Despite the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States continues to make it increasingly difficult for victims of corporate wrongdoing to bring lawsuits, right-wing media still advance the myth that the court system is in desperate need of "tort reform."
The idea that American plaintiffs are an overly litigious bunch that take advantage of the federal courts with meritless claims that contribute to grievous economic costs is a common stereotype that is often repeated by the conservative media. It also isn't really true. But that didn't stop The American Spectator from repeating that idea in the September 2013 issue:
AMERICAN LAW, AND especially its rules of civil procedure, seem to take it for granted that one of life's chief joys is the opportunity to sue someone else. Getting to court in other first-world countries isn't easy, but broad is the way to the American courthouse.
The right to have civil cases adjudged by a jury is afforded constitutional protection in the U.S. Elsewhere, civil juries never got off the ground or were abolished as a sensible reform measure.
Class actions, where lawyers bring a claim on behalf of thousands or millions of unnamed plaintiffs (who seldom see any part of the recovery) are rare outside the U.S.
It's not surprising that litigation rates are so much higher here than elsewhere. Subsidize something and you get more of it. Differences in legal ethics matter. In America, much more than elsewhere, lawyers are encouraged to advance their client's interests without regard to the interests of justice in the particular case or broader social concerns. American lawyers' professional culture is unique in permitting and implicitly encouraging them to assert novel theories of recovery, coach witnesses, and wear down their opponents through burdensome pretrial discovery. Great stuff if you're a trial lawyer, but non-lawyers pay for this through higher consumer prices and foregone jobs.
The Spectator claims that the fear of litigation keeps international companies from investing in the American economy. However, it fails to mention that, according to the nonpartisan Center for Justice & Democracy, tort claims (personal injury claims) "represent only 5% of all incoming civil cases today." Moreover, the court system already has rules in place to block frivolous lawsuits from proceeding.
Right-wing media have mischaracterized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that requires certain preventive health care services be included in employer-provided health insurance at no cost as a violation of the religious freedoms of corporations who object to contraception. In reality, this mandate, currently before the Supreme Court, accommodates religious employers' First Amendment rights without allowing secular, for-profit corporations to skirt federal law, and there is no legal precedent that gives corporations the right to exercise religious freedom.
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
After President Obama's re-election, conservative media figures attacked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for his praise of the president's leadership following Hurricane Sandy. Their attacks followed News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch's pre-election statement that Christie would be to blame if Obama won the election.
Question: If the snap polls, along with the pundit consensus, had indicated Mitt Romney had won Tuesday's debate, would anyone on Fox News have cared what moderator Candy Crowley said while the two candidates discussed last month's terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya?
The hysterical, and at times deeply disturbing, reaction to Crowley's moderator role only erupted as way to explain away Romney's poor showing. Angry that Romney's weak performance might hurt his November chances, conservatives lashed out at the nearest target, Crowley. ("Shut your big fat mouth, Candy.")
But conservatives didn't simply condemn Crowley's performance as a journalist. ("Disgraceful"!) They spent the week turning her into a mythical figure of liberal destruction; a potentially violent agent (a "suicide bomber") sent by Obama to dismantle the Republican campaign for the presidency. In doing so, unglued commentators attached Crowley to a sweeping campaign conspiracy.
Is criticizing a debate moderator out of bounds? Of course not. Media Matters found fault with Jim Lehrer's performance at the first presidential debate this year. Is it completely insane to denounce a moderator by likening him or her to a political killer?
Despite a long history of scapegoating lower-income families and those in need, media conservatives continuously attack President Obama's proposals by shouting "class warfare." In fact, the majority of Americans support reforms that would address systematic inequality.
The conservative media is divided on anonymous sources: Some right-wing media figures have been hyping a claim by an anonymous source that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is "likely involved with the sexual harassment" allegations against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. At the same time, however, other conservative media figures have tried to cast doubt on the sexual harassment allegations against Cain by pointing out that they are based on anonymous sources.
A New York Times/Bay Citizen article cherry-picked statistics from a Brookings Institution report and reportedly misrepresented interviews to call the goal of creating 5 million green jobs in 10 years a "pipe dream." Conservative media have seized upon the Times article to claim that "even" the "left" agrees that investment in green jobs is a "a waste of money and time."
Right-wing media figures have recently promoted a study co-written by David Yerushalmi claiming in part that more than 80 percent of U.S. mosques feature texts that promote or support violence. However, as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has noted, Yerushalmi has "a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry."
Perhaps the reason most successful comics are liberals is because the right-wing media have repeatedly proven that they can't take -- or properly make -- a joke. They proved this point in the aftermath of President Obama's remarks on border security in El Paso, TX, yesterday, when he joked at Republicans' expense, stating that "they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol. Or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That's politics."
Unable to take the joke, right-wing media attacked Obama over the comment.
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade discussed Obama's comment during the May 11 broadcast of the show. After airing a clip of the president's moat remarks, he stated, "I guess you're allowed" to mock Republicans. Co-host Steve Doocy responded to this by interjecting, "He's campaigning." Kilmeade went on to criticize Obama's steps toward immigration reform. On-screen text during the segment read, "Obama's Partisan Attack."
The right-wing media is grasping for coherence in its attempts to portray military action in Libya as "Obama's Iraq."
Betsy McCaughey -- best known for repeatedly misleading about health care reform -- made numerous false or misleading claims in order to attack the effectiveness of the stimulus bill.
It's more than a month until Election Day, but it seems conservatives are already scraping the bottom of the barrel for baseless attacks on Democratic Delaware Senate candidate Chris Coons.
First up is Jeffrey Lord of The American Spectator. Lord -- who we last saw trying to parse whether Shirley Sherrod was "lying" about a relative being lynched because only two people were involved in the act, a position so ridiculous that even his fellow Spectator writers wouldn't back him up -- attacked Coons' work as a college student with the South African Council of Churches. Why? Because Coons was "emerging as a leftist," and thus "decided he had some sort of obvious attraction to the work of SACC," which "support[ed] Black Liberation Theology." Things get tangential from here, as Lord plays Six Degrees of Black Liberation Theology (with a brief stop at Rev. Jeremiah Wright) to depict the SACC has having "pro-Marxist, pro-socialist, anti-capitalist views." Lord proclaimed, "Now, the liberation theology chickens that Chris Coons was supporting in Africa have come home to roost in America."
Lord overlooks a few things. Like: What is the one thing people think of when they think of South Africa in the 1980s? Apartheid. And what was one of the leading groups fighting apartheid in that country? The South African Council of Churches. Bishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent anti-apartheid leader and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a former secretary-general of SACC, and Nelson Mandela praised the group as being among those who "resisted racial bigotry and held out a vision of a different, transformed South Africa."
Isn't it more logical that Coons was attracted to working for the SACC over its anti-apartheid stance? Yep. Does Lord make that connection? Nope -- he's too invested in his convoluted conspiracy theory.
Jeffrey Lord is now defending himself in the comments section of fellow American Spectator writer James Antle's post criticizing Lord's comments about Shirley Sherrod and the lynching of Bobby Hall.
The results are not pretty.
Lord is now claiming -- and this is not a joke -- that he never personally claimed that Bobby Hall was not lynched, that he just pointed out that the Supreme Court supposedly said he hadn't been lynched.
Lord, responding to Antle's criticism of his argument:
I confess I am continually astonished at the notion that the lynching standards are MY standards. I simply said what the Court said ... the color of law business comes straight from the decision, written by William O. Douglas and signed onto by Hugo Black, Stanley Reed, Chief Justice Stone. Wiley Rutledge later made the fifth vote.
Lord, in his original piece:
Plain as day, Ms. Sherrod says that Bobby Hall, a Sherrod relative, was lynched. As she puts it, describing the actions of the 1940s-era Sheriff Claude Screws: "Claude Screws lynched a black man."
This is not true. It did not happen.
More comparisons of Lord's latest defense with his prior comments below the fold.
From a July 27 post at The American Spectator by associate editor W. James Antle:
For a variety of reasons I have not wanted to pile on, not least being my respect for Jeff personally and for his fine work. But I am afraid his latest post is wildly unpersuasive, to put it mildly.
By the standard Jeff is employing here, Emmett Till was not lynched because he was murdered by only two men and he was not hanged. Nothing was hung around Till's neck until his murderers wanted to weigh down his dead body after dumping it in a river. (Though I realize we've gone from implying that a lynching must be by noose to quibbling about the number of people it takes to form a proper lynch mob.)
Similarly, according to this idiosyncratic definition James Byrd was not lynched because he was murdered by three men and dragged to his death while chained to the back of a pick-up truck. Both of these high-profile, racially motivated, 20th-century murders are widely and popularly described as lynchings. Shirley Sherrod said her fair share of crazy things in her full, unedited speech but I think most people would regard her use of the word "lynch" as reasonable.
Even if we adhere to Jeff's precise requirements for what constitutes a lynching, I cannot fathom how nit-picking over the proper terminology to describe the brutal beating death of a black man strikes a blow against the New Black Panther Party, the federal lawsuit against Arizona, and all the assorted misdeeds of the left mentioned in his post. Instead it is a distraction that will leave most people bewildered if not offended and an argument that does not meet Jeff's normally high standards.