On Wednesday, Chicago Tribune reporter Heidi Stevens wrote a story critical of President Obama for purportedly calling Solicitor General Elena Kagan a "trailblazing lady" in announcing her nomination to the Supreme Court:
In announcing his Supreme Court pick Monday, President Barack Obama called Kagan a "trailblazing lady." Come again?
"I don't think it was a good choice of words," says Midge Wilson, a DePaul professor who teaches psychology of women courses. " 'Lady' has a very restricted meaning — someone who conforms to certain societal expectations. It puts a woman on a pedestal and restricts her behavior to be polite and nonthreatening. An adult 'good girl.' "
In the late '60s and early '70s, Wilson says, feminists worked to effectively replace the word with "woman."
" 'Woman' is a word of empowerment. 'Lady' is a sissified word — like a ladies' tea club."
It could have been worse, of course. He could have called her "sweetie." Still, it raised eyebrows.
There was one major problem with Stevens' article however. The entire premise -- that Obama called Kagan a "trailblazing lady" -- was false.
In fact, yesterday the Tribune was forced to add an editor's note to the piece noting that the "premise of the original story was wrong."
Editor's note: The premise of the original story was wrong. Here is the correction: A Talk story in some Wednesday editions incorrectly reported that President Barack Obama characterized Elena Kagan, his nominee for Supreme Court, as a "trailblazing lady." In fact, Obama called her a "trailblazing leader."
Additionally, the Tribune also posted the following editor's note independent of Stevens' story:
Editor's note: A story published online and in some Wednesday editions incorrectly reported that President Barack Obama had characterized Elena Kagan, his nominee for Supreme Court, as a "trailblazing lady." In fact, Obama called her a "trailblazing leader." The premise of the story --that some critics objected to his use of the word "lady" -- was incorrect.
Reporting on the Democrats' possible use of the reconciliation budget process to pass health care reform, media outlets have advanced the Republican criticism that reconciliation is "an end-run around the normal legislative process." However, the procedure has been used repeatedly by Republicans, and, as NPR has pointed out, reconciliation has been used to pass major changes to health care laws.
University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson and The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, each of whom has previously pushed conservative talking points, have recently suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate ACORN in the wake of the recently released videos exposing improper behavior at several ACORN offices. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, have suggested that an investigation of ACORN by the Justice Department will not be valid because of the group's ties to Democrats and the Obama administration.
In a September 20 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson called for an independent prosecutor to investigate ACORN by baselessly arguing that Attorney General Eric Holder was incapable of conducting a "fair-minded, independent" investigation into the organization, and that Holder "compounded these concerns" because cases against Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and the New Black Panther Party were dropped. But Lipson cited no evidence to support the claim that Holder influenced either decision.
In his forthcoming book, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge reportedly claims that politics may have played a role in the question of whether to raise the terror threat levels on the eve of the November 2004 presidential election -- echoing contemporaneous allegations made by several progressives. Media Matters for America presents a sampling -- by no means exhaustive -- of media personalities who at the time portrayed those progressives as suffering from "cynicism" and "paranoia" and obsessed with a "conspiracy theory," despite credible evidence that the Bush administration was using the War on Terror for political gain, particularly in the months before the 2004 election.
In the days leading up to Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, which began July 13, several media figures and outlets have repeated or uncritically reported Republican distortions of Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comments without providing the context for her remarks.
In my column this week I looked at the terrain of the media landscape faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans noting, in part:
...despite increased public acceptance and the passage of some basic legal protections, not only is sexual orientation still a taboo for many in the media, all too often it serves as a focal point for hate, ridicule, and misinformation.
Looking back now, I should have also noted that, in addition to the "taboo," "hate, ridicule, and misinformation," LGBT Americans regularly face something far more insidious in the media: silence.
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which are largely credited with sparking the modern LGBT civil rights movement. For those unfamiliar with this seminal moment in gay history (I don't blame you, so little attention has been paid to the event by the media) here's the gist of it from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:
[In 1969], there were not many places where people could be openly gay. New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting "gay power."
Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd. For days following, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.
In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York's LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word "gay" in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay. On the 1st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades in U.S. history took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.
Well, according to a search of TVeyes.com and Nexis, scant attention this week has been paid by the media to this historic civil rights anniversary.
CABLE NEWS: Since Monday, TVeyes.com turns up exactly four mentions of Stonewall on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business News, MSNBC and CNBC. All four mentions occurred on the June 23 broadcast of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
NETWORK NEWS (Morning Shows/Nightly News): Since Monday, TVeyes.com hasn't turned up a single mention of Stonewall on ABC's Good Morning America or World News, CBS' Early Show or Evening News, or NBC's Today Show or Nightly News. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
MAJOR NEWSPAPERS: Since Monday, a search of Nexis turns up 2 stories discussing Stonewall in any substantive way printed in America's top ten daily newspapers – USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Arizona Republic. A search of these newspapers' websites confirm the results. What exactly did these publications print about the anniversary?
USA Today: Nothing
Wall Street Journal: Nothing
New York Times: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about the lack of a national leader in the gay right's movement.
Los Angeles Times: Nothing
New York Daily News: Two good stories about the Stonewall anniversary.
Washington Post: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Chicago Tribune: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about a senior center for gay seniors.
Houston Chronicle: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Arizona Republic: Nothing
Of America's top ten daily newspapers, only the New York Daily News spent much time at all discussing the Stonewall anniversary this week – the rest either make passing reference with little context or, worse yet, print nothing at all.
So, the 40th anniversary of Stonewall has been granted one cable news segment and 2 print stories this week. Surely such an historic milestone merits more serious attention, not just from cable and network news outlets but from newspapers as well.
UPDATE: It's nice to see the AARP doing so much with its various media arms to commemorate Stonewall.
UPDATE 2: Newsweek.com has a good package up on Stonewall. Hopefully they'll follow suit with something equally substantive in the print edition.
Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
Numerous media figures have pointed to a sentence from a 2001 speech by Sonia Sotomayor to characterize her or her comments as being "racist" while ignoring the point of Sotomayor's speech, which undercuts their criticisms.
Some media figures have postulated that if a white male or a conservative had made the equivalent of Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark, they would be branded a racist, "run out of town," "properly banished from polite society," or "railroaded off the [judicial] bench."
The Los Angeles Times uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "proposes" to raise taxes on small businesses, while the Chicago Tribune reported McCain's accusation that Obama "clearly wants to" raise such taxes. In fact, as FactCheck.org wrote in response to a prior McCain claim that Obama would increase taxes on small-business owners: "[T]he overwhelming majority of those small-business owners would see no increase, because they earn too little to be affected."
Numerous print media outlets reported that Sen. Barack Obama represented the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now in the 1990s in a lawsuit, but they did not report that the Department of Justice was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit with the League of Women Voters and others. The lawsuit sought to require the state of Illinois to implement federal law on voter registration.
The Chicago Tribune uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's false assertion during the second presidential debate that Sen. Barack Obama "will fine" small business owners who don't insure employees. In fact, Obama's health care plan states that small businesses are "exempt" from its requirement that "[l]arge employers" either "offer meaningful coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees" or "contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan."
In a September 26 article, the New York Times asserted as fact that Sen. John McCain "suspend[ed] his campaign," but it did not mention that McCain campaign surrogates continued to attack Sen. Barack Obama on television, that McCain campaign ads continued to air on television, and that McCain campaign offices in various battleground states reportedly remained open.
The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva repeated Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that "the Obama-Biden Democrats have been vicious in their attacks directed toward ... my family," but gave no indication that he had challenged Republican aides to substantiate Palin's charge with examples of purported attacks. By contrast, while reporting the charge, NBC, ABC, and the AP all reported that when asked to provide examples of such attacks, Palin aides, the McCain campaign, and the RNC did not provide any.