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).
Some in the media reacted to the killing spree in Isla Vista, California that claimed the lives of six victims with offensive or bizarre commentary.
On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed three people in his house with blunt or sharp objects before driving to a sorority house near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Outside that house he shot three women, killing two. He then shot to death a young man at a nearby convenience store. Rodger reportedly committed suicide with one of his guns, but not before killing six people and wounding 13 others.
Much attention has focused on a video uploaded by Rodger on YouTube where he describes his desire to kill women in a "day of retribution" against those who has refused his sexual advances and a 140-page manifesto that described his hatred towards the world and in particular women.
Media reactions to the killings included: A Fox News guest suggested the shooting was the result of "homosexual tendencies"; a Fox News contributor who blamed a "war on masculinity" for the killing spree; conservative commentators who lashed out at a victim's father who castigated the National Rifle Association during an emotional press conference; and a CNN reporter described Rodger's manifesto as "really well written" and compared it to a Dickens novel.
Writing at RedState.com, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed that Rodger "lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live" and that his actions were a consequence of a "war on masculinity." One of the features of this "war," according to Erickson, is that "[i]nstead of men and women complimenting each other, they're supposed to be perfectly equal even if they are not."
Best we can tell, Elliot Rodger lived the very lifestyle the cultural left thinks men should live and that is regularly glorified on the silver screen. For all the talk of a "War on Women," there has actually been a war on masculinity for a few decades. And more and more twenty-something young men are getting lost and acting out while society tries to find something new to replace the tried and true.
Society used to expect men to open doors, protect their families, and be champions of modesty and virtue. But chivalry is dead. Instead of men and women complimenting each other, they're supposed to be perfectly equal even if they are not. The hook up culture, instant gratification, and selfishness pervade our culture.
The conservative media got their candidate with the election of former Bush administration official Ben Sasse in Nebraska's Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Sasse was endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, and Erick Erickson, and has been prominently featured on Fox News and in National Review.
Sasse's win capped a bruising primary between him and fellow Republicans Shane Osborn and Sid Dinsdale. Politico noted there was "back-and-forth mudslinging" over conservative credentials even though there "are no clear ideological differences between the candidates, and the 'establishment' and 'tea party' labels associated with the candidates are fuzzy."
Allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a coalition of Nebraska activists supported Osburn, while outside national groups such as FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Family Research Council, and Senate Conservatives Fund backed Sasse.
Some of Sasse's biggest boosters were in the conservative media. National Review featured the Nebraskan on the cover of its January 27 issue, calling him a "health-care expert" and "rising conservative star." The Sasse campaign frequently touted the cover on the campaign, and promoted it in a campaign ad:
Fox News contributor Ben Carson is slated to be the keynote speaker at the first Gala dinner of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), becoming the latest Fox figure to appear before an extreme anti-gay group.
In a May 6 email to supporters, NOM President Brian Brown wrote that "it's 1972 for marriage," referring to the year before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to an abortion and the growing expectation that the Court will take up marriage equality once again by 2015. To protest the frightening possibility that same-sex couples nationwide will soon enjoy civil equality, NOM will hold its second annual March for Marriage in Washington on June 19. Brown's email touted Carson's appearance - previously flagged by GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper - at NOM's gala that same evening (emphasis original):
It was a crisp winter day in 1973 when the United States Supreme Court issued their horrific decision in Roe v Wade. How much would you sacrifice to go back in time to a few months before that fateful decision, to the Fall of 1972, and mobilize the American people BEFORE the Supreme Court issued that infamous decree?
Just about anything, right? Well, when it comes to marriage, we have that chance!
You see, it's 1972 for marriage. Within the next 12 months, it is very likely that the United States Supreme Court will take up the marriage issue again. Many people have bought in to the lie that the courts redefining marriage is somehow "inevitable." Well, I refuse to believe that, because it's simply not true!
That's why the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is organizing its second annual March for Marriage this summer on June 19th in Washington, DC -- bringing together thousands of marriage activists from all across the country to make sure the elites in our nation's capital hear loud and clear: Marriage matters because every kid deserves a mom and a dad!
One incredibly courageous leader who is standing up for marriage is Doctor Ben Carson, who will be the keynote speaker at NOM's first ever Gala dinner on the evening of the March for Marriage. He said in a speech earlier this year that the "P.C. police" have "tried to shut him up" because he's willing to state his belief publicly that marriage is between a man and a woman.
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
The oil-industry funded front group for Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, has a Buzzfeed list featuring animated gifs of the "Top 10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day: For Conservatives." Media Matters has gathered all the ways that anti-conservation "conservatives" have truly decided to celebrate Earth Day this year:
Fox News celebrated Earth Day by hosting Fox Business' John Stossel who is "cheering for fossil fuels" that were responsible for dozens of disasters last year. Forbes contributor and oil and gas industry consultant David Blackmon caught on to the trend, writing an op-ed glorifying the fossil fuel industry titled "Be Thankful On Earth Day For Oil & Gas."
Earth Day happens to lie on the same day as Vladimir Lenin's birthday, so it must be a communist plot, according to conservative blogger Erick Erickson. Erickson filled in for Rush Limbaugh on his radio show on Earth Day by ranting about the connections between environmentalism and communism.
The United States (and globe) has been warming since the first Earth Day -- but that didn't prevent snow-trollers from emerging once again to cast doubt on global warming. On April 22, climate "skeptic" favorite Ryan Maue tweeted at conservative blogger Erick Erickson: "Remind folks on Earth Day... to not put away their snow shovels until July 4th." Erickson later fulfilled Maue's request as a guest host for on The Rush Limbaugh Show.
Jim Treacher, a reporter for the conservative news site Daily Caller, joked that he would celebrate Earth Day by burning "dangerous tires before they can pollute the planet," mocking NASA's Twitter campaign asking the public to take a "#GlobalSelfie" for Earth Day.
Fox News frequent Marc Morano hyped a piece by Roy Spencer that equated climate science to a "religion" -- one of the most prominent ways conservatives erode trust in scientists according to a study by the Yale Project on Climate Communications. Spencer wrote, in honor of Earth Day:
As in other religions, most Earth worshipers are more or less hypocritical. Spend a day being "good", spend the rest of the year failing.
I mostly find Earth Day just plain annoying for the rank hypocrisy on display. A state-sponsored religious day of worship, along with all of the 1st Amendment-violating regulations to codify it.
From the April 22 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Conservative media figures that embody messages of misogyny and hate will take center stage at a GOP candidate forum in Iowa, despite the party's own acknowledgment that future electoral victories hinge upon the development of a more tolerant platform.
After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee drafted a series of recommendations on how to evolve and grow the party into a force that can win consistently in the 21st century. To a large extent, the plan recommended reaching out to women and minorities, after Democrats won both groups by healthy margins that year. The RNC report recommended "developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women." It went on to suggest that the party needs "to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too."
But in a move that seems in total opposition to those recommendations, the Iowa Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, as well as Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), have chosen to partner with Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, radio host Steve Deace, and The Family Leader, an anti-gay organization headed by Bob Vander Plaats, to conduct a forum for the candidates on April 25.
Despite his role as "moderator" for the event, Erickson's far-right views on women and minorities are anything but moderate. Erickson has argued that businesses that serve gay couples are "aiding and abetting" sin, that proposed anti-discrimination laws are part of a war on Christians waged by "evil" gay rights activists, and that marriage equality is akin to incest. According to the pundit, gay people are definitely "on the road to hell."
Right-wing media responded to news that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning by lobbing personal attacks against the secretary and demonizing health care reform.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal organization working internationally to criminalize homosexuality, plans to host "An Evening with Erick Erickson" next month. It's the latest sign that the Fox News contributor, who has previously touted ADF's work, is becoming a de facto spokesman for the group.
ADF plans to host the event - which requires a general admission fee of $25 - on April 24 at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast. According to the event's online registration page, the evening will focus on sharing "inspirational and motivational stories of victory" against the "increasingly aggressive attack" on religious liberty:
As the go-to legal organization for social conservatives, ADF has compiled a record of extreme anti-gay activism. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in July 2013 that the group has worked to help criminalize gay sex in Belize. Benjamin Bull, the executive director of ADF Global, has applauded the criminalization of homosexuality in India and has traveled to Russia to meet with Yelena Mizulina, one of the authors of that country's notorious "gay propaganda" law.
Domestically, ADF regularly defends anti-gay discrimination by representing business owners who turn away gay customers. Along with the Center for Arizona Policy, ADF helped draft the controversial license to discriminate legislation vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) in February. The group also argued in favor of state anti-sodomy laws, asserting that gay sex "causes far more disease than opposite-sex sodomy."
Despite - or perhaps because of - ADF's extreme record, Erickson has established himself as one of the group's prominent supporters. In an August post for his RedState blog, he actually solicited donations for the organization, lauding its "lone and brace warriors" combating the "evil" campaign for LGBT equality. That solicitation came in response to a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling against an ADF client who refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.
Many Fox News personalities recoiled once they saw the kind of extreme anti-gay legislation ADF was trying to push through state legislatures, but Erickson did the opposite, becoming a de facto spokesman for the organization. By keynoting an ADF event, Erickson has made clear that his support for anti-gay discrimination goes beyond rhetoric - he's actually willing to work to fundraise for one of the country's most extreme anti-equality organizations.
New research confirms that providing women access to free birth control does not result in women having sex with more partners -- a false claim that has been repeatedly pushed and promoted by conservative media, and which contributes to their efforts to stigmatize women's sexuality.
Providing women with no-cost contraception did not result in "riskier" sexual behavior (defined by the researchers as "sex with multiple partners") but did reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, according to a comprehensive study from the Washington University School of Medicine.
As Amanda Duberman noted at the Huffington Post, having new empirical data to push back on the moralizing arguments against birth control is helpful, but raises the question: "why do we care?" The fact that researchers felt the need to study this particular claim about birth control at all reveals an "implicit stigmatization" of women's sexuality (emphasis added):
It is a small, pervasive set of voices that leads researchers to consider "multiple sexual partners" over the course of an entire year "risky sexual behavior."
The past decade of research has confirmed what women's health advocates already knew: the benefits of reducing barriers to birth control access far outweigh any subjectively determined adverse effects.
What's unfortunate is that making a case for something many women need relies on the implicit stigmatization of their sexuality. That researchers and health advocates need to presume harsh judgement of sexually active women to convince skeptics of birth control's utility just reminds us how far we have to go.
Duberman is right; it should not matter whether women have more or less sex when taking birth control pills. But it's not just a small set of conservative political voices pushing this offensive criticism of women's sexuality and inspiring scientific research. Conservative media have played a role in forcing this conversation, repeatedly slut-shaming women who use birth control and insisting that anyone who supports government funding for free contraceptives is equivalent to a prostitute.
Fox News has spent the last several months championing anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers - depicting efforts to prevent discrimination as threats to religious liberty. Now, with several states debating bills that would legalize homophobic discrimination in business and employment, Fox News is now defending the extreme, anti-gay segregation policies it helped to create.
The push to legalize anti-gay discrimination first came to public attention on February 12, when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing individuals and businesses to refuse any services "related to, or related to the celebration of" any union - effectively allowing blanket protection for the denial of services to gay couples. After a storm of negative publicity, the State Senate has shelved the bill.
Similar bills have recently died in Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but the Arizona legislature has sent its own license to discriminate measure to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
The wave of anti-gay segregation measures is the culmination of a concerted right-wing strategy, bolstered by Fox News, to cast anti-gay discrimination as an integral part of religious freedom.
Long before the public outcry over Kansas' license to discriminate bill, Fox threw its weight behind businesses whose owners refuse, ostensibly on religious grounds, to serve gay and lesbian couples - precisely the form of discrimination that conservative state legislators have sought to legalize.
As part of Fox's continued conflation of homophobia and Christianity, the network has repeatedly defended discrimination by anti-gay business owners as an essential part of religious liberty.
On December 10, Fox & Friends hosted Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his extremist Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney to discuss a court ruling that Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple. The segment featured a graphic proclaiming "The Death Of Free Enterprise," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he thought he shouldn't have to discard his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck."
Continuing his defense of draconian state legislation to allow individuals and businesses to refuse services to gay people on religious grounds, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson suggested that businesses serving gay couples were "aiding and abetting sin."
Erickson continued his criticism of his Fox News colleague Kirsten Powers' recent USA Today column, in which Powers criticized "homosexual Jim Crow laws" currently being debated in several state legislatures. Those laws would allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers for religious reasons.
In her column, Powers, an evangelical Christian herself, argued that Christians shouldn't refuse services to people simply because they disagreed with them, noting that many "Christians serve unrepentant murders through prison ministry." Erickson responded by asserting that, unlike prison ministers, businesses that serve gay couples would be "aiding and abetting" sin:
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers condemned a legislative push in Kansas to legalize religiously-motivated anti-gay business and employment discrimination, contradicting Fox News' pattern of defending anti-gay discrimination and sparking criticism from Powers' Fox News colleagues.
In a column for USA Today published on February 19, Powers blasted a Kansas bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples based on the owner's religious views. Since its passage by the state House of Representatives on February 12, the bill has been shelved by the Kansas Senate. Powers took issue with supporters of "homosexual Jim Crow laws" using Christianity to justify anti-gay bigotry - a common practice at Fox News (emphasis added):
Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can't they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it's because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don't interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they'd be out of business. [Evangelical pastor Andy] Stanley said, "Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Maybe they should just ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" I think he'd bake the cake.
Powers' Fox colleague Erick Erickson made clear that he wasn't a fan of her column, tweeting a link to a blog post that criticized her position and called the right to refuse service essential to "the common good." Erickson called the post "your must read of the day":
Local reporting on Texas divorce law has finally put to rest the right-wing media smear that gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis lost or gave up custody of her children, debunking this myth as the lie it always was.
Since she announced her candidacy for governor, national right-wing media figures have gone after Davis and scrutinized her parenting choices in a way no male candidate would ever have to confront. One nasty example has been Fox News contributor and RedState editor Erick Erickson, who has repeatedly referred to Davis as "Abortion Barbie," baselessly questioned her mental health on the basis of routine legal pleadings, and misrepresented the terms of her divorce settlement.
It was also the discredited Erickson who quickly jumped at the opportunity to help spread perhaps the most persistent myth about Davis -- that her ex-husband, Jeff Davis, "got custody" of her two daughters following their 2005 divorce decree. This falsehood was unfortunately started by the Dallas Morning News, whose January 18 profile of Davis was criticized for various reporting failures. Although the Dallas Morning News never corrected the language in the original piece, the reporter correctly described what actually happened in a later article, in accordance with the editor's online admission that the original version "left some readers perhaps too free to misinterpret the situation. We will print a clarification in tomorrow's newspaper."
In short, Davis never lost or gave up custody of her children; rather, she was granted what's known under Texas law as "joint managing conservatorship" of her daughters. "Custody" isn't even the relevant legal term in Texas divorce proceedings.
By the time the Dallas Morning News mentioned Davis' joint conservatorship, the smear had already gained traction. Versions of the myth eventually cropped up in the New York Post (which claimed Davis "lost custody" of her daughters), Breitbart.com (she "gave up custody"), and even Ann Coulter jumped into the fray, accusing Davis of telling "huge whoppers" and erroneously reporting that the Texas family court "awarded [Jeff Davis] full custody."
Unlike the Dallas Morning News, right-wing media have yet to issue a "clarification," let alone a much-needed correction and apology to Davis after their distortions about Davis' divorce raced from the fringes of the internet to Fox News. Davis herself expressly pointed this out in a recent speech, saying, "I never gave up custody of my children. I never lost custody of my children. And to say otherwise is an absolute lie."