Right-wing media have hyped demands from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to illegally remove the Department of Justice attorney tapped to investigate the IRS targeting scandal because of her political contributions, despite the fact that the DOJ is prohibited by law from considering political affiliations or contributions in personnel decisions.
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.
The Daily Caller attempted to attack a New York Times reporter for his work covering the attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, but ended up citing a fake news report.
Conservatives have dishonestly attacked Times Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick's recent investigation into Benghazi, which debunked several right-wing myths about the attack. Amid that effort, Charles C. Johnson reported for the Caller that he had uncovered embarrassing information about the writer. Johnson reported that while a student at Princeton -- 25 years ago -- Kirkpatrick posed nude for Playgirl magazine.
That isn't true.
As Slate's Dave Weigel reports, the Caller cited a spoof issue of Princeton's student newspaper that satirically claimed that Kirkpatrick had posed nude for the magazine. The same issue also claimed that Elvis Presley had been sighted on campus and that a professor had the powers of a "mind-control master."
There was no "Daily Princetonian" article alleging a Kirkpatrick sideline in porn. The story appeared in a spoof issue, The Princeton Daily News. Two former student reporters for the paper confirmed that the paper would occasionally run a parody section, and that the Kirkpatrick "Playgirl" story was a riff on the well-known nudity arrest of a few months earlier.
After the false story was brought to the Caller's attention, they retracted their report. But instead of acknowledging that they had promoted a hoax, the article's correction claims only that the Princeton article "appears to have been fabricated" and could not be independently confirmed.
Right-wing media were quick to discount a report from The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick that debunked favored conservative claims, but the outlets offered scant evidence to contest Kirkpatrick's findings. Instead, they resorted to questioning the Times' actions during the attack, baselessly claiming that the paper "whitewash[ed]" Hillary Clinton's culpability, and scouring outdated reporting to hype a tenuous Al Qaeda connection.
Media Matters looks back at the best of the worst of right-wing media's treatment of women in 2013.
The Daily Caller derided a New Jersey bill that would allow transgender people to change their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity, running the story with an image of drag queens and dubbing the bill a "choose-your-own birth certificate law."
On December 17, Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens reported that the New Jersey legislature is set to send the bill to Republican Gov. Chris Christie's desk, although it isn't clear yet whether Christie will sign it into law. Owens wrote that the law would allow people to change their birth certificates to include "a gender they totally didn't have when they were actually born" (emphasis added):
The Daily Caller mocked a rainbow flag-themed Christmas light display in Rome as "so gay." Rome's government opted to hang the lights on the city's main shopping street to combat homophobia after the recent high-profile suicide of a bullied gay teen in the city.
In a December 9 article, Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens reported on the display, calling it a departure from the "unexciting and noncontroversial monochrome white" lights hung along Via del Corso last year. Owens explained that this year's display was a response to the "alleged bullying" of a 14-year-old gay teen who committed suicide:
The traditional lights hanging along Rome's main shopping street are rainbow flag-themed this Christmas season.
The municipal government in Italy's capital city chose the multicolored motif for the mile-longish stretch of Via del Corso to convey its stance against homophobia, reports the Daily News.
The message is pertinent in Rome because a 14-year-old gay teenager committed suicide a few months ago in response to alleged bullying and his belief that his family would not accept his sexuality.
Last year, the famous lights over Via del Corso were an unexciting and noncontroversial monochrome white. In 2011, designers used the colors green, white and red to mark 150 years of Italian unification.
Owens - whose derisive reporting on LGBT teens has itself contributed to the problem of anti-LGBT cyberbullying - omitted evidence indicating that the late teen's bullying was more than just "alleged." Roman police officials found homophobic text messages on the teen's phone after he left a suicide note lamenting, "I am a homosexual, no one understands my drama and I do not know how to make it acceptable to my family."
The August suicide came mere months after another widely publicized suicide by an openly gay Roman teenager who encountered vicious homophobic bullying. For Owens, though, the Via del Corso display isn't so much an opportunity to highlight the widespread problem of anti-LGBT harassment and violence as it is another chance to snark about LGBT people and their allies.
It's unclear whether, in describing the lights as "so gay," Owens was expressing his aesthetic distaste for the display. He has, after all, written that "foolish" and "stupid" are perfectly legitimate definitions for the word "gay."
The Daily Caller reported that a new survey of meteorologists contradicts the scientific consensus on climate change. But a simple opinion survey does not debunk that 97 percent of climate science papers found that human activities contribute to global warming -- rather, it only shows the stark differences between climate science research and meteorologists' beliefs.
A recent study conducted by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its "professional members" to test how political ideologies and climate expertise influence opinions on manmade global warming. The study found that only 52 percent of its members believe global warming is happening and is caused mostly by humans. However, this study merely shows that the average opinions of meteorologists are at odds with the majority of scientific research on climate change, and does not, as the Daily Caller claimed, show that "there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought":
Not all scientists agree that global warming is man-made. Nearly half of meteorologists and atmospheric science experts don't believe that human activities are the driving force behind global warming, according to a survey by the American Meteorological Society.
This new AMS survey runs counter to the notion of a "97 percent" scientific consensus and shows that there is much more disagreement among climate scientists than previously thought. The 97 percent number came from a survey of published environmental papers written by scientists from around the world, while the AMS survey measured U.S.-based scientists.
This is not the first time that meteorologists and climate scientists have been at odds. A previous survey of TV weather forecasters found that 27 percent of respondents believed that "global warming is a scam," and more recent survey found that over half of TV forecasters don't believe in manmade climate change.
There are vast differences between meteorologists and climate change scientists, not limited to that their models are different and they ask different questions. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained in an email to Media Matters why a weather forecaster like Joe Bastardi should not be featured in the media to discuss climate change:
I might point out that Bastardi's background is in weather forecasting, not climate science. Asking him to comment on the science of climate change is rather like asking a country doctor to comment on the latest developments in biomedical research. The media really ought to know better.
The AMS itself has criticized broadcasters for offering "nonscientific" opinions on climate change:
Increasing numbers of broadcast meteorologists, to whom the public looks for information and guidance on climate change and global warming, are not offering scientific information but rather, all too often, nonscientific personal opinions in the media, including personal blogs. Alarmingly, many weathercasters and certified broadcast meteorologists dismiss, in most cases without any sold scientific arguments, the conclusions of the National Research Council (NRC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other peer-reviewed research."
The expertise of scientists actively researching climate change is well beyond that of most professional meteorologists, some of whom may only have basic training in weather analysis and forecasting. Nonetheless, the public sees media meteorologists as experts.
The antagonism between climate scientists and meteorologists is illustrated within the AMS survey itself; of the survey respondents with expertise in climate science and who actively publish on climate-related issues, 88 percent believe that humans play a major role in perpetuating global warming, and only 1 percent believe that global warming is not happening.
President Obama's recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is sparking hysteria from the right-wing media who slammed the president for omitting the phrase "under God." But ironically, in their hurry to attack the president, they omitted the fact that Obama was reading the first draft of the speech -- a draft that did not include "under God" -- at the request of filmmaker Ken Burns.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns compiled footage of important national figures -- including Obama and all the living former presidents -- reciting portions of the speech.
On November 19, right-wing radio host Chris Plante accused Obama of omitting the phrase "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Other conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, and National Review Online's The Corner promptly ran with the story. WMAL, which hosts The Chris Plante Show, remarked about the news:
One nation under God? Under President Obama, maybe not so much.
As first reported on WMAL's Chris Plante Show Tuesday, the Commander-in-Chief joined a cast of 61 other noted lawmakers, politicians, news anchors and celebrities, including every living President, in reciting the Gettysburg Address, which President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863.
The dignitaries all delivered the address as Lincoln had written it, including the phrase, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." (Click to listen). Curiously, however, in his version of the address, President Obama omitted the words "under God."
Obama's recitation was not 'curious,' it was accurate -- Burns requested that President Obama read the 'Nicolay Version' of the Address, which was Lincoln's first draft of the Address and does not contain the phrase "under God." The relevant text of the Nicolay version, which Obama recites, reads (emphasis added):
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The right-wing media's rush to hysteria and ignorance of the facts in this case is ironic: Burns' project is called Learn the Address.
UPDATE: After this post's publication, the Daily Caller acknowledged the error in an update to its original post:
The "Learn the Address" website notes that "We asked President Obama to read ... the 'Nicolay Version'" of the Gettsyburg Address, which omits the words "under God." That disclosure does not appear alongside Obama's video on the site.
UPDATE 2: National Review Online's The Corner also published an update to its original post:
During today's White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Obama had read from the version of the Gettysburg Address given to him by documentarian Ken Burns. This appears to be the case. As Mediaite notes, the website for Burns' upcoming project, Learn the Address, says that there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the "Nicolay Version." This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase "under God." Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase.
Senior Daily Caller contributor Matt Lewis condemned Mary Cheney for objecting to her sister Liz's opposition to marriage equality, writing that Mary Cheney's criticism epitomizes modern society's lack of "family loyalty" and shows "selfishness" on her part.
In a November 19 blog post, Lewis weighed in on the Cheney sisters' feud, which was sparked by remarks made by Liz Cheney, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming, opposing marriage equality. Liz Cheney reiterated that position in a November 17 appearance on Fox News Sunday, stating that while she'd always tried to be "compassionate toward" Mary Cheney and her wife Heather Poe, "this is just an issue in which we disagree." Mary Cheney and her wife responded sharply, with Mary Cheney writing on her Facebook page, "Liz - this isn't just an issue on which we disagree you're just wrong - and on the wrong side of history."
Lewis argued that Liz Cheney was merely "pandering" in order to win the GOP nomination in Wyoming and that she will "probably 'evolve' on the issue" after she is elected. According to Lewis, by not putting up with a "short-term inconvenience," Mary Cheney is "messing that up" (emphasis added):
Let's begin with loyalty to one's blood relatives -- and the fact that Mary Cheney apparently has none. Let's all let Mary in on a little secret here: YOUR SISTER IS PANDERING. That's right, once safely ensconced in the U.S. Senate, Liz Cheney will probably "evolve" on the issue.
But Liz is also attempting to actually win a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. And to make that happen, Mary, Liz may have to say some things you won't like. This is a short-term inconvenience. (When you run, Mary, maybe Liz will similarly bite her tongue?) But she needs you now. And you, Mary, are messing that up.
When people talk about the breakdown of the traditional family unit, I suppose this what they mean. It has nothing to do with gay marriage -- but everything to do about putting selfishness and individualism ahead of the collective good of the family name.
Putting personal political views ahead of blood relatives (I get that Mary is now married -- and this constitutes her new family) seems like a relatively new phenomenon. This is partly because of social media (all Mary Cheney had to do was get angry and sign on to Facebook), but, my guess is this has something to do with our new individualistic world -- and the fact that expectations of familial loyalty are diminished.
Lewis' post reflects what appears to be a right-wing media effort to portray Mary Cheney as the villain in this squabble. Radio talk show host Lars Larson appeared on Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson on November 18 to decry Mary Cheney's lack of "respect" for her sister's anti-marriage equality position, which Liz Cheney and her parents have asserted is her genuine and long-held view.
Since the Cheney family feud erupted into public view, Mary Cheney has written, "This isn't like a disagreement over grazing fees or what to do about Iran. There isn't a lot of gray here. Either you think all families should be treated equally or you don't. Liz's position is to treat my family as second class citizens. That's not a position I can be 'lovingly tolerant' towards."
In the latest sign that it's the go-to news outlet for anti-LGBT bullies, The Daily Caller published an article lashing out at a Massachusetts high school student for objecting to the inclusion of a derogatory definition of "gay" in Apple's Macbook Pro dictionary.
A November 13 article by Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens reported that 15-year-old Becca Gorman wrote a letter of protest to pro-equality Apple CEO Tim Cook after finding that Macbook included a definition of "gay" as "foolish" or "stupid." Gorman, the daughter of lesbian parents, was conducting research for an essay on gay rights. Owens went after the "dictionary-repressing," "censorship loving" teen, baffled that she just couldn't understand that that's what gay means:
A Boston-area high school student is very angry that the dictionary in her Apple Macbook Pro laptop has not suppressed the knowledge that the word "gay" can be used to mean "foolish" or "stupid."
Gorman demanded that Apple change its dictionary, and also sought an apology "to the gay community, a good amount [sic] of your customers."
The incensed student said she got a very rapid response from someone at Apple.
"They said that Apple streams its dictionary from four separate sources so they'd have to figure out how to get it removed, but they were also really surprised," Gorman told WFXT.
It's not clear if Apple has censored or scrubbed the offending meaning of "gay" yet.
Gorman, who swears she is committed to seeing her dictionary-repressing crusade through to the bitter end, said she would accept an addition to the definition that offends her, noting that the meaning is pejorative.
This isn't the first time the rabidly anti-LGBT Owens has targeted a teen for ridicule. Making fun of transgender youth is one of his journalistic hobbyhorses. After transgender homecoming queen Cassidy Lynn Campbell posted an emotional YouTube video describing the transphobic bullying she'd encountered, Owens mocked her "interminable" "Youtube meltdown" - and, for good measure, misgendered Campbell. Earlier, Owens derided the "big fuss" made by California transgender students seeking access to proper facilities and school programs.
Owens has certainly made a name for himself as one of The Daily Caller's biggest practitioners of anti-LGBT cyberbullying, but he hardly stands alone at the website. The Daily Caller has repeatedly published defenses of Russia's anti-gay crackdown, ran a column by a white, non-disabled man claiming to be a black, female "cripple" to criticize California's law guaranteeing access to appropriate facilities for transgender students, and published a column complaining about how boring gay people have become since laws banning gay sex were stricken down and LGBT people won some basic legal rights.
Sensible people might call it cyberbullying, but to Daily Caller writers, publishing crude, boastfully offensive anti-LGBT commentary is simply what makes readers "comfortable."
The Daily Caller published an op-ed written by a white, cisgender, non-disabled man claiming to be a black, female "cripple" in order to mock California's law allowing transgender students to use appropriate restroom facilities.
In a November 13 op-ed titled "I think I'm woman, hear me roar!," author Jim Hughes criticized California's AB1266, a measure that allows transgender students access to facilities and extracurricular teams that correspond to their gender identity. Hughes adopted the typical conservative approach to attacking the measure - claiming that teenage boys will pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into the girls' bathroom. His evidence: he was a "horny 9th grade boy once," too, so he knows what he's talking about.
To drive his point home, Hughes goes so far as to announce that he is now a female and wants all the "perks" that come with being a transgender woman:
Horny 9th-grade boys will now be able to share the gym shower with your daughter, but only if they feel like it. Having been a horny 9th grade boy once, something tells me they will. A lot.
But hey, this is California! The Wild West, early adopter of the counterculture, so you'll get no argument from me. I'm going along for the ride on this one. But before I do, I have to get a few things off my chest. Governor Shingles, if you're reading, it's time for me to come clean - right here, right now:
I am a woman.
Sure, when I look down in the shower each morning I see a penis, my doctor gave me a prostate exam at my physical last month, I have a Y chromosome, and you can hang a trench coat off my adam's apple, but since when is science relevant? This is California! If ignoring basic biology is good enough for a confused seven year-old shouldn't it be good enough for me? I am woman, hear me roar! Naturally, I expect all the perks of my newfound sex - or gender - or identity - or whatever the Democrats are calling it this week: The ability to ogle women in the locker room, the occasional mani-pedi, and a kick-ass spot as second baseperson on the girl's softball team. And lets not forget the discounted small business loans, the free child care, free birth control, and my WIC benefits.
In the latest sign that it considers transgender youth acceptable targets for ridicule, The Daily Caller mocked a California law guaranteeing transgender students access to proper facilities and programs as a "choose-your-own bathroom law" designed to placate confused students.
On November 12, The Daily Caller published an article by education editor Eric Owens, who noted that the right-wing coalition fighting to repeal the law recently announced that it had gathered enough signatures to put the law up to a vote in November 2014. Owens made clear where he stood on the law (emphasis added):
If the state deems that at least 505,000 of the 620,000 submitted signatures are valid, the law -- commonly known as Assembly Bill 1266 -- will no longer be implemented on Jan. 1. Instead, the issue will appear on a November 2014 ballot.
California voters would then decide if students with penises should use bathrooms and locker rooms designated for males and students with vaginas should use restrooms designated for females, or if those places should be free-for-alls based on how students say they feel.
Supporters of the choose-your-own bathroom law insist that allowing students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that don't match their genitalia is a vital civil rights issue. They also say it's necessary to prevent bullying.
Owens appears to have something of an obsession with transgender students' genitalia. In a September article making fun of bullied transgender homecoming queen Cassidy Lynn Campbell, Owens couldn't resist noting Campbell's "various male appendages." Earlier in September, he reported that a Pennsylvania high school had disqualified transgender student Kasey Caron as a homecoming king candidate "because [Caron] apparently still has a vagina."
At any rate, Owens' description of the California law is characteristically off-base. School districts that have implemented similar policies state that they've seen no instances of misconduct and experienced "nothing but positive results." The only reported instance of bathroom harassment was actually fabricated by the anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute. Claims that boys will be sneaking into girls' locker rooms are based on nothing more than statements from right-wing talking heads like Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Greg Gutfeld that they themselves would do so.
Meanwhile, Owens' insinuation that you never know how students will "feel" from one day to the next shows that he simply doesn't understand gender identity, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says is typically established by about the age of four. But who needs expert opinion when it's so much easier to make transphobic remarks?
Faced with intense criticism for writing a column suggesting that gays have become "totally boring" since winning some basic legal protections, Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley defended his promotion of old stereotypes about gay culture, stating that such stereotypes "make people feel comfortable."
On November 6, Howley highlighted Senate action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to lament that gay people are no longer the "daring, transgressive" people they were back when gay sex was illegal and homosexuality was considered a mental illness.
Howley waxed nostalgic for the "outlaw" gays of yore who "pranced their corseted, high-heeled bodies around to midnight screenings of great American movies like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show,' 'Pink Flamingoes,' and 'Mommy Dearest.'" Howley's use of such tropes prompted this Twitter exchange with Atlantic reporter Jordan Weissmann:
The Daily Caller lamented that gay people have become "totally boring" now that they've secured some basic legal rights and no longer have to live in fear of being outed or ostracized in their everyday lives.
In a November 6 op-ed, reporter Patrick Howley cited the Senate's advancement of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as evidence that gay people had lost their "daring, transgressive" edge and had instead become a "bland, tedious, grievance group eagerly seeking government approval":
Back in the day, gays were subversive adventurers, trolling the city streets at night on a lustful quest for experience and with an outlaw mentality not seen since the days of the Wild West. They were decadently-dressed sexual superheroes, daring Middle America to condemn them as they pranced their corseted, high-heeled bodies around to midnightscreenings of great American movies like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Pink Flamingoes," and "Mommy Dearest." They had an ingrained creativity, a patented sense of irony. They had a brand. They had an identity.
The progressives hosed all of that activity down. The progressives have filled the back-alley glory holes with MoveOn.org petitions. They have condemned clubs named "The Toilet" and erected phone-banking operations for Media Matters. They have taken away your leather costumes and dressed you in Obama-Biden T-shirts. They have taken away your poppers and your molly and handed you $14 apple martinis.
What Howley fails to mention, of course, is that much of the gay community's "outlaw mentality" probably had a lot to do with the fact that gay people were frequent targets of harassment and legal discrimination.