Military Personnel & Veterans

Issues ››› Military Personnel & Veterans
  • National Review’s David French: Lifting The Ban On Transgender Military Service Will Result In “Thought Control”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    In a post responding to the repeal of the transgender military service ban, National Review’s David French accused the military of “thought control” and lamented the decline of “warrior culture.”

    In a June 30 press conference, the Pentagon announced that the Department of Defense is lifting the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. The decision comes after a year-long evaluation of “policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.” As a part of the evaluation, the Pentagon commissioned a study by the RAND Corporation which found that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would not impact unit cohesion and result in minimal costs.

    French quickly fired back with a June 30 post. French’s opposition to this policy change comes as no surprise given his former career at the anti-LGBT extremist legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who are best known for attacking the rights of transgender students and working internationally to criminalize gay sex. French has a history of expressing his outward disdain for transgender people. In the past, he lamented “transgender entitlement” and once described a young transgender woman as a “man” who is “on the verge of mutilating himself.”

    Part of French’s argument for opposing the lift of the ban was to accuse the military of trying to create a “social laboratory” that is promoting “radical LGBT theology”:

    But this move isn’t about national security, it’s about social engineering. Many members of the military will spend their entire careers without encountering a single transgender soldier, but they will endure hour upon hour of diversity training and thought control.

    […]

    There will be members of the military (aided and abetted by its civilian leadership) who will take this opportunity to try to retrain the ranks about the very concepts of sex and gender, introducing radical LGBT theology as the government-approved, Army-mandated world view. And God help the Army doctor or medical professional who refuses to facilitate a servicemember’s “transition.” Good luck being a chaplain preaching about the created order if there is a prickly leftist around. The administration is moving the military culture to Yale with guns just about as fast as it can.

    Fortunately the warrior culture is resilient. Infantry platoons aren’t likely to go full PC anytime soon, but the Left keeps chipping away. It will keep chipping away until the horrible reality of the battlefield reminds us all that our military isn’t a social laboratory. Our enemies focus on war while we sidetrack our soldiers with social justice.

  • Univision Lifts Up LGBT Voices In Its Coverage Of The Pentagon Repealing Ban On Transgender Military Service

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision’s late night news program continued Hispanic media’s trend of uplifting LGBT voices in its reporting on the Pentagon’s announcement that it is lifting its ban on transgender people openly serving in the military.

    On June 30, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the Department of Defense would no longer forbid openly transgender people from serving in the military. In its report on the announcement, Univision's late night news program, Noticiero Univision: Edició​n Nocturna, hosted Antonia Pandilla, a transgender woman who served in the Air Force from 1978 to 1982, to talk about her experience serving under the ban. Contrasting right-wing media’s attacks on the policy change, Univision host Arantxa Loizaga described the end of the ban as “a victory for the LGBT community.” Coverage like this is yet another indication of how Hispanic media is improving its reporting on LGBT issues and making the effort to include transgender voices.

    From the June 30 edition of Univision’s Noticiero Univision: Edición Nocturna (translated from Spanish):

    ARANTXA LOIZAGA (HOST): In the United States armed forces, there are transgender soldiers but until today, they were not able to act openly. The Pentagon lifted a provision in light of the Defense Secretary’s idea that he has been pushing for more than a year. Andrea Linares tells us what this means.

    [START AUDIO]

    DEFENSE SECRETARY ASH CARTER: Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly.

    [END AUDIO]

    ANDREA LINARES: The announcement is historic. The Pentagon will allow transgender individuals to serve openly in the armed forces, according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

    [START AUDIO]

    CARTER: These new measures will be implemented throughout the next year.

    [END AUDIO]

    LINARES: It is expected that by October 1 transgender soldiers can receive the medical treatment related to their sex change, and effective July 2017 the armed forces will allow the enlistment of new transgender members as long as they comply with the physical and psychological requirements required of any other member.

    ANTONIA PADILLA: I have been living two lives, the life of a man in the day and the life of a woman at night.

    LINARES: This is Antonia Padilla. She was born as a man in San Antonio, Texas, but she identifies as a woman. She was married for six years, had a daughter, and also served in the air force from 1978 to 1982.

    PADILLA: Ten years ago, I said I'm not going to have falsehoods, I'm going to live honestly, I'm going to live like the woman that I am.

    LINARES: Currently, Antonia works as a photographer. She says that it was difficult to live in the shadows when she was in the armed forces, but she never felt that this impeded her from carrying out her duties.

    PADILLA: I am very happy that finally this decision is reality.

    LINARES: A study done by RAND Corporation under the direction of Sec. Ash Carter found that of the 1.3 million active members of the army, almost 2,500 are transgender. But up until now, they have had to deny their condition in order to avoid being expelled from the military world, a situation that is now a thing of the past. The study also revealed that the medical expenses and the sex change operations will cost the Pentagon between $2.9 million and $4.2 million annually. They fear that not assuming this expense could result in a higher rate of substance abuse and suicides among transgender individuals. It's worth mentioning that the army has a budget of $610 million. Arantxa, back to you.

    LOIZAGA: Andrea, thank you, a victory for the LGBT community.

    While Univision’s decision to feature a transgender guest is part of the growing move towards more responsible coverage of the LGBT community by Hispanic media, the segment’s use of the word “condition” to innaccurately describe being transgender shows that there is still room to improve. The failure to use accurate, sensitive language when covering the transgender community isn’t isolated to Univision. While uplifting transgender voices is part of improving reporting on transgender people, Hispanic media should continue to look to guidelines from groups like GLAAD for how to improve the quality of coverage when reporting on transgender issues.

  • Veterans’ Groups Call Out The NRA: "Don't Use Our Dead To Score Political Points"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veterans’ groups are criticizing the National Rifle Association for releasing a pro-Donald Trump ad that was apparently filmed at a national cemetery in violation of government policy, calling for the ad to be taken down and accusing the gun group of “using our dead to score political points.”

    The ad, launched Thursday by the NRA Political Victory Fund, features veteran Mark Geist –- a survivor of the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks -- as he walks in and stands in front of a national cemetery; the graves of military personnel are featured prominently.

    During the ad, Geist attacks the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, saying, “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.” The ad ends with a graphic supporting Trump.

    As ABC News reported, the ad is in apparent violation of Department of Veterans Affairs’ “strict prohibition of filming campaign ads on national cemetery property that contains the graves of military personnel, veterans and their spouses.”

    Jessica Schiefer, public affairs officer for the National Cemetery Administration, told Media Matters the NRA did not seek permission to film at a national cemetery, and that they would have rejected the request had they received one.

    “To date, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration (NCA) has not received or approved any filming requests of this nature,” she said via email. “NCA did not receive a request from the NRA to film the subject advertisement. If we had received such a request, we would have denied it based on the partisan content. Partisan activities are prohibited on national cemetery grounds as they are not compatible with preserving the dignity and tranquility of the national cemeteries as national shrines."

    She added, “As always, our Veterans, their families and survivors are our top priority. To maintain the sanctity and decorum of VA National Cemeteries as national shrines, our filming policy states that filming may not be used for the expression of partisan or political viewpoints, or for uses that are (or may be interpreted as) an endorsement of a commercial entity.”

    NRA officials did not respond to several requests for comment, but told ABC News the ad was filmed outside of the cemetery, although they declined to reveal where exactly it was made. (The NRA’s attempt to claim the ad was filmed “outside” the cemetery makes little sense, considering Geist is shown walking among headstones.)

    In addition to the apparent violation of government policy, the NRA ad has triggered outrage among some veterans groups, who contend it is improper. 

    “Don’t use our dead to score political points,” Joe Davis, a Veterans of Foreign Wars national spokesman and an Air Force veteran of Desert Storm, told Media Matters. “We fought for everybody’s First Amendment rights and everything, but we don’t want any candidate using our dead to score political points.”

    Jon Soltz, an Iraq War Veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org, responded with a statement that said, "This ad should be taken down immediately. It is insensitive to those buried at the cemetery -- most, if not all, of whom died before Benghazi, and many of whom may not have been NRA supporters. Further, it violates Veterans Affairs policy. It should be taken down."

    Despite apparently violating government policy, there is no indication the NRA plans to pull the advertisement, which is reportedly being backed by $2 million and is scheduled to run in several key battleground states over the next two weeks.

    In contrast to the NRA, several previous political ads that aired images and footage from national cemeteries were either altered or removed. In 1999, Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign aired an ad featuring unauthorized footage filmed at Arlington National cemetery -- the campaign apologized and recut the ad to remove the footage. More recently, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) pulled a 2014 ad that was filmed at a North Dakota veterans’ cemetery.

  • Trump Gave Money To Organization With “Years-Long” Relationship With Fox Host Sean Hannity

    While Hannity Defended Trump On Fox News, He Failed To Disclose Personal Ties To Veterans Group That Received Trump Donation

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Best Friends!
    Fox News host Sean Hannity has vehemently defended Donald Trump from criticism surrounding his alleged donations to various veterans groups. But Hannity failed to disclose his own ties to one of the veteran’s organizations that received a donation from Trump.

    According to The Washington Post, as Hannity went to bat for Trump on the issue of donations to veterans groups on the May 31 edition of his Fox News show, he failed to disclose his “years-long relationship with one of the groups Trump had just chosen for a donation”:

    What Hannity didn't say on air was that he had a years-long relationship with one of the groups Trump had just chosen for a donation. The charity, Freedom Alliance, received a $75,000 gift.

    That money had originally come from other big donors, who had entrusted it to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, on the promise that Trump would pass it along to individual veterans groups.

    On Wednesday, there were conflicting accounts of Hannity's current connection to the group. In a statement, a Fox News spokeswoman said Hannity no longer works with Freedom Alliance.

    "Sean Hannity has generously donated to, and proudly worked in the past with the Freedom Alliance organization, but has not worked with them for a number of years, including the current election cycle,” a Fox News spokeswoman wrote.

    But the president of Freedom Alliance told The Washington Post in a telephone interview that Hannity still remained informally connected to the group, telling others about its work. Hannity is not listed as an officer or employee of the group in its tax filings.

    Trump has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Hannity since declaring his candidacy, with Trump at one point suggesting their close relationship was as if the two were “twins.” Hannity has also been heavily criticized for being “very soft” with Trump in interviews.

    Hannity has defended himself by asserting, “I’m not a journalist, I’m a talk show host” and said on his radio show, that he’s not critical of Trump or Cruz because he wants the Republican nominee to win. He has also said he “absolutely plead[s] guilty” to “going soft in interviews on Republicans.”

    Fox News as an institution has also defended Trump’s delayed donations to veterans groups, with various hosts suggesting they were “disturbed by” media “giving [Trump] a hard time” and that “there’s something to be said for” the donation. Even Bill O’Reilly dishonestly argued that “there was no data … that said [Trump] didn’t give the money” to veterans groups and that the story was “fabricated by anti-Trump people in the press.” But according to CBS News, much of the money that was donated was dated “May 24, the day The Washington Post published the story questioning whether he had distributed all of the money."

  • Vetting Trump: The Vietnam War

    Why Have Democrats Been Held To Tougher Media Standard?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Donald Trump recently made headlines when he spoke at the annual Rolling Thunder biker rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Portrayed as a way to “bolster support among veterans,” Trump rallied the crowd of bikers and their supporters with promises to “rebuild our military” and “take care of our veterans.”

    But in the Rolling Thunder rally coverage, there was little press attention paid to the fact that Trump himself actively avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, which seemed relevant considering he was speaking to so many Vietnam vets at an event dedicated to honoring America’s prisoners of war and military members who are missing in action. Typically the campaign press lingers over issues of awkward optics like that. But not for Trump and Rolling Thunder.

    While writing “the blunt-spoken Mr. Trump” “likes to stress his desire to strengthen the military and improve how veterans are treated,” The New York Times made no reference to Trump’s Vietnam avoidance.

    Reuters included just a passing reference to how Trump “did not serve in the military.” And The Washington Post managed to fit in its dispatch a single sentence noting, “Trump himself avoided the draft through four student deferments and was later medically disqualified from service.”

    Trump graduated college in 1968 and managed to not serve in the Vietnam War as the conflict reached its deadly apex. For some reason this campaign season the press doesn’t much care about the topic and has largely walked away from the model of previous cycles when Baby Boomer candidates were repeatedly pressed to explain their ‘60s wartime years.

    In general, the larger umbrella topic of Vietnam has come up in Trump coverage in two specific ways. But the questions to date have revolved around a pair of modern-day controversies: When Trump derided Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam, for being captured by the enemy, and the controversy that has swirled around Trump’s pledge to raise and donate $6 million to veterans groups. (Trump’s McCain comments were referenced in several of the stories about his Rolling Thunder appearance.)

    In fact, much of Trump’s contentious news conference on Tuesday featured him taking questions about the donations. (And then him mocking reporters).

    But in terms of Trump having been an able-bodied American, college-aged male at the height of the Vietnam War and what actions he took to avoid serving? Those questions have been of little or no concern to journalists this year, despite the fact that the official campaign story of how Trump avoided the war ought to spark lots of questions from curious journalists.

    The Trump tale: A former “star athlete” in high school who friends say could have played baseball professionally, Trump was deemed medically unfit to serve in 1968 because of bone spurs in both his heels. Free of military service, Trump was then able to focus on a lifestyle as the bachelor son of a millionaire real estate developer. ("When I graduated from college, I had a net worth of perhaps $200,000," he wrote in his 1987 autobiography Trump: The Art of the Deal.)

    What’s remarkable about the media’s willingness to look away from the issue is that the last three Democratic nominees who were also college-aged men during the Vietnam War era were often hounded by media questions during the campaign season about either their lack of military experience (Bill Clinton), or they were forced to explain and defend their service overseas (Al Gore and John Kerry).

    Even though Gore was among just a handful of Harvard graduates from his Class of 1969 to volunteer for the war, Gore’s tour of duty was often belittled by journalists during the 2000 campaign. Writing in February 2000, a former Gore aide marveled at the proliferation of news articles about Gore’s supposed exaggerations, which often centered on claims he “overstated his Army service in Vietnam.”

    And of course, Kerry’s medal-winning service in Vietnam became the target of a Republican smear campaign during the 2004 campaign; an ugly smear operation that the press legitimized by not forcefully debunking the obvious lies at its center.

    As for Clinton, how many trees did newspaper publishers kill in order to delve into every possible nook and cranny regarding his lack of Vietnam service during the 1992 campaign? How many Clinton draft board members were interviewed, how many old letters were leaked, and how many Yale friends had their memories probed in search of key details from the late `60s? It was all treated as a Supremely Important campaign story by the media. 

    Trump bypassing Vietnam? Not so much.

    To their credit, the Washington Post, New York Daily News and Politico are among those that have published detailed looks at how Trump avoided serving in Vietnam and the candidate’s “shifting accounts.” But those articles all ran nearly a year ago and since then the topic has been of very little interest to those newsrooms and most others. (The Daily Beast recently proved to be an exception.)

    Today, the campaign press doesn’t seem to care about Trump’s lack of Vietnam service. But in 1992, the Times editorialized that of course the topic was central to campaigns:

    Voters have good reason to examine this issue. Whether or not one accepts the propriety of delving into Governor Clinton's private life, there can be no doubt about the legitimacy of asking how a public official behaved during the Vietnam years; the question provides an illuminating test.

    Overall, additional references to Trump’s deferments have been made. But very few have addressed the specifics of his medical story.

    What’s amazing in contrasting the lack of coverage this cycle with previous ones is the way Clinton dealt with the Vietnam War and how Trump dealt with it 50 years ago are somewhat similar. So shouldn’t they be equally newsworthy?

    Back in the 1960s, both Clinton and Trump, like millions of men at the time, received deferments while they were in college. Both men then faced exposure to the draft after they graduated (Clinton in 1969, Trump in 1968) and became 1-A, or "available for service."

    Both men were then able to avoid being drafted. Trump did it by getting a medical deferment for bone spurs, therefore classified 1-Y.

    “One big question is whether Trump actively sought the deferment by bringing a letter from his own doctor to the physical citing the bone spur problem,” noted Politico last year. “Young men with access to friendly family physicians had this advantage at the time in dealing with draft physicals.”

    Added Trump biographer Wayne Barrett, “There’s no question it fit a pattern of avoidance that was commonplace in his generation.”

    That sounds like a news story to me, especially when Trump is already making headlines about U.S. veterans. 

  • O’Reilly’s Dishonest Attempt To Shield Trump From Media Scrutiny Over Vague Veteran Donations

    Many Veterans Organizations Report They Didn’t Get Money Until After Washington Post Report Criticized Trump’s Lack Of Disclosure

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Fox host Bill O'Reilly defended presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump from criticism about the transparency of his donations to veterans groups after multiple Washington Post reports revealed that Trump had not donated the alleged $6 million to veterans organizations in the months following a fundraising event on January 28th.

    Donald Trump announced on May 31 that he had donated $5.6 million raised in a televised benefit for veterans charities. During his announcement Trump attacked the media for pressuring him to disclose his donations:

    “I wasn’t looking for the credit, but I had no choice but to do this because the press was saying I didn’t raise any money for them,” Trump said.

    The donations Trump announced on Tuesday were related to a Jan. 28 fundraiser for veterans that he held in Des Moines, on a night when Trump skipped a GOP debate due to a feud with its host, Fox News. That night, Trump said he'd raised $6 million. Most of it came from other donors, but Trump said he would give $1 million of his own.

    Later that evening Bill O’Reilly defended Trump on the May 31 edition of The O’Reilly Factor. During the show, O’Reilly argued that "there was no data" proving Donald Trump "didn't give the money," and argued that media scrutiny directed at Trump's fundraiser was "basically a supposition, fabricated by anti-Trump people in the press."

    But according to reports,Trump had not donated all of the money he raised for veterans until after his campaign received scrutiny from journalist, and could not provide a total accounting of how much money was raised or which organizations it had been donated to.

    On May 21, The Washington Post’s David Farenthold reported that Trump’s campaign manager revealed that Trumps fundraiser “actually netted about $4.5 million, or 75 percent of the total that Trump announced” for veterans groups:

    Lewandowski blamed the shortfall on Trump’s own wealthy acquaintances. He said some of them had promised big donations that Trump was counting on when he said he had raised $6 million. But Lewandowski said those donors backed out and gave nothing.

    “There were some individuals who he’d spoken to, who were going to write large checks, [who] for whatever reason . . . didn’t do it,” Lewandowski said in a telephone interview. “I can’t tell you who.”

    Lewandowski also said he did not know whether a $1 million pledge from Trump himself was counted as part of the $4.5 million total. He said Trump has given that amount, but he declined to identify any recipients.

    [...]

    Even with the lower total, Trump’s fundraiser brought in millions of dollars for veterans’ charities. The Washington Post’s accounting, based on interviews with charities, has found at least $3.1 million in donations to veterans groups.

    The Washington Post also reported that 4 months after his initial pledge, Trump gave his own $1 million donation only after he received scrutiny from the press:

    Almost four months after promising $1 million of his own money to veterans’ causes, Donald Trump moved to fulfill that pledge Monday evening — promising the entire sum to a single charity as he came under intense media scrutiny.

    Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, organized a nationally televised fundraiser for veterans’ causes in Des Moines on Jan. 28. That night, Trump said he had raised $6 million, including the gift from his own pocket.

    “Donald Trump gave $1 million,” he said then.

    As recently as last week, Trump’s campaign manager had insisted that the mogul had already given that money away. But that was false: Trump had not.

    And CBS News reported that much of the money that was donated was dated “May 24, the day The Washington Post published the story questioning whether he had distributed all of the money."

  • If We Follow Bill O'Reilly's Logic, Only Trump Sycophants Can Cover Trump

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    According to Fox's Bill O'Reilly, feminist journalists should not be allowed to report on Donald Trump because “Trump is the antithesis” of feminism. By O’Reilly’s standard, any journalist Trump may have offended would be disqualified from reporting on the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

    On the May 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly speculated on whether "the national media can cover Trump with any fairness," suggesting that editors should not let feminist journalists report on Trump because his past in the beauty pageant world would bias feminists against him (emphasis added):

    BILL O'REILLY: She is a feminist. Trump is a beauty contestant purveyor. Do you let a feminist report on a beauty contestant person who is now turned politician?

    [...]

    O’REILLY: Wait, wait. If I'm an editor and I know there is a feminist woman in my newsroom who is brilliant, because I think this woman is an excellent reporter, I don't let her report on a guy like Trump because Trump is the antithesis of that. And so I don't want any margin of error here. There are plenty of reporters who can do the story. Do you not see that?

    Based on O'Reilly's logic, anyone who has reasons to find Trump's positions problematic is unfit to cover him. This standard disqualifies a lot of people:

    • Trump has referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, so they’re out.
    • Trump sent a culturally offensive tweet featuring a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo, so Hispanics would be disqualified from covering him.
    • Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. means Muslims can't cover him fairly.
    • Trump derided John McCain's status as a war hero because Trump likes "people who weren't captured." So cross off all the journalists who have been captured in conflict zones.
    • Since Trump suggested that women who have had abortions deserved "some form of punishment," any journalist who has had an abortion would be eliminated.
    • Trump mocked a disabled reporter with a congenital joint condition, so any journalist with a disability is off the list.
    • Also disqualified? 97 percent of climate scientists:

     

     

    Under this rubric, the only people left to cover Donald Trump would likely be those who have made softball interviews of the candidate their specialty, like Sean Hannity, those amplifying Trump’s conspiracy theories like Alex Jones, or people who share a “personal friendship” with the candidate, like O’Reilly. Following O’Reilly’s logic, media’s role of vetting, fact-checking and challenging a candidate, would become a thing of the past.