Critical voices in the media are increasingly encouraging news outlets to not give a "free pass" to the fact that presidential candidate Donald Trump "is without question making himself into the racist's candidate for president."
Media outlets condemned Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for "catering to the worst sort of racism" by retweeting "racist and wildly inaccurate" statistics about murder and race in the United States from an organization that "does not exist."
Right-wing media figures are pushing the false claim that if the victims of the terror attacks in Paris carried guns, then they could have stopped the attackers and prevented the onslaught. Experts, however, have explained that civilians with guns have not historically stopped mass attacks and that increasing gun availability actually increases violence.
The Washington Post's editorial board denounced the "fear-mongering" that "has become a staple" of debates over transgender student rights and led to "tragic discrimination" against transgender students. The fearmongering is based on the debunked "bathroom" myth hyped by right-wing media.
Conservative media have repeatedly and falsely claimed that anti-discrimination policies that protect transgender students would be exploited by students who will pretend pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into restrooms or locker rooms of the opposite sex and behave inappropriately. The myth has been thoroughly debunked by schools and experts from cities and states across the country with existing protections for transgender students.
In a November 17 editorial, the WaPo's editorial board slammed the bathroom myth "fear-mongering" that has "unfortunately become a staple" of the debate surrounding equal-protection for transgender students, while shining a light on how these myths can dangerously foster discrimination against and stigmatization of students. The Post highlighted the "tragic discrimination" an Illinois transgender student encountered after she asked "to change clothes privately within the girls' locker room," noting that accommodating transgender students is a "critical matter for school districts everywhere" and calling for schools to replace "emotion with reason:"
To understand the bid of a female transgender student to use the girls' locker room at her suburban Chicago high school, it is necessary to get past all the fear-mongering that unfortunately has become a staple of these debates about bathrooms. Listen instead to what this young girl has told school officials: about having her own sense of privacy, about being isolated and ostracized and about how all she wants is "to be a girl like every other girl."
It's mystifying that some solution couldn't be reached between the two parties, but details of the two-year investigation prompted by the girl's complaint paint a far different picture than that suggested by the rhetoric of school officials. How the girl, who is undergoing hormone therapy and is recognized by the school as a female in all other respects (including her use of bathrooms), first asked -- and was denied -- an opportunity to change clothes privately within the girls' locker room in an area such as a restroom stall. How the school's insistence she use separate facilities for the past two years has stigmatized her. It is clear from the government's investigation, which included inspection of the facilities and interviews with school staff about conduct common in the locker rooms, that the privacy of all students could be protected without singling out this girl for separate and discriminatory treatment. It is a point that was underscored by the hundreds of students and community members who signed a student-led petition in support of her access to the locker room.
It is estimated that there are very small numbers of transgender students, but as school superintendent Daniel E. Cates pointed out in his public statements, figuring out how to best accommodate them is an emerging and critical matter for school districts everywhere. Those challenges, though, are nothing compared with the difficulties that confront transgender adolescents, so it's important that schools set the example by replacing emotion with reason.
The Post's calls for equality for transgender students are backed by the collective experience of 17 school districts around the nation that have implemented policies protecting transgender students with no negative consequences, and falls during Transgender Awareness Week, which according to LGBT media advocacy organization GLAAD, "help[s] raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people."
At least 30 state governors -- 29 Republican, 1 Democratic -- are parroting right-wing media myths about security concerns presented by incoming Syrian refugees to argue against taking part in expanded refugee resettlement programs. However, the overwhelming majority of refugees pose no credible threat to the United States, and the vetting process for refugee applicants is thorough. Furthermore, state governments lack the legal authority to dictate immigration policy in the United States.
The Washington Post editorial board claimed that ExxonMobil "deserves criticism for playing down the danger of climate change," but that the company's actions are "not a criminal offense." That conclusion is premature, given an ongoing investigation and evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived shareholders and the public about climate change. And this is not the first time the Post has argued against the government pursuing a legal response to corporate malfeasance; in the early 2000s, the Post also criticized the Department of Justice lawsuit against tobacco companies that it is now citing to try to distinguish the tobacco companies' wrongdoing from that of Exxon.
Former top aide to President George W. Bush and Washington Post opinion writer Michael Gerson denounced "U.S. politicians" who are "declaring Islam itself to be the enemy, and treating Muslims in the United States, or Muslims in Europe, or Muslims fleeing Islamic State oppression, as a class of suspicious potential jihadists." In the past week, this anti-Muslim posture has been exhibited primarily by GOP politicians and right-wing media.
In the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, a number of Republican presidential candidates, governors, and media figures have used the violence to fearmonger about Muslims and Islam. With many on the right calling for the U.S. to deny entry to Muslim Syrian refugees, Newscorp. and 21st Century Fox executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch suggested that the United States "make [a] special exception for proven Christians." Others have pressed Muslim advocacy groups to accept "responsibility" for the Paris attacks and have advocated for the "profiling" of Muslims on U.S. soil.
In a November 16 Washington Post op-ed Gerson described the dangers of "politicians defin[ing] Islam as the problem" -- namely that they are "feeding the Islamic State narrative" and "materially undermining the war against terrorism." From the op-ed:
As careful as we should be in drawing lessons from tragedy -- and there is something particularly disgraceful in mounting a political soapbox at a funeral -- the horrors experienced in Paris demand a renewed dedication to the prevention of such attacks .
Islamic State terrorists have goals beyond a blood-drunk love of carnage: to discredit the Syrian refugees (whom they hate) and to encourage the perception of a civilizational struggle between Islam and the West. They are succeeding at both.
They are stoking religious conflict between Muslims and Christians in order to attract recruits, including from Western countries. And one way to encourage the appearance of civilizational conflict is through spectacular acts of murder that somehow (horribly) appeal to a Sunni Arab sense of historical disempowerment.
All our efforts are undermined by declaring Islam itself to be the enemy, and by treating Muslims in the United States, or Muslims in Europe, or Muslims fleeing Islamic State oppression, as a class of suspicious potential jihadists. Instead of blaming refugees, we need to make sure our counterterrorism and intelligence policies give us a chance to screen and stop any threat (which means keeping the post-9/11 structures of surveillance in place). But if U.S. politicians define Islam as the problem and cast aspersions on Muslim populations in the West, they are feeding the Islamic State narrative. They are materially undermining the war against terrorism and complicating the United States' (already complicated) task in the Middle East. Rejecting a blanket condemnation of Islam is not a matter of political correctness. It is the requirement of an effective war against terrorism, which means an effective war against the terrorist kingdom in Syria and western Iraq.
In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, Republicans rushed with their conservative media allies to call for a halt to the admission of Syrian refugees into America, claiming that they would pose a significant threat to the United States. Major editorial boards slammed Republicans for "def[ying] what the nation stands for" and pushing divisive rhetoric that could "provide propaganda benefits to the Islamic State."
Right-wing media mischaracterized President Obama's remarks that ISIS has been "contained" to suggest that he downplayed the international threat posed by the terrorist group. However, fact-checkers have determined that "references or suggestions that Obama claimed ISIS no longer presents an active threat are incorrect."
Right-wing media seized on the November 13 terror attacks in Paris to make at least five false or misleading claims about Syrian refugees, past statements from Hillary Clinton, President Obama's strategy against ISIS, the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and how guns in civilian hands could have supposedly changed the outcome of the attacks.
Media should be careful about aiding Jeb Bush's criticism of Democrats for not using the phrase "radical Islam" by failing to note that President George W. Bush's administration followed the same practice.
Contrasting Friday night's Parisian scenes of horror with last week's previous big campaign news about Donald Trump and his weird, rambling address in Iowa, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza recently bemoaned "the remarkable smallness of our politics."
Pointing to the volume of trivial pursuits that pass as campaign news, Cillizza argued the press (including himself) "bear some blame" for not being substantive enough, and for focusing on trivialities and not covering "the various ways that the candidates for president would deal with the threat posed by ISIS." (News consumers prefer trivial pursuits, he argued.)
So is it possible that the Paris massacre will change the press coverage and refocus much-needed attention on substance and public policy?
Not likely, because there was Cillizza and the Post right after the Democrats' debate in Iowa Saturday night doing exactly what he claimed the press did too much of -- leaning heavily on optics at the expense of substance.
The Post is hardly alone in being guilty of the optics transgression or being overly fascinated with how campaign events look and play in the press. But the Post may have been alone in so neatly contradicting its own plea for post-Paris substance on the campaign trail and then immediately following that up with optics-heavy insights.
And all these think pieces following her lunchtime stop at a Chipotle restaurant in Ohio?
*"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)
Who can forget the absurdist scene in April when a herd of campaign reporters broke into a sprint while trying to track down Clinton's "Scooby Van" as it swung behind a community college in Iowa for a campaign visit? And this was while the press deducted points from Clinton for not offering enough campaign substance.
Fast-forward to the horrific killings in Paris, and it appears that even that grave event can't alter the tone and tenor of U.S. campaign coverage.
Because even before the Iowa debate began, on its list of "the top 13 issues," the Post was trumpeting as number two (after terrorism) the relatively pointless news burp about how Hillary Clinton recalled walking into a Marines recruiting office in 1975 and trying to join. Following the controversy surrounding stories from Ben Carson's biography, the Marines story caught the attention of the press mostly because it just didn't seem right; the optics were off.
Note that in terms of the debate, the Post listed the Marines non-story as being more important than clean energy, immigration reform and veterans care, among other pressing issues.
Then following the debate, the Post swooped in and announced Clinton's performance had been badly off kilter. (She was one of the night's "losers.") According to Cillizza, despite the fact that Clinton "was quite good for much of the debate," she nonetheless "made a few verbal and/or policy mistakes that will likely haunt her in the days to come."
For instance, Cillizza stressed that Clinton had "refused a chance to say the words 'radical Islam' when asked about the threat posed by the Islamic State -- a decision that Republicans jumped on in the moment and will keep bringing up if and when Clinton is the Democratic nominee."
The Post announced that by not labeling the Paris massacre a "radical Islam" attack, Clinton had opened herself up to Republican attack. And by not adopting a GOP talking point she had committed a "misstep" and a "gaffe."
Question: Doesn't that mean the entire Democratic debate represented a two-hour "gaffe"?
Elsewhere, the Post was sure Clinton had messed up by reminding voters she grew up in the 1960s during an age of student protest. "The TV ad, particularly if Republicans nominate someone like Marco Rubio, who is 45 years old (Clinton is 68), practically writes itself," wrote Cillizza.
Note how the Post seamlessly adopted the GOP spin that of course voters prefer a candidate in their forties compared to a candidate in their sixties. The Post didn't bother with any independent evidence to back that up claim, it simply quoted Republican pollster Frank Luntz: "Nobody, Republican or Democrat, wants to vote for a candidate from the 1960s when we're well into the 21st century." But if Democrats don't want to vote for a candidate from the 1960s, why does Clinton enjoy a large lead in the primary polls?
Any time there's a call for increased substance in campaign coverage, that's a good thing. Making it stick proves much harder.
In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.
Political reporters and media critics chided Fox Business for its handling of the November 10 Republican presidential debate, pointing out that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) faced few substantive questions and was allowed to completely avoid controversial topics like immigration reform and his personal finances.
Media outlets slammed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for invoking President Dwight Eisenhower's "inhumane" and "unabashedly racist" deportation program as a blueprint for his own immigration plans, explaining that the program -- derogatorily called "Operation Wetback" -- resulted in dozens of immigrant deaths and used methods described as "indescribable scenes of human misery and tragedy."