Right-wing media figures jumped at reports that Sandra Fluke is running for political office in California with sexist attacks and falsehoods about her advocacy for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate.
Conservatives are misusing a deceptive study to claim that the "liberal media" is giving the recent bridge scandal involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration more coverage than they gave allegations that the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately targeted conservative groups. In their attempt to use the Christie story for political gain, conservatives accidentally point to a real media failure: after heavily covering the initial IRS allegations, the press has largely ignored subsequent revelations undermining the "scandal."
On January 8, the media reported on documents showing that close Christie aides were involved in the closure of several lanes of the George Washington Bridge in order to create gridlock in Fort Lee, NJ as political retribution. The next day, Christie gave a press conference apologizing and saying he had fired the aides. As the events involved malfeasance by the administration of perhaps the leading contender for the 2016 Republican nomination, they received heavy media coverage.
On January 10, the conservative Media Research Center (MRC) released a report that attacked the media for that coverage by claiming that ABC, CBS, and NBC had given "a staggering 88 minutes to the story" but "over the last six months have allowed a scant two minutes for the latest on Barack Obama's Internal Revenue Service scandal." The report has been widely cited by conservatives, particularly on Fox News.
On Fox & Friends this morning, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked how the media could "justify wall to wall coverage over a traffic jam in one region of the country when they practically ignored the IRS which affects everybody in the country." Commentary Editor John Podhoretz explained that it's because the Washington press corps socializes with members of the Obama administration and "don't believe that these people could do something that untoward," but they don't know and don't like Republicans like Christie.
This is deeply dishonest. As both the MRC study and the Fox segments ignore, the IRS story broke eight months ago, not six months ago. Rather than comparing the network's coverage of the initial revelations in both stories, the MRC study carefully leaves out the initial, heavy coverage of the IRS story.
But the conservative complaint does inadvertently get at a crucial failure of the media. After trumpeting the initial, damning allegations at the heart of the IRS story, journalists have largely ignored the subsequent revelations undermining the notion that it was, as the MRC terms it, "Barack Obama's Internal Revenue Scandal."
The IRS story was launched on May 10 when Lois Lerner, then the director of the IRS division that determines whether organizations are tax exempt, admitted to and apologized for improper scrutiny of tea party groups and other organizations seeking tax exempt status. Lerner's statement was intended to pre-empt a highly critical inspector general's report that was released soon after. In the days following Lerner's revelation, President Obama called the targeting "outrageous" and "inexcusable" and fired the acting director of the IRS, while Attorney General Eric Holder announced a federal investigation. Meanwhile, Republicans began holding hearings suggesting that the White House had been involved in the targeting. All of these events received heavy coverage in the media.
But less than two months later, new documents and reporting had largely diffused the scandal, as journalist Alex Seitz-Wald detailed:
But now, almost two months later, we know that in fact the IRS targeted lots of different kinds of groups, not just conservative ones; that the only organizations whose tax-exempt statuses were actually denied were progressive ones; that many of the targeted conservative groups legitimately crossed the line; that the IG's report was limited to only Tea Party groups at congressional Republicans' request; and that the White House was in no way involved in the targeting and didn't even know about it until shortly before the public did.
Those revelations, however, did not receive nearly as much coverage as the initial allegations, as Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College who studies political scandals, explained in an August 1 piece for the Columbia Journalism Review.
Nyhan examined the coverage of the story in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico, finding that while all three had heavily covered the initial allegations in mid-May, "as contradictory facts emerged in June and early July, they had already lost interest, publishing a fraction of the stories that ran during the initial weeks of the scandal."
Here are a few charts from his piece showing the huge drop-off in coverage:
Transgender actress Laverne Cox made waves with a recent appearance on Katie Couric's syndicated talk show, where she pushed back against Couric's fixation on the genitalia of Cox and fellow guest Carmen Carrera, a transgender model. In decrying the objectification of trans people, Cox highlighted a problem that plagues right-wing media coverage of transgender issues.
On the January 6 edition of Katie, Couric repeatedly focused on her guests' gender transitions, introducing Carrera by stating that "she was born a man and that's why she's on our show," before inquiring whether Carrera's "private parts" are "different now." Carrera challenged Couric's line of questioning, saying the issue was "really personal" and that "after the transition there's still life to live, I still have my career goals, I still have my family goals."
Couric pursued the matter further when Cox joined the segment, asking the Orange is the New Black actress for her take on Carrera and Couric's exchange. Cox responded that fixating on trans people's bodies detracts attention from the realities of transgender lives:
Compelling as they were, Cox's words fell on deaf right-wing ears. The Media Research Center's Tim Graham responded by mocking Carrera and Cox's handling of what he called "those uncomfortable wiener questions" and "the bulge issue." Graham derided the "two men" for believing "[i]t's possible to pretend to be a woman and use a urinal."
Graham's transphobia dovetails with the right-wing media's approach to transgender coverage, characterized by willful ignorance and expressions of derision and disgust. After Army Private Chelsea Manning announced her gender transition in 2013, Fox News mocked her transition as "confus[ing]" and "bizarre." Fox & Friends ended a segment on Manning's transition by playing Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady),"while one Fox host cautioned viewers not to be "deceived" by Manning's announcement that she's a female.
Media Research Center (MRC) President Brent Bozell slammed Hollywood for including too many gay characters in television programs and films, lamenting that gay characters "never face any real opposition to the gay agenda on these so-called 'inclusive' programs."
In an October 25 column for TownHall.com, Bozell criticized the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD's efforts to track the number of LGBT characters in television programs. Bozell mocked GLAAD for throwing a "tantrum" over the lack of LGBT characters on many networks, asserting that the group wants "children indoctrinated," because apparently it's "propaganda" to expose them to LGBT characters on their shows (emphasis added):
These cultural trend-enforcers went after the movies this summer, complaining that out of the 101 film releases by the major studios in the 2012 calendar year, "only 14 films contained characters identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. There were no films containing transgender characters."
In the 2012-13 TV season, GLAAD found a record number of LGBT characters -- 4.4 percent, or at least double their actual percentage of the population. Fox was honored for having these characters in 42 percent of their programming hours -- although that wasn't enough for "Excellent" status, merely "Good."
There's no wonder that a Gallup poll in 2011 found that on average, American adults estimate that 25 percent of Americans are homosexual. They're getting that crazy idea from TV.
They want children indoctrinated as well. GLAAD is also not shy when it comes to Teen Nick, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. Apparently, children also desperately need the propaganda of gay characters in 42 percent of programming hours. They're extremely happy with the liberalism of "ABC Family" and have relayed that Disney Channel executives promised GLAAD they will "introduce LGBT characters in an episode of its original series 'Good Luck Charlie' set to air in 2014, a first for the network." The first of many, they expect.
Here's the catch: Gay characters never face any real opposition to the gay agenda on these so-called "inclusive" programs. There is no measure of Orthodox religious inclusion and no real debates. The victory of the left is assumed without thinking. When a conservative character is created -- like Ellen Barkin's "Nana" in "The New Normal" -- it's a vicious cartoon, the kind that those "against defamation" folks deeply enjoy.
An op-ed in the conservative Washington Times assailed the campaign for transgender equality, lamenting that "you no longer need lady bits to be a lady" and asserting that the LGBT movement is part of a broader left-wing effort to "dismantle" Western civilization.
In an October 9 column, the Media Research Center's Matt Philbin complained that it's becoming increasingly unacceptable to misidentify transgender individuals. According to Philbin, the notion that we should respect a person's gender identity is emblematic of a larger leftist cult of identity:
My privilege invalidates my perspective on how you identify.
If you had to read that sentence twice and maybe are still unsure what it means, you're woefully unfamiliar with contemporary liberal-speak. You see, "identify" and "privilege" are terms with great currency on the left these days. They are also two sides of the same magic coin, minted to instantly quash dissent and silence argument.
This became abundantly clear recently when I made the mistake of commenting on Twitter about the latest 6-year-old "Princess Boy" news story. My crime, according to the liberals I offended, was declining to call a boy a girl. I'm rather a stickler for reality, and because the child was a biological boy, to my benighted thinking, the male pronouns still applied.
First, that matter of "identifying": In 2013, you no longer need lady bits to be a lady. You need only "identify" as one -- reality be darned. In modern America, you can't earn a living the way you want to, or build on your own property if it impacts the habitat of the spotted slug. But call yourself a halibut, and you can self-righteously demand the world cover you in beurre blanc and serve you with a dry white.
How you identify is sovereign. If Bradley Manning says he's Chelsea, then, by golly, the world is expected to send gender-warming gifts with a C embroidered on them. (Would his and hers hand towels be inappropriate?) We're all expected to choose sides in Manning's argument with biology, and make no mistake: Biology is in the wrong. Anyone with the temerity to point out the empress has no womb is a bigot.
Woe unto the pronoun refusenik who happens to be a straight, white guy. As my possibly straight and definitely white Twitter interlocutors so damningly pointed out, I am guilty as charged. Told to "check my privilege," my instinctual response was to suggest they check their bong. In their eyes, I am a creature of privilege. My skin color and reproductive organs -- and how I use them -- have imparted it. White privilege makes my perspective invalid and my opinion unwelcome, as long as I'm disagreeing with liberals.
This charge of privilege amounts to a simple statement: You had your time, white guy. You built this civilization. You're going to sit quietly while we dismantle it. So "check your privilege" and shut up. [emphasis added]
Sean Hannity hosted the Media Research Center's (MRC) Brent Bozell on his Fox program Hannity, and together the pair weaved a distorted caricature of the ongoing government shutdown and the media coverage surrounding it. From their seats on one of the nation's largest news networks, Hannity and Bozell complained that liberal media bias was to blame for the public's low opinion of congressional Republicans' role in the shutdown, supporting their façade with a series of lies, omissions, and a dose of their own bias.
On October 1, the federal government shut down when congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).
On the October 3 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity and Bozell discussed media coverage of the shutdown, reflecting on "all the ways the mainstream media puts their liberal spin on the news," as Hannity put it. He proceeded to open the segment with his own conservative spin on the news, accusing President Obama of refusing to talk to Republicans about the shutdown and absolving Republicans of responsibility. But in fact, the president has called and met with Republican leadership, who are holding fast to their ACA demands.
Bozell stepped in to agree that media's focus on Republicans is inappropriate, complaining that, "In the media coverage -- 21 stories blaming Republicans, not one story blaming Democrats." Bozell's MRC study focused on network evening news stories, ignoring the multitude of Fox News segments blaming Democrats for the shutdown.
Bozell's study in fact confirms that network news is providing reality-based coverage of the shutdown, which persists because of a Republican refusal to extricate its opposition to the ACA from the nation's budget. Bozell fails to acknowledge this fact, and his complaints amount to little more than an argument in favor of journalistic "false equivalency."
Media Research Center's Noel Sheppard has once again used an image that he previously admitted was "anti-Semitic."
In a post on the MRC's NewsBuster's blog discussing comments from former President Bill Clinton about the Republican Party's "media base," Associate Editor Noel Sheppard used the following Photoshopped image of politicians laughing:
(copy of full page with image here)
Newsbusters used the same image, which is steeped in anti-Semitic imagery, in May 2012 in a post also written by Sheppard.
As noted at the time, in the manipulated photo President Obama's tie has a Jewish Star of David design, and the Israeli flag has been added to the tie of former Sen. Joe Lieberman. An Israeli flag pin has also been added to Obama's lapel.
The creator of the images describes the Holocaust as a "scam" on their website, and has several other images with anti-Semitic and conspiratorial themes on display.
After Media Matters pointed this out, Newsbusters removed the image and added an editorial note from Sheppard that said "the original article included a doctored picture of Obama and others that turned out to have anti-Semitic imagery that I didn't notice when I incorporated it into the piece."
Nearly a year and a half later, the same writer has used the same image on the same website.
If there's any doubt how clueless conservative media figures are when it comes to transgender issues, the recent freak out over California's new student non-discrimination law should put it to rest.
For the past several weeks, conservative media outlets have been stoking fears about a new California law that will allow transgender students to have access to school facilities and sports teams that match their gender identity. The law has drawn criticism from outlets like Fox News, which warns that the law will allow boys to sneak into girls' bathrooms and engage in inappropriate behavior.
Case in point: Media Research Center Content Specialist Dan Joseph, who on August 15 released a video in which he poses as a transgender female and asks a woman if she would be comfortable with him using the same restroom as her:
JOSEPH: Excuse me. Are you going into the locker room?
JOSEPH: My name is Dan. I'm a transgender. So that means I have the man parts but inside I feel more like a woman. I was just wondering, is it okay if I go in there with you in there and change and shower and stuff? Just because I don't really feel, like, comfortable in the men's area. It's just weird. Is that okay with you?
Other than attempting to feminize his voice, Joseph doesn't present himself in any way as a female in the clip. He is wearing men's clothing, has a full goatee, and goes by his male name, "Dan."
His impersonation is a perfect example of everything that's wrong with how conservative media imagine transgender people.
Fox News hosted conservative activist and media critic Brent Bozell to defend a widely criticized interview by Fox's Lauren Green and continue the right-wing media's attack on Muslim scholar Reza Aslan.
During an interview with writer and scholar Reza Aslan, Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green ignored the content of his book and his academic credentials, instead repeatedly questioning the motivation and propriety of a Muslim writing a book about Jesus, suggesting a religious bias.
Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, defended Green during the America Live segment, saying: "I'll be the first one to stand up and applaud Lauren Green for the question that she asked. It was the exact, correct question that needed to be asked." He went on to criticize Aslan's response to Green's suggestion of religious bias -- that he's a scholar of religions, that it's his job to write about religion -- calling it arrogant and further claiming that if Aslan was indeed writing without bias, then "he's not a very good Muslim."
Green has come under widespread criticism for the interview. As Media Matters pointed out, Green failed to meet her own standards since she, a Christian, has reported on Muslims in the past. Aslan responded to his interview with Green by pointing out Fox's "inherent anti-Muslim bias."
Green's interview has since been described by critics as "atrocious." Abe Levy, a religion writer for the San Antonio Express-News wrote: "anyone can scrutinize a particular faith if they have studied it, you don't have to be of that particular faith. In my line of work, you want to have a deep respect for a particular religion, even if it is not your own, but you don't have to be of a particular faith to cover it." A former writer for Christianity Today magazine said: "when it comes to the author, she could have looked at his credentials, she was trying to get at a controversy and wasn't sure what the controversy was."
The interview first gained attention after Buzzfeed posted it under the headline "Is This The Most Embarrasing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?" The segment was also described by Slate as "the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News."
Brent Bozell is getting pretty good at being ignored. Shortly after Barack Obama's reelection, the president of the conservative Media Research Center signed onto a letter warning congressional Republicans not to compromise with Democrats on taxes. The Republicans compromised. Then Bozell and his allies wrote a letter demanding that Karl Rove's American Crossroads fire a spokesman after he referred to Bozell as a "hater." No one lost their job. And all throughout 2012, Bozell's group erected billboards warning America: "DON'T BELIEVE THE LIBERAL MEDIA!" Yet according to Bozell's latest book, America spent most of 2012 believing the liberal media.
Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election -- and How to Stop Them from Doing It in 2016 is Bozell's (and co-author Tim Graham's) post-mortem of how the "liberal media" exerted its considerable influence to steal the 2012 election for the president. "Stole the 2012 Election" implies that the press behaved illicitly and in a way that contravenes the values this country holds dear, but that turns out not to be the case. "It's a free country -- at least for now, mostly -- and the national news media have the freedom to present Obama as the finest naked emperor that's ever lived," Bozell observes. "We must also salute that freedom, and defend it always." "Stole" would also seem to imply that Mitt Romney was a capable candidate who was wrongly denied the presidency, but Bozell apparently doesn't believe that either. "It was a testimony to the singular ineptness of their effort," Bozell writes of Team Romney, "that for the first time a presidential campaign chose to go into a prevent-defense crouch -- while losing."
So what happened? According to Bozell, it is "reasonable to conclude" that the media "provided four points for Obama -- his margin of victory." How he arrived at this conclusion is anyone's guess (he just sort of throws it out there after conducting a polling analysis "that, admittedly, is not entirely scientific"), but it's helpful to look at Collusion to get a sense of just how rattled and disjointed movement conservatism is in the second half of the Obama era.
"Barack Obama was a disaster," Bozell writes. "And he won reelection, handily." The tension between these two statements animates Bozell's analysis. That Obama's first term was a "disaster" is presented as a given: self-evident to anyone who was paying attention. The only plausible way to resolve that tension, per Bozell, is to point the finger once again at the media, which collectively decided to carry Obama into a second term and tear down any Republican who stood in his way.
Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center, reacted to MSNBC's announcement of Karen Finney as host of a new program by suggesting that Finney's skin is not dark enough for the "average viewer" to guess that she is African-American.
According to MSNBC's press release, "Finney, who served as the first African-American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, has been an MSNBC political analyst and guest host on the network since 2009."
Graham responded with the following tweet:
UPDATE: Graham adds:
A new Media Matters study documents how TV news outlets -- with the exception of MSNBC -- all but ignored climate change during the 2012 election season, even covering Joe Biden's smile in the vice presidential debate more often. This blackout fit perfectly into the right's climate change playbook.
When we saw events that illustrated the impacts of climate change in the lead-up to the election, the right tried to get the media to look the other way. As wildfires raged this summer, experts said that journalists should be explaining how climate change worsens the risk of wildfires in the West. But once the media finally began to make those connections, the conservative Media Research Center lashed out at them.
When Arctic sea ice loss broke records this summer, conservative media sought to distract their mainstream counterparts by pointing to Antarctic sea ice. Nevermind that the Associated Press had explained that Antarctic sea ice gains did not undermine global warming and were in fact anticipated -- MRC claimed that AP's report was not to be trusted because it "predictably cited scientists." In the end, the record Arctic sea ice loss received little attention from TV media.
And when Hurricane Sandy hit a week before the election, the right attacked the media for even raising global warming. Fox's media criticism show, Fox News Watch, called the media "liberal" for noting the scientific connections between Sandy's destruction and climate change:
JON SCOTT: It didn't take long, though, for liberal media to trot out climate change as the reason behind this storm?
RICHARD GRENELL, FMR. ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: Yes, and that is silly, right.
While TV media's election coverage of climate change ramped up after Sandy, the coverage still totaled less than an hour on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox.
After Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion upholding health care reform, the right-wing media have attacked his conservative credentials. Despite experts' statements that the opinion might have cleared the way for more rulings restricting federal power and progressive legislation, media conservatives are using this as a pretext to demand even more conservative judicial nominees. There is evidence their pressure is having an effect.
In an interview on NRA News, Media Research Center Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham leveled a very serious allegation at the supposedly liberal media: They haven't spent enough time talking about the "white girlfriends" President Obama had in his early 20s.
From Graham's May 25 interview:
TIM GRAHAM, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Where we have seen [David Marannis, author of Barack Obama: The Story] excerpts are in the magazine Vanity Fair. This apparently the deal he struck. That was where they talked about his white girlfriends in college. Which again you would think that would be a story that a news media that is so conscious about race seemed to not think that was an interesting development, that Obama had these white girlfriends. And how exactly would the black women feel about Obama having white girlfriends? Well they just weren't really... again, suddenly they are race neutral. They're colorblind.
Graham's chastising of the media for supposedly ignoring Obama's white girlfriends is the latest instance of a right wing fixation on the idea that Obama has never been properly vetted by the media. The truth is the fact that Obama dated a white woman was revealed by Obama himself in 1995 when he published his memoir Dreams From My Father:
"Well...there was a woman in New York that I loved. She was white. She had dark hair, and specks of green in her eyes. Her voice sounded like a wind chime. We saw each other for almost a year. On the weekends mostly. Sometimes in her apartment, sometimes in mine. You know how you can fall into your own private world? Just two people, hidden and warm. Your own language. Your own customs. That's how it was." [Dreams From My Father, Page 210]
The real question is who exactly -- in the year 2012 -- would consider the fact that Obama dated white women to be "an interesting development"?
Readers are advised that the original article included a doctored picture of Obama and others that turned out to have anti-Semitic imagery that I didn't notice when I incorporated it into the piece. Those familiar with my work know that's not something I would intentionally do. I apologize to anyone with better eyes than I have that noticed the imagery and was in any way offended.
The replacement image is one of the top Google Images results for the phrase "obama laughing," as is the original anti-Semitic illustration.
The Media Research Center's NewsBusters blog is using an anti-Semitic image depicting Jewish control and influence over the U.S. government to illustrate one of its posts. The entry, written by NewsBusters associate editor Noel Sheppard, is accompanied by the following Photoshopped image: