Recent news reports on Republican presidential candidates' current support for pre-viability bans on abortion after 20 weeks have failed to mention that such bans are clearly unconstitutional, and have been repeatedly struck down as such by the courts.
It's no secret that the likely candidates for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination are extremely anti-choice. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was recently in the news for his sponsorship of "personhood" bills that would legally define life at conception, rendering abortion and some forms of birth control the criminal equivalent of murder -- perhaps even without exceptions for rape or incest. With less attention, Paul's potential primary opponents have also staked out far-right positions on American women's access to abortion, and recent reporting indicates their consensus position is coalescing around pre-viability 20-week abortion bans. In addition to Paul, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are all reportedly on board with these bans, despite the fact they flout decades of Supreme Court precedent protecting the constitutional right to abortion.
In reporting on these candidates' current lockstep for bans on abortion, however, mainstream media outlets are neglecting to mention that these 20-week measures are blatantly unconstitutional -- despite the fact that some of these same candidates repeatedly emphasize their fidelity to the "rule of law" and the U.S. Constitution.
In a recent article about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who has yet to officially announce his candidacy, The New York Times noted that Walker's newfound support for a 20-week abortion ban was a "shift in emphasis and tone," but never discussed the constitutional flaw in such bans. USA Today, The Boston Globe, and The Los Angeles Times omitted the same fact in their political coverage of Walker's position on reproductive rights, with the LA Times choosing to describe a 20-week ban in terms of a "sharper-edged tone" rather than the unconstitutional measure it is.
The trend culminated in an April 17 Politico article that called 20-week abortion bans the "new litmus test" for all Republican candidates. While Politico detailed how anti-choice groups are lobbying Republicans to "make 20-week abortion ban[s] a centerpiece of their campaigns," the article never once noted that those bans are unconstitutional.
The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd advised Hillary Clinton "how to campaign as a woman," using a series of sexist tropes in line with her more than 20 years of gendered attacks on the former secretary of state.
In an April 19 op-ed for The New York Times, Maureen Dowd wrote that Hillary Clinton is a "granny" who "can't figure out how to campaign as a woman" after she "scrubbed out the femininity, vulnerability, and heart" required to do so during her 2008 presidential run. Claiming Clinton is now trying to shift her image after she "saw the foolishness of acting like a masculine woman," Dowd asserted that the candidate "always overcorrects," and is now "basking in estrogen." Dowd concluded, saying hopefully Clinton will "teach her Republican rivals...that bitch is still the new black" instead :
Hillary always overcorrects. Now she has zagged too far in the opposite direction, presenting herself as a sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van, so self-effacing she made only a cameo in her own gauzy, demographically pandering presidential campaign announcement video and mentioned no issues on her campaign's website.
In her Iowa round tables, she acted as though she were following dating tips from 1950s advice columnists to women trying to "trap" a husband: listen a lot, nod a lot, widen your eyes, and act fascinated with everything that's said. A clip posted on her campaign Facebook page showed her sharing the story of the day her granddaughter was born with some Iowa voters, basking in estrogen as she emoted about the need for longer paid leave for new mothers: "You've got to bond with your baby. You've got to learn how to take care of the baby."
Let's hope that the hokey Chipotle Granny will give way to the cool Tumblr Chick in time to teach her Republican rivals -- who are coming after her with every condescending, misogynist, distorted thing they've got -- that bitch is still the new black.
Dowd's advice for Hillary Clinton relied on the same kind of sexist tropes the columnist has spent more than twenty years using to attack the former secretary of state. According to a Media Matters analysis of 195 of Dowd's columns written during her tenure at the Times, 72 percent painted Clinton in a negative light. In those columns, Dowd repeatedly accused Clinton of being an enemy to or betraying feminism (35 columns, 18 percent of those studied), power-hungry (51 columns, 26 percent), unlikeable (9 columns, 5 percent), or phony (34 columns, 17 percent).
And in the 2008 elections, Dowd consistently used gendered criticism to mock Hillary Clinton and her other Democratic rivals. A Media Matters review of Dowd's columns between 2007 and 2008 found she repeatedly employed gendered critiques of Clinton, referring to her as masculine and domineering, calling her "mommie dearest," the "debate dominatrix" and "Mistress Hillary."
Less than one week into Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and it's a blurry image from a fast-food restaurant security video that's emerged as the defining media image. After "news" broke that Clinton, en route to Iowa to meet with voters, stopped in at an Ohio Chipotle for lunch and that the order was captured on film, the press corps basically went bonkers, treating it like a Tupac sighting and going all-in with fevered reporting.
The New York Times first got hold of the security cam video and reported that Clinton's order "included a Blackberry Izze drink, a soda and a chicken salad, and was filled just after 1 p.m." (1:20 p.m., to be exact, according to the New York Daily News.) Who carried the tray after payment? Clinton herself, the Times explained to readers.
Stories like the original Times report are not entirely out of the ordinary for campaign coverage. But the way the rest of the press went completely overboard in its wake suggests we could be in for a long and painful 19 months before the 2016 election.
More tick-tock details followed. "The newly-minted presidential candidate ordered a chicken bowl with guacamole, a chicken salad and fruit juice," according to ABC News, which interviewed the restaurant's manager. (The guacamole and fruit juice information was considered a mini-scoop; Business Insider noted guacamole "costs extra.")
For days, Clinton's Chipotle stop served as a treasure trove of information: Who made Clinton's burrito bowl? Politico sent a reporter to Maumee and determined, "The 25-year-old who cooked the chicken that went into the burrito bowl Hillary Clinton ordered at the Chipotle here on Monday makes $8.20 an hour and splits rent with two roommates." And assistant general manager Jef Chiet got Clinton her drink, Politico confirmed, "first a blackberry Izze, which she decided she didn't want after she read the ingredients, so he replaced it with an iced tea."
But campaign sleuths weren't finished. Bloomberg confirmed that, "The change from the meal totaled less than a dollar, but it was pocketed rather than deposited in the tip jar as many customers at the restaurant do."
Could any political analysis be gleaned from the mundane lunchtime stop? Of course:
"Hillary Clinton Goes Unnoticed at Chipotle In Botched Retail Politicking Bid" (Washington Times)
"Clinton Bypassed Centrist Taco Bell for Liberal Favorite Chipotle" (Wall Street Journal)
"What Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Stop Says About Her Campaign" (Christian Science Monitor)
Is it possible that maybe she was just hungry?
The Chipotle nonsense reached such heights (or depths), that even starstruck E! called out the political press for its ridiculous overreaction to the story, and the fact that "ChipotleGate 2015" triggered "all sorts of in-depth analysis, from what her choice in burrito bowl means for America, to whether her decision to don sunglasses means she's unfit to be president."
During her first week on the campaign trail, Clinton has avoided any defining, self-inflicted gaffes. The same cannot be said of the press.
News organizations have gone on a "staffing binge" in preparation for the 2016 campaign, according to the Washington Post. That means political units have to produce content, no matter how trivial and innocuous. The machine must be fed (clicks must be harvested). And right now, that machine is spitting out some dreadful, breathless, and gossipy campaign dispatches that are divorced from anything remotely connected to a public discourse.
Just think about the Chipotle story. Was Clinton in hiding at the time? Had she dared the press to find her out? Was there any reason to think her highway pit stop for food was newsworthy? No, no and no. Maybe -maybe -- if it were the final weeks of an historically close White House campaign, that kind of myopic attention paid to a lunch order would be warranted. But 70-plus weeks before voters go to the polls? It's unfathomable.
Chipotle Week was so bad it produced a sense of dismay among some media observers and practitioners, as expressed on Twitter.
Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman:
Hillary's campaign is only three days old and it has already been the subject of some of the worst political "journalism" of all time.-- Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) April 15, 2015
New York Times writer Nate Cohn:
A lot of the analysis of the nascent Clinton campaign is unusually vacuous--and that says something-- Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) April 15, 2015
New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:
Detecting a sense of dread coming over watchers of campaign coverage after the first few weeks... Plotting how to write criticism into that.-- Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) April 15, 2015
The irony was that while the campaign press freaked out over the trivia surrounding Clinton's lunch order, some pundits were simultaneously castigating the candidate for not rolling out a sweeping campaign agenda.
Politico assigned no fewer than eight reporters for an article about how, just 72 hours into her likely 18-month campaign, Clinton "has been slow" to articulate detailed positions on issues such as fast-track trade agreements and the need for reform at the National Security Agency.
The team at NBC's First Read agreed: "That lack of a message was on display at her Iowa event yesterday." Well, actually that wasn't true. NBC conceded that Clinton had already detailed four fights she wants to wage: "1) building an economy for tomorrow, 2) strengthening families and communities, 3) fixing America's political system by getting rid of "unaccountable" money, and 4) protecting the country."
Additionally, NBC reported Clinton had struck a "populist tone" and condemned income equality in America. But NBC didn't think any of that counted as much of a "message" from Clinton because she was just saying "what you hear from 90% of Democratic candidates running for downballot office."
Clinton didn't say anything entertaining and newsy! "She didn't say anything unique, which was always going to be the shortcoming of a rollout emphasizing theater over substance/message," according to NBC.
And there's the media's inadvertent punch line: It's Clinton who's guilty of emphasizing "theater over substance."
The staff at the Maumee, Ohio, Chipotle might disagree.
After The New York Times' Michael Schmidt scandalized the State Department's response to a congressional inquiry into personal email use by government employees, Schmidt admitted to Fox News that he was unaware whether other agencies had offered similar responses to those questions. In fact, documents obtained by Media Matters show that two other agencies responded in similar ways, undermining the Times' report suggesting wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton.
Schmidt reported in an April 14 Times article on the State Department's March 2013 response to a 2012 letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa asking whether Hillary Clinton "used a private email account while serving as secretary of state." The article stated that "Mrs. Clinton did not reply" during her tenure and that State's response "ignored the question" by only providing general background on State policy, suggesting malfeasance by Hillary Clinton and her former department. The Issa letter had been sent to 18 department heads as part of a broad inquiry.
On the April 15 edition of Fox News' On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren asked Schmidt whether he was aware of how other government agencies responded to the inquiry, noting that she was trying to figure out "whether or not it was just the State Department that was sort of dodging that question" or "if this was sort of the standard protocol." In reply, Schmidt acknowledged he didn't know how other agencies responded, stating, "we just know that they responded":
VAN SUSTEREN: Did any of the other agencies specifically answer that question, if you know, I'm trying to figure out, you know, whether or not it was just the State Department that was sort of dodging that question, whether other agencies, if this was sort of the standard protocol.
SCHMIDT: We just know that they responded. And when we went back to the State Department yesterday, to say why didn't you answer the question, they didn't answer our question.
In fact, according to documents obtained by Media Matters, two other agencies responded in a manner similar to the State Department.
2013 responses from both the Labor Department (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provided descriptions of department policies rather than directly address Issa's inquiry about whether officials had used personal email accounts. And the Labor Department response came in April 2013, after then-Secretary Hilda Solis stepped down, just as Clinton had stepped down as secretary of state between State's receipt of and response to Issa's letter.
A New York Times report suggested that the State Department's official reply to a congressional inquiry into personal email use by government employees showed malfeasance by Hillary Clinton and her former department. But according to documents obtained by Media Matters, other federal agencies responded in a similar manner, undermining the Times' report.
This additional context shows that rather than revealing a case of wrongdoing by Clinton, the Times has discovered that Cabinet agencies don't always respond to congressional inquiries quickly and in full.
The Times reported in an April 14 article that Clinton "was directly asked" in a December 13, 2012, letter from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa "whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state" but that "Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response." According to the Times, State provided only a "description of the department's email policies" rather than a direct response to Issa's question.
Clinton was not the only one to receive such a letter. As the Times article notes, similar letters were sent to "other executive agencies" as part of a broad Oversight inquiry into the use of private email by government employees. The Hill embedded the letter, which includes a note indicating that it was sent out to 18 Cabinet secretaries on the same date.
The letter requested answers to eight specific questions, including "Have you or any senior agency official ever used a personal e-mail account to conduct official business?"
But in suggesting that Clinton had failed to respond promptly and with sufficient depth, the Times gave no indication it had attempted to compare State's response to those of the other agencies who also received the letter, to determine if State's response was actually unusual. The Times article, published two days after Clinton announced a presidential run, instead was based solely on a copy of Issa's letter and the State response that were obtained from "a congressional official."
Media Matters has obtained the responses from two other agencies: the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Both letters to Issa provide a description of department policies rather than direct responses to the congressional inquiry, and one was sent a month later than State's.
The Labor Department responded to Issa's letter on April 26, 2013. The congressional inquiry had been sent to then-Secretary Hilda Solis, who stepped down before Labor responded, just as Clinton had stepped down as Secretary of State between State's receipt of and response to Issa's letter.
In his response, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Brian Kennedy did not directly address Issa's inquiry about whether Solis had used personal email, instead stating that the Department "takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that DOL officials and employees are educated on and comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations governing official communications and document management policies" and providing a general overview of Department policies, specifically on social media.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development responded to Issa's inquiry on January 11, 2013. Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations Peter A. Kovar wrote that the "forwarding of HUD email by HUD employees to their personal email account is permitted only in narrow circumstances," but noted that "originators" of emails on any system are "responsible for determining the record value of any transmission." HUD did not directly address Issa's inquiry into whether former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan had ever used a personal email account to conduct government business.
The New York Times was previously forced to walk back their sloppy reporting on Clinton's personal email account and began to quietly reverse course on their stance on the matter after the publication's public editor conceded the original story "was not without fault" and "should have been much clearer about precisely what regulations might have been violated." Despite the initial report's suggestion that Clinton violated federal record keeping rules, the Times' key source later clarified that Clinton in fact did not "violate" the law. Others in the media have consequently retracted their own baseless claims made in the rush to scandalize Clinton's emails.
When it comes to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who announced his presidential campaign this week, over and over the press' to-go description is "charismatic." That adjective has been making the rounds in the Financial Times, Vox, NPR, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. There's been heated agreement among reporters and pundits that Rubio is unquestionably magnetic and alluring.
For candidates, of course, "charismatic" represents a coveted label that elevates a politician above the ordinary. It signals that he or she is a bold communicator who can tap into voters' emotions; who can inspire and motivate in a way most mundane practitioners cannot.
There's certainly nothing wrong with dispensing compliments to politicians. But as the campaign season unfolds and media memes are formed around candidates (Al Gore never shook the press' "exaggerator" tag), it seems worth noting, as New York magazine highlighted, how the Beltway press years ago concluded that the much sought-after "charismatic" tag would be applied to Rubio, and it would be applied to him no matter what trajectory his career was on.
The "charismatic" term is clearly subjective and is used by journalists who seem to consider Rubio to be a transcendent speaker and politician. What's curious though, is that journalists often don't point to speeches or events in Rubio's past that confirm his "charismatic" status. Instead, the compliment has been doled out for years matter-of-factly. For instance, from the New York Times and Washington Post:
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic senator-elect from Florida" (Nov. 26, 2010, New York Times]
* "Mr. Rubio, a charismatic Latino senator from a crucial swing state" (March 29, 2012. New York Times)
* "[A] charismatic young Republican senator from Miami, Marco Rubio" (March 22, 2015. New York Times)
* "Marco Rubio, the charismatic young Cuban American who has captured the hearts of conservatives around the country" (April 10, 2010. Washington Post)
* "The charismatic Cuban American lawmaker from Florida," (Oct. 26, 2011. Washington Post)
* "The 43-year-old senator from Florida and charismatic son of immigrants" (April 6, 2015. Washington Post)
Note that there are no caveats. The Times and Post usually don't suggest that it's supporters who see Rubio as "charismatic." And they don't use the adjective to describe a Rubio speech. Instead, for the Times and Post (and many, many other news outlets), Rubio's "charismatic" nature is simply presented as fact, like his age or hometown.
On Equal Pay Day, The New York Times and The Washington Post highlighted the importance of addressing gender pay inequality, illustrating how women still earn less than men in almost every occupation and providing a refreshing counterpoint to conservative media's consistent downplaying of the issue.
Marco Rubio's (R-FL) evening accouncement that he will run for president in 2016 follows what GOP strategists call "the Fox News effect, where Republicans are determined to reach the network's most-watched shows in the evening," as The New York Times reported.
On April 13, Rubio announced that he is running for president at the Miami Freedom Tower.
In The New York Times' First Draft blog, Michael Barbaro explained that Rubio's announcement came at the "oddly specific and rather late" hour of 6:03 p.m.. Barbaro cited political strategists who asserted that the late announcement was to get what they described as the "Fox News effect, where Republicans are determined to reach the network's most-watched shows in the evening":
But is there a secret strategy to an evening announcement?
Mr. Rubio's campaign teams says there is: Having the senator take the stage and
speak at 6:03 p.m. has two distinct advantages.
First, it allows Miami residents to attend his rally at the Freedom Tower after work -- no small thing, given the legendary traffic in this car-clogged city.
Second, it means Florida television stations will likely lead their evening newscasts with Mr Rubio's remarks. An added bonus: Cable TV will broadcast the announcement live at a time when most Americans actually watch TV, Rubio aides said.
"People happen to watch TV at 6:30," a top Rubio adviser said. "Only people like us watch cable in the middle of the day."
Political strategists also pointed to what they called the Fox News effect, where
Republicans are determined to reach the network's most-watched shows in theevening.
Kevin Madden, who worked on Mitt Romney's campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said the 6 p.m. event "has the potential to drive live post-speech coverage during some cable news programs' top-rated slots."
Alex Castellanos, a longtime Republican campaign strategist, said, however, that the timing of a campaign announcement no longer mattered in the era of 24-hour social media.
"As long as Rubio drives Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly and engages the conservative community on the Internet, he will get the play he wants," Mr. Castellanos said.
Rubio will appear on Fox News' Hannity tonight for a one hour special. Rubio is the third Republican presidential candidate to appear on Hannity after announcing a 2016 candidacy.
This is the latest installment in what's become known as the Fox News Primary. A Media Matters study found that on Fox News evening and Sunday shows since January 21, 2013, GOP presidential contenders have been on Fox more than 800 times. Marco Rubio has appeared on the network 60 times.
Maureen Dowd's latest column attacking Hillary Clinton with comparisons to former President Richard Nixon echoes attacks from the Republican National Committee (RNC).
In a New York Times op-ed on April 11, Dowd predicted that Clinton's presidential campaign will "take the Nixon approach" by "trying to charm people one by one in the early states for 2016, an acknowledgement that she cannot emulate the wholesale allure of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama."
Dowd's Nixon comparison has been made before, repeatedly, as part of the RNC's "Stop Hillary" campaign. As the Washington Post noted on April 11, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus "habitually describes Clinton as a cold, Nixonian liberal millionaire."
Priebus made the comparison in March when discussing Clinton's email use while serving as secretary of state, saying "even Nixon didn't destroy the tapes" (an implication that the deleted personal emails on Clinton's private server were equivalent to Nixon's involvement in the Watergate conspiracy).
Conservative media figures followed his lead, and the Nixon comparison found its way onto a variety of Fox News programming, into the pages of National Review, and even into the mouth of conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on the March 29 edition of NBC's Meet the Press.
Dowd has now followed suit. The columnist has been attacking Clinton on often personal terms repeatedly for more than twenty years. She's accused Clinton of being power-hungry, unlikeable, phony, and an enemy of feminism, among other attacks. Now it appears she's looking to the Republican Party for new inspiration.
Most of the largest newspapers in the Northeast corridor did not publish a single piece covering this winter's major snowstorms in the context of global warming, despite strong scientific evidence that climate change creates the conditions for heavier snowstorms. The major broadcast networks and cable news channels also provided scant mention of climate change in their discussions of the snowstorms, with the notable exception of MSNBC, which provided extensive coverage of the topic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News, the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal featured content that used the snowstorms to deny climate science.
Reading the New York Times' front-page dispatches about the emerging Republican field of candidates this year, voters have learned Sen. Marco Rubio is "a charismatic young Republican senator from Miami," Sen. Ted Cruz was viewed by colleagues as "a brilliant and unusually ambitious upstart" who was "driven to advance and savvy in his tactics," and that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is "deeply religious," delivers a "a powerful message," "reads footnotes, emails frenetically and talks in full, wonky paragraphs" and is able to "showcase his social media savvy."
Times readers now also know that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is "is a gifted performer on many stages," and that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is "small-town minister's son who met his wife, a Milwaukee native, at a Wisconsin barbecue joint."
Just this week the Times front-page, still the most influential real estate in the news business, announced Walker really, really admires Ronald Reagan.
Republicans are already bashing the Times and complaining about how it covers candidates via the supposedly biased prism of the "liberal media," a catcall game conservatives have played for decades. But the opposite seems to have taken place this year: Republican White House hopefuls have received better, more sympathetic press coverage than Hillary Clinton, whose page-one coverage to date is been almost devoid of positive Times treatments.
That's not to say the Times hasn't produced a handful of page-one pieces that raised doubts or uncomfortable questions about Republican players and their record, or that many of the pieces cited above don't include negative caveats. The newspaper, for instance, pointed out that a charter school in Miami that Bush championed was forced to close its doors in 2008, that some Republicans critics think Christie and his aides operate in a "bubble," and that the Wisconsin State Supreme Court is currently considering whether to continue an investigation into alleged improper coordination from Walker's old recall campaign.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of the year, Republicans are routinely given positive characterizations and compliments, while presumptive Democratic favorite Clinton is often not -- and more often depicted on the Times' front page as either mired in setbacks, or certain to face daunting political challenges. (See here, here, and here.)
Clearly the controversy surrounding the email account Clinton used as secretary of state helped tilt the Times' coverage towards the negative recently. But that media-fueled firestorm alone doesn't fully explain the difference in tone and content.
The oddity? Recent polling suggests Clinton enjoys a sizable lead over all her possible Republican opponents, yet she's the one saddled with the bad press.
New York Times columnist David Brooks ignored his paper's reporting to defend Indiana's controversial new "religious freedom" law, misleadingly equating it with its federal version and misrepresenting the reason it has sparked such widespread opposition.
Indiana has been embroiled in controversy since it passed its version of a "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA), a law that has been used to provide a legal defense for individuals and businesses who cite their religious beliefs as a justification for discriminating against gay people, even in lawsuits that don't involve the government.
In his March 31 column, Brooks joined a number of conservative defenders of the law in falsely suggesting that Indiana's measure is no different than the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993. Brooks also erroneously stated that opponents of Indiana's dangerous expansion of the federal RFRA (and previous state versions) are not respecting the "valid tension" between religious belief and permissible discrimination, when in fact the main objection to the law is that Indiana has upset the previous balance to further undercut antidiscrimination protections:
The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was supported by Senator Ted Kennedy and a wide posse of progressives, sidestepped the abstract and polarizing theological argument. It focused on the concrete facts of specific cases. The act basically holds that government sometimes has to infringe on religious freedom in order to pursue equality and other goods, but, when it does, it should have a compelling reason and should infringe in the least intrusive way possible.
This moderate, grounded, incremental strategy has produced amazing results. Fewer people have to face the horror of bigotry, isolation, marginalization and prejudice.
Yet I wonder if this phenomenal achievement is going off the rails. Indiana has passed a state law like the 1993 federal act, and sparked an incredible firestorm.
If the opponents of that law were arguing that the Indiana statute tightens the federal standards a notch too far, that would be compelling. But that's not the argument the opponents are making.
Instead, the argument seems to be that the federal act's concrete case-by-case approach is wrong. The opponents seem to be saying there is no valid tension between religious pluralism and equality. Claims of religious liberty are covers for anti-gay bigotry. [emphasis added]
The press has almost entirely ignored the revelation that after the "richest man in Wisconsin" made secret donations benefitting Republican Governor Scott Walker, his company received special tax credits for that same donor's company.
By contrast, the media have frequently invoked donations to the Clinton Foundation in their coverage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, baselessly suggesting that those donations create conflicts of interest.
Yahoo News reported March 23 that John Menard Jr., the billionaire owner of a chain of hardware stores in the Midwest, donated over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which "pledged to keep its donors secret." Walker helped generate large, undisclosed donations for the group, according to records unveiled as part of a criminal investigation into whether the interactions of such groups with Walker's campaign committee violated state campaign finance laws. The Club defended Walker in the 2012 recall election, where he prevailed.
Since then, Menard's company "has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records." Walker appointees also scaled back enforcement actions by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "a top Menard priority."
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave a detailed account of the story on her March 24 broadcast:
Yet the pay-to-play allegations swirling around Walker, a possible Republican presidential candidate, have been widely ignored by others in the media.
The story hasn't been covered on the three major broadcast networks, CNN, or Fox News, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters' video archives. The Rachel Maddow Show appears to be MSNBC's only mention of the story. Besides a reprint of an Associated Press article noting a denial of wrongdoing from the Walker administration, the New York Times hasn't covered the story. And the only references from The Washington Post are in a post on the progressive Plum Line blog and the same AP story the Times reprinted.
By contrast, the media has repeatedly raised the specter of "ethical concerns" over donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments and individuals, among others. They have persisted with this coverage despite the clear indications from Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state that the donations did not influence her politically and the reality that the donations went to a global charity, not a fund benefiting her election.
Fox News host Howard Kurtz offered an erroneous defense of the flawed 1992 New York Times story that is widely credited for sparking the Whitewater investigations.
During the 1990s, Hillary and Bill Clinton were extensively investigated for their role in Whitewater -- a land deal gone awry in the 1970s and 1980s -- but all of the probes determined that no wrongdoing occurred on the part of the Clintons.
The impetus for national interest in Whitewater was a March 8, 1992, front page story in the Times authored by investigative reporter Jeff Gerth that scrutinized the Clinton's real estate dealings. Political opponents then seized on Whitewater to kick off years of investigations in a fruitless effort to pin wrongdoing on the Clintons.
On the March 15 edition of MediaBuzz, Kurtz reported that Gerth had contacted him to defend his "100 percent accurate" 1992 article, which had been criticized on the show the previous week by Daily Beast writer Michael Tomasky. According to Kurtz, "Gerth is right" to defend the article, which reported that "the Clintons bought land in Arkansas with the owner of a state-regulated [savings and loans company]":
KURTZ: On last week's program, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky criticized the New York Times story back in 1992 that broke the Watergate scandal, excuse me, the Whitewater scandal, saying it had been documented to most people's satisfaction that many of the details in the story didn't hold up. Well the author, investigative reporter Jeff Gerth, got in touch to say the article, which said the Clintons bought land in Arkansas with the owner of a state-regulated S&L that failed, and Hillary Clinton and her firm represented the S&L, was 100 percent accurate and the Clintons never asked for a correction. Gerth is right. It's hardly his fault that Whitewater came to stand for so many spin-off allegations.
But Gerth and Kurtz are wrong. Jim McDougal, the Clinton's business partner, did not own a state-regulated savings and loans company when he bought land with the Clintons. (McDougal would later be convicted of fraud relating to business dealings he undertook as the operator of savings and loan association Madison Guaranty.)
Typing up her latest scornful, fill-in-the-blank sermon about Hillary Clinton -- the kind Maureen Dowd has been churning out robotically for two decades (only the "scandal" topic changes) -- the New York Times columnist actually began her latest missive by likening the Clintons to the Iranian regime. A few paragraphs later, Dowd had managed to segue to perhaps her favorite topic: Bill Clinton's distant sex life. In fact, the March 14 column became Dowd's 100th that contained a "Lewinsky" reference, according to a review of Dowd's columns in the Nexis database.
Dowd's fixation may be something of an outlier at the Times. Who else would reference an extramarital affair in one hundred different columns? But Dowd clearly does represent the Times' larger, institutional and never-ending personal antagonism toward Bill and Hillary Clinton. It's been a Times-sponsored grudge match that goes back more than two decades. (Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. once told Clinton the paper had adopted a "tough love" policy towards his presidency. "I've seen the tough," Clinton quipped. "Where's the love?") And now that enmity has been awakened for the recent Hillary Clinton email saga.
Has that contempt fueled the Times' often sloppy coverage lately? "The real controversy isn't about politics or regulations," wrote Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek, offering up a detailed critique of the Times' email reporting. "It's about journalism and the weak standards employed to manufacture the scandal du jour."
For instance, note that in its March 2 report about Clinton's emails, the one that ignited the so-called scandal, The New York Times suggested Clinton "may have violated federal requirements" through her use of a non-government email address while serving as secretary of state." It was that hint of criminality that first gave the story so much pop in the press.
But it turns out that hint of criminality was invented by the Times newsroom, as several news outlets have since confirmed that Clinton did nothing illegal with her email account. (Ten days later, the Times got around to making that point itself.)
And that's the pattern we've seen unfold for twenty-plus years at the Times. With the bogus pursuits of Whitewater, the Loral spy satellites story, would-be spy Wen Ho Lee, and now Hillary Clinton's emails, the Times uncorks supposedly blockbuster allegations against a Clinton that are based on vague reporting that later turns out to be flimsy, but not before the rest of the Beltway media erupts in a guttural roar (led by sanctimonious Times columnists), and not before Republicans launch investigations intended to destroy the Clintons politically.
Last week, the Times' Patrick Healy wrote that the news media is emerging as Hillary Clinton's toughest political opponent. Indeed, the Times, once again, remains at the front of the charge.