After 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Iranian leaders attempting to undercut President Obama's negotiations with that country, conservative media figures have defended the widely criticized move by pointing to a 2007 Syrian meeting then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had with President Bashar al-Assad. But as MSNBC.com's Steve Benen noted, "the parallels to this new scandal are tenuous, at best."
While the Bush White House strongly opposed the trip, Pelosi was accompanied at the meeting by a Republican congressman and Bush State Department officials. She informed the White House and State Department of her trip, and foreign policy experts said that her visit didn't stray from a "typical" congressional visit. Three Republican congressmen also met with Assad prior to her visit.
47 Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), signed a March 9 letter telling Iranian officials that any nuclear agreement would face scrutiny from the Republican-led Senate and could be undone by a future president. The letter drew criticism from the White House, diplomacy experts, and even some Republicans.
Conservatives have attempted to rebut criticism by drawing a direct parallel to an April 4, 2007, meeting Pelosi had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For example:
Conservative media attacked House Republicans for dropping plans to vote on a bill that included a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and attacked the female members, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), who objected to the bill.
Right-wing media mourned Rep. John Boehner's (R-OH) re-election to a third term as House Speaker by comparing his opponents to the American revolutionaries, the hero David from the biblical story of David and Goliath, and lobbing accusations of election rigging.
Right-wing media are using the Paris terrorist attack to falsely claim Hillary Clinton has encouraged empathizing with terrorists like the ones who carried out the attack. But conservatives' attacks on Clinton are badly distorting remarks she made during a December speech in which she emphasized the value of understanding one's enemy, and she has repeatedly stated her opposition to negotiating with violent ideological groups.
Right-wing media quickly offered Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) glowing praise and endorsements after they announced plans to challenge Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for the Speaker of the House position.
Right-wing media lobbed harsh criticism and conspiracy theories at Jeb Bush in response to his decision to "actively explore" a 2016 presidential bid, even urging more conservative Republicans to run against him.
Responding to the decision by a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of un-armed African-American teenager Michael Brown, President Obama spoke to both the anger and frustration that has manifested in Ferguson and around the country, as well as a larger American context, saying, "there are still problems and communities of color aren't just making these problems up."
Despite the conservative media narrative that racism against minorities is a thing of the past, race, racism, and inherent biases on all sides are a part of what's happening in Ferguson and communities across America -- as are systemic and institutional factors spanning several generations, from the Watts riots in 1965 to the riots in various cities in 1967 and '68, to Los Angeles in 1992. While an inciting incident -- usually involving the police and communities of color -- sparked the violence, a tinderbox of underlying frustrations awaited that spark.
After each of these incidents, reports issued by government commissions seeking answers cited hauntingly identical findings. Police brutality, poor relations between the police and the community, a sense of hopelessness fueled by a lack of jobs, economic inequality, inadequate schools, discriminatory housing practices, an unresponsive political system many felt shut out of, along with policies that created segregated neighborhoods which further isolate communities of color were highlighted again and again. Again and again the recommendations included expanding community policing strategies and social programs, making them more consistent with the extent of the problems.
Not surprisingly, similar frustrations have been expressed in Ferguson and from activists in other cities. One Ferguson man told the New York Times that the killing of Brown "broke the camel's back," He added that "the people in North County [the northern part of St. Louis County] -- not just African Americans, some of the white people too -- they are tired of the police harassment." While violence is an unacceptable response to the underlying frustrations, understanding the deeper issues play a role in preventing it in the future and moving forward.
Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King eloquently put these issues into context, providing insight into why the shooting of an unarmed young black man by a white police officer can be such a potent catalyst.
It reminds many of the way in which authority is exercised, especially in communities where the central relationship between blacks and whites is the police.
In places like Ferguson, police represent white authority. Authority empowered to enter the community backed by the extralegal support of white sentiment. Authority whose word is taken against the word of an accused African American. Authority that not only arrests, but punishes, too.
Too much of the media coverage hasn't examined these larger issues about the sources of anger, frustration, and why history continues to repeat.
Conservative media has been working overtime to deny their very existence, dismissing their relevance by accusing anyone who raises them as making trouble, "race-baiting", or being a "race hustler". As usual, a core message in the narrative is that it's all Obama's fault.
Right-wing media's outrage over President Obama's upcoming speech outlining plans to improve enforcement of the immigration system included accusations that Obama is engaging in "home-grown tyranny," calls for his impeachment, and even a Hitler comparison.
Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro accused the Supreme Court of engaging in judicial activism in order to promote marriage equality and gay rights, suggesting that the Court wrongly struck down laws criminalizing "anal penetration" in its 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas.
In an October 6 article for Breitbart.com, Shapiro condemned the Supreme Court's refusal to take on the appeal of several cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. He suggested that the Court's refusal encourages "low-level courts to continue knocking down traditional marriage laws across the country."
Shapiro compared the Supreme Court's handling of marriage equality to its handling of state laws criminalizing gay sex, including its 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state anti-sodomy laws across the country:
The Court clearly wants to wait until a majority of states have been forced to embrace same-sex marriage by lower-level appeals courts. Then they can determine that a "trend-line" has been established, suggest that society has "evolved," and declare that a new standard must be enshrined. That, of course, was the logic of Lawrence v. Texas (2003), in which the Court waited 17 years to overrule Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), stating that anal penetration was a hard-fought Constitutional right; the Court in that case stated that Bowers no longer applied because of "an emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex." Justice Scalia rightly pointed out that the Court's statement was false - the state, he explained, still regulates "prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity, and child pornography." And Scalia also pointed out that "Constitutional entitlements do not spring into existence because some States choose to lessen or eliminate criminal sanctions on certain behavior." [emphasis added]
Right-wing media are using President Obama's plan to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as another opportunity to attack him. Conservatives are calling the president a "hypocrite" because he's sending "more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS"; labeling the plan "arrogant" because of problems with HealthCare.gov; and accusing him of trying to "change the subject" by "fighting a really bad flu bug."
The White House announced on September 16 that the United States would send 3,000 troops to Africa to help combat the Ebola threat. The U.S. military and broader uniformed services effort will "entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support."
President Obama said in a speech that "[m]ore than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died -- and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that ... In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before. It's spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It's spreading faster and exponentially. Today, thousands of people in West Africa are infected. That number could rapidly grow to tens of thousands. And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic."
Conservatives responded to the plan by mocking the president and his policies:
In response to the protests following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the right-wing media have unleashed an array of race-baiting tropes. From "lynch mobs" to "race pimps," here are some of the worst examples.
In the wake of the tragic shooting death of unarmed Missouri teenager Michael Brown, right-wing media outlets attacked President Obama's uncontroversial statement of condolences and suggested the president was to blame for the state of race relations in the United States.
From the July 10 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
For years, conservative media figures have attacked marriage equality by citing "religious liberty" concerns, baselessly warning that churches might be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will. But a new lawsuit in North Carolina challenges the right-wing media's commitment to religious freedom when it's not being used as an excuse for anti-gay discrimination.
On April 28, the United Church of Christ (UCC), a progressive Protestant denomination that supports marriage equality, filed suit in Federal District Court challenging North Carolina's ban on clergy blessings of same-sex unions. Under the state's 2012 same-sex marriage ban, it's a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 45 days in jail, to perform a ceremony for any couple lacking a valid marriage license. The UCC argues that the ban infringes on clergy members' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion:
"We didn't bring this lawsuit to make others conform to our beliefs, but to vindicate the right of all faiths to freely exercise their religious practices," said Donald C. Clark Jr., general counsel of the United Church of Christ.
The lawsuit represents the inverse of a long-standing (and entirely baseless) conservative horror story about marriage equality - that churches will be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will.
This myth has been perpetuated by conservative media personalities like Fox's Todd Starnes, who in 2012 warned that a Kansas non-discrimination ordinance "would force churches to host gay weddings":
When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Breitbart News' Ben Shapiro claimed that churches would lose their tax exempt status if they failed to perform same-sex weddings. Fox contributor Erick Erickson has gone so far as to claim "gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible." And Fox News' longstanding campaign to depict marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws as burdens on religious liberty inspired a rash of so-called "religious freedom" bills across the country earlier this year.
Given social conservatives' self-appointed role as guardians of religious freedom, the North Carolina case would seem ripe for their attention.
But now that religious liberty is being invoked to oppose a gay marriage ban, will right-wing media rush to tout the cause of a pro-equality church?
Conservatives who rushed to defend "religious liberty" legislation like Arizona SB 1062 have so far been silent on the case. The New York Times' Ross Douthat, who penned a column supporting Arizona's bill on religious liberty grounds, has yet to comment on the UCC case on his blog. A TV Eyes search shows that Fox News - which regularly features segments titled "The Fight for Faith" - hasn't taken up the UCC's mantle. The same goes for anti-gay conservatives like Starnes, Shapiro, and Erickson.
While civil marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples would have no bearing on churches' doctrines and practices, laws like North Carolina's actively restrict religious denominations' right to freely exercise their faith. If serving a cake to a same-sex couple constitutes an unconscionable violation of religious liberty, then surely a law telling churches which unions they can and can't bless does. But the right's crusade against LGBT equality has almost nothing to do with genuine, intellectually consistent support for religious liberty, and everything to do with keeping discrimination enshrined in law.
Too often in conservative media, religious liberty becomes a shield to deflect accusations of bigotry, even while justifying blatant anti-LGBT discrimination. UCC's lawsuit, and conservative media's interest in taking it up as a cause célèbre, will test whether the right's interest in religious liberty is anything more than a shallow excuse for homophobia.
Equality Matters searched TV Eyes for the terms "gay," "United Church of Christ," and "North Carolina" for Fox's programming on April 28 and the morning of April 29, 2014.
Photo via Flickr.com user Sarah Cartwright