Just moments after claiming to "understand the torture" experienced by transgender people, Fox News' Megyn Kelly mocked a transgender inmate's attempt to acquire medically necessary gender reassignment treatment while in prison.
During the April 4 edition of America Live, Kelly hosted Fox News legal analyst Mercedes Colwin and former prosecutor Tom Kenniff to discuss a Massachusetts transgender inmate who has successfully sued the state in order to acquire gender reassignment surgery while in prison.
Throughout the segment, Kelly and Kenniff repeatedly and inaccurately referred to the inmate, Michelle Kosilek, as a male, suggesting that taxpayers shouldn't be required to cover the costs of her "elective" surgery:
KELLY: I understand the torture of gender identity disorder, the torture that that is for somebody. But a convicted murderer who strangled his wife so badly she was almost decapitated, should they really be getting that operation the taxpayer's dime?
When Colwin suggested that Kosilek should be housed with other female inmates, Kelly mocked the idea of giving Kosilek a "get out of male prison free card":
COLWIN: He's been in prison with men. Now he's anatomically female, he should be able to put in the women's detention centers, and you don't need the -
KELLY: Really? Now you get a get out of male prison free card, Tom, if you can get a sex change operation funded by the taxpayers?
Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt attacked a program that would help people seeking health insurance understand the new health care reform law, baselessly suggesting that "unions and community advocacy groups" might use the program to steal patients' personal information -- even though Stirewalt admitted that "there's no evidence" Fox's claims were true.
On April 3, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations for health care navigators, assistants who would provide "unbiased information" to help consumers understand the new health care law and enroll in insurance plans, as a post on Health Affairs Blog noted.
Kelly, appearing to echo a Washington Examiner post, led a segment on the April 4 edition of America Live by describing navigators' roles and then saying, "But now some are raising red flags, saying the rules allow these jobs of the navigators to be filled by organizations with political agendas, including unions and community action groups."
Kelly failed to explain why allowing union members to become navigators would be problematic, and the words "union" and "community action" do not appear in the proposed rules.
In fact, while the rules do include standards on who can apply for navigator jobs, these standards center on conflict-of-interest problems: since navigators will be required to provide unbiased information about insurance plans, the rules prohibit health insurance issuers or their lobbyists from becoming navigators.
Fox News' Eric Bolling doubled down on his praise of former Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice, who was fired for physically and verbally abusing players, saying, "The best coaches are coaches like that."
Appearing on the April 4 edition of Fox News' America Live, Bolling claimed that Rice's dismissal is symptomatic of the "wussification" of American men, echoing a similar statement he made while co-hosting The Five the previous day.
Rice was fired after ESPN's Outside The Lines broadcast a video of a Rutgers basketball practice in which Rice is seen throwing basketballs at his players' heads, kicking players, and shouting homophobic slurs, among other abuses. Rice's behavior was sharply criticized by everyone from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to NBA stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Rice was critical of his own behavior, saying, "There's no explanation for what's on those films. Because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong."
Some of Fox News' most prominent personalities have taken a different approach to evaluating Rice's coaching tactics. Sean Hannity joined Bolling's defense of Rice, claiming the coach was just "trying to bring the best out of" his team.
From the April 4 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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After promoting anecdotes from a firefighter to claim that polar bears are "doing just fine," Fox News has ignored new research that confirms they are still existentially threatened by climate change. This divide in coverage is illustrative of what University of Alberta scientist Dr. Ian Stirling called a "new element" of media -- "the deliberately misleading, and sometimes downright dishonest, treatment of the science around polar bears when it relates to climate warming." In conversations with Media Matters, Stirling and other leading polar bear scientists outlined eight tips for media outlets seeking to accurately cover the plight of the polar bears.
In February, Fox News repeatedly promoted a book by firefighter Zac Unger on his time in Churchill, Manitoba to claim that "the polar bears are doing just fine." Even though bears in that region are actually among the subpopulations in decline, Fox News suggested that the book undermined climate science. Dr. Andrew Derocher, a scientific advisor to Polar Bears International, called that premise "flawed" and told Media Matters that "scientific literature shows very clearly the loss of sea ice in the satellite record and the projections (many many scientific papers) show that the future will be particularly challenging for polar bears as the sea ice disappears." He added, "I've worked on polar bears for 30 years and the changes are incredibly easy to see but as scientists, we don't just look at bears, we measure them and analyze the data."
Stirling criticized Unger for "a very sad piece of deliberately misleading and dishonest writing" that "tells only parts of the story that suit him." Similarly, Derocher said it was "unfortunate" when "someone who clearly doesn't understand a subject well botches up the science." Furthermore, media should not rely on anecdotal information when there is "a lot of data" on sea ice and polar bear body condition. He added:
The book you mentioned was written by someone who spent a few months in 1 place with his family talking to people. What I did on my last trip to Kentucky doesn't qualify me to rewrite the history [of] the eastern US. I've worked on polar bears for 30 years. Many of my colleagues for even longer. You don't go to a plumber for heart surgery but when it comes to polar bears "everybody is an expert". In science, an expert has to demonstrate expertise. Hanging around in Churchill for a few months talking to the locals doesn't qualify as an expert. Our last paper on polar bears in Conservation Letters had something like 200 years of cumulative polar bear expertise. How it can be that media put the scientific perspective on par with a casual observer is beyond me.
In fact, some reports that rely on polar bear sightings to conclude they are doing "fine" may be unwittingly underscoring the urgency of sea ice melt. As lost habitat drives bears from their hunting grounds, they sometimes wander into towns and garbage dumps. This may lead to more contact with humans, and an overall impression that polar bears are abundant, even to the point of being a nuisance. In fact, as Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, a former polar bear project leader at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), told Media Matters, a bear sighting in a new place "probably means the bears are having a hard time making a living where they used to make a living."
Unger promoted the popular media claim that polar bear populations have increased -- or are even "exploding" -- since the 1960s or 1970s, but those reports omit necessary context. Many of the starting-point estimates are based on a Russian calculation from the 1950s -- 5,000-8,000 bears -- that has never been broadly accepted by scientists. Amstrup told Media Matters that "we really don't know how many polar bears there were in the 60s [or 70s]" and it is "important to set the record straight." In 2008, Stirling told then-CNN Executive Producer for Science Peter Dykstra that the estimate was "almost certainly much too low."
In some places, thanks to conservation efforts like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and a subsequent international agreement, it does appear that polar bear populations have increased. According to Amstrup, Alaskan populations are a good example of such managed recovery. But in other areas, such as western Hudson Bay and the southern Beaufort Sea, populations are thought to be declining. And as Derocher pointed out, conservation biology is concerned with the future, normally examining issues three generations down the road. By this measure, polar bears are indeed in trouble, and looking back to the 1960s or 70s makes no sense:
What climate deniers like to pull out is that there are more polar bears now than in the 1960s. That doesn't matter and just because we've corrected excessive harvest rates (commercial hunting for example) in the 1960s doesn't make this argument any more relevant to the conservation of the species today moving forward in time.
Amstrup echoed this point, saying "the population on the Titanic was doing just fine until just before it slipped beneath the waves." Overall, the USGS has projected that changes in Arctic ice conditions could result in "loss of approximately 2/3 of the world's current polar bear population by the mid 21st century."
From the April 2 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News' on-screen text misleadingly identified Rev. Luis Leon as the "Obama pastor" after President Obama attended worship services at Leon's St. John's Church, contradicting Fox's own reporting. The Fox text echoed other right-wing media attempts to attack the president for attending a sermon that referenced political issues, even while Fox News host Megyn Kelly admitted dozens of presidents have attended Leon's services.
Obama and his family attended Easter Sunday services at St. John's Church, known as "The Church of the Presidents." According to church history, every president since James Monroe has attended worship services at the church, which even has a "Presidential Pew" reserved for the president's use when he's attending. The Obamas are not members of the church.
During this year's Easter sermon, St. John's Reverend Luis Leon touched on politics and "the religious right," prompting Fox's Megyn Kelly to host a debate on the appropriateness of Leon's comments. Kelly acknowledged that dozens of presidents have attended St. John's services and noted that Rev. Leon previously delivered the invocations at the second inaugurations of both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.
But even as Kelly spoke, text aired on screen dismissed her words and deemed Rev. Leon to be the "Obama Pastor":
Fox's text echoes the trumped-up relationship also pushed by Fox Nation and other right-wing media.
From the April 1 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News host Megyn Kelly defended Johns Hopkins University neurosurgery professor and right-wing media darling Ben Carson's statement linking marriage equality to bestiality by claiming that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor made similar comments during oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case, ignoring the broader context of the exchange.
From the March 29 edition of America Live, Kelly said:
But [Carson] is not alone in making comparisons to groups. I mean, when you say, who outside of a man and woman would want to be together? There's not a long list. You struggle to sort of find a group outside of gays and lesbians, and even Justice Sotomayor on the Supreme Court this week, Dan, was asking about would it open the door to polygamy, to incest being allowed. Now gays have gotten very upset before when people compare gay marriage to incestual relationships or polygamist marriages. So did he do something so far afield from what Justice Sotomayor, a Barack Obama appointee on the bench, did in open court this week?
Kelly was referring to an interchange between Justice Sotomayor and counsel for same-sex couples challenging Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, during oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry on March 26. Kelly's attempt to tie Carson's degrading statement to Justice Sotomayor is misleading. In fact, Justice Sotomayor challenged Proposition 8 supporters' positions.
For example, she asked Charles Cooper, counsel for the Proposition 8 proponents, whether he could name any reason - outside of marriage - "for a State using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens on them." When Cooper relied that he could not, Sotomayor followed up:
All right. If that -- if that is true, then why aren't they a class? If they're a class that makes any other discrimination improper, irrational, then why aren't we treating them as a class for this one thing? Are you saying that the interest of marriage is so much more compelling than any other interest as they could have?
In spite of this, Kelly seized upon an exchange between Justice Sotomayor asked Ted Olson, counsel for the plaintiffs, to imply that the Justice, who was appointed by President Obama, shares Carson's opinion that marriage equality could be a "slippery slope" to a parade of horribles:
SOTOMAYOR: Mr. Olson, the bottom line that you're being asked -- and -- and it is one that I'm interested in the answer: If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what State restrictions could ever exist? Meaning, what State restrictions with respect to the number of people, with respect to - that could get married -- the incest laws, the mother and child, assuming that they are the age -- I can -- I can accept that the State has probably an overbearing interest on -- on protecting a child until they're of age to marry, but what's left?
OLSON: Well, you've said -- you've said in the cases decided by this Court that the polygamy issue, multiple marriages raises questions about exploitation, abuse, patriarchy, issues with respect to taxes, inheritance, child custody, it is an entirely different thing. And if you -- if a State prohibits polygamy, it's prohibiting conduct. If it prohibits gay and lesbian citizens from getting married, it is prohibiting their exercise of a right based upon their status. [[It's selecting them as a class, as you described in the Romer case and as you described in the Lawrence case and in other cases, you're picking out a group of individuals to deny them the freedom that you've said is fundamental, important and vital in this society, and it has status and stature, as you pointed out in the VMI case. There's a -- there's a different - (TR p. 47)
Justice Sotomayor did not challenge him further.
Kelly also failed to acknowledge that Justice Sotomayor was not the one who introduced this line of questioning to the Proposition 8 litigation. Proponents of Proposition 8 included it in their defense of the law:
Extending marriage to same-sex couples could increase the social acceptability of other alternative forms of intimate relationships, such as polygamy or polyamory."
Extending marriages to same-sex couples would increase the likelihood that the recognition as marriages of other alternative forms of intimate relationships, such as polyamory or polygamy, will become a judicially enforceable legal entitlement.
The proponents' Supreme Court brief warned that marriage equality could erode the meaning of marriage, and that "[t]he process of deinstitutionalization could even culminate .... in 'the fading away of marriage,' to the point that it becomes 'just one of many kinds of interpersonal romantic relationships.'
The parties who supported Proposition 8 as amici curiae explicitly warned of a slippery slope to polygamy:
The Conference of Catholic Bishops' brief stated:
Though no party to this litigation argues that multiple friendships and polygamous relationships constitute marriage, it is not evident why they would not also qualify as "marriages" under the Ninth Circuit's novel test. Moreover, if the meaning of marriage is so malleable and indeterminate as to embrace all "lifelong and committed" relationships, then marriage simply collapses as a coherent legal category.
And a brief filed on behalf of 19 states argued:
Once the natural limits that inhere in the relationship between a man and a woman can no longer sustain the definition of marriage, the conclusion that follows is that any grouping of adults would have an equal claim to marriage. See, e.g., Jonathan Turley, One Big, Happy Polygamous Family, NY Times, July 21, 2011 at A27.
Proposition 8 supporters also raised the specter of polygamy in their campaign to pass the constitutional amendment in 2010.
Early in the Supreme Court arguments, Cooper asserted that marriage equality would "redefin[e]" marriage and result in harm.
Further, Justice Antonin Scalia has repeatedly raised this argument to support his position that the Constitution does not bar discrimination against LGBT people or even protect them from being imprisoned for their relationships - which he could use to persuade justices with a less firm position on the case. The justices will consider all of the arguments put forth and the responses to them.
For example, in his dissenting opinion in Romer v. Evans, in which the Court struck down Colorado's law barring legislative, executive, or judicial action that protects persons based on "homosexual, lesbian, or bixexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships," Scalia wrote (emphasis added):
First, as to its eminent reasonableness. The Court's opinion contains grim, disapproving hints that Coloradans have been guilty of "animus" or "animosity" toward homosexuality, as though that has been established as Unamerican. Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings. But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible--murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals--and could exhibit even "animus" toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of "animus" at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct, the same sort of moral disapproval that produced the centuries old criminal laws that we held constitutional in Bowers.
But there is a much closer analogy, one that involves precisely the effort by the majority of citizens to preserve its view of sexual morality statewide, against the efforts of a geographically concentrated and politically powerful minority to undermine it. The constitutions of the States of Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah to this day contain provisions stating that polygamy is "forever prohibited." See Ariz. Const., Art. XX, par. 2; Idaho Const., Art. I, §4; N. M. Const., Art. XXI, §1; Okla. Const., Art. I, §2; Utah Const., Art. III, §1. Polygamists, and those who have a polygamous "orientation," have been "singled out" by these provisions for much more severe treatment than merely denial of favored status; and that treatment can only be changed by achieving amendment of the state constitutions. The Court's disposition today suggests that these provisions are unconstitutional, and that polygamy must be permitted in these States on a state legislated, or perhaps even local option, basis--unless, of course, polygamists for some reason have fewer constitutional rights than homosexuals.
The Court's stern disapproval of "animosity" towards homosexuality might be compared with what an earlier Court (including the revered Justices Harlan and Bradley) said in Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15 (1885), rejecting a constitutional challenge to a United States statute that denied the franchise in federal territories to those who engaged in polygamous cohabitation.
Scalia again parroted the right-wing parade of horribles message in his dissent from the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, in which the Court struck down a criminal ban on consensual intimate sexual conduct:
State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision;
The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are "immoral and unacceptable," Bowers, supra, at 196-the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity.
Scalia has not restricted this rhetoric to his legal writings. In a December 2012 appearance at Princeton University, a student asked Scalia to defend the language in his Romer and Lawrence dissents. Scalia responded "if we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?" In defending his statement, Scalia denied that he was comparing homosexuality to murder. He further stated:
I don't apologize for the things I raised. I'm not comparing homosexuality to murder. I'm comparing the principle that a society may not adopt moral sanctions, moral views, against certain conduct. I'm comparing that with respect to murder and that with respect to homosexuality.
Seen in the context of a nearly two-hour oral argument with a long trial record and dozens of amicus briefs, it is unreasonable to suggest that Justice Sotomayor's question demonstrates that she agrees with Carson.
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Conservative media are again using a European financial crisis to stoke fears about the U.S. economy.
According to many right-wing media figures, the Cypriot government's plan to tax private bank accounts to avert a fiscal disaster provides a dire warning for the U.S. Many have speculated or outright claimed that the same could happen here unless the so-called "debt crisis" is averted
Of course, fears of heavy taxation on private bank accounts occurring in the U.S. are largely unfounded, with many experts noting the comparison between the two countries is ill-conceived. But the facts rarely matter for right-wing media when it comes to exploiting a European crisis.
Fox News is continuing their effort to rebut a TV ad calling for stronger gun laws by falsely claiming it shows a man pointing a gun at children.
Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt criticized a recent ad produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns that features a man with a shotgun calling for expanding the background check system, claiming that the man had the gun "sort of pointing back at the kids" who are playing behind him. Laughing, Stirewalt claimed that this allegedly unsafe behavior was "too hilarious" given that the ad's title is "Responsibility," adding, "I don't think too many Arkansans will be convinced that these people know what they are talking about."
In fact, as video from the ad Fox aired during the segment makes clear, the man in the ad is not pointing his shotgun in the direction of the children.
Stirewalt also joined several other conservative media figures in falsely claiming that the man in the ad had "his finger on the trigger" in an unsafe manner. But as Media Matters has documented, this is a false claim that critics are making based on a misunderstanding of where the trigger is on the firearm.
From the March 25 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Frequent Fox News guest Lars Larson made the spurious claims that a recently enacted New York gun law forces siblings to run background checks on each other when transferring weapons and would allow a mental health professional to report patients who they "don't trust" to prohibit them from purchasing a gun.
In fact, the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (SAFE) expands background checks to private firearm sales but exempts immediate family members from performing checks. The legislation also requires mental health professionals to report individuals "likely to engage in conduct that could seriously harm the patient him/herself or others" to the authorities so that the patient's information can be crosschecked with gun ownership databases. It does not, however, prohibit individuals from owning a firearm because of a mental health provider's vague suspicions.
Larson made incorrect statements about the SAFE Act on the March 22 edition of America Live on Fox News:
Larson falsely claimed that SAFE would give mental health professionals the ability to report patients that they simply "don't trust" and suggested that the legislation could be broadened prohibit gun ownership for veterans with "mild PTSD."
While the SAFE Act does create a new reporting requirement for mental health professionals, Larson greatly exaggerated its scope. The legislative memo that accompanied SAFE explained that the law creates a reporting requirement for patients likely to harm themselves or others and extends outpatient mental health treatment for individuals discharged from Office of Mental Hygiene hospitals:
From the March 20 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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