Erick Erickson

Tags ››› Erick Erickson
  • Colorado Springs One Year Later: Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Deny The Severity Of Anti-Choice Violence

    Colorado Abortion Provider To Anti-Choice Lawmakers: “The Blood Of Any Of Us Who Are Assassinated Is On Your Hands.”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    November 27 marked the one-year anniversary of a deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood center that killed three and wounded nine more.

    Despite the gunman’s statement that he was “a warrior for the babies,” right-wing media -- in a long-standing pattern -- responded to the fatal attack by denying the severity of anti-choice violence.

    In July 2015, the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos falsely alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood employees. Multiple investigations have not only cleared Planned Parenthood, but also consistently debunked the fraudulent claims the organization has advanced. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice lawmakers have continued to attack providers and spread misinformation about the essential services they provide. This campaign of misinformation makes reproductive health care less accessible, but also incites violence against clinics, patients, and providers.

    From the inception of CMP’s smear campaign, right-wing media were among the most enthusiastic champions of the anti-choice group’s misinformation. For example, following the release of CMP’s second video on July 21, 2015, Fox News dedicated 10 segments across seven separate programs to hyping the deceptively edited footage in a single day. In addition, Media Matters found that during a 14-month period (from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016), Fox News’ evening news programs frequently relied on extreme anti-choice figures and misinformation to promote CMP’s fraudulent claims about Planned Parenthood and abortion.

    The Washington Post reported the day after the attack that the Colorado Springs shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, explained his actions using the phrase “no more baby parts” -- mirroring the language used by CMP to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Media Matters found that Fox News and Fox Business were responsible for 83 of 119 mentions of the phrase “baby parts” or “parts of babies” on major cable news networks’ reports about the release of CMP’s videos before the subsequent Colorado Springs attack. In comparison, Fox spent just 30 seconds covering reports that Dear stated, “I’m guilty. There’s no trial. … I’m a warrior for the babies,” during his first court appearance on December 9, 2015.

    In fact, right-wing media have continually dismissed anti-choice violence and resisted classifying such attacks as acts of terrorism. Rather than account for the severity of anti-choice violence, right-wing media have instead denied its systemic nature, downplayed incidents, and dismissed individuals like the Colorado Springs gunman as anomalous “kooks.”

    For example, on the June 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly downplayed the dangers of clinic violence, claiming he was unable to remember a time when “a Christian blew up an abortion clinic.” Previously, in December 2015, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted” and suggested that such violence was only “getting rarer.”

    In reality, the threat of anti-choice violence is ongoing, severe, and has seen an uptick since the release of CMP’s deceptively edited videos.

    Prior to the Colorado Springs attack, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an increase in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This assessment was later supported by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which found that in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” of abortion providers that coincided with CMP’s incendiary allegations and rhetoric. NAF president and CEO Vicki Saporta noted that the ninefold increase in harassment and threats of abortion providers in the month after the release of the first CMP videos was “unprecedented.”

    The FBI’s warning was prescient. After Dear allegedly carried out his deadly attack, a clinic in St. Louis was vandalized while a Washington man was arrested for making death threats against employees of StemExpress, the biomedical company targeted in several of the discredited CMP videos. As reported by The News Tribune, Scott Anthony Orton posted more than 18 different threatening messages online before he was arrested. In April 2016, Orton pleaded guilty to threatening StemExpress employees.

    In May, The New York Times reported that MedStar Washington Hospital Center in D.C. barred abortion provider Dr. Diane J. Horvath-Cosper from publicly speaking about the need for greater abortion access. The hospital’s medical director issued the gag order after the Colorado Springs attack “out of concerns for security,” saying he didn’t want to draw attention to MedStar’s abortion and reproductive health care services in the nation’s capital.

    A Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, WI, was forced to close its doors due to security concerns in August 2016. This move left “any patient who does not live in Madison or Milwaukee” without a nearby provider, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin director of government relations Nicole Safar.

    More recently, an Alaskan man, Robert Joseph Klima, was indicted in November for making threatening phone calls to a Planned Parenthood call center, claiming he would bomb an Anchorage clinic. Alaska Dispatch News reported that Kilma made multiple calls and insisted that “he knew how to carry out the destruction of the building.”

    Despite the clear threat posed when the names and details about abortion providers are made public, a congressional panel created to investigate Planned Parenthood has worked to expose even more such information. And the panel -- the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives -- has consistently relied on CMP and other anti-choice groups to fuel its politically motivated attacks on abortion access.

    Established in October 2015, the select panel has been criticized by mainstream media outlets for its “Benghazi treatment” of Planned Parenthood -- prompting numerous lawmakers to call for its disbandment. Although the panel has found no substantial evidence of wrongdoing during its tenure, Rewire reported that congressional leadership approved a request for additional funding that would “more than doubl[e] the total cost of the investigation," bringing it to $1.59 million. Equally concerning, extreme anti-choice groups like Operation Rescue have asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to extend the sham investigation beyond its originally authorized end date in December 2016.

    The select panel Republicans have already been criticized for showing little concern for the safety of the targets of their investigation. In June, select panel chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and her colleagues failed to redact identifying information about abortion providers and patients from subpoenaed documents. Similarly, the select panel Republicans have also publicly released identifying information about abortion providers whom they believe (but have not proved) were involved in malfeasance.

    Just this month, Warren Hern -- a late-term abortion provider who lives just hours from Colorado Springs in Boulder, CO -- received a letter from Blackburn implying that he has been involved in wrongdoing and demanding information about Hern and his practice.

    In response, Hern lambasted Blackburn, writing that her “clear and unabashed purpose is to obstruct women seeking abortions, to control their lives, and to crush physicians who help them.” He dismissed Blackburn’s allegations as “outrageous,” “patently false,” and based on an “unfounded fantasy” while warning of the danger the panel’s attacks posed to women’s health and scientific advancement. Hern also warned Blackburn that her attempts to demonize abortion providers and ally with anti-choice groups threatened the safety of providers, their patients, and clinic staff:

    I am determined to give my patients the safest possible medical care in a humane and dignified environment that supports their emotional and social needs to the fullest extent possible. I have a superior staff of nurses, counselors, and other health professionals who are dedicated to help these women and their families. Your sordid exploitation of this activity for political purposes places all of us -- patients, physicians, and all members of my staff -- at risk of violent retaliation by anti-abortion fanatics. You know this. This is not some paranoid fantasy. A number of physicians specializing in abortion services have been assassinated, on at least one occasion in the physician’s church, and numerous other people, including an off-duty police office and one physician’s bodyguard, have been murdered in cold blood by anti-abortion fanatics, each assassin a so-called “peaceful” anti-abortion protester up until the moment of the murder.

    When is the last time you ever spoke out and condemned these senseless and spineless murders?

    You and your Republican Party are vigorously allied with a violent terrorist movement that threatens the lives of women, their families, and health care workers. As part of this shame “investigation,” your letter to me and letters to other physicians constitute a program of target identification for anti-abortion assassins. You can deny this, but it is a fact.

    Your “investigation” is legislative harassment that endangers our lives. The blood of any of us who are assassinated is on your hands.

    While anti-choice groups and lawmakers continue targeting abortion providers like Hern, the people of Colorado Springs are still healing from a violent attack on their community fueled by extreme anti-abortion sentiments.

    In October 2016, several survivors of the Planned Parenthood attack spoke to Cosmopolitan about their experience and continuing fears of becoming targets of anti-choice violence. But as the clinic manager explained, “We have come through this and are stronger.” She concluded: “We are going to be there for this community because they need us.”

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • Fox & Friends Defends Trump's Widely Condemned Self-Congratulatory Tweet About Chicago Shooting

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after he tweeted about the shooting death of Nykea Aldridge, NBA player Dwyane Wade’s cousin, in Chicago, while other media figures from across the political spectrum criticized Trump for  “lacking empathy” and “politicizing tragedy.”

  • The Four Ways Right-Wing Media Reacted To Trump’s Alleged Immigration Shift

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The right-wing media reactions to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that he is considering softening his position on immigration, varied wildly, including criticizing his shift as a mistake, slamming his lack of policy consistency, praising him for “seeing the light on immigration reform,” and simply ignoring his latest comments entirely.

  • Mother Jones Highlights Financial Impact Of Protecting Abortion Clinics From Violence

    While Right-Wing Media Deny Clinic Violence’s Severity, Clinics, Providers, And Patients Across The Country Are Dealing With The Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Although right-wing media have denied the severity of anti-choice violence against abortion providers and clinics, a Mother Jones report on the closure of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, WI, demonstrated the widespread impact such threats are having on access to reproductive health care.

    On August 22, the Appleton, WI, Planned Parenthood clinic was forced to close its doors due to security concerns -- leaving “any patient who does not live in Madison or Milwaukee” without a nearby provider, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin director of government relations Nicole Safar.

    Mother Jones’ Becca Andrews highlighted the major role the financial demands of protecting the clinic from a rising tide of anti-choice violence played in state Planned Parenthood officials’ decision to close the Appleton facility.

    In July 2015 the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of deceptively edited videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood employees. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers, “which coincided with the release of [CMP’s] heavily-edited, misleading, and inflammatory videos beginning in July.”

    As Andrews noted, this upward trend of violence ultimately “culminat[ed] in the Colorado Springs clinic shooting,” where gunman Robert Lewis Dear was accused of killing three people and injuring nine more. Prior to the November attack, the FBI had warned of a possible uptick in violence against abortion providers, including the possibility of “lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement."

    In spite of this, right-wing media have not only carried water for CMP’s discredited allegations, but also largely dismissed concerns about the severity of clinic violence prompted by their release. For example, on the June 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly downplayed the dangers of clinic violence, claiming he was unable to remember a time when “a Christian blew up an abortion clinic.” In December 2015, Fox News contributor Erick Ericson wrote that he was surprised “more Planned Parenthood facilities and abortionists are not being targeted” and suggested that such violence was only “getting rarer.”

    The Appleton clinic had actually already “experienced violence” prior to CMP’s attempted smear campaign, as Andrews explained. In 2012, “anti-abortion activist Francis Grady threw a homemade explosive device through a window and damaged a small exam room” at the Appleton clinic. But the clinic re-opened after this 2012 attack; it was the Colorado Springs shooting -- and the resulting security concerns -- that spurred it to close its doors permanently, as the costs of “providing more security” were simply too high, Andrews reported.

    In a statement to The Associated Press, the chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Chris Williams, explained that because of the building’s size and age, the clinic “was just not going to be able to meet the more stringent and scrutinized approach” developed by Planned Parenthood in the wake of the Colorado Springs attack. In an additional statement to The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Williams noted that although the Appleton clinic wasn’t subject to a specific threat at the time of its closure, Planned Parenthood deals with “constant threats” against its affiliates across the country.

    Along with underscoring the severity of anti-choice violence, Mother Jones’ Andrews also outlined the consequences the closure of the Appleton clinic would have on reproductive health care access in the state. She wrote:

    The closure means women will now have to drive 200 or 300 miles to one of the other Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinics, or go as far as Chicago or Minneapolis. Another option would be in Marquette, Michigan, where a single Planned Parenthood-affiliated physician provides abortions, but the scheduling is infrequent and can be unpredictable.

    Planned Parenthood’s Safar echoed this sentiment, noting that due to Wisconsin’s stringent anti-abortion restrictions and a critical shortage of providers, “there is a great need” for abortion access. She said that even with clinics in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee, “many women” were “having to go somewhere else.”

    This blog has been updated for accuracy.

  • Here's Who's Defending Melania Trump's Plagiarized Speech And Who's Calling It Out

    ››› ››› NINA MAST & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Media figures, including some in right-wing media, criticized the Trump campaign following revelations that Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech plagiarized parts of Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. However, several conservative media figures still defended the speech, claiming that “nobody owns” those words and that the speech “actually applies to her life.”

  • “The Fix Is In:” Conservative Media Decries F.B.I.’s Recommendation Of No Criminal Charges In Clinton Email Investigation

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media figures are claiming that the “coverup is on” following FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the bureau will not recommend criminal charges to the Department of Justice in the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Conservative commentators have previously lauded Comey for his “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation, while legal experts and media figures have predicted that no criminal charges would be brought forward in the case.

  • Reporters Savage CNN For Hiring Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media figures across the political spectrum are ripping CNN after the network hired former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to be a political commentator on the network.

    CNN’s new employee allegedly manhandled a reporter, and news outlets have reported he’s made “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexual comments about female journalists.” He was also “accused of pushing a CNN reporter.”

    Here’s what some media figures are saying about the hire:

  • Right-Wing Media Use The Worst Anti-LGBT Massacre In American History To Lecture The LGBT Community

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Right-wing media personalities -- each with their own records of anti-LGBT smears -- used the June 12 Orlando massacre, in which a gunman wielding an assault weapon killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub, to lecture the LGBT community. The conservative media figures told them not to “focus on the gay community instead of the American community” and urged them to “come back home to the Republican Party.”

    Numerous government officials and media outlets have identified the shooting as a hate crime. NBC News reported it was “both the deadliest terror attack inside the U.S. since 9/11 -- and the deadliest hate crime against a gay target in American history.” CNN’s New Day devoted a segment to elevating LGBT voices in the wake of the massacre, where it was described as a hate crime. Both President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton referred to the massacre as “an act of hate” against the LGBT community. Obama explained the significance that the attack occurred at a gay nightclub, calling it “a place of solidarity and empowerment,” while Clinton said, “We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear.”

    Many right-wing media pundits, however, responded instead by lecturing members of the LGBT community about how they should react.

    On Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday, Newt Gingrich -- network contributor and favorite for Donald Trump’s potential vice-presidential pick -- used the tragedy to say he hoped “the gay rights movement will come to realize that Islamic Supremacy is their mortal enemy.” In the past, Gingrich has chided the movement as “gay and secular fascism” wanting to “impose its will on the rest of us.”

    Also on Fox & Friends Sunday, former Fox contributor and failed GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson exhorted gay people to avoid being too “ideologically driven” in order to start looking “very carefully” at “radical elements … for their own survival.” Carson has a history of bigoted remarks against LGBT people, which include comparing the gay community with practitioners of bestiality, saying marriage equality could destroy America like “the fall of the Roman Empire,” and asserting that sexual orientation is a choice because “a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay.”

    Fox’s Todd Starnes wrote June 13 that the attack was not about “the LGBT community,” but “the American community,” and denied that the president was “affirming and announcing solidarity with the LGBT community.” Starnes has appeared on anti-gay hate group media and has frequently included comments from the hate group Family Research Council in his own Fox reporting. In 2011, Starnes warned that proponents of marriage equality may try to make “traditional marriage” a hate crime, and he espoused several disparaging comments about LGBT people in his 2012 book Dispatches From Bitter America.

    On his website, anti-LGBT Fox contributor Erick Erickson criticized “the way the media chose to report on the event … [as] a tragedy in the gay community.” Calling it “an unnecessary dividing line,” Erickson claimed that “the divisions and focus on the gay community instead of the American community” would reduce the tragedy’s impact on American anti-terror policy. Erickson concluded (emphasis added), “The chain of events that led a terrorist to an arsenal then to a nightclub without the FBI noticing is far more relevant and important right now than the agendas of various activists.

    Erickson has repeatedly compared the LGBT community to “terrorists,” including ” in a 2015 blog post titled “The Line Between Islamic Extremists and Gay Rights Extremists” that asserted “the divide between Islamic extremists and gay rights extremists is at death. They meet on the line of destruction.” In the wake of the June 17, 2015, mass shooting in a Charleston, S.C. church, Erickson claimed that Americans can no longer distinguish "normal from crazy and evil from good," citing society's acceptance of transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner.

    The Resurgent’s Steve Berman wrote that “the LGBT community does deserve our special protection … against Muslims who follow an evil ideology sprung from their holy books.” While admitting that he “certainly do[es] not” agree with “the LGBT political agenda,” Berman concluded by threatening LGBT Americans: “I would gladly stand guard, AR-15 in hand, at any gay bar to protect these Americans, with whom I disagree, but will defend with my life. I do this because I love them like Jesus loves them. When the time comes for choosing enemies, I pray that LGBT Americans would choose very carefully.”

    Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza tweeted, “Maybe gay activists will start to realize that playing with snakes -- which is to say, coddling Islamic radicals -- can be quite dangerous.”

    D’Souza publicly outed gay classmates during his time at Dartmouth College in the early 1980s and in 2008 penned an op-ed contrasting gay rights and democracy. D’Souza wrote, “Gays do have the right to marry. They have the right to marry adult members of the opposite sex! What gay activists want is something else: the right to marry members of the same sex.”

    Conservative blogger Jim Hoft, who in the past hurled anti-gay smears against openly gay Obama administration appointee Kevin Jennings, used the massacre in a June 13 Breitbart News piece to urge gay people to vote for Donald Trump, writing:

    I’ve been a conservative activist for years. But today I’m coming out as a conservative gay activist.

    In the past few years I’ve built one of the most prominent conservative websites in America. I created The Gateway Pundit because I wanted to speak the truth. I wanted to expose the wickedness of the left. I was raised to love my country. Today I serve my country by defending her from the socialist onslaught.

    [...]

    I can no longer remain silent as my gay brothers and sisters are being slaughtered at dance clubs.

    There is only one man who can lead this nation and protect all gays and all Americans. His name is Donald Trump.

    [...]

    I pray that gays will come back home to the Republican Party – no more death.

    Striking a different tone, the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD), an organization that works to support LGBT Muslims, stressed that the tragedy “cannot be neatly categorized as a fight between the LGBT community and the Muslim community.” In its statement, MASGD called on Americans “to resist the forces of division and hatred, and to stand against homophobia as well as against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry.” From the June 12 statement:

    This tragedy cannot be neatly categorized as a fight between the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community. As LGBTQ Muslims, we know that there are many of us who are living at the intersections of LGBTQ identities and Islam. At moments like this, we are doubly affected. We reject attempts to perpetuate hatred against our LGBTQ communities as well as our Muslim communities. We ask all Americans to resist the forces of division and hatred, and to stand against homophobia as well as against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. Let us remember that the actions of a single individual cannot speak for all Muslims. Let us also remember that there are many straight Muslims who have been strong allies to the Muslim LGBTQ community. We see the beauty in our cultures and our faith traditions, and we have experienced love, acceptance and support from many in our Muslim communities.

  • These Conservative Media Figures Are Holding Out Hope That Delegates Will Dump Trump At The GOP Convention
     

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Prominent voices in conservative media are holding on to the hope that delegates will block Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Some have made the case that a close reading of the RNC rules shows delegates are not officially bound to vote for Trump, while others are openly calling for him to be set aside in favor of an alternative conservative nominee.