept of marital rape is created by the cultural Marxists in an attempt to destroy the family and to destroy the institution of marriage.

    LM: I’m going to say that that’s patent nonsense. If you consent to something once it doesn’t mean that you’ve given a blanket consent to it forever. We agree on the definition of rape – that rape is when one party forces sex on the other without their consent?

    Vox: Yes.

    LM: Good. We go that far. Your argument then hinges on the statement that to get married is to give an all time consent forever to sex with your spouse?

    Vox: Exactly. It’s no different than when you join the army. You only have to join the army once. You don’t get the choice to consent to obey orders every single time an order is given. In certain arrangements, and marriage is one of them, the agreement is a lasting one and that’s why it’s something that should not be entered into lightly.

    […]

    Vox: The only way that you can withdraw consent from marriage is to divorce.

    LM: Who says?

    Vox: That that was even settled under the English common law that if you were to say no at any time that was effectively equivalent to a demand for a divorce.

    […]

    Vox: Where is the line drawn?

    LM: It’s simple. It’s quite simple. The line is drawn very, very simply. If the woman says no and means no and I’m going to infer the wrath of eleventy billion feminists by saying there is a problem and all women know it with the no means no standard because quite often you can laugh, you can giggle, you can say, “No, come on” and you don’t mean no and it’s quite obvious from your tone and demeanor. I’m postulating where a woman has clearly said no, clearly meant it, she feels ill, has just had a huge fight with the man, and any number of such very obvious situations. The woman has said at that moment, even though they regularly have sex as a couple, she does not want to have sex and he forces himself upon her. That is clearly rape and it doesn’t take away from the fact that she has an obligation in general to have sex with him and he with her. When you extrapolate that from every single time he feels like it, I see no justification in your argument so far for that leap.

    Vox: Because there has to be a reliable standard. You’re going to have to draw a line at some point between it’s never okay and it’s always okay. There is no line and in fact the way that we know that marital rape is bad law is because virtually no one is ever prosecuted under it. It’s interesting.  

    The debate came as 21st Century Fox’s Fox News Channel, another Murdoch-owned company, is facing sexual harassment claims. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a "sexual harassment/retaliation" lawsuit against former CEO Ailes, who has a long history of sexist behavior, in July. Since then, 20 women have reportedly come forward to allege sexual harassment by Ailes.

    On August 22, former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros also filed a lawsuit against Fox News and Ailes. Tantaros’ complaint alleges that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros.”

  • It's Not Just Roger Ailes: New Claim Alleges Fox News Institutionally Enables Sexual Harassment

    Echoing Past Complaints, Former Fox Host Andrea Tantaros Claims Fox Executive Covered Up For Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox News, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and top executives at the network, including the man who replaced Ailes as one of the heads of Fox News. Tantaros is the most recent of several people to accuse high-level Fox News executives and personalities of perpetuating and enabling sexual harassment in the workplace.

    Tantaros’ complaint, filed on August 22, alleges that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros”:

    Plaintiff Andrea Tantaros, by her attorneys, Judd Burstein, P.C., complaining of the Defendants herein, as and for her Complaint, alleges:

    [...]

    2. ... Fox News masquerades as defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.

    3. In recent months, other women have finally, laudably come forward to reveal Defendant Roger Ailes (“Ailes”) as the sexual predator that he is. However this Complaint is not just about Ailes; it also gives life to the saying that ‘the fish stinks from the head.’ For Ailes did not act alone. He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation, and retaliation.”

    The “concerted effort to silence Tantaros” is nothing new regarding allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News. According to a 2004 sexual harassment suit filed against Fox host Bill O’Reilly, O’Reilly allegedly threatened a former employee, saying, “If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born,” and adding, “If you cross FOX NEWS CHANNEL, it’s not just me, it’s [FOX President] Roger Ailes who will go after you.” In another instance in 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court against News Corp.’s Fox News Network LLC” contending that “Joe Chillemi, a Fox vice president who supervised its advertising and promotions departments, sexually harassed and subjected” Kim Weiler, a former Fox employee, and “other women to a hostile work environment, routinely using obscenities and vulgarities to describe women or their body parts.” According to Weiler’s complaint, “Fox retaliated against Weiler for complaining about discrimination.” After settling the EEOC complaint, Fox News agreed not to enable sexual harassment in the workplace by retaliating against victims.

    According to Tantaros’ new complaint, after she reported the sexual harrasment, “Ailes initially retaliated against Tantaros in a host of ways,” such as “crafting and placing insulting stories about Tantaros” on websites, and “arranging for, and giving, Tantaros permission to participate” in an interview in which the interviewer “asked outrageous questions concerning, inter alia, her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer stood by and made no effort to intercede or stop these entirely inappropriate questions.”

    Tantaros’ lawsuit also names as a defendant Bill Shine, who was named a co-president of Fox News by Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, after Ailes’ resignation. According to the complaint, when Tantaros met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’”

    Tantaros’ complaint highlights an apparent larger and pervasive problem throughout Fox News Channel: a workplace culture that reportedly encourages inappropriate behavior and ensures such behavior will be ignored or even covered up. If these reports are accurate, simply removing Roger Ailes from his position as president does not address the ongoing “effort[s] to silence” reports of illegal sexual harassment in the workplace by other Fox News executives and senior staff.

  • The Incredibly Sexist Interview Andrea Tantaros Discusses In Her Lawsuit Against Roger Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros alleges in a sexual harassment lawsuit that after she rebuffed advances from then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, the network denied requests from “prominent and credible media outlets to interview Tantaros” but arranged for her participation in an interview with “a website reportedly controlled by Ailes” where the interviewer humiliated her with questions about her breasts and other “outrageous” queries.

    The website’s resulting write-up of that interview discussed Tantaros’ “physical attractiveness” repeatedly and in detail and mentioned that the interviewer asked her questions about “frequent” online descriptions of her regarding “her physical attributes.”

    Tantaros’ August 22 lawsuit says that after she rejected repeated unwanted advances from Ailes in 2014, she was given permission by Fox’s media relations department to participate in only a single interview, with “a website reportedly controlled by Ailes,” during which she says she was “humiliated by the interviewer,” who asked her about “her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer” observed the interview “but did not object.”

    Ailes was forced to resign from Fox in July after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment. Tantaros’ lawsuit makes similar allegations against Ailes. She also alleges that she was sexually harassed by Fox host Bill O’Reilly and contributor Scott Brown, and that Fox executive Bill Shine, who is also a defendant in the lawsuit, urged her to “let this one go” when she brought her harassment by Ailes to his attention. Shine was promoted to co-president of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox following Ailes’ resignation.

    Tantaros further alleges that after she rebuffed his advances, Ailes retaliated by turning “Fox News’s widely-reported, vindictive media relations department” against her. She cites as one example of this conduct:

    Only arranging for, and giving, Tantaros permission to participate in a single interview -- one with Headline and Global News, a website reportedly controlled by Ailes. At this interview, Tantaros was humiliated by the interviewer, who asked outrageous questions concerning, inter alia, her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer stood by and made no effort to intercede or stop these entirely inappropriate questions.

    Tantaros’ lawsuit alleges that following the interview, she told Shine that she “believed the interview was a ‘set up’ engineered by Ailes” to “paint her as sex object rather than as a serious journalist.” The lawsuit further states that during that meeting, Tantaros detailed past instances in which she said Ailes had sexually harassed her. At a follow-up meeting a few days later, the lawsuit alleges, Shine suggested to Tantaros that Fox PR boss Irena Briganti had been behind the incident and that Ailes is “a very powerful man” and Tantaros should not “fight this.”

    Headlines & Global News president and editorial director Michael Q. Bullerdick conducted the interview, which was published as a 3,500-word profile on May 4, 2015. While the interview gives no indication that Bullerdick asked Tantaros about her breasts, it does include the following disturbing passages focused on Tantaros’ physical appearance.

    An Extensive Discussion Of Tantaros’ “Curve-Hugging” Outfit:

    TANTAROS IS TELLING me all this on the set of her hit daily Fox News talk show "Outnumbered." Although we met off stage we do the interview seated on the familiar crescent white couch. She is resplendent in a curve-hugging and subtly textured white dress that stops around the knees. This is a departure from the bold colors, particularly rich blues, we're used to seeing her wear. But it contrasts fantastically with her deeper complexion and inky black hair. Tan stilettos boasting a subtle cheetah pattern (or is it giraffe?) round out the day's look, and make her seem taller than I remember from a chance meeting several months ago at a publishing party.

    Bullerdick Saying He Wants To Be “One Of Those ‘Lucky Guys’”:

    The set is empty and she can sit anywhere but she instinctively takes her usual place on my right - one of the two "leg seats," as they're known. I'm a seat's width away in the middle spot normally reserved for each day's male guest host, the one the show has branded "one lucky guy." Later when I tell her how well it seems to suit me and hint that I'd love to be one of those "lucky guys," she ribs me about having a typical male ego.

    Tantaros Passing The “Litmus Test” Of “Being Easy On The Eyes”:

    Being relatable - or "likable" as Fox News network genius Roger Ailes has frequently termed it - is the litmus test his hosts must pass if they are to advance at the network. The other test, no doubt, is being easy on the eyes. If my own pair, along with the outsized Internet inventory of her physical appearance are to be believed, Tantaros has passed that test too.

    Bullerdick Quizzing Tantaros About “The Frequent Description Of Her Online” Regarding “Her Physical Attributes”:

    She laughs politely at first when I run off a list of Google key words associated with a search of her name - ones that include "hot," "legs," and "bikini" (The latter is a hoax so don't bother looking). But she tenses and frowns slightly when I follow that up by mentioning the frequent description of her online as a "Greek goddess" and the pages and pages of Internet threads spooling out of control about her physical attributes and posing questions like "Does she have a boyfriend, husband or is she divorced?" And others like, "Tantaros or Guilfoyle - who's the hotter Fox brunette?"

    "Oh my God," she says, taking a long pause.

    The point in bringing it all up is not to rankle her, which it certainly seems to be doing. It's to determine whether, as a professional who happens to be a woman, she's peeved that - on the Internet at least - her accomplishments from a distinguished, multifaceted career are lagging grossly behind all the attention paid to her physical attractiveness.

    The Claim That Ailes “Mined Broadcast Gold” By Hiring “Beautiful Women” Like Tantaros:

    Granted, answering it is somewhat of a delicate balancing act for her. After all, FNC's mega-success is grounded on a nod to research indicating that while viewers indeed want fair and balanced news along with informative and timely analysis, they prefer it delivered by sublimely good-looking people - in particular, beautiful women.

    Ailes wasn't the first to capitalize on the research that also indicates female viewers are just as captivated by attractive women as their male counterparts. But by institutionalizing the formula and assembling what's come to be known as that bevy of "Fox News Babes," he's mined broadcast gold. This is stating the obvious, of course, even if acknowledging it aloud at the network is frowned upon, say insiders.

  • On Fox, Trump Surrogate Pushes Conspiracy That Abortion Clinics Are “Strategically” Placed To Target Black Communities

    Pastor Mark Burns: “You Cannot Declare ‘Black Lives Matter’ When Black Baby Lives Don’t Matter”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During an August 22 Fox News discussion about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s supposed appeal to African American voters, Trump campaign surrogate and radio host Pastor Mark Burns suggested abortion providers were targeting black communities.

    According to Burns, “abortion clinics” are “positioned strategically within urban communities” resulting in the abortion of “14 to 15 million black babies.” Burns additionally claimed that “you cannot declare ‘Black lives matter’ when black baby lives don’t matter” -- hijacking language used by racial justice advocates.

    Burns’ comments echo the well-known anti-choice conspiracy theory that abortion providers like Planned Parenthood have racist motivations. The allegation that Planned Parenthood clinics are strategically or primarily located in black or Latino neighborhoods has been previously debunked by the Guttmacher Institute which found that “6 in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods.” In addition to pushing this myth, right wing media have also frequently co-opted the language of the Black Lives Matter movement to suggest that restricting abortion access improves black lives -- ignoring how women of color suffer when health care providers like Planned Parenthood are forced out of communities.

    From the August 22 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

     

    MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): What he is saying Marjorie that Democrats claimed to want to help the African-American community and they haven't. And then they come back at vote time and say, hey you better stick with us, we're only people who care about you. And Donald Trump is saying you know what? Listen to what both sides are saying maybe you might want to consider opening your mind up to voting in different way, because if you keep trying same thing time and time thing, it’s not working for you, maybe you ought to consider a different tact.

    […]

    MARK BURNS: Well let me just say this. The fact of the matter is, and I’m just I piggyback on what you're saying, American Americans have been voting and supporting the Democratic party for over 50 years and what do we have to show for it? What we have to show for it right now is the net worth of African American family is less than $5,000. Unemployment is even at a high. Food stamps and welfare benefits are at an all-time high. The net worth of a white family in American is $93,000 to $116,000. So there’s obviously a huge gap. What do we as African Americans have to show for? We got mass incarnations by the Democratic party. We have abortion clinics that are positioned strategically within urban communities in this country where we make up as African Americans 14 percent of the population but over 40 percent of the abortions are done by black women. So you cannot declare "Black lives matter" when black baby lives don't matter. That's over 14 to 15 million black babies that have been killed. So to sit here and to say oh let's continue to do the same thing but yet expecting different results, one writer said that is insanity. And it is insane for African Americans to consistently, continually to be backing a party who is not really even working for your vote, by the way, they’re not even working for our vote. They’re only declaring we own you, we provide for you, we own you. It’s an economic enslavement that is locking up African Americans around this country because they cannot grow and become dependent, they are being enslaved by the system.

  • NRA Co-Host: It Would Be Nice If Blacks Joined Whites In "Respecting Authority And Taking Responsibility"

    Chuck Holton: "White Privilege" Is "Simply The Culture That We Have Created, That Our Fathers And Grandfathers Have Worked Hard To Create"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A co-host of a National Rifle Association web series made racially charged comments while promoting a new video from the NRA that attacks the Black Lives Matter movement.

    The latest episode of the NRA series Frontlines, a web program co-hosted by NRA Life of Duty’s Chuck Holton, features Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke attacking Black Lives Matter as a “dangerous, hateful, destructive ideology.” Clarke is a frequent guest on Fox News, where he makes often inflammatory claims about Black Lives Matter.

    Holton called in to the NRA’s radio show, Cam & Company, August 19 to promote Clarke’s Frontlines episode, and during his appearance Holton also lobbed several attacks against “the black community.” He talked about gangs, absent fathers, and welfare, before saying, “And you hear college students complain about white privilege. You know my definition of white privilege? It’s just simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have worked hard to create.”

    According to Holton, white privilege is “a culture of individual responsibility, where you take responsibility for your own actions, a culture that respects authority. And you know what, if that creates a community that is better than these inner-city communities where there is no respect for authority, where there's no fathers in the home -- guess what? If you live in that inner-city community and you don't like it, you are welcome to join our community and take advantage of this ‘privilege’ that we have any time you want.”

    “You're welcome to come. All you have to do is join us in respecting authority and taking responsibility for your own actions,” Holton continued.

    During his appearance, Holton also mused about what would happen if police officers refused to do their job in black communities. Holton said that in talking to police officers while making the Frontlines episode, one comment he repeatedly heard was, “If we really were out to kill black people, we would just stay home for a couple of weeks. We would just stop policing their neighborhoods, because they kill each other much more often than we kill them.” Holton called that claim “a really powerful point.”

    While attacking “the black community," Holton positively cited a video about “white privilege” made by Irish blogger Stefan Molyneux, saying that Molyneaux had described the “root cause” of problems in the African-American community “very well.”

    The video Holton is referencing pushes the myth of “Irish slavery” -- the popular talking point within the white nationalist community that America’s first slaves were Irish. In the video, Molyneux credits “white Western Christian Europeans” with ending slavery, saying, “That is one of the great and crowning achievements of Western European civilization, was the end of slavery. And like life and in history, what good deed doesn’t go unpunished? So the only culture that fought to end slavery worldwide in the greatest moral crusade in the history of the planet to date is really the only group that now gets blamed for slavery. This is ridiculous.”

    Molyneux's video was well-received in the white nationalist community, with The Daily Stormer writing, “is This Dude About to Go Full Nazi?” and praising Molyneux because “he even goes out of his way to talk about the Jew role in the slave trade.”

    Holton previously published a column in the NRA’s magazine America’s 1st Freedom that included a racial slur that is used to describe people from India or the Middle East.

  • How Breitbart News Spreads Lies About Planned Parenthood And Birth Control

    The Outlet Run By Trump’s New Hire Has Regularly Gone To Extremes To Attack Reproductive Rights

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Before Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon was hired as the new chief executive for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, the outlet was responsible for pushing a continuing campaign of misinformation about Planned Parenthood, abortion, and birth control. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News writers have compared Planned Parenthood providers to Nazis, staunchly defended discredited anti-choice activist David Daleiden, and claimed contraceptives make women “unattractive and crazy.”

  • NRA Compares Hillary Clinton To “Deranged” Fictional Murderer: “Put The Bat Down, Hillary”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s online magazine compared Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to ax-wielding murderer Jack Torrance, the character in The Shining portrayed by Jack Nicholson.

    The NRA has frequently pushed the lie that Clinton opposes all gun ownership and would ban and confiscate privately owned guns as president. The organization recently spent $3 million on an ad that claimed Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.” That claim was rated false by independent fact-checkers.

    During an August 16 rally in Philadelphia, Clinton explained her position on gun regulation, saying, “I am going to take on the gun lobby to try to save lives here in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. And as I said here in Philadelphia in my speech, that doesn’t mean I want to abolish the Second Amendment. That doesn’t mean that I want to round up people’s guns. What that means is I want to keep you from being shot by somebody who shouldn’t have a gun in the first place.”

    In an August 18 article in America’s 1st Freedom, the NRA responded to Clinton’s comments at the rally, writing, “In other words, Clinton is like a deranged Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’: ‘I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in.’ Reasonable people are not persuaded by such verbal antics.”

    The NRA confusingly concluded its analogy between Clinton and Jack Torrance by writing, “Put the bat down, Hillary.” In the scene the NRA is referring to in The Shining, a raving Jack Torrance says that line to his wife Wendy as she attempts to fend him off with a baseball bat.

  • TheBlaze Used Simone Biles’ Olympic Victories To Push A Right-Wing Myth About Abortion

    TheBlaze's Matt Walsh: "Planned Parenthood Has Centered Its Entire Business Around Killing Babies Like Simone Biles"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Glenn Beck's conservative news site TheBlaze published a column using U.S. Olympic medalist Simone Biles’ background and success to prop up a conservative fringe talking point alleging Planned Parenthood “specializes in killing humans just like Simone,” from low-income, often black and brown communities.

    At the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Simone Biles led the United States gymnastics team to a gold medal before securing multiple individual accolades.

    After Biles’ historic performance, TheBlaze’s Matt Walsh used her family history as an adopted child and her subsequent success as evidence that abortion was “a devastating tragedy” perpetrated by Planned Parenthood disproportionately against black women.

    According to Walsh, “if Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry had their way, she would have never made it to the podium … seen the light of day … [and] wouldn’t even have a name, let alone Olympic gold medals.” He argued that Biles’ success was in opposition to the efforts of Planned Parenthood to target “single black women” and predominately operate clinics in economically disadvantaged communities. Walsh further lauded Biles’ adoptive parents and said without their intervention Biles “would be one of the untold million … decomposing in a medical waste dumpster behind an inner city abortion clinic.”

    Walsh’s argument echoed a frequent right-wing media attack on Planned Parenthood and its role as an essential provider in underserved communities.

    For example, Fox News commentator and Donald Trump surrogate Dr. Ben Carson has claimed that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.”

    Similarly, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has claimed that “the original goal of Planned Parenthood was to abort various minorities out of existence.” Limbaugh has even alleged that “Planned Parenthood [is] doing the job the [Klu Klux] Klan could never finish” and that supporters of the organization support the abortion of “60 percent of black babies.”

    In his August 15 article, Walsh went a step further and hijacked Biles’ Olympic success as a platform to spread similar misinformation about Planned Parenthood:

    Reports have confirmed that the abortion conglomerate specifically targets poor black babies for extermination. Granted, this is probably more a marketing decision than racism. Planned Parenthood concentrates its abortion enterprise in poor areas with heavy minority populations simply because it knows it can make a fast buck off of scared and desperate women like Simone’s mother. Planned Parenthood has centered its entire business around killing babies like Simone Biles.

    [...]

    It’s very fortunate that Simone’s life was not vacuumed away before she had the opportunity to show us what incredible things she could do with it. If only the 50 million other babies the abortion industry has stolen from the world had been given the same opportunity. Think of how much brighter the world might be.

    Despite Walsh’s bombast, the evidence to support his attack is lacking.

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, women of color do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”

    In an earlier fact check of “the claim that most abortion providers are located in black or Hispanic neighborhoods” Guttmacher found the argument demonstrably false as “6 in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods.”

    Walsh wrote that Planned Parenthood is “not in the business of supporting and helping the Simones of the world” because it was “murdering them” through abortion. Groups representing women of color and reproductive rights advocates have strongly rejected this specious claim.

    In reality, women of color are left particularly vulnerable and without a health care provider when Planned Parenthood clinics are forced out of communities. As Planned Parenthood’s associate director of global communications noted, “Planned Parenthood is often the primary health care provider for Latinos and African Americans in this country.” In 2015, the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

    NARAL board member Renee Bracey Sherman wrote after the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby -- which enabled certain employers to deny contraception coverage benefits to their employees -- that because of these higher rates of unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality, “when employers deny access to birth control, they are actually putting Black women’s lives in danger.”

    Despite this, anti-choice groups have long attempted to curtail access to necessary reproductive health services by attacking Planned Parenthood and women of color who rely on the health care provider. For example, clinic escort Pearl Brady told Vox that protestors outside abortion clinics “often target young women of color” by shouting things like “Black babies’ lives matter” even if a woman is seeking care “for birth control or an STI screening rather than an abortion.” Other anti-choice groups like the Radiance Foundation have run entire campaigns arguing that Planned Parenthood is “the number one killer of black Americans.”

    Aside from the lack of evidence to support such arguments, Rewire’s Imani Gandy summarized how positions like Walsh’s shame and ignore the experiences of black women and mothers:

    To put it bluntly, this country was a hostile birthing environment for Black women during slavery, and remains so for many Black women today. But rather than take steps to make it easier for women to have and raise children, the anti-choice community simply grows more extreme and ridiculous in their rhetoric, and dials up to 11 its efforts to shame and demonize Black women.

    Anti-choicers clutch their collective pearls about the high rate of abortion in the Black community, but have no interest in talking about the root cause of that abortion rate. Anti-choice advocates, conservatives in particular, don’t want to talk about the never-ending war they are waging against contraception access; comprehensive sexual education; and social programs like public assistance, food benefits, health care, sex education, and fair pay that would permit Black women to not only choose motherhood when the time is right for them, but also to raise healthy children.

  • NRA Magazine: Gunned-Down Dallas Police Officers “Gave Their Lives” For Gun Rights

    NRA: Fatal Shootings Of Police “Have Come To Define The Political Left In America Today”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The latest cover story in the NRA’s magazine, America’s 1st Freedom, purports to honor Dallas police officers killed in a July ambush attack, but instead uses the officers’ deaths to claim “the greatest dishonor to their memory” would be to allow “the Democratic establishment” to pass stronger gun safety laws.

    The magazine cover also includes a fold-out ad promoting an NRA “banned guns raffle” where entrants have a chance to win an AK-style assault weapon similar to the one used in the Dallas attack.

    On July 7, a gunman wielding an AK-74 assault weapon targeted police officers working at a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas following recent police killings of two African-American men, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, which were captured on video. Five police officers were killed, and seven officers and civilians were wounded, before the gunman was killed by police.

    The September cover story in America’s 1st Freedom, titled “Ambushing America’s Cops,” blames attacks against law enforcement on progressives, claiming that the Dallas ambush was “just the latest, and most vicious, in a long line of attacks on law enforcement -- attacks that have come to define the political left in America today.”

    The article then attempts to directly connect President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder to attacks on law enforcement officers, baselessly suggesting that the shooters were inspired to act by things they said:

    Even before the facts were clear, Obama used those cases [the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile] to assert that such incidents are “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”

    “When incidents like this occur,” Obama went on, “there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same. And that hurts.”

    Just hours after Obama spoke, a madman murdered five police in Dallas, and another killer shot a policeman in Bristol, Tenn.

    [...]

    Even though the U.S. Justice Department ultimately cleared Police Officer Darren Wilson of any wrongdoing in the death of [Michael] Brown -- Brown, after all, had attacked Wilson and tried to steal his service weapon -- Obama’s attorney general at the time, Eric Holder, said, “It is not difficult to imagine how a single, tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg.”

    It’s also not difficult to imagine how Holder’s words might have added tinder to an already explosive situation: Just days after Holder’s remarks, two Ferguson policemen were shot.

    (According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a search warrant related to the Ferguson incident indicates that the suspect in that case was attempting to shoot at an individual he was having a dispute with and was not aiming at the police officers who were hit by gunfire.)

    The NRA article concludes by using the Dallas police shooting to dismiss calls for stronger gun safety laws by “the Democratic establishment” in the wake of incidents of mass public violence. The article claims that it would be “disrespectful” and “the greatest dishonor” to the memory of the officers killed to advocate for more gun safety laws and suggests that the slain officers “gave their lives” to protect the NRA’s vision for gun laws in America (emphasis added):

    Whether it’s terrorists who attack a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., gangsters who murder each other every day in Chicago, an ISIS-inspired jihadist who opens fire in a nightclub, or a madman enraged by racist rhetoric to ambush Dallas police, the answer, we’re told by the Democratic establishment, is to surrender yet more of our God-given freedom to protect ourselves.

    In light of the supreme sacrifice those Dallas police officers made in July, the most disrespectful thing we could do -- the greatest dishonor to their memory we could make -- would be to surrender the freedoms they gave their lives to defend.

     

    Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who is shown mourning on the magazine’s cover, has actually voiced concerns to legislators over Texas laws that allow assault weapons to be openly carried in public. (Open carry of assault weapons, a practice that the NRA defends, has become increasingly common in Texas and some other states in recent years.)

    During the July ambush, efforts to take down the gunman were complicated by the fact that the attack took place at a protest where about 20 people were openly carrying rifles.

    Brown discussed the issue during a press conference, noting that he had expressed “concerns” to legislators about Texas’ open carry law and explaining that “it's increasingly challenging when people have AR-15s slung over and shootings occur in a crowd and they begin running, and we don't know … if they're the shooter or not, or they begin, it's been the presumption that a good guy with a gun is the best way to resolve some of these things. Well, we don't know who the good guy is versus who the bad guy is if everybody starts shooting, and we've expressed that concern as well.”

    Brown’s image on the cover of America’s 1st Freedom is partially obscured by an advertisement for a giveaway of a gun similar to the one used in the Dallas attack.

    The cover proclaims “NRA is GIVING AWAY guns that Hillary Clinton wants to BAN!”:

    When the fold-out is opened, a number of guns that have military-style features -- and therefore could be included in an assault weapons ban -- are listed.

    The give-away guns include several military-style assault weapons, including one that is particularly similar to the rifle used in the Dallas attack: The CMMG Mk 47 AKM2 Mutant.

    Like the Saiga AK-74 used to ambush police officers in Dallas, the CMMG firearm has features from the AK platform first popularized by the invention of the AK-47. (The CMMG weapon also has features from the AR assault weapon platform, giving it its “Mutant” moniker.) Here is the gun used in the attack:

    Here is a picture of the CMMG Mk 47 from another NRA magazine’s review of the assault weapon:

    The CMMG assault weapon uses 7.62x39mm ammunition while the AK-74 takes a slightly smaller 5.45x39mm cartridge.

  • Fact-Checkers Blast "Leaps Of Logic" In NRA's Attack Ad: "Clinton Has Never Said That"

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Fact-checkers at PolitiFact and The Washington Post debunked an ad released by the National Rifle Association that claims Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “doesn’t believe in your right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.” The NRA, which endorsed GOP nominee Donald Trump in May, has spent nearly $5 million opposing Clinton this election cycle, including $3 million in spending on the recent ad that falsely attacks Clinton.

  • Texas Lawmakers Use Right-Wing Lie To Award An Anti-Abortion Group A Government Contract

    With Zika Threat Looming, State Media Ask Why Lawmakers Are Giving A Public Health Contract To An Anti-Choice Group That “Is Not A Healthcare Provider”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Months after Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law was overruled at the Supreme Court, state lawmakers allocated state funding for reproductive health to an anti-choice group, playing into a dangerous right-wing media myth about the role of Planned Parenthood in low-income communities.

    On August 11 anti-choice state officials awarded the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive health care program -- totaling $1.6 million -- to the anti-abortion organization The Heidi Group, which is “not a healthcare provider.”

    This latest development in Texas lawmakers’ attack on reproductive rights once again utilizes right-wing media talking points to vilify Planned Parenthood and ignore the health care needs of low-income communities.

    In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, finding that its restrictions on abortion providers imposed an “undue burden on abortion access.” In recent years, HB 2 was one of several measures state lawmakers took to limit the reach of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

    In 2012, the state dismantled its reproductive health safety net program in order to exclude Planned Parenthood from the network of subsidized providers. In 2015, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott pushed to defund Planned Parenthood in Texas, touting the move as “another step in providing greater access to safe healthcare for women while protecting our most vulnerable -- the unborn.” Lawmakers similarly argued that by defunding Planned Parenthood they “instead funneled the funds to worthwhile programs.”

    This justification that community health clinics can replace Planned Parenthood as an essential and accessible health care provider is a common right-wing media talking point.

    However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the impact of Texas’ decision to remove Planned Parenthood from the state’s reproductive health safety net program. The findings showed that the exclusion of Planned Parenthood caused a decrease in the use of long-acting contraceptives that corresponded with an increase in child births by Medicaid-funded patients.

    Beyond contraception and abortion care needs, when Texas cut funding for Planned Parenthood patients also lost access to affordable HIV testing. In June, the Texas Observer found that in Harris County, TX -- which had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the state in 2014 -- the county’s health department hadn’t conducted a single HIV test in the first six months of 2016, since the county ended its decades-long contract with Planned Parenthood for HIV testing and prevention.

    Efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from health care funding eligibility have only increased since the release of deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Although CMP’s work has been consistently discredited, anti-choice legislators have frequently repeated right-wing media misinformation about Planned Parenthood as part of an ongoing mission to defund the organization.

    Texas’ latest decision to allocate a sizeable contract for reproductive health care to an organization founded and run by an anti-choice activist, with little experience providing the contracted medical services, represents a continuation of a dangerous pattern of misinformation about Planned Parenthood. By ignoring Planned Parenthood’s role in providing health care to low-income patients, this pattern has a demonstrably detrimental impact on those who need access to affordable reproductive care most.

    The Texas Observer’s Andrea Grimes demonstrated the issue with awarding a public health contract to an organization with little health care experience. She noted that The Heidi Group primarily runs a series of crisis pregnancy centers -- organizations that are notorious for misleading women about abortion and reproductive health. The anti-choice group, which has said it “sets women free from abortion,” is also headed by Carol Everett, an anti-choice activist known for making dubious, fringe medical claims related to abortion:

    Everett made headlines in early August following her testimony at a Texas Department of State Health Services meeting on new rules about fetal tissue disposal in Texas. There, she asserted that currently allowable means of fetal tissue disposal could result in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections being released into public water supplies, which she later repeated to an Austin Fox affiliate. Her concerns are not echoed by any major medical or public health groups.

    Executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Heather Busby further explained the concerning medical background of The Heidi Group in a statement to the Texas Tribune: "It’s very inappropriate that the state would contract with an organization that has never performed the services required by the contract … The Heidi Group is an anti-abortion organization; it is not a healthcare provider.”

    Busby also told the Austin American-Statesman that Texas officials’ selection of The Heidi Group was “especially troubling, given that the organization is run by a person who is so terribly misinformed about public health.”

    Texas’ award of the contract comes at a time when the Zika virus -- which impacts pregnant persons and developing fetuses -- has been linked to one death in Harris County. Given that Texas already lacks a sufficient number of OB-GYNs necessary to address Zika’s spread, further curtailing access to contraception and abortion care by awarding contracts to anti-choice groups could additionally burden Texas communities.

    As the chief external affairs officer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Sarah Wheat explained:

    The looming threat of Zika makes the need for this care more urgent than ever. Instead of helping women get the care they need at proven, qualified providers they know and trust, Texas is funneling hard-earned tax dollars in support of their anti-abortion agenda.