Conservative radio host Michael Savage accused those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, including military veterans, of being "weak," "narcissistic," "losers." Savage added that "we're being laughed at around the world. No wonder ISIS can defeat our military."
As Right Wing Watch's Brian Tashman documented, Savage began an October 14 segment by complaining about a plan to rename a San Francisco tunnel after the late comedian Robin Williams. Savage called Williams "a depressed clown who was so selfish he choked himself to death with a belt." He added: "What is this sick, backwards area I live in?"
After getting into a heated argument with a caller who said he suffered from PTSD while in the military, Savage went on an unhinged rant in which he explained why he is "so sick and tired of everyone with their complaints about PTSD, depression":
From the October 17 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Right-wing media falsely claimed that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion vindicated former President George W. Bush's rationale for the Iraq war - ignoring the fact that the chemical weapons discovered predated 1991 and thus could not vindicate Bush's rationale which relied on an active, on-going chemical weapons program at the time of the invasion.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the October 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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The Washington Post published an opinion piece claiming that "retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect" to take over as head of the embattled Secret Service because of his "managerial and diplomatic skills." West, who was forced out of the military, that same day called President Obama a "charlatan" and urged the military to disobey his orders.
Former Secret Service agent and Marine Corps infantry officer Dan Emmett wrote a September 26 PostEverything piece surveying problems with the Secret Service and recommended that current director Julia Pierson be replaced with someone from the military, specifically "a true leader, not a bureaucrat." He then lobbied for West, writing:
In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.
Emmett does not appear to be very familiar with the former Florida congressman (the Post appended a correction to the piece noting that Emmett originally misspelled West's name). West is a partisan ideologue with a history of toxic rhetoric against President Obama. The same day the PostEverything piece was published, West implored the military to disobey "charlatan" President Obama because he purportedly "took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens ... This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military."
West's previous extremist comments include:
PostEverything is an online Post property that relies on "a large network of outside contributors" and publishes "wide-ranging commentary on the big, in-the-moment debates facing Washington, the country and the world." The section was widely criticized after it posted a piece with the headline (later changed) "One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married."
Military veterans are taking a stand against a Fox News host's labeling of a female pilot from the United Arab Emirates who bombed Islamic State militants as "boobs on the ground." On September 27, Truman National Security Project veterans published an open letter addressing Fox's sexism toward Maj. Mariam al-Mansouri, stating that the remarks aired on the conservative TV network "were unwarranted, offensive, and fundamentally opposed to what the military taught us to stand for."
The letter serves as a reminder that many women face sexism in the military on a regular basis, a situation that is only worsened by right-wing media programs that air on U.S. bases around the world.
And herein lie the real consequences of misogyny in right-wing media for the U.S. military.
During my time in the Air Force in the early 2000s, I remember regularly seeing Fox on the TV at work and hearing Limbaugh's angry rants blasting from the radio. Now imagine being a woman in this atmosphere in the last few years, when Limbaugh repeatedly labeled Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" and Fox hosts referred to a female pilot as "boobs on the ground" and suggested she "couldn't park" her jet. Add that to the fact that many of these shows are aired on bases around the world using taxpayer money, and the situation quickly becomes too much to stomach.
From my experiences as a woman who served in Air Force combat units both overseas and in the United States, I can say that sexist rhetoric from Fox host Eric Bolling and other conservative media figures makes the challenges that women already face while serving even more difficult.
My first major wake-up call to how women were perceived in the armed forces took place shortly after I enlisted, while I was training for my position as an intelligence apprentice. I was introduced to terms like "M&Ms," which stood for "Marine mattresses," used to describe the female airmen who got involved with the male Marines on our base. When I was deployed to Kuwait, I learned of other labels reserved solely for women who were perceived to be getting a lot of attention from men or being "slutty," like "Desert Queen" and "Desert Fox." Any quick online search for military slang reveals numerous variations of the "military women are promiscuous objects that men use" theme.
Military veterans are speaking out against Fox News host Eric Bolling's reference to the first female UAE fighter pilot as "boobs on the ground."
Bolling provoked widespread outrage after he responded to news that United Arab Emirates' first female air force pilot was participating in air strikes against Islamic State militants by asking: "Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?" His remarks came during the September 24 edition of Fox News' The Five, in response to co-host Greg Gutfeld's joke, "The problem is, after she bombed it, she couldn't park it." Bolling has since apologized twice for his offensive comment.
U.S. military veterans from the Truman National Security Project have released an open letter condemning Bolling and Gutfeld for their "immensely inappropriate" remarks, which the veterans called "unwarranted, offensive, and fundamentally opposed to what the military taught us to stand for." More from the letter, via Talking Points Memo:
First, foremost, and most obvious to everyone other than yourselves, your remarks were immensely inappropriate. Your co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was so right to call attention to an inspiring story of a woman shattering glass ceilings in a society where doing so is immeasurably difficult. We never heard an answer to her question: why did you feel so compelled to "ruin her thing?"
As it turns out, women have been flying combat aircraft since before either of you were born.Over 1,000 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) flew during World War II. Seeing as U.S. Army Air Forces Commander "Hap" Arnold said "Now in 1944, it is on the record that women can fly as well as men," we can probably guess he thought their parking was adequate. The WASP legacy reaches into the present day; on 9/11, then Lt. Heather "Lucky" Penney scrambled her F-16. Completely unarmed, she was ready to lay down her own life to prevent further devastating attacks on American soil.
Thus the skill of women as fighter pilots is well established. And before you jump to the standby excuse that you were "just making a joke" or "having a laugh," let the men amongst our number preemptively respond: You are not funny. You are not clever. And you are not excused. Perhaps the phrase "boys will be boys"--inevitably uttered wherever misogyny is present--is relevant. Men would never insult and demean a fellow servicemember; boys think saying the word 'boobs' is funny.
The less obvious implication of your remarks, however, is that by offending an ally and cheapening her contribution, you are actively hurting the mission. We need to send a clear message that anyone, male or female, who will stand up to ISIS and get the job done is worthy of our respect and gratitude.
We issue an apology on your behalf to Major Al Mansouri knowing that anything your producers force you to say will be contrived and insincere. Major, we're sincerely sorry for the rudeness; clearly, these boys don't take your service seriously, but we and the rest of the American public do.
From the September 26 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News contributor Allen West, who has previously called President Obama an "Islamist" with unclear "loyalties," is now calling on the military to ignore orders from its commander in chief.
The Military Times reported that the Department of Defense will expand an existing program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), to allow recruiters "to target foreign nationals with high-demand skills, mostly rare foreign language expertise or specialized health care training." The program "is capped at 1,500 recruits per year. Officials say it's unclear how many of those might be unlawful DACA status immigrants as opposed to others who are also eligible for military service under MAVNI, including those with legal, nonpermanent visas such as students or tourists."
The Times noted that "the military recruits about 5,000 noncitizens each year, nearly all of them permanent U.S. residents, or so-called 'green card' holders. Starting in 2006, DoD began accepting some foreigners with nonpermanent visas, such as students or tourists, if they had special skills that are highly valued. After entering military service, foreigners are eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. Since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform."
West, a retired Army Lt. Colonel whose service ended in controversy, reacted to the news on his Facebook page by writing that "Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens. In other words, this charlatan has allowed those who have disrespected our Constitution and are not citizens to take an oath to support and defend the very document, our rule of law, of which they are in violation."
He added: "This is an illegal order and should not be followed by our Military."
From the September 26 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the September 24 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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Media personalities rushed to scandalize President Obama for saluting Marines while simultaneously holding a coffee cup, criticizing the move as disrespectful -- forgetting former President George W. Bush's habit of saluting service members while holding his dog.
Fox News contributor Steve Moore dismissed President Obama's U.N. address on climate change arguing that terror threats are "a security reason for the United States to develop our own oil and gas," ignoring a decade of warnings from the U.S. military calling climate change a national security threat and a terrorism threat multiplier.
On September 23, President Obama spoke at the United Nations Climate Summit calling for a more "ambitious" agreement to tackle climate change globally.
During the September 23 edition of Happening Now, Fox contributor Steve Moore complained that "the president is talking about climate change and reducing our output of oil and gas, when if we want to undermine and destroy the finances of ISIS and other terrorist networks, we should produce as much oil and gas and hurt them in the pocketbook":
But Moore's recommendations only serve to increase the threat of climate change by increasing our dependence on fossil fuels and undermining United States energy security. A report from the Energy Security Leadership Council determined that the addressing "the economy's heavy reliance on petroleum" is the key challenge for achieving energy security in the U.S.
Military officials have also warned of the negative impact of climate change since 2003. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Defense released the 2014 version of their Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) highlighting that "climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large" and that its impacts are "threat multipliers" that "can enable terrorist activity." From the Review:
The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities.
The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions - conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.
Moore, the Heritage Foundation's chief economist, also ignored a first of its kind statement from U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, in which he labeled the threat of climate change as "one of the most important challenges of our time." Lew said during a September 22 interview on the economic costs of climate change, that "the economic cost of climate change is not limited to one sector of our economy. It threatens our agricultural productivity, our transportation infrastructure and power grids, and drives up the incidence of costly healthcare problems." Lew stressed that "global action is imperative, and it is a good investment in global economic growth."
The third anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) found the U.S. military intact and stronger than ever. Despite the utter failure of their previous doomsday predictions to materialize, the same voices of opposition to DADT are now making similar prophecies about potential moves to lift the military's discriminatory ban on transgender people.
Challenges remain for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members. Three years removed from the repeal of DADT, they still face harassment, discrimination and difficulties obtaining veterans' benefits. One obstacle to equality looms particularly heavy post-DADT: the prohibition on transgender service.
The Pentagon currently prohibits transgender people from serving in the armed forces, a ban that forces over 15,000 men and women currently serving to lie about their identities and deters countless others from enlisting. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has indicated the military may review this policy, which, according to the Palm Center, a research institute focused on sexuality and the military, is without sound medical reasoning and could be lifted without harming readiness.
Unsurprisingly, conservative pundits have railed against proposals to lift the transgender ban.
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Center (FRC) and one of Fox News' favorite social commentators, wrote in a March FRC newsletter that lifting the ban on transgender service members would be a "fatal blow to unit cohesion and readiness" that "could compromise our troops' safety." Perkins tied the issue to military sexual assault rates.
Elaine Donnelly, the president of the anti-gay Center for Military Readiness (who once said that human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were a result of allowing women in the military) echoed Perkins, calling the idea of transgender military service an experiment that puts "an extra burden on men and women in the military that they certainly don't need or they don't deserve" and suggesting it would lead to an increase in sexual assaults.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson ranted against the mere disclosure of the estimate that 15,000 transgender people are currently serving, and said that President Obama has "turned our military into some sort of weird social experiment." Meanwhile, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh mocks the idea that transgender people should be allowed in the military with repeated uses of the term "tranny" and his token phrase "add-a-dick-to-me babe."
If the rhetoric sounds familiar, it should. Conservative media used the same attacks in their attempts to preserve DADT or replace it with a discriminatory policy even more extreme.
Three years ago, Perkins argued that repealing DADT would increase military sexual assault rates, undermine morale, and damage recruitment. Donnelly warned that after repealing DADT, "lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower" and gay service members might spread HIV through the ranks.
Erickson predicted the military bureaucracy would "go to war with Obama on the battlefield of public opinion" after DADT, while Limbaugh called the repeal "special treatment" for the gay community and intimated that it would lead to problems with "predation" and sexual harassment:
LIMBAUGH: Now, here's a question. It's an open-ended question. Will straight soldiers, heterosexuals, be able to claim sexual harassment by gays in the military? Or will such claims now be considered hate crimes? How is this gonna play out? Well, you know, because in our culture there are certain templates. It's like women never lie about rape, yet we got this ABC weather babe, you know, women never lie. Children never lie, yet we know that they do. This notion that there is predation in the homosexual community, oh, that never happens. Well, yeah, just like it never happens in the heterosexual. Of course it does. There are predators everywhere out there. Hate crimes are, if you're thinking about it, well, it's even worse than the crime that you commit. So anyway, it's a lot of stuff to shake out, so to speak.
These fears, predictably, proved unfounded. According to a Palm Center report published a year after the repeal of DADT:
Based on the substantial evidence we gathered in our research, we conclude that, during the one-year period following implementation of the policy change, DADT repeal has had no negative impact on overall military readiness or its component parts: unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale. While repeal produced a few downsides for some military members--mostly those who personally opposed the policy change--we identified important upsides as well, and in no case did negative consequences outweigh advantages. On balance, DADT repeal appears to have slightly enhanced the military's ability to do its job by clearing away unnecessary obstacles to the development of trust and bonding.
Such hateful attacks on transgender service members should disqualify these discredited pundits from commenting on the issue, but with the debate over lifting the transgender service ban heating up, it remains to be seen if media will finally stop offering them opportunities to comment.