CNN anchors grilled an Arizona anti-gay activist who refused to answer whether a measure passed by the state legislature would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers. In reality, the bill would allow businesses and individuals to refuse to serve gay customers without fear of punishment or a lawsuit.
During the February 21 edition of CNN's This Hour, co-anchors John Berman and Michaela Pereira asked Cathi Herrod - president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy Action - to explain a measure in Arizona that would protect businesses and individuals who discriminate against gay customers on religious grounds. The bill, SB 1062, which awaits Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, mirrors "anti-gay segregation" bills being considered in states like South Dakota and Idaho.
Near the end of the segment, CNN's Berman asked Herrod, whose group actively supports passage of the measure, whether the bill would allow a restaurant to ban a gay couple. Herrod repeatedly dodged the question, visibly frustrating CNN's anchors:
The bill allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. It also allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of their religion.
Opponents raised scenarios in which gay people in Arizona could be denied service at a restaurant or refused medical treatment if a business owner thought homosexuality was not in accordance with his religion. One lawmaker held up a sign that read "NO GAYS ALLOWED" in arguing what could happen if the law took effect, drawing a rebuke for violating rules that bar signs on the House floor.
CNN co-host and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is calling for Secretary of State John Kerry's resignation for comparing climate change to a "weapon of mass destruction." However, media coverage of Gingrich's call has largely left out that Gingrich once agreed with Kerry on climate change, even standing with him on stage touting Kerry's book, in which he called climate change the "single largest threat" to mankind.
On February 18, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Kerry discussed climate change as a national security threat, saying "in a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction." Gingrich responded in a misspelled tweet, calling for Kerry's resignation:
The Huffington Post claimed in an article on his tweets, that "Gingrich has repeatedly dismissed the dangers of man-made climate change." But that article, like similar ones in The Washington Post, The Hill, and conservative media, failed to mention that less than a decade ago, Gingrich was sitting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on a couch, agreeing we should act on climate change.
CNN's Carol Costello shot down conservative talking points disparaging the minimum wage, correctly noting that raising it would increase incomes and decrease poverty.
On February 18, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released estimates of the economic impacts of proposals to lift the minimum wage to $9.00 and $10.10, respectively. Among the report's summary conclusions was the revelation that the $10.10 option would raise the wages of 16.5 million workers while lifting up to 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Ignoring these positive side-effects, conservative media have focused heavily on estimates that increasing the minimum wage to such levels could reduce full-time employment by approximately 0.3 percent, the equivalent of roughly 500,000 positions.
On the February 19 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Costello was joined by Wall Street Journal editorial board member and Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore to discuss the CBO report. Moore, a prominent right-wing media figure, rehearsed standard talking points about the alleged disastrous impacts of increasing the minimum wage for low-skilled and entry-level workers.
Despite Moore's efforts, Costello checked his spin at every turn, continually pointing to the positive impacts of increasing the minimum wage.
Costello's strong reporting highlights the important role of media in sifting through misinformation to present unbiased results. While the median estimate of a $10.10 per hour minimum wage was decreased full-time employment, the CBO's projection also concludes that job loss could be "very slight" -- a fact highlighted by Costello. She also noted the positive income effects of increasing the federal minimum wage -- effects that are being ignored in media coverage of the CBO report -- and argued that many Americans would accept marginal job loss in exchange for lifting hundreds of thousands more out of poverty.
Costello's coverage of the minimum wage hopefully reflects a mainstream media trend of actually analyzing policy news, rather than allowing right-wing media to spin the narrative.
CNN falsely reported that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of Michael Dunn for the killing of Jordan Davis, a black teenager.
While visiting a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012, Dunn fired ten shots into an SUV full of black teenagers after they refused to turn down the volume of their music. The shots killed Davis, who was unarmed. Dunn subsequently claimed that Davis threatened him, drawing comparisons to George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin and reviving media attention on the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association and allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat in some circumstances.
On February 15, Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three for attempted second-degree murder on the other teens in the car, but the jury could not come to a decision on the first-degree murder charge tied to Davis' death. In their article on the verdict, CNN inaccurately reported that "stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn":
The incomplete finale to this emotional, hot-button trial -- partly because of the fact Dunn is white and the teenagers who were shot at, including Davis, are black -- echoed George Zimmerman's trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin about 120 miles down the road in Sanford, Florida. While stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn, his lawyers did argue that he fired in self-defense.
In fact, "Stand Your Ground" is embedded in the Florida statute dealing with the "use of deadly force" in self-defense, and was specifically cited by Dunn's lawyer and noted in the judge's instructions to the jury. During closing arguments, Dunn's lawyer Cory Strolla explained, "His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in a public place where he had a legal right to be, a public parking lot asking for a common courtesy, saying thank you, trying to tell the guy I said thank you. He had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force." Strolla later added of the law, "It's not because I wrote it. It's not cause I like it. We're not here to change it and we're not here to fight it. We're here to apply it."
CNN previously reported that "Stand Your Ground" played no role in the Zimmerman trial, even though the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force. A Zimmerman juror subsequently told CNN that they had found Zimmerman not guilty because Zimmerman had "a right to defend himself" by killing Martin under "Stand Your Ground."
From the February 16 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Rand Paul seems to have cracked the code.
The Kentucky Republican senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate has found a winning formula for staying in the headlines this winter: dredging up decades-old Clinton scandals and talking about Monica Lewinsky. It seems an unlikely script for a politician who supposedly wants to address America's future.
But what Paul has figured out, and sooner than any other potential Republican presidential candidates, is that every time he (indirectly) references Lewinsky and Oval Office sex, television producers start assembling panel discussions and editors quickly assign articles. It's like sending out the Bat Signal inside the Beltway; a transmission that cannot be denied or ignored.
Paul's attacks this week were boosted by the revelation of personal, decades-old correspondences between Hillary Clinton and Diane Blair, a close friend and confidant to the former first lady. With contemporaneous notes and letters that addressed the Lewinsky scandal and other trials from Bill Clinton's two terms, the newly uncovered archives were presented as big political news. They also gave the media an excuse to wade further into Clinton tumult nostalgia.
For Clinton critics, there appears to be no downside to the strategy. Any fear Paul might have had about the press condemning him likely evaporated weeks ago. Instead of scolding Ryan for looking backwards and attacking a female politician for her husband's distant, personal indiscretions, as well as accusing him without evidence of "violence" against women in the workplace, much of the press has celebrated Paul's Lewinsky star turn. According to CNN's Candy Crowley the Kentucky senator is on a "roll lately." Why? Because he called the former president a "sexual predator." (Crowley dubbed the low-blow maneuver "smart politics.")
Points are rarely deducted for taking the low road against the Clintons. For the press, Clinton name-calling passes for political momentum.
Subscribers to CNN host Newt Gingrich's email list are receiving supposed insider information about cancer "cures," the Illuminati, "Obama's 'Secret Mistress,'" a "weird" Social Security "trick," and Fort Knox being "empty."
Gingrich Productions, the company run by the Crossfire co-host, has been sending sponsored emails from shady sources filled with dubious claims. CNN has been helping Gingrich build his list by not only employing him, but also by promoting Gingrich Productions and its website.
While Gingrich's team has previously claimed that they work hard to "vet" the organizations they rent the email list to, they have repeatedly violated their own apparently low standards.
For example, Gingrich Productions has sent at least 15 sponsored emails for Stansberry & Associates since June 2013. Stansberry is a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." The firm sells financial products by pushing conspiracies about the Obama administration. Founder Porter Stansberry recently said it's "fucking bullshit" that people get upset at him for using slurs like "nigger" and "fag" when he's "not the least bit bigoted."
Gingrich's team previously claimed to distance the former speaker from Stansberry after questions surfaced about a sponsored email suggesting Obama would win a third term. ABC News reported in November 2012 that "according to Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, Stansberry & Associates should have been on the blacklist. 'We do not rent to the entity in question,' Hammond said, speaking by phone Thursday. 'In fact, we go to lengths to vet where we rent.'"
Gingrich is part of a movement where, as MSNBC's Chris Hayes noted, "much of conservatism is a con and the base are the marks." Fox News contributor Scott Brown was recently forced to distance himself from Newsmax after he sent a sponsored email for the group touting the findings of quack Dr. Russell Blaylock. The New Republic's Ben Adler wrote in a piece about Gingrich and fellow hucksters Herman Cain and Mike Huckabee that they "are pioneering a new, more direct method for post-campaign buckraking. All it requires is some digitally savvy accomplices--and a total immunity to shame."
Gingrich's list is primarily managed by TMA Direct. A data card on TMA's site indicates that the list contains over 400,000 emails and costs $8,000 per order. The company is headed by Mike Murray, who is also the founder and president of Gingrich's American Legacy PAC. Perhaps it's no surprise then that American Legacy has advertised on Gingrich Productions' list, and disbursed thousands of dollars to TMA.
Gingrich offers a testimonial for TMA on its website, stating: "Mike Murray and the TMA Direct team are irreplaceable strategic partners in our online and offline marketing. They bring insight and expertise that enables us to expand our communication reach and meet our business goals."
When the editorial board of The Star-Ledger of New Jersey gathered last October to consider an endorsement for governor, it was clear their support for Gov. Chris Christie was lukewarm at best. Even the board vote was an unusual split decision, 3-1, in favor of Christie, according to Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran.
Four months later the board has done an about-face, unanimously agreeing that they now regret the endorsement and, in the words of Moran, admitting they "blew this one."
"Yes, we knew Christie was a bully," Moran wrote in the February 9 column. "But we didn't know his crew was crazy enough to put people's lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn't know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn't know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno."
The endorsement U-turn follows growing evidence tying Gov. Christie's administration to the so-called Bridgegate scandal, in which Christie aides shut down several approach lanes of the busy George Washington Bridge for four days in September, deliberately sparking traffic tie-ups in the town of Fort Lee as a means of political retribution.
Christie fired the aides in question when their role became public, and the issue has sparked demands for more information on what the governor knew and triggered legislative and criminal investigations into the incident.
"We had a severe case of buyer's remorse after endorsing him," Moran said Monday, a day after publishing an unusual column announcing the board's change of heart. "Since his re-election, we have learned some new things about him. We learned that his senior staff was willing to put people's lives at risk to make a political point on the bridge, we've learned that the Hoboken mayor has credible charges of criminal activity by the Lt. Governor and a couple of cabinet members, and we see more and more evidence that he is misusing [Hurricane] Sandy funds for political purposes."
Broadcast evening news programs devoted zero coverage to Senate Republicans' harmful block on extending long-term unemployment benefits. The failed measure received only minimal attention from national media throughout the day.
CNN's Piers Morgan viciously lashed out at critics who accused him of sensationalizing an interview with transgender activist Janet Mock, making a number of personal attacks against transgender activists and dismissing his critics as hysterical, dishonest, and "stupid." His over-the-top reaction to criticism highlights that even LGBT-friendly journalists can do serious damage when they ignore the voices and concerns of LGBT people.
Following a February 4 interview with Mock about her new memoir Redefining Realness, Morgan was criticized for his overemphasis on Mock's body, physical appearance, and romantic relationships with men. Throughout the segment, on-screen text described Mock as being "a boy until age 18."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Mock accused Morgan of "trying to do info-tainment" and criticized him for sensationalizing transgender people while avoiding a substantive discussion about her book - a sentiment that was echoed by many critics. Mock didn't accuse Morgan of being transphobic - rather, she challenged him for asking the same kinds of questions that are repeatedly used to objectify transgender people's bodies.
Morgan spent the next day lashing out at Mock and her supporters on Twitter, describing himself as an ardent supporter of transgender equality. That night, Morgan invited Mock back on his show for an interview during which he repeatedly played the victim, talked over Mock, and refused to apologize for his comments:
Following the interview, Morgan hosted a panel discussion between three cisgender people, two of whom ridiculed Mock for criticizing Morgan's actions.
The entire incident demonstrates that even well-intentioned journalists can do serious harm when they react defensively rather than listen to criticism from marginalized groups. Morgan's behavior illustrates exactly how journalists - and especially self-identified LGBT allies - should not behave when being criticized for problematic coverage of LGBT issues:
Each year, Republican Senator Tom Coburn releases a "Wastebook" reviewing government projects that he views as wasteful, and each year, the media eagerly promote his report. Yet television news ignored a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that U.S. taxpayers are being stiffed by coal companies buying federal land for less than its worth, which a previous report estimated has cost taxpayers nearly $30 billion over the last 30 years.
On Tuesday, the GAO found that the Bureau of Land Management was not adequately documenting reasons for accepting bids below the determined market value. Furthermore, as many states are not considering exports in their market value analyses, they may be underestimating the value in the first place. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who requested the study, stated that "Given the lack of market competition in coal leases" -- the GAO found the vast majority did not have a single competitor, as seen in the chart below -- "if the fair market value set by Interior is low, it can lead to significant losses for taxpayers. For instance, for every cent per ton that coal companies decrease their bids for the largest coal leases, it could mean the loss of nearly $7 million for the American people."
Based on the report, Sen. Markey's office estimated that recent leases could have yielded an additional $200 million in revenue and "possibly hundreds of millions more." A previous report from the Institute for Energy Economics estimated that selling federally-owned coal for less than fair market value has cost taxpayers $28.9 billion in lost revenue over the last 30 years. That finding adds to the economic damages that coal pollution and disasters exact on the economy. A 2011 study, for instance, found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants imposes more costs on society than the value added to the economy by the industry -- and that study did not include climate change damages. Recently, the spill of a chemical used to clean coal in West Virginia cost the local economy $61 million, according to a preliminary study that did not include the cost of clean-up or emergency expenditures.
Yet none of the major television networks covered the GAO report confirming that coal companies are underpaying the federal government*.
The "Wastebook" received considerably more attention when it was released in December 2013, drawing uncritical coverage from all the major television networks except MSNBC (ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News uncritically touted the report at least once, and NBC hosted Sen. Coburn where he raised the report without pushback). LiveScience reported that nearly a quarter of the projects Sen. Coburn's office listed in 2013 were science-related and that the "Wastebook" often distorts the studies. Last year, for instance, Fox News promoted the Wastebook's attack on a "government study" on Tea Party intelligence that was actually a non-government funded blog post. CNN's S.E. Cupp and others also attacked a study of duck penises included in the "Wastebook," contributing to the pattern of basic research being cut in the face of what MSNBC's Chris Hayes called "ignorant mockery."
Daily Caller gossip scribe Betsy Rothstein used the transphobic slur "tranny" to describe transgender activist Janet Mock, defending Piers Morgan against charges that his February 4 interview with Mock sensationalized Mock's story and stating Mock's new memoir wouldn't "even exist if she had not been born with a penis."
In a February 5 column titled "CNN's Piers Morgan unfairly gets his nuts handed to him by a tranny," Rothstein blasted critics who denounced Morgan for fixating on the physical and sexual aspects of Mock's gender identity during a February 4 interview on his show. Rothstein said the controversy was much ado about nothing, even as the title of her column contained a notorious anti-transgender slur (emphasis added):
The reason for his bad day centered around Janet Mock, a transgender woman he'd had as a guest on his program to discuss her new book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. That's right, he was helping her sell her book. But that wasn't enough for Mock. She really wants to sell her book. So a week after the interview was taped, she incited people in the transgender community, who accused Morgan of being "transphobic" and mistreating her by explaining that she was male before age 18. The fact is, Mock was born a boy with the name "Charles" and had a sex change at 18. Her beef is that she "identified" as a woman her whole life. And yet, she still had a penis. During the interview, Piers told her that her dress was something Beyoncé would wear. Mock replied, "Well, I live for Beyoncé. So that's a very good compliment. Thank you." Piers complimented Mock repeatedly throughout the segment, calling her "brave" and "gutsy" and a "remarkable lady." Instead of being treated like a zoo animal who is fed his part, Morgan asked questions he thought viewers would wonder about. For example, asking his audience how they might feel if they learned a woman they were dating was once a dude? Hardly an outlandish question to ask in reference to a transgender woman who is selling a book about her life experiences. But that was not in Mock's talking points. She wanted Piers to normalize her experience and speak to her as if she wasn't selling her book based on the fact that she is a transgender. Would the book even exist had she not been born with a penis? OF COURSE NOT. If we wanted a sanitized, publicist's version of an interview, fine. But that wasn't the case, nor should it have been.
Tonight, Piers had Mock back on his program in a live interview. He asked why he has had to endure 24 hours of abuse from the transgender community.
Rothstein's apparent belief that Mock couldn't possibly have truly identified as a woman until she underwent a surgical sex change reflects the very sort of "reductive thinking about gender" Mock decried in a February 4 interview with BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner. But Rothstein's focus on Mock's genitalia is standard fare at the rabidly transphobic Daily Caller, where even transgender high school students are considered fair game for journalistic ridicule.
Morgan - who continued to complain about Mock and his critics in a follow-up interview with her on February 5 - tweeted Rothstein's article, calling it an "interesting take":
After being criticized by a transgender activist for being disrespectful toward transgender people, CNN's Piers Morgan allowed two panelists to make a series of transphobic remarks and attack the activist's character with impunity.
Morgan came under fire after a February 4 interview with transgender activist Janet Mock, who recently published her memoir, Redefining Realness. During the interview, Morgan fixated on the physical aspects of Mock's identity as a transgender woman and CNN included an on-screen description stating that Mock "[w]as a boy until age 18." Mock criticized Morgan for sensationalizing transgender people and misgendering her, prompting Morgan to lash out against her on Twitter, calling her "shameful" and a "coward."
On January 5, after a follow-up interview with Mock, Morgan invited a panel of three cisgender people to discuss the controversy. Two of the panelists -- CNN political contributor Amy Holmes and conservative commentator Ben Ferguson -- made a number of transphobic remarks and attacks on Mock's character, none of which Morgan corrected:
One economic study, two news outlets, and two very different reports on its findings.
When the nonpartisan CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024 this week, right-wing media distorted its projection that the supply of labor would decline by about 2 million workers over the next three years, due to the ACA allowing workers the option to work less and still maintain health coverage. In the conservative echo chamber, pundits from Jennifer Rubin to Fox anchors argued that the CBO report proved the ACA is destroying jobs.
CNN's Carol Costello corrected the record about this conservative "spin" on the CBO report on February 5, explaining, "To be clear, the CBO did not say jobs would actually be lost. It said workers could choose to work fewer hours to meet Obamacare requirements for coverage," and calling out the misinformation surrounding the report:
COSTELLO: [C]ritics say a new nonpartisan report proves the law will indeed kill jobs. But when you cut through the spin, this is all about workers' choices, not job cuts.
As Costello was clarifying the CBO's findings, the very "spin" she highlighted was underway on Fox News. Anchor Bill Hemmer dismissed the notion that the CBO projection concerned workers' choice, arguing that it boiled down to "job losses" caused by the ACA. Frequent Fox guest Art Laffer added, "If you don't love your work, it doesn't mean you should be paid not to work so you can sit at home and dream. That's just silly."
Fox has attacked health reform at every turn, pushing myths and phony scandals to argue for its repeal. The network's repeated misinformation on the CBO report in order to continue its war on the ACA, no matter what the facts, is just another example of Fox prioritizing politics over accurate reporting.
CNN host Piers Morgan demonstrated how not to treat transgender subjects after a problematic interview with transgender activist and author Janet Mock, during which Morgan fixated on the physical aspects of Mock's identity as a trans woman and CNN included an on-screen description stating that Mock "[w]as a boy until age 18." Under fire for his handling of the interview, Morgan responded by bitterly denouncing Mock and her supporters.
Transgender activist Janet Mock appeared on the February 4 edition of Piers Morgan Live to discuss her new memoir Redefining Realness. Rather than focus on the book, however, Morgan repeatedly brought up Mock's physical characteristics and described her as a "boy" before her transition - reinforcing the common problem of journalists objectifying transgender bodies.
In an interview with BuzzFeed after her appearance, Mock took Morgan to task for trying to "sensationalize" her life in the interview. Mock objected to Morgan's focus on her physical appearance - at the beginning of the segment, he marveled that he'd never have guessed "you had ever been a boy" - as well as her sex life and physical transition.
Mock told BuzzFeed that Morgan's interview implied she wasn't a woman "until I got the surgery," while CNN and Morgan's descriptions of her as a former "boy" displayed "reductive thinking about gender." Moreover, Mock said, Morgan's queries about her relationship with her boyfriend and his reaction to her gender identity contributed to the perception that trans women are "deceiving" their significant others. As Mock told BuzzFeed, her "book is not about Aaron or my relationship."
Instead of treating Mock's criticism as a learning opportunity, Morgan lashed out on Twitter. While asserting that he's "always been 100% supportive of transgender rights," Morgan also referred to "STUPID" "transgender supporters" as "dimwits" for deigning to criticize him, calling Mock "a shameful" promoter of "nonsense" whom he wished he hadn't booked: