Racial Justice

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  • As Trump Visits Flint, Media Should Remember His Anti-Clean Water Agenda

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is visiting Flint, MI, a city that is still struggling to recover from a drinking water crisis that Trump claimed “would have never happened if I were president.” Media should be wary if Trump repeats this claim, given his plans to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and rescind the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, as well as his energy adviser’s reported statement that the Clean Water Act would likely be “rolled back" by a Trump administration.

  • Fox News’ Coded Language About School Safety 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    It’s been one year since news figures seized on the story of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim American child in Texas who was taken from his school in handcuffs for bringing a “suspicious” homemade alarm clock to class. Last September, Fox News’ coverage of Mohamed’s arrest revealed a long-held tendency to selectively invoke the language of “school safety” to conveniently push conservative stances on immigration, national security, LGBT rights, and guns, while ignoring threats to the safety of the most vulnerable populations in our schools.

    When Fox News talks about “school safety,”  the ensuing conversation is exactly what you’d expect from a network with a median viewer age of 68 and a prime-time viewership that’s only 1.1 percent black. For Fox and its viewers, a predictable line exists between those individuals worthy of protection and those who represent perceived threats. Here’s what we’ve seen on Fox since Ahmed’s arrest made headlines last fall.

    Fox Pushes Islamophobic Rhetoric While Muslim Students Get Bullied

    Fox News Pushed Islamophobic Talking Points In Ahmed Mohamed Coverage

    In September 2015, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested at his Irving, TX, middle school and brought to a local police station in handcuffs after he was reported for bringing a “suspicious” homemade alarm clock to his classroom. In the weeks of national media coverage of the incident that followed, Fox News figures dismissed Mohamed’s traumatic experience and used the incident to justify profiling.

    The network aired segments vilifying the child, claiming that progressives were hypocritical or willfully exploitative for suggesting Mohamed’s arrest was influenced by Islamophobia, and hyping so-called connections between Mohamed’s family members and terrorists. The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld summarized this convoluted position: “Try bringing a clock that looks like a bomb to the White House. Actually, no, don’t try it; you’ve seen what they do to people who jump fences. So why is this school’s safety a joke, but President Obama’s isn’t? Because for [Obama], and the media, the story fits the assumption of an America that hates Muslims. Yup, it’s our fault for reacting when a kid brings a wired-up box to a place filled with kids in a state where terror has occurred.”

    Muslim Students Are Experiencing More Bullying And Fear Because Of Their Faith

    According to a survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, classroom teachers are reporting more incidents of identity-based bullying and fear particularly among students from immigrant and Muslim families, a trend that appears to be connected to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric -- which Fox News has actively legitimized for years. A California study released just months after Mohamed’s arrest found that the majority of American Muslim students in the state reported experiencing physical and verbal bullying because of their faith in 2014. An in-depth report from The Guardian explained the trend:

    Words are the most common weapon of school bullies, but in the past month, anti-Muslim sentiment in schools is increasingly manifesting in physical attacks, particularly against girls who wear the hijab. On 19 November, three boys allegedly beat up a sixth-grade girl wearing a hijab, calling her “Isis”. A 2014 study by Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) study found 29% of students who wore hijab experienced offensive touching or pulling of their scarves.

    [...]

    Fifty-five percent of Muslim students surveyed by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) last year reported that they were bullied at school in some form because of their Islamic faith. That’s twice the national percentage of bullying reported by all students, regardless of their religion. According to the CAIR survey, verbal harassment is the most common, with non-Muslims calling Muslim students terrorists or referencing bombs. But physical assaults also occur.

    These incidents are taking a psychological toll on Muslim youth. “At a crucial time in their identity development, they’re suffering from chronic trauma,” says Dr Halim Naeem, a psychotherapist and president of The Institute of Muslim Mental Health. Dr Naeem says that in the past few months alone, he has seen increased cases of depression, anxiety, image issues, paranoia, and substance abuse among Muslim American youth. In the short term, the constant stress wreaks havoc on students’ immune systems and destroys their focus, disrupting learning ability.

    Fox Pushes Guns In Schools, But Experts Say That Doesn’t Help

    Fox News Believes Having More Guns In Schools Helps Create Safe Environments

    In the wake of recent mass shootings, Fox News figures voices have repeatedly pushed arming educators or allowing more guns in schools as a way to improve student and teacher safety, and irresponsibly spread dangerous misinformation about school safety best practices. Immediately following the 2012 mass shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, Fox News began calling for teachers to be armed -- even as school security experts, educators, and others argue that bringing guns into schools would make classrooms more dangerous and worsen learning environments for students. When a Texas school district moved to arm some of its teachers in 2014, the network devoted at least two segments to celebrating the decision and pushing the long-debunked myth (peddled by the NRA) that “a good guy with a gun” would prevent mass shootings. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade praised the initiative: “If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected.” Last year, Fox & Friends co-hosts again demonstrated a misguided understanding of school safety when they encouraged young children to physically confront gunmen, rather than first try to escape, and then hide -- and only confront the guman as a last resort -- as experts advise in the event of an active shooter situation.

    Evidence Shows Guns In Schools Only Increase The Likelihood Of Violence, Especially For Students Of Color

    As the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, wrote back in 2014, educators have long expressed an overwhelming desire to keep firearms out of classrooms and to strengthen gun violence prevention measures. Research has shown that greater access to guns in general creates greater risk for accidents and misfires. Gun access corresponds with increased risk of homicide, and gun-related deaths in the home are now the second most likely cause of death for children and teens. There’s also little evidence the presence of armed security staff in schools makes them any safer. Advocates are pushing for better training and reformed responsibilities for these positions to emphasize restorative justice and de-escalation techniques, as well as student and community needs, in order to combat current racial disparities in schools’ use of armed security officers.

    Fox Pushes Debunked “Bathroom Laws” That Actually Threaten LGBT Safety In Schools

    Fox News Believes Bogus “Bathroom Laws” Keep Children Safe From So-Called “Predators”

    Fox News figures have been instrumental in pushing the right-wing myth that gender-inclusive bathrooms in schools allow adult men to prey on children. The network has routinely either fearmongered about schools’ efforts to make their bathrooms safe for all students to use or mocked inclusive bathroom policies altogether. More than two years after Media Matters first debunked the “bathroom predator” myth, Fox News continues to push dangerous rhetoric about nondiscrimination policies. In April, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt hyped the disingenuous claim that nondiscrimination laws could lead to “a grown adult man” with “bad intentions” sneaking into “the little girls’ bathroom.” In May, Sean Hannity mocked inclusive bathroom policies on his radio show, proposing “liberal bathroom areas” where “you can have all the transgendered back-and-forth that you want.” In June, Tucker Carlson called the Democratic National Convention’s gender-neutral bathrooms “disgusting.”

    But There Is No Evidence Of Predatory Incidents In School Bathrooms, And “Bathroom Bills” Threaten The Safety Of LGBT Students

    After speaking to officials at 23 school districts and four universities that allow transgender students to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, Media Matters failed to find any evidence of incidents of inappropriate bathroom behavior. Law enforcement experts and people who work with survivors of sexual assault have referred to this persistent myth as “beyond specious” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

    In fact, school officials and educators’ groups continue to support efforts to boost nondiscriminatory bathroom policies and have pointed out the need for LGBT students to have these types of basic protections. Research shows LGBT students overwhelmingly report experiences of bullying in schools today, and efforts to distract from the needs of LGBT students with fearmongering and mockery certainly don’t help. In its guidelines for supporting transgender and gender diverse students, the American Psychological Association recommends that schools provide accessible facilities that match a student’s gender identity as one way to address the high rates of victimization and hostility transgender students report. In fact, opposition to nondiscrimination policies can further stigmatize and single out transgender students, leading to more reports of bullying and an increased risk of suicide. Advocates for survivors of sexual assault have also pointed out that perpetuating the “bathroom predator” myth can have dangerous consequences: Relying on stereotypical predator imagery to talk about sexual assault diverts attention and resources from finding solutions to keep women and girls safe.   

  • White Nationalists See Trump As A Chance To Break Into The Media Mainstream

    Hours Before Clinton Highlighted Trump’s Racist Supporters, Three “Alt-Right” Leaders Gathered To Salute The GOP Nominee

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Prominent white nationalists touted their growing media influence in the wake of Donald Trump’s rise to the Republican presidential nomination on a wave of bigoted rhetoric at a September 9 press conference titled “What Is The Alt-Right?

    The press conference, organized by white nationalist “think tank” the National Policy Institute (NPI), aimed to explain how the “alt-right” -- a movement of fringe modern white supremacists -- had “become a force in American politics in such a short period of time.” The racist movement has garnered renewed interest from media outlets in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s August 25 speech decrying the Trump campaign’s cozy relationship with the movement, including the hiring of Breitbart News executive chairman and alt-right leader Stephen Bannon as campaign CEO.

    The press conference featured three prominent white nationalist speakers: NPI president Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right;” Jared Taylor, who publishes the white nationalist online magazine American Renaissance; and Peter Brimelow, who founded the white nationalist anti-immigration site VDare.com.

    The press conference came just hours before Clinton told supporters at a fundraiser that half of Trump’s supporters belonged to a “basket of deplorables” -- people who harbor "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” animus who have been “lifted … up” by the Republican nominee. Indeed, the white nationalist movement has provided Trump with some of his most fervent supporters and praised him for helping to grow their ranks.

    Spencer began the press conference by noting the “alt-right’s” unprecedented media moment. The movement, which has for years been relegated to the extreme racist fringes of the internet, has broken into the American public’s consciousness, thanks in large part to the “alt-right’s” vocal support of Trump’s anti-immigration platform. “We’re not just some marginal movement that you could dismiss,” Spencer told the room of supporters and journalists. “The fact is our ideas are so powerful that despite the fact that we’re doing all this on a shoe-string, we’re getting at people. We’re affecting them. They know we’re right.”

    Indeed, the Trump campaign has helped bring the racist "alt-right" movement into the mainstream -- rubbing elbows with white nationalists, echoing many of their common themes, and demonizing Muslims and immigrants.

    That willingness to flirt with the racist fringe is what has captured the imagination of people like Spencer, who see in Trump a "leader" who is willing to shirk norms when talking about race and identity. “He seems to be willing to go there, he seems to be willing to confront people.  And that is very different from the cuckold.”

    Spencer described Trump’s campaign as a kind of jumping-off point for the “alt-right” -- an opportunity to introduce their pro-white agenda to a broad national audience. “Certainly we have been, you could say, riding his coattails, there’s been more interest in us because we’re generally pro-Trump, because we’re inspired by him and things like that.”

    The press conference also featured a significant amount of the explicitly racist rhetoric that one would expect from white nationalists -- Taylor argued that blacks and Latinos are genetically predisposed to have lower IQs and behave less ethically than whites, Spencer waxed poetic about the importance of protecting a white cultural identity in America, and all three speakers expressed concern about the influence of Jewish people in American politics.

    But beyond that, the press conference pointed to the speakers’ emerging awareness of the need to transform the “alt-right” from a disorganized and anonymous movement of internet trolls and meme-creators into a serious, professional political movement.

    “I think the big challenge for the alt-right is a professionalization,” Spencer told his audience. “We’ve got to have professional organizations, professional people doing it… We want to increase our exposure, increase our influence.”

    For the “alt-right” speakers in the room, being Trump supporters, while important, was secondary to their primary goal of advancing their pro-white agenda. Spencer acknowledged that Trump could not fairly be described as “alt-right,” instead describing Trump’s campaign as an opportunity to influence a major political party’s candidate to advance a pro-white agenda.

    “We have not been made by Trump but we want to make Trump,” Spencer declared, “and we want to imagine him in our image.”

  • CNN’s Corey Lewandowski Falsely Claims Trump Accepted Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate

    Lewandowski: Trump’s Birther Comments Are “A Nonissue”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski whitewashed Trump’s birther history and falsely claimed the Republican presidential candidate “moved on” from his conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the U.S. After CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asked if Trump believes Obama is a citizen, Lewandowski said “the birth certificate has been produced. [Trump]’s moved on.” However in 2012, Trump resurrected his birther conspiracy theory during an interview with former Fox host Greta Van Susteren, claiming that “many, many people” questioned the validity of Obama’s long-form birth certificate. Lewandowski recently  revived Trump’s birther theory, asking if President Obama was admitted into Harvard University “as a U.S. citizen,” or  “as a citizen who wasn’t from this country?”      

    CNN has received criticism for paying Lewandowski to comment on the election despite his continued ties to the Trump campaign. In addition to receiving severance from the campaign, Lewandowski is also reportedly prepping Trump for the debates and traveling with the candidate to campaign stops. In an open letter to CNN president Jeff Zucker, Media Matters president Bradley Beychok has called on Zucker to publicly address questions regarding the hiring of Lewandowski or suspend him from the network. From the September 9 edition of CNN’s New Day:

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): Does Donald Trump believe that President Obama was born in Hawaii? 

    COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Look, of course, he said that. He said he's not going to talk about it. 

    CAMEROTA: No he hasn’t.

    CHRISTINE QUINN: No he has not.

    CAMEROTA: He says he hasn't talked about it. He's never said he believes that. 

    LEWANDOWSKI: He has said that Barack Obama has produced his birth certificate and he doesn't want to talk about it anymore. That's what he said. 

    CAMEROTA: Why doesn't he say, I apologize for saying that he was not an American? 

    LEWANDOWSKI: No, he asked a question. He said, produce your birth certificate. The birth certificate has been produced. He's moved on. 

    QUINN: But that doesn’t mean he accepts the birth certificate.

    […]

    CAMOERTA: Let me play for you what he told Bill O'Reilly, who brought it up, OK? Bill O’Reilly, not just Democrats. Fox News is bringing it up because Donald Trump is so unresolved on this issue. Let me play this for you.

    QUINN: He never said he was born in Hawaii.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    BILL O’REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African-Americans?

    DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even talk about it anymore, Bill.

    O’REILLY: No, I know.

    TRUMP: Because I just don’t want to talk about it.

    O’REILLY: But it’s there. It’s on the record.

    TRUMP: I don’t know. I guess with maybe some. I don’t know why. I really don’t know why.

    [END VIDEO]

    CAMEROTA: That’s all he says, I don’t talk about it anymore, I don’t know why. I don’t talk about it anymore. He never says I now think I was wrong.

    […]

    My question is, why doesn't he say I was wrong? 

    LEWANDOWSKI: Look it's a nonissue. 

    CAMEROTA: No, it's not a nonissue. It keeps coming up everywhere. 

    LEWANDOWSKI: He's not running against Barack Obama in this campaign. If he was, he’d win. If he’s runs against Hillary Clinton, which is a third term of Barack Obama, he’s going to win . So let's talk about Hillary Clinton, who's running for president of the United States. 

    CAMEROTA: OK last word. 

    QUINN: Let’s talk about Donald Trump. He has insulted the president of the United States, spread lies about his citizenship, and insulted the first African-American president of the United States. And now that he's running for president? That does deserve an apology. And yet again, Donald Trump can't admit that he's wrong and dog-whistles out there across the country to divide us, not bring us together. 

    LEWANDOWSKI: Look, the president has attacked Donald Trump multiple occasions from the White House. If he wants to apologize to Donald Trump, I'm sure Donald Trump will. 

    CAMEROTA: He's not saying he’s not a citizen. He’s not saying he wasn’t born here.

    LEWANDOWSKI: He's said a number of egregious things, and he’s questioned his patriotism, he’s questioned a number of things about Donald Trump.

    CAMEROTA: This is in a different category.

    For information on Media Matters’ petition for CNN to cut ties with Lewandowski, please click here.

  • Fox & Friends Defends Trump's Widely Condemned Self-Congratulatory Tweet About Chicago Shooting

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after he tweeted about the shooting death of Nykea Aldridge, NBA player Dwyane Wade’s cousin, in Chicago, while other media figures from across the political spectrum criticized Trump for  “lacking empathy” and “politicizing tragedy.”