A poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 20 percent of women who attended college in the past four years were sexually assaulted, contrary to claims in the right-wing media that the problem of campus sexual assault is overblown.
The poll of 1,053 men and women, conducted by phone between January and March, found that 20 percent of women and five percent of men reported being sexually assaulted either by force or while incapacitated. A further 11 percent of women reported an attempted assault.
The poll also underlined the problem of under-reporting in sexual assault cases, with three-quarters of victims saying they told someone else, but only 11 percent saying they told the police or college authorities. 89 percent said no one was held responsible or punished for the incident.
Men and women in the poll were sharply divided on what they perceive to be the rate of campus sexual assault, too: "58 percent of men believe the share of women sexually assaulted at their school is less than 1 in 5. An identical majority of women believe the share assaulted is 1 in 5 or greater."
The Post story highlighted the stories of some of the women who were given follow-up interviews:
A 21-year-old at a public university in the Southeast who participated in the poll said she was raped by a male student who escorted her out of a nightclub after she suddenly became woozy and separated from a group of friends. Someone, she suspects, had slipped a drug into her rum drink.
"In the morning, I woke up and my lip was so swollen," the woman said. "I just remember sobbing and sobbing and sobbing the next day. You learn a lot of lessons."
Like most who said they had been assaulted, the woman did not report the incident to university officials or police. She said she worried about whether she would ruin the man's future and wondered what to make of what had happened: Had there been a misunderstanding? Should she have been more vehement in saying no? She remembers clearly crying during the attack. She knew it was rape. But how would others see it?
Many in the right-wing media have downplayed concerns about college sexual assault. Previous studies with similar findings caused widespread outrage among right-wing media figures when the White House cited them in its campus sexual assault strategy launch, with the Daily Caller describing a Centers for Disease Control study that found one in five women is sexually assaulted in college as "bizarre and wholly false." On an NRA News show, The Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow claimed that the "one in five myth" was driving "hysteria" on campuses. And Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the issue of college sexual assault "fake" and "made up."
Last year, the Post's own George Will described efforts to combat such assaults as an attempt to "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege," calling a 20 percent assault rate "preposterous." Not long after the poll's publication, the Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted that he was removing the single "Pinocchio" that he had given President Obama for his citation of the one-in-five statistic.
The National Rifle Association is falsely characterizing a legislative proposal from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) that would allow felons to petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for restoration of their gun ownership rights, saying the option would only be available to "non-violent felons."
In fact, any felon could apply to have their right to own a firearm restored under Buck's proposal, which is why the ATF program that used to provide that option was defunded in the early 1990s -- research showed that even violent felons had won their appeals, and in some cases went on to commit new violent crimes.
For the past 23 years, standard language in appropriations legislation -- first inserted by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) -- has prohibited the ATF from using budget money on a program that allowed people who had lost their legal right to buy or own a gun because of a felony conviction to apply for restoration of that right. That longtime prohibition was challenged on June 2, however, when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives adopted by voice vote a rider introduced by Buck that would re-fund the program.
During a floor speech, Buck argued for support by citing an example of a man who is prohibited from owning a gun because he wrote a bad check 40 years ago. He declared, "This bill does not intend in any way shape or form to allow a violent criminal to possess a firearm, only those non-violent criminals that ATF deems are not a danger."
But in fact, there is no language in the proposal that limits the right to appeal to non-violent felons. Buck's rider merely reverses the prohibition on funding, changing the words "none of the" funds to "such" funds in the following line: "Provided, That such funds appropriated herein shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code."
Despite this, the NRA and some conservative media outlets have run with the blatantly false talking point that the program would only apply to "non-violent felons" in coverage trumpeting Buck's proposal.
Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard told former Hewlett-Packard CEO and possible Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina that he "never met a presidential candidate with pink nail polish on" during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
In response, Fiorina told Bedard, "There's always a first."
In an April 16 column about the event, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, who was also in attendance, noted that Bedard's comment "set off murmurs of sexism on my side of the table." Capehart followed up by interviewing Fiorina about the exchange, and reportedly asked how she would deal with "situations where people focus as much on her appearance as on her policies." Fiorina told him, "I've been dealing with it all my life."
Media Matters has repeatedly documented sexist media attacks on female politicians, ranging from Bill O'Reilly arguing in 2014 "there's got to be some downside to having a woman president" toNewsweek's demeaning coverage of former Governor Sarah Palin following the 2008 presidential campaign.
Right-wing media are baselessly accusing the Department of Justice of lying to the judge in Texas overseeing the legal challenge against President Obama's immigration actions. They are claiming that a DOJ attorney made false statements in court when she indicated that applications for two new deferred-action programs were not being processed. But these right-wing media figures are wrong. These two programs are not proceeding. The federal government has renewed 100,000 applications for deferred action for immigrants eligible under a 2012 program -- a third category of applicants who are not covered in the case.
Republican officials from 26 states sued the Obama administration after the president signed a series of executive actions on immigration in November. In part, these executive actions temporarily defer deportations for two new categories of eligible undocumented immigrants, such as parents of citizens. These acts of prosecutorial discretion also immediately changed the president's original 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by extending the deferral period from two years to three, in order to bring it in line with the expiration dates for the new programs. Before the federal government could start accepting applications from immigrants eligible for the two new programs -- a modified version of DACA and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) -- a district court judge in Texas issued an injunction temporarily blocking from going into effect. The third category, under the 2012 guidelines, was not enjoined.
In accompanying court proceedings, under questioning from the judge, the DOJ confirmed that applicants for the two new categories were not yet being processed, as the judge instructed.
Right-wing media have attacked Obama's immigration action since it was announced, and have commended the Texas judge for putting it on hold, even though the legal basis for the injunction is quite shaky. Now conservative media outlets are also claiming that the administration's lawyers lied because the Department of Homeland Security approved or renewed 100,000 applications from the original 2012 DACA program between November 2014 and February 2015 and applied the deferral for three years instead of two -- even though that change was required to be immediately applied.
After 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Iranian leaders attempting to undercut President Obama's negotiations with that country, conservative media figures have defended the widely criticized move by pointing to a 2007 Syrian meeting then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had with President Bashar al-Assad. But as MSNBC.com's Steve Benen noted, "the parallels to this new scandal are tenuous, at best."
While the Bush White House strongly opposed the trip, Pelosi was accompanied at the meeting by a Republican congressman and Bush State Department officials. She informed the White House and State Department of her trip, and foreign policy experts said that her visit didn't stray from a "typical" congressional visit. Three Republican congressmen also met with Assad prior to her visit.
47 Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), signed a March 9 letter telling Iranian officials that any nuclear agreement would face scrutiny from the Republican-led Senate and could be undone by a future president. The letter drew criticism from the White House, diplomacy experts, and even some Republicans.
Conservatives have attempted to rebut criticism by drawing a direct parallel to an April 4, 2007, meeting Pelosi had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For example:
Right-wing media outlets used a flawed National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper to attack unemployment insurance (UI), claiming that the paper proved that UI disincentives work. In fact, experts criticized the paper's methodology and data, and one of the paper's co-authors admitted that most UI recipients look for work while receiving benefits.
Conservative media hyped the findings of a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report as a "bombshell" that shows the costs of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be much higher than expected. But according to the CBO's report, the ACA will cost 20 percent less over the next decade than its initial projections.
Fox News and other conservative media outlets are attacking gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) by falsely claiming that the group insulted slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. But CSGV did nothing of the sort. The attacks rely on blaming CSGV for statements made by commenters to its public Facebook page.
Kyle was a decorated veteran of the Iraq War who was well known for having 160 confirmed kills. In January 2013, Kyle published a book about his experiences, but was murdered just days later at a shooting range by a veteran allegedly suffering from PTSD. Kyle's life story has been turned into a movie, American Sniper.
During the January 13 edition of Fox & Friends, host Heather Nauert falsely claimed, "This morning the anti-gun group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is blasting Kyle, inviting its Facebook users to trash the American hero." On-screen text included "Dishonoring A Hero" and "Anti-Gun Group Trashes Chris Kyle."
The January 13 edition of Fox & Friends First similarly claimed CSGV was "trashing Chris Kyle" and "taking swipes at the U.S. military's most lethal sniper," and later displayed a graphic asking, "Should This Group Be Trashing One Of Our Military Heroes Who Defended Our Freedom?"
The smear likely originated from a January 12 article at the conservative Washington Examiner that claims CSGV "is targeting Clint Eastwood's potential Oscar nominee 'American Sniper." As evidence, the Examiner links to an October 2, 2014, post by CSGV on its Facebook page that calls the upcoming movie an "Interesting project," while linking to a USAToday.com article about the film:
Conservative media outlets amplified a misleading study from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, which claimed that "all net employment growth has gone to immigrants" between November 2007 and November 2014. But data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job growth among the native-born has far outpaced job growth among immigrants during the economic recovery.
The news media reminders arrive almost daily now: President Obama's approval rating is low and going lower. McClatchy Newspapers highlighted the "dropping approval ratings," while the Washington Post declared "President Obama's approval ratings have plunged to record lows." The Christian Science Monitor noted the numbers have "plummeted." The Washington Examiner stressed the president's approvals were "sinking to historic lows," while an Atlantic headlined announced, ""Obama's Sinking Approval Could Drag Democrats Down With Him."
The portrait being painted by an array of media artists is unmistakable: Obama's approval ratings are not only weak but they're going down, down, down.
But it's not true.
The part about Obama's "dropping" and "sinking" polling numbers simply isn't accurate, not matter how many times it's repeated inside the Beltway echo chamber.
Does the White House wish Obama's job approval rating was higher? I'm sure his advisers do. Does polling indicate that Democrats face the possibility of deep losses next week in the midterm elections? Yes. Does that mean the press should just make up narratives about the president's approval rating simply because it fits in, again, with anti-Obama spin that Republicans are pushing?
It does not.
According to the cumulative ratings posted daily at Real Clear Politics, which averages together an array of national polls to come up with Obama's composite job approval rating, the president's approval on January 1, 2014 stood at 42.6 percent. The president's approval rating on October 30, was 42 percent. So over the course of ten months, and based on more than one hundred poll results in 2014, Obama's approval rating declined less than one point.
I can safely say Obama is only president in U.S. history whose approval rating dropped a single digit over a ten-month stretch and it was described as having "plummeted."
Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett wrote a column accurately depicting the college sexual assault epidemic and the fears victims face in reporting these crimes, a stark contrast to his colleagues and fellow conservative media figures who have dismissed, mocked, and stigmatized victims.
In a September 25 column for Fox News' website, Jarrett highlighted the high rate of assault on college campuses, and praised student activists for raising awareness of the often insufficient resources and efforts by colleges to address the problem (emphasis added):
Nearly 20 % of female college students have been sexually assaulted, according to a White House task force.
I suspect the true number is significantly higher. Many young women are reluctant to report it. They keep it secret for fear of embarrassment, shame, retribution, and the trauma of reliving the nightmare during legal or disciplinary proceedings. I get it. There are repercussions. Victims are especially afraid of being stigmatized or ostracized within the tight, insular social circles on campus.
Awareness is on the rise driven, in part, by student activism. Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, angry over how the school adjudicated her claim of rape, has taken to carrying a mattress around campus. Dubbed "Mattress girl" by fellow students and the media, her visually indelible protest has galvanized a growing demand for honesty and transparency. And why not? Schools should be required to publish accurate information about the frequency of assaults. It can be done without breaching individual students' privacy.
Jarrett's column unfortunately stands out among recent commentary about sexual assault in conservative media, where the fact that one in five women are assaulted at college is regularly dismissed. The Daily Caller has called the statistic "bizarre and wholly false," while the Washington Examiner called it "ridiculous."
Moreover, the trust and respect Jarrett treats the victims of these assaults with is unusual. Instead, their stories are often questioned or critiqued, with media figures suggesting that a large number of victims are lying about their assault, or are partly culpable.
The same day that Jarrett's column was published, some of his Fox News colleagues suggested that intoxicated women who are assaulted at college fraternity parties are responsible for their own assaults. Several co-hosts of Fox's Outnumbered defended a Forbes contributor who was fired after claiming that drunk women were "the gravest threat to fraternities" because the fraternity would be liable if a woman was sexually assaulted at a party.
This past summer, Washington Post columnist George Will came under fire for claiming that college efforts to curb sexual assaults were making "victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege." In his column, Will disputed the story of a college rape on Swarthmore's campus, implying he didn't believe the survivor's story qualified as an actual incident of assault. The survivor, Lisa Sendrow, told Media Matters about the violence she had experienced, how Will's dismissal of her story was triggering and damaging to her, and that she was diagnosed with PTSD and received violent threats after her story was first reported.
Earlier this year, a Weekly Standard contributor blamed feminism for sexual assault, because victims abandoned "feminine modesty" which had provided women "protection" from rape. National Review Online writers claimed rape was "instinctive" among some young men, that assaults involve "a large degree of voluntary behavior" from women, and that women are "being taught to believe they were raped." A New York Post columnist dismissed rape as "regrettable sex."
And Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto went so far as to claim intoxicated sexual assault victims are just as guilty as their attackers.
While Jarrett's column is sadly something of an outlier among conservative commentary on the issue, survivors now have one more voice in the media supporting their efforts to combat this epidemic.
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Forbes columnist Frank Miniter's forthcoming book The Future of the Gun will present a revisionist history of the National Rifle Association's extremism during the legislative battle over guns following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
According to Regnery, the conservative publisher of Miniter's book, The Future of the Gun, will show how "the radical anti-gun lobby stands between innovation and the American people. Bestselling author Frank Miniter describes amazing breakthroughs waiting to happen in gun technology -- and how gun grabbers threaten to stop progress in its tracks."
A recent excerpt from the book that circulated in conservative media purports to provide one example of alleged obstinacy on the part of gun safety supporters by highlighting how the Obama administration allegedly rejected the NRA's overtures to work together to crack down on illegal guns. But Miniter is misrepresenting the post-Newtown meeting between the administration and the gun lobby.
Conservative media touting Miniter's version of events have also failed to disclose he is employed by the NRA, and that the NRA's proposal to crack down on illegal guns was a "law cleverly written to accomplish practically nothing," according to one centrist think tank.
Right-wing media have launched a campaign of mockery, victim-blaming, and denial to dismiss the sexual assault epidemic, particularly on college campuses, and the Obama administration's efforts to curtail the growing problem.
Conservative media rushed to attack a White House report on the epidemic of campus sexual assault by attempting to cast doubt on studies showing that one in five women will experience sexual violence while in college.