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  • How A Right-Wing Media Myth About Planned Parenthood Could Hurt Florida’s Fight Against Zika

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    At the end of July, the first outbreak of the Zika virus occurred in Miami, FL -- confirming many experts’ fears that it was only a matter of time before the mosquito-borne virus began to impact the United States. But efforts to fight the spread of the virus have been stymied by anti-choice lawmakers’ reliance on the right-wing media talking point that Planned Parenthood isn’t an essential service provider.

    Since last winter, the Zika virus has spread among a number of Latin American countries, predominantly affecting pregnant persons. Experts have classified the virus as a “public health threat” due to the suspected link between Zika and the neurological disorder microcephaly, which severely stunts the development of a fetus during pregnancy. This link prompted concerns about the accessibility of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for pregnant persons affected by Zika in Latin America.

    Rather than prepare for an outbreak of Zika in the United States by making these essential reproductive health services more accessible, however, anti-choice lawmakers instead invoked a right-wing media myth to attack Planned Parenthood and block its efforts to help combat a potential outbreak.

    Since the release of deceptively edited videos from the discredited Center for Medical Progress, anti-choice legislators have repeated misinformation about Planned Parenthood and the essential services it provides as part of an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. To justify these attacks, legislators have relied on the right-wing media talking point that community health clinics can effectively fill the gap left by denying Planned Parenthood access to funding and resources.

    Prior to the Zika outbreak, anti-choice lawmakers in Florida had already attempted to block access to abortion and other reproductive health services offered by Planned Parenthood.

    In March, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that not only emulated provisions of Texas’ unconstitutional HB 2, but also barred Planned Parenthood from accessing state Medicaid funds. Although parts of the law have been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, if enforced in full the bill would functionally defund the reproductive care provider. The Guardian’s Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reported that supporters of the Florida bill echoed right-wing media’s false claim that community health clinics could fill in by “insist[ing] that plentiful alternatives exist for reproductive and sexual healthcare” even without Planned Parenthood.

    However, as Slate’s Christina Cauterucci explained, the list of replacement providers in the state was “laughable” because it was filled with “dozens of elementary and middle schools, several dental practices, and at least one optometry center.” She continued:

    Nevertheless, proponents of HB 1411 have used this list to pooh-pooh concerns for women’s health, claiming that there are 29 public health clinics for every Planned Parenthood in the state; therefore, the argument goes, no poor women will miss Planned Parenthood when it’s gone. The Guardian reports that in 2010, according to Guttmacher Institute data, there were just five public health clinics that offered family planning services for every Florida Planned Parenthood.

    Indeed, experts have confirmed that the idea of community clinics filling in for Planned Parenthood is “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.” According to earlier research from the Guttmacher Institute, in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” accessible for those seeking contraception. Guttmacher noted that Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services and typically can see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers" can.

    Access to contraception and abortion care are essential to address the spread of Zika in the United States. As Emma Grey Ellis wrote in an August 2 article for Wired, “To actually combat Zika, you need to gain control of its vectors.” She continued that although enabling people “to delay pregnancy to avoid passing Zika to their children is an obvious, vital step,” there were a number of “political stumbling blocks” preventing access to reproductive health services.

    These “stumbling blocks” have included opposition from public officials. During an August 6 interview with Politico, former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he believed those impacted by Zika should not have the option to abort the pregnancy.Gov. Scott has urged pregnant people to “contact your OB-GYN for guidance to and receive a Zika prevention kit.”

    However, according to Mother Jones, “Planned Parenthood hasn't received any Zika kits from the Florida Department of Health, nor has it received any guidance from the department about how to serve pregnant women during a possible outbreak.” The outlet noted that this failure is problematic given the significant role Planned Parenthood plays in caring for low-income and uninsured patients, who are “more likely to get pregnant by accident.”

    Furthermore, even when pregnancies are intentional, the threat posed by Zika is still substantial. In an article for The Atlantic, journalist Liz Tracy reported on her fraught experience being pregnant in Miami during the Zika outbreak. She wrote that the threat of Zika transformed “nine-and-a-half months into a horror movie with a monster that is almost impossible to locate and hard to avoid.” As Tracy explained, thanks to the numerous barriers to abortion access, “if a Zika infection terribly damaged the fetus, and we decided on having an abortion, those restrictive laws would pose an overwhelming emotional, practical, and financial challenge.”

    Tracy also quoted another pregnant woman saying that with the lack of testing, kits, and care in Florida, “It just feels like too little too late” to contain Zika in the state. She added, “It’s crazy how much they could have done in advance and nothing was done.”

  • Media Slam The Republican Leaders Disavowing Trump’s Feud With Khans But Not Rescinding Their Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”

  • Four Times Media Highlighted The Importance Of Repealing The Hyde Amendment

    The Hyde Amendment Has Long Stymied Abortion Access -- And Media Are Taking Note That It’s Time For A Change

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During its national convention, the Democratic Party adopted a platform explicitly calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- a long-standing budgetary rider blocking the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Here are four times media highlighted the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment and removing economic barriers to abortion access.

  • Fox News Revives Debunked Claim That Democratic Primary Was “Rigged”

    Fox Spins Hacked DNC Emails To Claim Clinton’s Victory Is “Illegitimate”

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News figures distorted the contents of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to claim that the Democratic presidential primary was “rigged” and that Hillary Clinton’s victory is “illegitimate.” But media have noted that Clinton won “her party’s nomination by every available measure” and that the hacked emails in no way prove the primary was “rigged.”

  • Despite The Most Anti-LGBT Platform Ever, Pundits Tout Trump As A "Champion" Of LGBT Causes

    While Some Pundits Point Out The Anti-Gay Record of Trump And The GOP, Others Fall For His Superficial Outreach

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    While some media figures ignored the GOP’s anti-LGBT party platform to label Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “a champion” of LGBT causes after the candidate mentioned the LGBTQ community during his Republican National Convention acceptance speech, others called out the “fallacious and offensive” idea, and noted that “this year’s GOP platform is one of the most anti-LGBT ever.”

  • Media Highlight Trump VP Pick Mike Pence’s “Radical Obstinacy” On Abortion

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Media figures are calling out the “bizarre” and “extreme” anti-abortion record of Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN). They called Pence “the most anti-abortion presidential or VP candidate we’ve had,” and noted that he “became a conservative hero” by virtue of his “longstanding, implacable and dogged” opposition to abortion.

  • There’s More To The Harvard Racial Bias Study Than Right-Wing Media Are Reporting

    Other Media Note Error Of Extrapolating From Limited Data

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    After The New York Times published results from Harvard economics professor Roland Fryer’s study showing that police, after making a stop, are “less likely to shoot if the suspects were black," right-wing media hyped the report headline that there was “no racial bias” involved in police shootings. They argued that high rates of black crime could instead explain the disproportionate rate of black fatalities at the hands of police. But other media outlets noted that the study’s data is limited, that it is based on testimonies of police officers, and that it “avoided the question of whether black citizens are more likely to be stopped to begin with.”

  • How The FBI Statement On Clinton Emails Was “Totally Overblown”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Slate’s Fred Kaplan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign policy columnist, reviewed the facts FBI Director James Comey revealed during his press conference in which he recommended no charges be brought regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and concluded that the media and Republicans dramatically over-hyped those findings.

    Reporters and pundits have termed Comey’s July 5 statement “biting,” “scathing,” and “blistering,” claiming that he “contradicted many of Clinton’s past explanations” and that he “called [Clinton] out for having committed one of the most irresponsible moves in the modern history of the State Department.” Five different House Republican congressional committees are considering investigations into Comey’s investigation, and Speaker Paul Ryan has called on the director of national intelligence not to provide Clinton with classified briefings as the Democratic presidential nominee.

    But after a review of Comey’s findings, Kaplan reports that Clinton’s actions did not “damage national security” and that, even if foreign intelligence services had access to her emails, “they would not have learned anything the slightest bit new or worthy of their efforts.” Kaplan's piece is titled, "The Hillary Clinton Email Scandal Was Totally Overblown."

    Kaplan breaks down the emails that Comey reported intelligence services said either contained classified intelligence at the time they were sent or received or were “up-classified” after the fact:

    Examining the 30,000 emails that Clinton turned over, the FBI agents found 110—the back and forth of 52 email chains—that contained classified information. Of these, just eight had material that she should have known was “top secret”; 36 of them had “secret” information; and eight more had stuff that she should have known was “confidential.”

    The agents also scrounged through the bits and pieces of 30,000 more emails that she didn’t turn over and found three—three!—that contained classified information: one secret and two confidential.

    About those first 30,000 emails, the ones Clinton turned over, the FBI handed them out to auditors at other agencies that might have an interest in the matter, and after months of review they “up-classified” 2,000 emails to confidential. In other words, when Clinton wrote or received those 2,000 emails, she and her correspondents would have had no reason to suspect they were jotting down classified facts. But the reviewers have declared them classified retroactively. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

    He then points out that based on his own experience and those of his sources, “the labels secret and confidential mean next to nothing”:

    As anyone who’s ever had a security clearance will tell you, the labels secret and confidential mean next to nothing. When I worked on Capitol Hill in the late 1970s, the government gave me a secret clearance on my first day of work, pending the investigation into my worthiness to hold a top secret badge. As far as anyone knew, I might have been a Soviet spy, carting out confidential and secret documents every night and making copies for my handler. But they also knew the risk was low because there was nothing in those documents that the Soviets would have paid a dime for. The same is true of our various adversaries and stuff marked secret today.

    Kaplan goes on to make a case for why even the “top secret information” contained in Clinton’s emails is not concerning -- they all concern either the CIA drone strikes, which are classified top secret even though they have been widely reported, or a conversation with the president of Malawi:

    Top secret information is another matter, but the stuff that showed up in Clinton’s private email wasn’t so special. Seven of the eight email chains dealt with CIA drone strikes, which are classified top secret/special access program—unlike Defense Department drone strikes, which are unclassified. The difference is that CIA drones hit targets in countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where we are not officially at war; they are part of covert operations. (Defense Department drone strikes are in places where we are officially at war.) But these operations are covert mainly to provide cover for the Pakistani and Yemeni governments, so they don’t have to admit they’re cooperating with America. Everyone in the world knows about these strikes; nongovernment organizations, such as New America, tabulate them; newspapers around the world—including the New York Times, where some of the same reporters are now writing so breathlessly about Clinton’s careless handling of classified information—cover these strikes routinely.

    The other top secret email chain described a conversation with the president of Malawi. Conversations with foreign leaders are inherently classified.

    In other words, even if Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Syrian spies had hacked into Clinton’s email servers, and if they’d pored through 60,000 emails and come across these eight chains that held top secret material, they would not have learned anything the slightest bit new or worthy of their efforts. The FBI’s discoveries should be viewed in that context.

    Kaplan concludes, “The Hillary email scandal has been brewing for a long time. Like the Benghazi scandal, this one has fizzled out, and one can imagine the frustration of reporters and politicians who had been savoring a climax that just didn’t come through.”

    As Media Matters has noted, journalists seized on FBI Director James Comey’s July 5 statement that “a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information” to claim that Comey, in the words of The Washington Post,“directly contradicted Clinton’s claim that she did not send or receive materials ‘marked’ classified.” But yesterday, State Department Spokesman Kirby provided an explanation for the discrepancy, saying that the “markings were human error” and should not have been included in the documents, which were call sheets for Clinton.

  • Slate Highlights How Trickle-Down Economics Wreaked Havoc In Kansas

    Kansas Transportation Secretary Resigns After Tax Cuts Put Agency In Financial Peril

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Slate has joined The New York Times and The Kansas City Star in highlighting what’s wrong with Kansas’ “insane right-wing experiment” of drastically cutting taxes, explaining that the Republican-led state “is about to destroy its roads.”

    In 2012, Republican Kansas lawmakers led by Gov. Sam Brownback enacted a series of tax cuts -- described by the Star editorial board as “disastrous” and the Times editorial board as “ruinous” -- that deeply cut revenue streams without generating the strong economic growth conservatives promised would follow. Instead, the state has fallen into financial crisis leading to a painful credit downgrade, a massive budget shortfall, and a “negative” credit outlook for the future. Brownback’s tax cut policies were nonetheless endorsed by right-wing media personalities and created a model for other conservative politicians to follow.

    On June 30, Slate reported that Brownback had announced the resignation of his state’s secretary of transportation, Mike King, marking the latest casualty of Kansas’ failed experiment with trickle-down economics. According to Slate, the reason King is leaving may be that the state has taken $2 billion from the Kansas Department of Transportation’s reserve funds to close gaps elsewhere in the budget. Former Kansas transit secretary Deb Miller cautioned that the “weakened revenue stream” would be “more subject to political whim.” From Slate (emphasis added):

    Kansas has had trouble paying for much of anything since 2012, when conservative legislators decided to implement a bevy of right-wing economic policies—and lead their state into a fiscal crisis.

    In order to keep funding its government despite dramatically decreased tax revenue, the legislature has flipped all their piggy banks. One of them is the Kansas Department of Transportation—or what sarcastic Kansans now call “the Bank of KDOT,” for the stupendous quantity of money that has been diverted from its coffers to the Kansas general fund and state agencies.

    [...]

    On Wednesday, Brownback announced that Mike King, the secretary of KDOT, would be resigning this month. King, who was appointed in 2012, has presided over a rather unusual period in Topeka finance.

    Since 2011, according to the Kansas City Star, the state has diverted over $1 billion in “extraordinary” transfers from KDOT. If you include “routine” transfers, from 2011 through the 2017 budget year the total diversion from the Bank of KDOT will amount to more than $2 billion.

    That’s more than KDOT’s annual expenditures. It’s as if the state, which has the fourth largest number of public road miles in the nation, had taken away a full year of road funding.

    [...]

    King’s predecessor, Deb Miller, told the Topeka Capital-Journal this week that King “started as KDOT secretary at a time when the agency had a well-defined and solidly financed statewide highway program. He exits an agency deeper in debt and with a weakened revenue stream more subject to political whim.”

    Brownback’s legacy will be grander, but we could call this the Mike King doctrine: Plugging holes in the budget; leaving holes in the road.

  • A Comprehensive Guide To Benghazi Myths And Facts

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & OLIVIA KITTEL

    After nearly four years of right-wing myths about the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and as Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the attacks release their reports, Media Matters has compiled a list of more than 50 myths and facts regarding the origin of the attack, the security surrounding the compounds, the Obama administration’s handling of the attack during and after its occurrence, attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other lies and misinformation regarding the Benghazi attack.

  • Journalists, Experts Slam Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” On Poverty

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the week since Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Republican-led Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility released their so-called anti-poverty agenda, titled “A Better Way to Fight Poverty,” journalists and experts heavily criticized the plan for rehashing “the same, stale, far-right ideas” pushed by Republicans in the past, and for ignoring basic facts about the inefficacy of these reforms.

  • These Are The Right-Wing Media Figures Spinning Trump's Bogus Legal Argument Against Trump U. Judge

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Some conservative media figures are still backing up presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s absurd argument that a federal judge overseeing the lawsuit against Trump University supposedly has a conflict of interest due to being “Mexican” or because he is a member of a Latino Bar Association group, saying Trump’s claim is not “a stretch,” is not “unreasonable,” and that the judge “is all too willing to associate himself with his ethnicity.” However, long-standing legal precedent has repeatedly ruled out a judge’s race or ethnicity as valid grounds for recusal.