Conservative media are accusing the Obama administration of attempting to "sell U.S. citizenship" to foreign children following the announcement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that it will expand the definition of "mother" and "parent" to allow women who use assisted reproductive technology (ART) like egg donors to confer their U.S. citizenship on their children. The policy corrects a "glaring inequity" in the law due to outdated terminology that has required some women to adopt the very children they've birthed.
In its most recent effort to defend discriminatory and unnecessary strict voter ID laws, National Review Online has resorted in the past week to recycling debunked myths about this type of voter suppression, most recently linking voter ID to noncitizen voting, which is an unrelated issue.
With the midterm elections coming up, right-wing media are aggressively lying about voter ID laws and voter fraud, and NRO is no exception. NRO has previously praised Texas' strict voter ID law -- which has been found to be racially discriminatory in both intent and effect -- called for the remaining protections available under the Voting Rights Act to be repealed or limited, and dismissed concerns over Wisconsin's voter ID law, which has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters when it goes into effect.
In just the past week, NRO writers have doubled down on nearly all of these poorly supported right-wing positions. National Review editor Rich Lowry defended Texas's strict voter ID law -- which a federal judge determined to be an "unconstitutional poll tax" -- by arguing that the disenfranchisement these laws cause is justified by the potential for in-person voter impersonation, even though that kind of fraud is virtually non-existent. Lowry also incorrectly claimed that strict voter ID laws require the same level of identification needed to buy a gun. NRO contributor Hans von Spakovsky wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "moves to shore up election integrity have been resisted by progressives" who are challenging the legality of voter ID laws "without evidence that such efforts suppress minority turnout" -- despite the fact that a recent report found a decrease in voter of color turnout in two states was attributable to strict voter ID. For good measure, von Spakovsky, a discredited proponent of restrictive election rules, also conflated other forms of voter fraud with in-person impersonation, the only type of fraud voter ID prevents.
The dissembling continued with another NRO contributor, Mona Charen, offering more of the same in a post titled "The Voter-ID Myth Crashes." Charen seized on a contested study of the rate of noncitizen voting to claim that "[b]eing asked to show a photo ID can diminish several kinds of fraud, including impersonation, duplicate registrations in different jurisdictions, and voting by ineligible people including felons and noncitizens," but buried the fact that "[v]oter-ID laws will not prevent noncitizens from voting."
Academics and experts are casting doubt on the merits of a new study, promoted by right-wing media, which estimates that a small percentage of non-citizens vote and might sway the outcome of elections.
Following a series of attacks in North America carried out by suspects with reported beliefs in religious extremism, Fox News figures have called for more aggressive stop-and-frisk policies, profiling of Muslims, and the surveillance of mosques.
Conservative media personalities have discouraged young women from voting as the midterm elections near, claiming that they are "too dumb to vote."
National Review Online's Ian Tuttle disregarded history when dismissing fears that "personhood amendments" and fetal-homicide laws could open the door to criminal prosecutions for women who have miscarriages or abortions. Women have already been prosecuted for miscarriages in several states, and personhood advocates are explicitly pushing to end legal abortion.
In an October 21 article, Tuttle wrote that "liberals are lying about personhood amendments" like Colorado's proposed Amendment 67, which would define "'person' and 'child' in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings." Tuttle asserted that opponents are mischaracterizing personhood amendments to claim they would make abortion illegal and allow the prosecution of women who have had miscarriages:
That is the talking point of opponents such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Vote No 67, the main opposition campaign, which says that "any woman who suffers a miscarriage would be open to investigation for murder."
This feverish scenario runs contrary to both experience and law.
Since 2006, Alabama has defined "person" in its homicide statute to include "an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability." No women have been investigated for miscarriages in Alabama. Or in Alaska, where a similar law also took effect in 2006. Or in Kentucky (2004). Or in North Dakota (1987). Or others.
But Tuttle ignored the fact that similar state laws have already been used to prosecute women -- in Indiana, a woman who attempted to commit suicide while eight months pregnant was charged with murder. In fact, in Alabama, cited by Tuttle as an innocent actor, the judiciary is no stranger to interpreting the law in a way that pushes a personhood agenda. In that state, two women were prosecuted for endangering their unborn children by ingesting illicit drugs during their pregnancies, even though their "behavior ... was not intended to be criminalized when the Legislature enacted the chemical-endangerment statute." According to RH Reality Check, these laws are increasingly "misused by overzealous prosecutors and judges to trample women's rights in favor of the nebulous personhood rights of fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses."
Tuttle also waved off concerns that Colorado's personhood amendment would effectively prohibit abortion, despite the fact that the Colorado amendment was proposed by Personhood USA's state chapter Personhood Colorado, a group explicitly pushing to end legal abortion:
And as in the Alabama Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Hamilton v. Scott in 2012, reaffirming Alabama's inclusion of unborn persons in its homicide statutes, the constitutional protections to abortion afforded by Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be read into Colorado's law. A "woman's right to terminate her pregnancy" (Roe's language) is not explicitly exempted from criminal prosecutions, but this is likely, as a practical matter, unnecessary.
The very case Tuttle cites has been described as an explicit roadmap for overturning Roe v. Wade. As ProPublica explained, the judge who authored the opinion in Hamilton is "a pivotal figure in the so-called personhood movement" who wrote that "a centerpiece of Roe -- that states cannot ban abortion before the point of viability -- was 'arbitrary,' 'incoherent,' and 'mostly unsupported by legal precedent.'"
Right-wing media falsely claimed that a New York Times report on old chemical weapons found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion vindicated former President George W. Bush's rationale for the Iraq war - ignoring the fact that the chemical weapons discovered predated 1991 and thus could not vindicate Bush's rationale which relied on an active, on-going chemical weapons program at the time of the invasion.
The conservative media's meltdown over a Nebraska school district's effort to train teachers about gender diversity demonstrates how conservative misinformation threatens even basic efforts to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.
In late September, administrators from the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district in Nebraska began providing teachers with informational materials aimed at better equipping them to accommodate and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included handouts from the group Gender Spectrum, which works to help develop "a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens."
One of those handouts, "12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness," listed recommendations to help teachers make their classrooms more gender-inclusive, including asking teachers to stop gender-based bullying and avoid the use of gender-specific terms like "ladies and gentlemen." Instead, Gender Spectrum recommended teachers use terms like "readers," "campers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
The school district's distribution of Gender Spectrum's materials sparked controversy when the conservative group Nebraska Watchdog published a report on the handout on October 2. The report was picked up by National Review Online and The Daily Caller before eventually making the jump to Fox News. The network ran multiple segments falsely accusing LPS of "banning" terms like "boys and girls" as part of a "political agenda."
In an interview with Equality Matters, Gender Spectrum's Director of Education Joel Baum criticized the "disingenuous" reporting on his organization's training materials. "They're sharing information about work that's occurring in a school and not being accurate about ... the overall purpose of the work," he said. "[B]y taking various things out of context - like "purple penguins" - they completely trivialize something that's really, really important and misrepresent our work."
Fox's misleading coverage of Gender Spectrum's handouts eventually prompted LPS Superintendent Steve Joel to call a press conference to dispel the network's misinformation. Joel criticized conservative media outlets for peddling falsehoods about the educational materials, calling it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school was forced to waste time and resources responding to calls and questions about the handouts.
Conservative media's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 - October 15 included smearing migrant children as conveyors of disease, accusing the Mexican president of encouraging illegal immigration, and mocking MSNBC host Jose Diaz-Balart for conducting a bilingual interview.
In an article for National Review Online, anti-Muslim activist David Horowitz described the benefits to conservatives of the recent beheadings carried out by the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS). The October 9 article is headlined "Thank You, ISIS" and bears the subhead, "The beheadings have achieved what all the warnings from conservatives never could":
Beheadings of innocent human beings are unspeakable acts reflecting the barbaric savagery of the Islamic "holy war" against the West -- against us. Yet despite the intentions of their perpetrators, they have had an unexpected utility. Their gruesome images have entered the living rooms and consciousness of ordinary Americans and waked them up.
For more than a decade, a handful of conservatives, of whom I was one, tried to sound the alarm about the Islamist threat. For our efforts, we were ridiculed, smeared as bigots, and marginalized as Islamophobes.
And then came ISIS. The horrific images of the beheadings, the reports of mass slaughters, and the threats to the American homeland have accomplished what our small contingent of beleaguered conservatives could never have achieved by ourselves. They brought images of these Islamic fanatics and savages into the living rooms of the American public, and suddenly the acceptable language for describing the enemy began to change. "Savages" and "barbarians" began to roll off the tongues of evening-news anchors and commentators who never would have dreamed of crossing that line before, for fear of offending the politically correct.
This strange sentiment is made stranger by the fact that a writer for NRO previously accused President Obama of advising ISIS.
Horowitz is a former member of the New Left who, since his political conversion, has made a career out of alleging liberal bias on college campuses and accusing anyone who is not overtly Islamophobic of being in league with terrorists. The Southern Poverty Law Center described Horowitz as "the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement."
The website of Horowitz's organization, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, says it "combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror."
Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama for sending the U.S. military to help address the public health crisis posed by Ebola in Africa, ignoring experts who explain the critical need for assistance to contain the outbreak and the military's unique capability to support in those efforts.
On September 30, California became the first state to ban the use of plastic bags in stores, leading to a barrage of misinformation from various media outlets claiming the ban would actually hurt the environment. However, these contrarian claims are undermined by research showing that previous bans and taxes have reduced energy use and litter, while doing no harm to the economy.
National Review Online's foremost legal analyst is continuing his colleagues' attacks on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by criticizing her for "speaking publicly on abortion policy," despite previously defending Justice Antonin Scalia's penchant for similar public comments and interviews.
In the past week, National Review "roving correspondent" Kevin Williamson echoed his outlet's debunked insinuations from 2009 that Ginsburg supported eugenics. Williamson accused her of harboring a "desire to see as many poor children killed as is feasibly possible," an argument that NRO editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg offered "three cheers for" and that Williamson later compounded when he argued that women who have abortions should be hanged. NRO legal analyst Ed Whelan continued the attacks on Ginsburg, joining other anti-choice voices in condemning Ginsburg's statements in a recent interview in which she criticized a Texas law that closed down a number of the state's reproductive health clinics, arguing that commenting on legislation that could soon be before the Supreme Court was grounds for her recusal.
But Whelan went on to broaden his critique of Ginsburg, suggesting in a later post that she not speak publicly about abortion policy at all, regardless of whether it is in reference to a reproductive justice case before the court or not. In a September 30 blog post, Whelan complained about Ginsburg speaking "on all sorts of other matters related to abortion policy" and suggested that it was improper for the justice to "speak her mind openly on this matter."
Whelan's condemnation of Ginsburg and her discussion of general "abortion policy" appears inconsistent with his defense of his former boss, Justice Antonin Scalia, who also frequently speaks on contentious public policy. For example, in 2011, when Scalia spoke at a "closed-door session with a group of conservative lawmakers," Whelan balked at the suggestion that Scalia's attendance at a Tea Party function was inappropriate. According to The New York Times:
M. Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former clerk to Justice Scalia, disputed [George Washington University law professor Jonathan] Turley's criticism.
"Does he think it's improper for any justice ever to speak to any group of members of Congress who might be perceived as sharing the same general political disposition?" Mr. Whelan told The Los Angeles Times. "My guess is that, schedule permitting, Scalia would be happy to speak on the same topic to any similarly sized group of members of Congress who invited him."
Right-wing media outlets are complaining about the federal government's announcement that it will provide grant money to legal services organizations willing to represent undocumented immigrant children in deportation proceedings.
Earlier this summer, federal officials reported that a record number of unaccompanied minors were being apprehended while crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. Despite the fact that many of those children made the dangerous journey to escape horrific violence in their home countries, right-wing media still blamed President Obama for the increase in refugees, suggested that the children carried rare diseases, and claimed that they were "fronts for drug dealers" and terrorists. Although the number of unaccompanied minors coming into the United States has dropped over the last few months, children now in custody are entering deportation proceedings, and most of them will face the court with no lawyer -- a potential violation of due process that right-wing media don't seem to care much about.
Federal law allows immigrants "the privilege of being represented, at no expense to the government, by counsel of the alien's choosing." This privilege, however, is no guarantee and often hollow as many of these minors cannot afford a private attorney. As a result, thousands of children -- who have no money -- are forced to represent themselves in complex legal proceedings because there aren't enough lawyers available to take their case pro bono, without a fee. As The New York Times reported earlier this year, minors representing themselves in court "can be comically tragic, with preschoolers propped in leather-cushioned chairs facing off against federal lawyers." Although the grant money will be a step toward addressing this glaring civil rights problem, advocates agree that "it would only touch a fraction of all the unaccompanied minors who appear in court in the coming months."
To try to provide these preschoolers with basic due process, the Department of Justice announced plans to distribute $1.8 million in grants to legal aid organizations that represent unaccompanied minors in immigration court. The DOJ's grants will be awarded through AmeriCorps and "will enable legal aid organizations to enroll approximately 100 lawyers and paralegals to represent children in immigration proceedings." The Department of Health and Human Services also announced that it plans to give out $9 million over the next two years to help fund immigration services for children who face deportation.
But the right-wing media weren't wild about extending civil rights to these unaccompanied minors.
National Review Online complained that the grants hadn't received enough scrutiny in the media because they were "an unprecedented effort to shield illegal immigrants from deportation" and went on to say the grants are "legally dubious" and may be an "illegitimate use of taxpayer dollars." On the October 1 edition of Fox & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade also criticized the federal grants in his "News by the Numbers" segment:
Conservative media figures are accusing the Obama administration of "inventing" the Khorasan group following U.S. air strikes on the terror cell, claiming President Obama is deploying "propaganda" tools to hide the group's connection to al Qaeda. In reality, the intelligence community has been monitoring the Khorasan group for some time, and Obama himself has publicly acknowledged its ties to al Qaeda.