Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen dismissed the real-life rape of a minor as "manhandl[ing]" and refused to acknowledge the realities of the sexual misconduct, a longstanding and common practice for Cohen.
In a Post op-ed on September 2, Cohen highlighted singer Miley Cyrus' recent MTV performance where she infamously twerked in order to bring attention to a New Yorker report by Ariel Levy on the horrific rape of a minor in Steubenville, OH in August 2012. Cohen euphemistically characterized the victim as being stripped and manhandled:
The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse. The next thing you should know is that there weren't many young men involved -- just two were convicted. The next thing you should know is that just about everything you do know about the case from TV and the Internet was wrong. One medium fed the other, a vicious circle of rumor, innuendo and just plain lies. It made for marvelous television.
The New Yorker piece was done by Ariel Levy, a gifted writer. When I finished her story, I felt somewhat disconcerted -- unhappily immersed in a teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic that I felt like a visitor to a foreign country. That country, such as it is, exists on the Internet -- in e-mails and tweets and Facebook, which formed itself into a digital lynch mob that demanded the arrest of the innocent for a crime -- gang rape -- that had not been committed. It also turned the victim into a reviled public figure, her name and picture (passed out, drunk) available with a Google query.
And yet what indisputably did happen is troubling enough. A teenage girl, stone-drunk, was stripped and manhandled. She was photographed and the picture passed around. Obviously, she was sexually mistreated. And while many people knew about all of this, no one did anything about it. The girl was dehumanized. As Levy put it, "[T]he teens seemed largely unaware that they'd been involved in a crime." She quoted the Jefferson County prosecutor, Jane Hanlin: "'They don't think that what they've seen is a rape in the classic sense. And if you were to interview a thousand teen-agers before this case started and said, "Is it illegal to take a video of another teenager naked?," I would be astonished if you could find even one who said yes.'"
Illegal is sort of beside the point. Right, proper, nice, respectful, decent -- you choose the word -- is more apt. This is what got me: a teenage culture that was brutal and unfeeling, that treated the young woman as dirt. "'She's deader than O.J.'s wife. She's deader than Caylee Anthony,' " one kid exulted in a YouTube posting. "'They raped her harder than that cop raped Marsellus Wallace in "Pulp Fiction." She is so raped right now.' " Yes, I know, they were all drunk, woozy and disoriented from a tawdry cable TV and celebrity culture.
After bizarrely emphasizing that what happened in Steubenville did not involve rape by intercourse, Cohen later referred to the crime as stripping and manhandling without ever definitively acknowledging that the assault amounted to rape. Of course, an Ohio jury found that the victim was raped and two teens were guilty of the crime.
The Washington Post published a problematic op-ed by Betsy Karasik, a Dupont Circle artist described by the Post as a "writer and former lawyer," that argued for the legal acceptance of consensual sexual relationships between teachers and their underage students.
Karasik's column centered on a widely discussed Montana case in which a 49-year-old teacher was sentenced to 30 days in prison after the statutory rape of a 14-year-old student, who several years later committed suicide. This sentence, which many feel was far too lenient and which came after the judge stated that the student was "older than her chronological age," led to a national public outcry.
Karasik, however, found herself "troubled for the opposite reason":
I don't believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.
Karasik does acknowledge that "that teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation."
Sally Quinn says she is "heartbroken" and "appalled" at Fox News host and former Washington Post scribe Howard Kurtz for his column today about her daughter-in-law, Pari Bradlee, and her supposedly "R-rated" Facebook photos.
Quinn, who writes about religion for the Post and is the wife of former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and mother to Quinn Bradlee, Pari's husband, told Media Matters, "I thought Howard was a decent guy, I thought he was my friend and I'm appalled and really heartbroken that he would do something like this. Why would you want to hurt somebody?"
In his FoxNews.com column, headlined "Ben Bradlee's daughter-in-law reveals (almost) all on Facebook," Kurtz highlighted a series of what he termed "R-rated" photos of Pari Bradlee, a yoga instructor. Kurtz wrote of the photos:
Her new profile picture, in a Swiss-cheese bra that leaves little to the imagination and long black leather sleeves and briefs, is so revealing that it drew a torrent of breathless comments. In another just-posted photo she is nude, shot from the back, twisting one arm behind her.
He later added:
The Hamptons photo shoot, conducted by an old friend, Barry Fidnick, prompted friends to post such comments as "HOTT THANG!!!!", "u look sexual" and "Turning this gay man STRAIGHT!"
Kurtz also wrote of Pari Bradlee, "From one perspective, Pari Bradlee's provocative poses might be viewed as a quick way to grab attention, especially in contrast to Washington's buttoned-down culture. But she is part of a Facebook generation that lives online (with 1,957 photos in her case) and embraces a more candid approach to sexual matters." He concluded the column saying: "It's a safe bet that she is about to attract a lot more friends."
Asked if she believed Kurtz, who worked at the Post from 1981 to 2010, was trying to retaliate in some way toward his old employer, Sally Quinn said, "He quit, I had nothing to do with it, Ben had nothing to do with it. We were friendly, I've been on his show, you know, he's been in my house."
The Washington Post cited a 2006 study by Harvard economist George Borjas to argue that immigration drives down the wages of American workers. But the Post ignored several factors contradicting that claim, including that in his 2006 study, Borjas downplayed his findings by noting that economic changes "tend to dampen the wage effects of immigration over time." Moreover, in his most recent report, Borjas admitted that the long-term effect of immigration on wages is zero, a conclusion in line with the economic consensus that immigration benefits U.S. workers.
In an article highlighting the debate over "whether low-skilled immigrants are displacing American-born workers or filling a vital economic gap by accepting jobs that many Americans are unwilling or unavailable to perform," The Washington Post cited a number of reports from the nativist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), including one claiming that "immigrants are pushing Americans out of jobs" and another that "suggested that submissiveness rather than ambition makes low-skilled immigrants especially desirable."
The Post also included a 2006 study written by Borjas and others for the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that "U.S.-born workers most affected by low-skilled immigration are African Americans." From the article:
Many jobs once held by black Americans are now done by Hispanic immigrants, while black unemployment has reached 13.5 percent nationwide. One study at Harvard found that between 1960 and 2000, a 10 percent increase in immigrants in various jobs reduced black wages and employment by up to 4 percent.
But experts say there are other reasons why many low-skilled African Americans are out of the job market. One is the large number who become lost to street life, prison and the stigma of being an ex-offender. In the District, over half of about 66,000 ex-offenders are jobless.
In the study, which examined the relationship between immigration and trends in black employment and incarceration from 1960 to 2000, Borjas found that "a 10-percent immigrant-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the black wage by 4.0 percent, lowered the employment rate of black men by 3.5 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate of blacks by almost a full percentage point." Borjas added that white men experienced a 4.1 percent wage and a 1.6 percent decline in employment over the same period.
While that study didn't map the outcome over the long run, it did note that economic changes "tend to dampen the wage effects of immigration over time." That was Borjas' conclusion in a 2007 study on the impact of Mexican immigration from 1980 to 2000, in which he wrote: "As expected, the wage impact of immigration is muted in the long run as capital adjusts to the increased workforce." In that report, he explicitly noted that high school dropouts are the most affected by immigration and that high school graduates and those with some college see their wages increase.
In his April 2013 report on immigration and the American worker from 1960 to 2010, Borjas wrote: "If we take the weighted average of the wage effects across education groups, we find that the average wage of a pre-existing worker fell by 3.2 percent in the short run and 0.0 percent in the long run."
The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold hyped the size of the federal government out of context, presenting an excellent example of how to construct a misleading statistic.
Writing on the size of the federal workforce, Fahrenhold claims:
Measured another way -- not in dollars, but in people -- the government has about 4.1 million employees today, military and civilian. That's more than the populations of 24 states.
Wow, 24 states. That's almost half the country. Clearly the federal behemoth has grown too big.
Other ways he could have phrased this statement include:
That's less than the population of the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area.
That's less than half the audience that viewed America's Got Talent last week.
Or more accurately:
That's approximately 1.3 percent of the total U.S. population, handling all government business, including delivering our mail, serving in the military, inspecting our food, fighting terrorism, etc.
Farhenthold's statistic was clearly designed to imply to readers that the federal workforce had grown too large and therefore more spending cuts were necessary. Even more misleading than his statistic was his failure to mention that further cuts could actually harm the economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, "the United States had proved too aggressive in carrying out budget cuts, given its still-sluggish rates of growth and high unemployment levels."
After recent reports that the Syrian government may have used chemical weapons against civilians, media figures have begun to push for U.S. military intervention in the region. But senior military leaders say that engagement could produce a negative long-term outcome.
Last month, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, detailed possible downsides to U.S. military involvement in Syria in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). In addition to possible collateral damage to civilians and the loss of U.S. aircraft, Dempsey notes that a poorly planned military incursion "could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control." Additionally, Dempsey noted that military options could cost taxpayers between $500 million to $1 billion per month.
A review of letters to Congress from dozens of state health departments and attorneys general around the country revealed that abortion in the United States is safe and well-regulated, despite recent media reports to the contrary.
Following the conviction of Kermit Gosnell for the murder of three infants during unsafe medical practices that bore no resemblance to legal abortion procedures, congressional Republicans launched an inquiry into how states monitor and regulate abortion, writing letters to the departments of health and attorneys general in all 50 states asking for details regarding criminal laws, prosecutions, inspections of abortion clinics, and regulations relating to abortion at the state level.
The pro-choice group RH Reality Check reviewed the responses from 38 of the state attorneys general and 31 of the health departments and found that they provide the "most comprehensive picture to date of the reality of abortion services," confirming that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe":
The responses received to date include thousands of pages of legislation and regulations on a wide range of topics that could relate to abortion. They contain definitions of "ambulatory surgical clinics," criminal statutes addressing feticide and the failure to provide medical care to newborns, and the minutiae of how state health officials must conduct inspections of clinics where abortions are performed. Some states also provided samples of the forms, such as the surveys that clinic inspectors have to fill in as they conduct their visits of abortion facilities, as well as samples of the application forms for facilities wishing to provide abortions. As an indication of how voluminous some of these responses are, Pennsylvania's response ran to 1,250 pages.
An analysis of these documents shows that congressional Republicans will find no support for their arguments in favor of new restrictions on abortion care in the evidence presented by the states. In particular, to the extent that anti-choice advocates claim that women are being put at risk by abortion services, these documents--from the very state entities charged with overseeing and regulating abortion--show the contrary. They show that abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe.
In particular, the responses revealed that abortion facilities nationwide are routinely inspected and subject to onerous regulation.
The findings of this congressional survey undermine the media's recent narrative that abortion requires even greater regulation and restriction. NBC, CNN, and Fox News hosts have all hyped the claim that an unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be "reasonable." Writers for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have falsely claimed individual bans on 20-week abortions are popularly supported, and have glossed over the realities of these bills, which could place women and their fetus' health in severe danger. With the exception of a unique segment on MSNBC, media reports on abortion restrictions have largely ignored women's health experts who confirm these unnecessary restrictions will put women's health at risk.
Furthermore, media figures at The National Review, Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, and elsewhere have insisted that the case of Kermit Gosnell is representative of later-term abortions in the U.S., when in fact according to these documents, the Gosnell case was the only reported instance of an illegal "born alive" procedure.
Media Matters has previously noted that despite the fact that abortion is regulated at unprecented levels, with the vast majority of U.S. counties already lacking access to abortion providers, state lawmakers have proposed hundreds of new bills to further limit women's access to safe and legal abortion services. Some of these restrictions have already been struck down, with Bloomberg reporting that state legislatures suffered "a 0-for-8 losing streak after court challenges" reaffirmed that bans on abortion after six, 12, and 20 weeks of pregnancy are unconstitutional under the Supreme Court's rulings that a woman has a right to an abortion up until fetal viability.
The evidence from the congressional inquiry confirms all of these findings: abortion is already safe and well-regulated, despite what lawmakers and the media might say.
Right-wing media have attempted to manufacture the claim that President Obama is abusing executive power by delaying implementation of the health care law's employer mandate and directing federal prosecutors to avoid maximum drug sentences in some cases, despite the legality of both practices.
The change in ownership over at the Washington Post has generated a flood of free advice for new owner Jeff Bezos from all corners. Among those advice-givers, Patrick Pexton stands out as someone who not only worked for the Washington Post (he was the ombudsman until this past March) but also directly liaised with the Post's readership. In a column for the Washington City Paper, Pexton counsels Bezos to get rid of "the No. 1 source of complaint mail about any single Post staffer" that he received while serving as ombudsman: Jennifer Rubin.
She doesn't travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward.
And she is often wrong, and rarely acknowledges it. She was oh-so-wrong about Mitt Romney, week after week writing embarrassing flattery about his 2012 campaign, calling almost every move he made brilliant, and guaranteeing that he would trounce Barack Obama. When he lost, the next day she savaged him and his campaign with treachery, saying he was the worst candidate with the worst staff, ever. She was wrong about the Norway shootings being acts of al-Qaida. She was wrong about Chuck Hagel being an anti-Semite. And does she apologize? Nope.
He's right that Rubin was aggressively, enthusiastically, and embarrassingly in the bag for Mitt Romney during the 2012 election, and that post-election blog post she wrote about Romney's "Perils of Pauline" campaign was a particularly galling bit of revisionist history.
Pexton makes a another point that is important and has to be repeated: Rubin is an embarrassment "not because she's conservative, but because she's just plain bad." She lies consistently about matters big and small, with no indication that she cares one way or the other about being found out. She frequently makes claims that a simple Google search would prove false. That's not a problem of ideology. It's a problem of basic competence and forthrightness that the Post is going to have to address sooner or later.
The paper is, of course, free to address it however they see fit. But for its own sake, sooner would be better.
UPDATE: Politico's Dylan Byers obtained an emailed response from Rubin to Pexton's column: "'hahahahahhahaha' - that's a direct quote"
While some Fox News hosts and contributors such as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have supported a right-wing Republican plan to defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown, other Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have criticized the idea as unworkable and "nuts."
Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT) threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform -- signed into law in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012. He proposed that Republicans refuse to vote for any continuing resolution -- a measure that continues funding the operations of the federal government until a budget and annual appropriations can be passed -- that includes funding for the continued implementation of health care reform.
Other Republicans are critical of this approach, with Senator Richard Burr (NC) calling it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted in a July 25 New York Times column that even Republican leaders now recognize that confrontations like this threat to shut down the government will "inflict substantial harm on the economy."
Despite this, some Fox News hosts and contributors have rallied in support of the right-wing Republican brinksmanship plan. On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Lee and expressed support for the effort. Two days later on his radio show, Hannity called the issue a "litmus test" for the conservatism of Republicans and threatened to primary any Republican who did not support the effort.
In a July 25 RedState post, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson similarly wrote that Republicans who did not support the defunding effort should be challenged in primary elections:
Why would Republicans keep funding a law that hurts so many people and is so unpopular? Why would they do that?
Republicans in Congress have a choice this fall with the latest continuing resolution. They can choose to not include funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Negotiate everything, but make that their line in the sand. If the Democrats choose to shut down the government over an unpopular law that hurts people, it is their choice. Republicans should not fund Obamacare.
Any Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried. The advertisements write themselves. Republicans, by voting to fund Obamacare, are putting people out of work, driving up healthcare costs, and hurting families. Republicans are not listening to voters who hate the law if they fund Obamacare.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also jumped on the government shutdown bandwagon, arguing on the July 30 edition of Hannity that using a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare was "common sense."
Other Fox News contributors have found the idea of government shutdown over health care reform to be "ludicrous" and "nuts." On the July 30 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg said that the idea "works fantastically well for fundraising when you want to go and run in 2016 for president" but is "ludicrous" as a winning legislative strategy.
With more than a dozen Senate Republicans now pushing the truly radical plan to try to defund the federal government in order to stop the implementation of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the news media are faced with an acute challenge: Convey the unprecedented nature of the GOP's latest obstructionist strategy, or simply report the maneuvers as politics as usual in the nation's permanently gridlocked Capitol.
To the surprise of no one who has followed the press' timidity towards the GOP in recent years and its open admiration of Republican hardball tactics, the answer is the news media have done very little to explain just how extreme and completely unprecedented the latest Republican gamut is. By doing so, the press has once again allowed the GOP to move the goal posts in defining acceptable, mainstream behavior.
The new plot is so off the wall that even some GOP leaders have condemned it as "silly" and a waste of time. But their critique deals mostly with partisan politics and their concern a possible government shutdown sparked by health care protest would hurt the Republican Party in the long run.
In terms of the sheer craziness of the strategy (i.e. who brings the government to a halt in order to kill a single law that's already been passed?), the Beltway press has mostly looked away and failed to put this absurdity in its proper context.
Unfortunately, that follows the media's tradition in recent years of letting the GOP practice an unheard brand of obstructionism and pay no price, and to draw little scorn in the press. (See: Cabinet nominations, sequestration, emergency relief funds and judicial picks.) It appears there's no cockamamie strategy or political plan that Republicans can ponder that the Beltway press won't immediately legitimize and take seriously.
The press for years now has failed to provide a framework with regards to the radical ways that now define the GOP, to the point where shutting down the federal government in order to eradicate a law that Republicans were unable to stop from being passed is casually referred to as "the plan," or the "strategy."
It's much, much more than that. It's unprecedented. And pundits and reporters ought to include that crucial context.
Print media coverage of Social Security finances overwhelmingly favors reporting figures in raw numbers that lack relevant context, a trend that reflects cable and broadcast news coverage's push for reducing the cost of the program over strengthening benefits for recipients.
A Media Matters analysis finds that three major print sources -The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post - are more likely to report figures on Social Security revenue, spending, and funding gaps in terms of raw numbers that lack relevant context, such as previous years' figures. Fifty-nine percent of total mentions of Social Security's finances throughout the first half of 2013 relied strictly on raw numbers:
According to economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker, the overreliance on reporting economic figures in raw numbers only serves to confuse and mislead readers:
It is understandable that people who want to promote confusion about the budget -- for example convincing people that all their tax dollars went to food stamps -- would support the current method of budget reporting. It is impossible to understand why people who want a well-informed public would not push for changing this archaic and absurd practice.
Throughout the first half of 2013, coverage on the finances of Social Security in the three major print outlets relied on reporting figures in raw numbers devoid of relevant context, such as previous years' figures, that could provide a more accurate picture of the program.
Major print publications relied heavily on the use of raw numbers when reporting economic issues, but these discussions of spending, deficit and revenue levels that rely solely on abstract and sensational numerical figures obscure otherwise important information.
A Media Matters analysis found since the beginning of 2013 three major publications -- The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post -- provided a majority of their coverage of the national budget (including figures on debt, deficits, spending, and revenue) without adequate context.
Reports highlighting gross spending, deficit, and revenue levels consistently failed to include relevant data such as the size of items relative to total federal spending or to GDP. Reports also consistently failed to put data into context with year-to-year comparisons.
For example, the newspapers' coverage of the national debt regularly failed to include the size of the debt relative to GDP, when doing so would have revealed that the United States does not carry extraordinary debt levels when compared to other developed nations. Discussions of the annual budget deficit regularly overlooked the fact that deficits have declined by more than half since peaking in FY 2009.
Many economists have noted that the media's reliance on enormous and abstract figures in economic reporting is little more than a scare tactic intended to drum up fears about the deficit. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted that the reliance on raw numbers also increases the likelihood that outlets will misreport information.
Opting to report national budget news in this way contributes to a general public misconception of debt, deficits, and the size and expense of spending programs. A Bloomberg News poll from February 2013 found that just 4 percent of Americans knew that the budget deficit was in decline. The same poll also revealed 34 percent of Americans believe the government spends between 2 and 20 percent of its budget on foreign aid, while another 31 percent believe foreign aid accounts for more than 20 percent of the budget. In fact, foreign aid and relief accounts for just 1 percent of the federal budget and has been in decline relative to overall spending for more than four decades.
This is not the first instance of media overreliance on inflated figures. Media Matters uncovered similar tactics employed by Fox News as it attempted to undermine Social Security and Medicare with the fear of "unfunded liabilities".
Throughout the first half of 2013, three major national print outlets mostly reported figures on debt, deficits, spending, and revenue in terms of raw numbers devoid of relevant context, such as previous years' numbers or monthly figures, that would give readers a more accurate depiction of the economy.