Appearing alongside former president George W. Bush in Dallas, Texas, President Obama eulogized police officers targeted in a “hate crime” last week during a Black Lives Matter march. Right-wing media figures immediately lashed out, calling Obama’s speech “bullshit,” labeled Obama the “divider-in-chief,” and claimed his statements “gave a middle finger to the cops.”
On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2 placed an “undue burden on abortion access.” Supporters of the unconstitutional law argued that HB 2’s restrictions were necessary to protect women’s health and prevent another “Kermit Gosnell scandal” -- talking points pushed by right-wing media. Writing the majority opinion of the court, Justice Stephen Breyer rebuked these anti-choice myths, saying there was unequivocal evidence that HB 2 lacked medical benefits and posed extreme harm to Texas women.
Right-Wing Media’s Favorite Myths About Abortion Made It To The Supreme Court In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
In June 2016, the Supreme Court will release its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a controversial case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law (HB 2) that severely limits access to abortion and medical care. Right-wing media have alleged that HB 2 is necessary to protect women’s health and prevent another “Kermit Gosnell scandal” -- talking points that made their way into Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller’s defense of HB 2 during oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
ESPN fired former Major League Baseball analyst Curt Schilling after he shared an image attacking transgender people on Facebook. Right-wing pundits immediately denounced ESPN as "brownshirts" and claimed "the world-wide leader in sports has no balls."
On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court “is weighing the fate” of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration which “could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation” and grant them legal right to work. Right-wing media have spent years misinforming about the legality, and economic impact of the executive actions. Here are the facts.
In oral arguments for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, pro-choice groups called on the Supreme Court to strike down Texas' extreme anti-choice law, HB 2. Right-wing media and conservative lawmakers have long argued the bill's restrictions are aimed at protecting women's health and will not force clinic closures. In response, media in Texas have highlighted new research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) confirming HB 2 is dangerous, forces clinic closures, and places an "undue burden" on abortion access.
Media Labeled Previous Attacks On Clinton's Voice "Sexist"
Right-wing media personalities reacted to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's Florida primary victory speech by claiming she was "shouting angrily" and "screech speech," with MSNBC's conservative morning show host Joe Scarborough telling Clinton to "smile" during her speech. Media outlets previously blasted similar attacks on Clinton in February as "sexist."
In the oral arguments for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt -- the case before the Supreme Court concerning Texas' anti-choice law, HB 2 -- Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller relied on a common right-wing media myth to justify medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. In his argument, Keller made the long-debunked claim -- pushed for years by right-wing media -- that HB 2 was passed to prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic.
A February 27 piece in The New York Times illustrated how the Republican Party has allowed right-wing media to play a gatekeeper role on immigration issues.
The paper reported that legislators working to pass immigration reform in 2013 had to seek support from media mogul and executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company Rupert Murdoch, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, but even those entreaties didn't win the backing of conservative pundits. Fringe media players attacked the legislation, spurring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was helping with the effort, to back away from the issue, The Times reported. Now, the 2016 election is marked by the same anti-immigration rhetoric emblematic of right-wing media figures -- an approach that runs counter to both national opinion and the pro-inclusivity strategy the GOP laid out after its 2012 presidential election loss. That's of no consequence to right-wing media, whose fortunes aren't tied to GOP electoral success, but it could be devastating for immigrants in this country.
According to The Times, Rubio and other co-sponsors of the 2013 immigration reform bill -- known as the "Gang of Eight" -- knew that they needed to get Murdoch and Ailes on board to give their legislation "a fighting chance at survival." Aware of the eroding trust among their viewership -- which lately, as reported by CNN's Dylan Byers, doesn't think Fox News is "conservative enough" -- Murdoch and Ailes advised the legislators to also seek the blessing of Limbaugh, who "held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base." The New York Times reported on February 27:
Their mission was to persuade Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the media empire, and Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of its Fox News division, to keep the network's on-air personalities from savaging the legislation and give it a fighting chance at survival.
Mr. Murdoch, an advocate of immigration reform, and Mr. Ailes, his top lieutenant and the most powerful man in conservative television, agreed at the Jan. 17, 2013, meeting to give the senators some breathing room.
But the media executives, highly attuned to the intensifying anger in the Republican grass roots, warned that the senators also needed to make their case to Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base.
The Gang turned to Rubio to reach out to Limbaugh, as The Times reported, but the lobbying was unsuccessful; right-wing media launched an offensive against the push for immigration reform and against Rubio personally. Despite the Gang of Eight's appeals specifically against the label, right-wing radio continued to attack the bill as "amnesty." Radio host Laura Ingraham slammed Rubio, saying that unless he walked back his support for the bill, he would "rue the day that he became the Gang of Eight's poodle." Similarly, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin stated that he should move away from the immigration bill. Breitbart News also demanded that Rubio vote against his own bill. Right-wing media not only effectively sank the bill, but their criticism so deeply impacted Rubio that he has spent a considerable amount of time during his presidential campaign running as far as possible from the immigration positions he once espoused, to the gloating satisfaction of conservative radio pundits.
The rift between factions of conservative media has continued to deepen as the 2016 campaign has progressed, fueled in part by the polarizing presence of front-runner Donald Trump. After The Times published its piece, Rush Limbaugh tried to assuage his listeners. Limbaugh said he never even considered helping Rubio and the Gang of Eight on the immigration initiative. He portrayed the article as an attempt to "drive this wedge between" him and his loyal following by casting doubts on the purity of his anti-immigrant credentials.
The way right-wing media relentlessly torpedoed the reform -- and Limbaugh's need to wear his opposition to immigration as a badge - demonstrates how conservative media has effectively obliterated the space for a compassionate approach to immigration policy. And that explains why the tone of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign has been marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric and extremism.
The campaign's current anti-immigrant vitriol is a far cry from the goals the Republican Party espoused after its defeat in the 2012 presidential elections. After Mitt Romney's loss, strategists and campaign experts questioned the GOP's dependence on the right-wing media bubble: Keith Appell labeled it the "GOP's choir-preaching problem," while Mike Murphy asked that the party stop embracing viewpoints lifted from "Rush Limbaugh's dream journal." The Republican National Committee published the Growth & Opportunity Project -- more commonly known as the "autopsy" -- in which inclusion and a change in tone were deemed essential components of the road map toward 2016.
And yet, the stark contrast between the road map's goals and the party's current anti-immigrant discourse demonstrates that Republican candidates will side with right-wing media over the party's own goals, even when doing so runs counter to the will of a majority of Americans:
Right-wing media's strong influence on the GOP is likely to continue driving the party toward stances that alienate Latinos and other minorities. As Vox's David Roberts pointed out in a July 30, 2015, piece, because right-wing media's audience is mostly white and male, these outlets have no incentives to soften their policy positions or lessen the vitriol toward ethnic and racial minorities. And while changing demographics are lessening the dominance of the white/male constituency in general elections, right-wing media doesn't need to win elections to be profitable. According to Roberts:
The problem is that right-wing media is in no way dependent on the political success of the GOP. In fact, it's almost the opposite: The more the party establishment fails to deliver on the far right's (wildly unrealistic) demands, the more the audience feels betrayed, and the angrier it gets. That means more clicks, more phone calls, more engagement. It is to right-wing media's great benefit for the party to engage in a series of dramatic, doomed protest gestures like shutting down the government or attempting to repeal Obamacare for the 47th time. It stokes the outrage machine.
On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a controversial case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law (HB 2) that severely limits women's access to abortion and medical care. In covering the case, some media outlets have relied on right-wing media talking points about the purported medical necessity of restricting women's access to abortion, as well as the false claim that HB 2 would prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic. Here are the facts.
Right-wing media attacked Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime performance of her new song which reportedly features "implicit commentary on police brutality, Hurricane Katrina and black financial power." Conservative figures called the performance "anti-cop," criticized Beyoncé for bringing race "into the halftime show," and attacked the women performers for being "dressed like prostitutes."
The Supreme Court will hear arguments March 2 in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which challenges Texas anti-choice law HB 2. A ruling against abortion provider Whole Woman's Health would close at least 75 percent of Texas' clinics and likely enable anti-choice legislation across the country. Texas' brief to the Supreme Court utilized arguments that mirror talking points from right-wing media, including the claim that HB 2 would prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic.
With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
It didn't take long for conservative commentators to start hurling childish insults at their television sets last night during President Obama's State of the Union address. As he mapped out his vision for America, he was called a "crapweasel president," a "shameless snake" and a "bad man" giving a "stupid shit" speech.
Viewers disagreed, of course, and gave Obama's address sky-high marks last night.
If you follow these regular vile eruptions you can't be surprised. Over the years during Obama's annual, thoughtful national address, his feral critics have excitedly denounced him in real time as an "arrogant," "flippant" "jerk." He was "fake," "thin-skinned," "cocky and snide"; "patronizing," "demagogic," "unpresidential," and really, really "arrogant." And he often gave a "stupid," "Castro-like," "evil speech."
By all indications Obama's final year in office is going to feature a never-ending geyser from the far-right press, where every move and utterance from the president is met with overwrought name-calling and desperate cries of help. His critics have bronzed and memorialized the art of indignation. (And also berated the president's wife, endlessly.)
It must be exhausting.
It's only the second week of January and already, aside from the State of the Union outburst, we witnessed the weird and childish media attacks on the president after he teared up in public while remembering child victims of gun violence. ("Check that podium for like a raw onion ... It's not really believable.")
Just four weeks ago two Fox News talkers were suspended, one for calling the president of the United States a "pussy" on national television, the other for claiming, on the same day, that Obama just didn't "give a shit" about combating terrorism.
It's classic Obama Derangement Syndrome: the inability of adults to rationally deal with the actions of the Democratic president. Remember the collective 2014 meltdown when Obama appeared on comedian Zach Galifianakis' comedy show? (It was "dreadful" and "gross.") When he ordered "spicy mustard" on his hamburger? ("What kind of man orders a cheeseburger without ketchup but Dijon mustard?") Or when feverish critics blamed Obama for golfing when an earthquake hit the East Coast of America?
And note we're not talking about anonymous online commenters, or a group chat of College Republicans. We're talking about people who are supposed to be leading lights within the conservative movement. But it turns out they're immune to intellectual pursuits when it comes to Obama.
The amazing part is very little of this batty behavior seems to disqualify the participants in the eyes of the elite Beltway media. There seems to be few baseless allegations or insults that critics can hurl at Obama (or Hillary Clinton) these days that's deemed out of bounds, which of course only fuels the spoiled-rotten behavior.
So on and on the insults come, under the guise of "debate."
Obama haters are told that not only does he not love America and he tilts toward terrorist sympathies, but the dead-enders' bottom line has always been that Obama's a failure and America has suffered incalculable losses under his leadership.
His fevered critics made that same claim in 2012, only to watch Obama waltz to reelection.
And that's the catch: Virtually every claim they made about Obama turned out to be wrong, whether it was how Obamacare was going to bankrupt the economy (not to mention kill off old people), how he was driving gas prices through the roof, he couldn't create American jobs, he was going to take away your guns, he was letting Iran obtain nuclear weapons and letting Ebola sweep our shores, how he gave the Benghazi stand down order, and unleashed the I.R.S. on his enemies.
Under Obama, the stock market's up more than 9,000 points, the unemployment rate has nearly been cut in half, and USA Today reports that drivers in many states may soon see gas stations advertising $1 per-gallon fill-ups.
So where's the seething anger from?
Is the barely-controllable rage confirmation that the American electorate is changing, and not for the better from the Republican perspective? Is it quiet corroboration that, even according to some Republican operatives, a Donald Trump nomination this year could mean ruin for the GOP come November?
Meanwhile, does Obama's presidency rank among the most successful? I'll leave that debate to the academics. But it's obvious that Obama's successful two-term run has never matched the almost comical portrait painted by his adolescent, name-calling critics. (For context, Obama's current approval rating is not far off from Ronald Reagan's at this same point of his second term, according to Gallup.)
What's amazing to watch is that their parallel-universe view of Obama has only intensified over the years. You'd think the white-hot anger might subside over time, especially when it became clear Obama governed as a traditional, center-left Democrat, not as some sort of Marxist radical.
As New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote this week:
The Obama administration has done things people like me strongly disagree with. But America is in better economic shape than any other major nation on earth. Crime is down. Abortion rates are down. Fourteen million new jobs have been created in five years. Obama has championed a liberal agenda, but he hasn't made the country unrecognizable.
But Brooks' (sometimes) pragmatic brand of conservatism is no longer in favor among professionals in the fever swamp where logical observations about Obama (i.e. what's the big deal?) are rarely acknowledged.
Indeed, their unruly rage has only intensified, to the point where it seems like the permanent state of phony outrage is the entire point of the play production.