Media Matters looks back at the best of the worst of right-wing media's treatment of women in 2013.
After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
The Weekly Standard touted Stephen Jimenez's book arguing that Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder wasn't an anti-gay hate crime but the result of a meth deal gone awry -- ignoring overwhelming evidence of his killer's homophobic motives and denunciations of the book from investigators and lawyers involved in the case.
In the November 18 edition of The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson lauded Jimenez's The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard. Playing into Jimenez's inflated self-image as a fearless reporter whose commitment to revealing the truth proved consistently "dangerous," Ferguson began the review by marveling that it's a wonder Jimenez "hasn't been burned in effigy, yet, or heckled mercilessly, yet, or denounced, at least by anybody that really matters, as a traitor to the cause. Yet." This sets the stage for a review devoted more to singing Jimenez's praises than to critically evaluating the arguments put forth in The Book of Matt.
Take Ferguson's handling of the book's most shocking claim (emphasis added):
More surprisingly, Jimenez concludes that Shepard's death had nothing to do with homophobia. It was instead the horrific result of a drug deal gone wrong. Indeed, in The Book of Matt, Jimenez offers lots of circumstantial evidence that Shepard and one of his murderers, a violent and drug-addled bit of tumbleweed called Aaron McKinney, were rival dealers in crystal meth. Several named witnesses told Jimenez that the two even had a sexual relationship.
For the most part the conservative press was undeterred by the fact that The Book of Matt, as impressive as it is for the author's tirelessness and courage, is something of a mess. When it comes to gay true-crime investigator-writers, Jimenez is no Truman Capote. He has chosen to tell the story of Shepard's life and death through a first-person account of his own investigations. It is thus not so much a book that tells a story as a book that tells a story about telling a story, a bit like the famous totalitarian mural titled "The Struggle of the Little People to Finish the Mural." This technique plays hell with the chronology, and it's often difficult for the reader to tell which character said what when. The reader's unease is compounded knowing that many of Jimenez's sources are the kind of witnesses usually considered unreliable: meth heads, hustlers, hookers, drunks, various species of trailer trash.
In his defense Jimenez says that if his witnesses seem unreliable, it is only because this is the sort of people Shepard and his murderers associated with. They knew the participants firsthand -- and these are the same witnesses that authorities relied on to get a conviction. For each of his more striking claims Jimenez has been careful to gather multiple sources, usually named. No alert reader can come away from the book still believing the approved story of a shy young man robbed of his life because of his assailants' "fear of the other." The myth that thrilled the progressive heart for 15 years cannot survive Jimenez's accumulation of evidence.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham continues to make outlandish allegations about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) applies to immigrants, including falsely claiming that the law allows undocumented immigrants to purchase subsidized health insurance and that their enrollment in the individual Marketplace will be used to inflate the overall numbers of those who sign up.
Contrary to what Ingraham has been saying on her radio show, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to apply for subsidized health insurance under the ACA. On the October 3 broadcast of her show, Ingraham advanced that falsehood, asking, "First of all, how many of you think that illegal immigrants aren't signing up on these Obamacare exchanges?" She added: "I mean, they're probably the only ones getting through to sign up on the exchanges."
Ingraham was referring to the difficulty those seeking insurance have had in accessing the federal health care website.
In reality, as the National Immigration Law Center has noted, undocumented immigrants cannot get subsidized health care coverage under the ACA and are not even allowed to purchase private insurance through the individual health insurance Marketplace at full cost. They are also not eligible for subsidized health care or Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
As the federal health care website explains:
Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for federal public benefits through the Affordable Care Act. For example, undocumented immigrants can't buy coverage through the Marketplace. Premium tax credits aren't available for undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants may continue to buy coverage on their own outside the Marketplace and can get limited services for an emergency medical condition through Medicaid, if they are otherwise eligible for Medicaid in the state. Undocumented immigrants aren't subject to the individual shared responsibility requirement.
Immigrants who have been granted deferred action through the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are also ineligible for Medicaid, CHIP or ACA benefits.
While undocumented immigrants are barred from applying for subsidized health care, their American children do qualify.
Naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and legal immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years and don't have health care coverage through their jobs are also able to apply for subsidized health care and other benefit programs under the ACA.
Legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years whose incomes fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $46,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four -- will be eligible for subsidized coverage in the health insurance exchange. Those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $15,800 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four -- will not be eligible for Medicaid coverage (except for pregnant women depending on the state) but can qualify for exchange subsidies if they pay 2 percent of income.
Right-wing media outlets pushed the false claim that the Healthcare.gov website includes a language stating that consumers they have "no reasonable expectation of privacy," ignoring the fact that the phrase is part of standard website language and does not change current legal protections for health care information.
A Weekly Standard post by Jeryl Bier attacked the health care law's exchange website, claiming a statement in the "terms and conditions" page is "another example of why the website's reputation is in tatters." Bier's evidenced his claim by explaining, "Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov" is the phrase "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." The misleading claim was repeated by several right-wing media outlets including Fox Nation who posted the story under the headline "Hidden in ObamaCare Site: Applicants Surrender Right to Privacy" and NewsMax who claimed "Obamacare May Endanger Personal Data Security."
But the right-wing media's fearmongering about privacy concerns is unfounded. The Atlantic Wire pointed out that the phrase is part of standard legal language for similar "Terms and Conditions" pages and is only "hidden" because it was removed by developers, making the phrase not legally enforceable. The article adds that "[t]here are several ways in which" the analysis "is incorrect" (emphasis added):
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol dismissed the devastating effects of the government shutdown claiming, "no one no one is going to starve in Arkansas," ignoring that thousands of people across the country already face the loss of vital food nutrition programs.
On the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Kristol claimed that the shutdown wasn't a "disaster," and dismissed The Huffington Post's Sam Stein's argument that the shutdown was forcing 85,000 people to lose nutritional assistance in Arkansas alone. Kristol responded that Congress should move to fund anything that was a genuine emergency, but that "a one or two week shutdown is not going to be the end of the world":
[I]t's not going to be the end of the world honestly even if you're on nutritional assistance from the federal government. The state of Arkansas can help out, localities can help out, churches can help out, I believe that no one is going to starve in Arkansas because of the shutdown.
Starvation is an extreme measure by which to judge the damage of the shutdown. Though no one may have died yet, people around the country are facing the loss of essential food services, including in Arkansas.
The Associated Press reported on September 30 that Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe felt the state was "not in a position to" fund services typically from the federal government, and that "that more than 85,000 meals for Arkansas children would not be provided and 2,000 newborn babies would not receive infant formula through the Department of Health's WIC program."
There's a growing movement of journalists and pundits who are rooting for the Republican-led impasse over government funding to result in a shutdown of government services. "I'm rooting for a shutdown and you should be too," writes Joshua Green in the Boston Globe. "Shut down the government!" cheers Todd Purdum in Politico. It's not that these writers are actually keen on causing economic disruption: they see it as the only recourse available to correcting the Republican political nihilism that keeps bringing us to the brink of crisis.
It's hard to begrudge them for what seems so cavalier a position -- we may have reached the point of political toxicity that drastic measures of this sort are the only remaining curatives. What is bothersome is the habit of conservative pundits who enable this political dynamic by recognizing the role people like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are playing in it, but brushing that aside and praising Cruz for exploiting it to achieve mundane, short-term political goals.
After Cruz's 21-hour non-filibuster in support of defunding Obamacare, there was widespread agreement on the left and (much of) the right that Cruz had done little beyond raising his own profile and raising the likelihood that the government would have to shut down.
Writing in Politico, National Review's Rich Lowry marveled at Cruz's speech: "After talking the talk, Ted Cruz wins." Lowry knows that Cruz's policy goals are unattainable ("farfetched to the point of absurdity") and that his politics are causing chaos in Congress at a time when it really needs to get work done, but he views that as secondary to Cruz's accomplishment of riling up conservative base voters:
The Cruz eye-rollers had plenty of occasions to roll their eyes -- perhaps no senator has caused so many colleagues to mutter under their breaths in his first eight months in the world's greatest deliberative body -- but the conservative grass roots stood up and cheered. They are desperate for gumption and imagination and, above all, fight, and Cruz delivered all three during his long, bleary-eyed hours holding forth on C-SPAN2.
We're on the precipice of shutdown because the Republicans can't get their act together, and Cruz's tactics are causing further disarray, and Cruz gets a cookie for making a small slice of the American electorate feel good about themselves?
This Week allowed a false Republican talking point created by right-wing media -- that Warren Buffett criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- to go unchallenged after it was repeated by Rep Tom Graves (R-GA). ABC did not inform its audience that the out of context comment was from 2010 and was not made in reference to the health care law. Buffet publicly re-stated his support of the law as a result of the controversy.
Guest host Jonathan Karl asked Graves to react to a Wall Street Journal editorial that criticized the House Republican plan to defund the ACA. Graves responded by quoting sources critical of the law, including the claim that "Warren Buffett says stop it now, start over":
But Buffett's comments were made in 2010 and were not directed at the ACA.
Graves' mistake comes directly from the right-wing media's dishonest reporting. Despite the fact that Buffett made those comments in 2010, right-wing outlets, such as The Weekly Standard reported on them as though they had been made recently, claiming "You know things are bad for President Obama when even Warren Buffett has soured on Obamacare."
After discovering that the quote was made in 2010, the Standard updated their post but still claimed the comments showed that Buffett "has opposed Obamacare since even before it was passed." But Buffett was never criticizing the law, he was expressing concern about growing health care costs and urging reform. As New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait pointed out:
After falsely claiming that comments made by investor Warren Buffett in 2010 were made recently as an attack on the Affordable Care Act, The Weekly Standard doubled down, correcting the date but still wrongly insisting that Buffett's comments were "anti-Obamacare" even as Buffett was reinforcing his support for the law.
On September 17, the right-wing website Money Morning published a quote from Buffett saying "What we have now is untenable over time," claiming he was criticizing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The quote was picked up by The Weekly Standard's Jeffrey H. Anderson, who wrote: "You know things are bad for President Obama when even Warren Buffett has soured on Obamacare and says that 'we need something else.'" After several media outlets pointed out that Buffetts comments were made in 2010, the Standard updated their post:
It appears that Buffett made his anti-Obamacare comments in 2010, thereby showing that he, like most of the American people, has opposed Obamacare since even before it was passed--a point that Mark Hemingway addressed yesterday in response to USA Today's implication that Americans' widespread dislike of Obamacare is mostly attributable to Republicans' efforts to fight it.
But the Weekly Standard's correction still misinterpreted Buffett's comments. In a post criticizing the Weekly Standard's original story, New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait pointed out that Buffett's 2010 remarks had nothing to do with the ACA, but were referring to the health care system without any kind of reform, a fact that the Weekly Standard's post continued to ignore as the correction maintained that Buffett's comments were critical of the law:
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.
The Weekly Standard attacked Texas state senator Wendy Davis for not responding to the right-wing magazine's attempt to link legal abortion to convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell, continuing the right-wing media's attempt to use the case to smear women's health and choice advocates.
In an August 5 post, the Weekly Standard wrote about a recent appearance at the National Press Club in which Davis spoke about her successful filibuster of a Texas anti-choice bill. The Standard asked Davis at the event whether there was a distinction between the actions of convicted Philadelphia murderer Kermit Gosnell and "legal late-term abortions" at 23 weeks." Davis responded "I don't know what happened in the Gosnell case" and went on to describe the effects that the Texas bill would have on reproductive access. The Standard attacked Davis, writing that she "has become a champion for pro-choice activists, but during her recent whirlwind national media tour, she never commented on late-term abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder in May for killing infants moments after they were born."
The restrictive bill that Davis has been fighting limits access to legal abortions and has nothing to do with Gosnell, whose acts were already illegal. The bill would limit reproductive access in the state by closing an estimated 90% of legal abortion facilities in Texas by imposing requirements that could only be met by five existing centers, according to the AP:
Conservative media figures and their cut-outs in the Republican Party went out in full force Sunday, ready to cast blame and aspersions on President Obama for the closures of U.S. embassies around the world after intelligence suggested a possible al Qaeda attack.
With our embassies around the world under what all acknowledge to be a serious threat, these conservatives saw a political opportunity, cynically using the fear of an imminent terrorist attack to regurgitate year-old smears about Barack Obama's success in the war on terror.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, the Iraq War's #1 cheerleader, led the charge with a blog post Saturday, hyperbolically stating, "Al Qaeda's not on the run. We are."
He followed that up on Fox News Sunday, telling host Chris Wallace:
KRISTOL: Four years ago President Obama gave a much-heralded speech as outreach to the Muslim world. And now, four years later we are closing embassies throughout the Muslim world. The year ago the president said Al Qaeda is on the run. And now we seem to be on the run.
Kristol's falsehoods were reflected by other conservatives across the media. Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint also appeared on Fox News Sunday echoing Kristol's attack: "Well, it's clear that Al Qaeda may be more of a threat to us than they were before 9/11 now."
Later in the panel he went on to state, "The instability around the world is clearly related to at least a perception of a lack of resolve of the United States and a perception of weakness."
After criticizing the Senate's bipartisan effort to address rising incidents of sexual assault in the military, The Weekly Standard's editor Bill Kristol doubled-down on his denial of the growing problem as a "pseudo-crisis," adding that conservative legislators' effort to erase the wide-spread retaliation faced by victims of sexual assault who report the crime is "an effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness."
On July 18, Kristol attacked Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) for supporting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)'s proposal to change the military's chain of command structure for reporting sexual assaults, which attempts to curb retaliation faced by those who report such an assault. Kristol accused the senators of "doing damage to conservatism" and again called the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military a "pseudo-crisis":
It was two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who, in response to a pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault, popped up to support Democratic legislation that would upend the military judicial system and strip commanders of authority. In their effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness, these Republican senators buy into the calumny that the military officer corps is full of individuals who couldn't care less about the men and women under their command.
What Kristol calls a "pseudo-crisis" is, in reality, nearly 3,400 reported incidents of sexual assault within the ranks in 2012, according to the Department of Defense's (DOD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. That represents a six percent increase from 2011's total reported sexual assaults, a growth DOD called "significant." According to a survey cited in the report, that number would skyrocket to approximately 26,000 sexual assaults if unreported incidents are included, up 35 percent from the previous year's estimate. Even more disturbing, the report found that 62 percent of victims who reported being assaulted faced retaliation as a result.
Military leaders such as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have decried this epidemic as a "crisis," and "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution."
Kristol's statement follows a week of sexual assault denial from his conservative magazine and website, The Weekly Standard.
On July 8, The Weekly Standard published an article titled "Harassing the Military" that declared, "there is no sexual assault crisis," citing the possibility that there may be a greater prevalence of sexual assaults within other communities. Later, a July 16 blog post promoted a U.S. Marine Corps officer's suggestion that the scope of the military's sexual assault problem is exaggerated. That same day, Kristol referred to the bipartisan Senate effort as a "proposal to undermine the military's chain of command on behalf of the pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault."
UPDATE: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a former prosecutor of sex crimes and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to Kristol's depiction of sexual assault in the military as a "pseudo-crisis," saying:
Thousands of reported sexual assaults, and many thousands more sex-related crimes that go unreported-combined with a decades-long inability to seriously address the epidemic-constitutes a crisis. It's a crisis for our military, their morale, and ultimately our national security. For someone who's constantly pushing for additional U.S. involvement in conflicts around the world, you'd think Mr. Kristol would share our goal of ensuring justice for those who are doing the fighting. Instead, his comments illustrate that while there's growing support for our historic reforms, all of us fighting for significant change must continue our effort.
After the Department of Defense reported a significant increase in sexual assault in the military, estimated at nearly 26,000 incidents in 2012, and after military leaders decried the epidemic as a "crisis," The Weekly Standard responded to Congress' preventative actions with sexual assault trutherism, denying the fact that a sexual assault crisis exists within the military.