Conservative media have rallied behind Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a political activist known for her toxic anti-Islam rhetoric after Brandeis University cancelled plans to grant her an honorary degree. Right-wing media have painted Hirsi Ali as a champion for women's rights, but instead appear to use her views on gender as a rhetorical gateway to attack the religion of Islam and highlight Hirsi Ali's view that Islam is a religion of violence and a "cult of death."
On April 8, Brandeis University announced that it would reverse course in awarding an honorary degree to Hirsi Ali, a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) known for her critical views of Islam. The New York Times reported that while Brandeis has invited Hirsi Ali to speak, it could not "overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with" its values, labeling her past statements as the reason it revoked the degree.
Since the announcement, conservative media figures have rushed to defend Hirsi Ali, some using her life experience to explain away her Islamophobic comments. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol called the move an "example of a war on women" and argued that the university had "caved to Muslim thugs." Fox News' Sean Hannity said the university's decision was an "example of left-wing appeasement." On April 10, Fox contributor Monica Crowley asked, "Where are the moderate Muslims? Where are people who, like Ali, have left the faith and are willing to courageously speak about it? And yet when somebody does show the guts and gets out there to do it, this is how they're treated?"
But Hirsi Ali is not moderate in her views of Islam -- once referring to the religion as "a destructive nihilistic cult of death" in a 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard. The New York Times reports that Hirsi Ali has also "advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that 'violence is inherent in Islam' and that 'Islam is the new fascism'." In a 2007 Reason interview, she also called for Islam to be militarily crushed and suggested the Constitution should be amended to permit oppression of U.S. Muslims.
Hirsi Ali has similarly used her position at AEI to push for antagonistic relations between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries, even criticizing President Obama for not "associating Islam with extremism." In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations, Hirsi Ali highlighted her views that Islam "is at war with America" and wrote that Western civilization "needs to be actively defended" against Islam.
Although Hirsi Ali has been an outspoken advocate for women's rights, her narrative that violence and misogyny are inherent to the religion of Islam is problematic, but it is also what has recently propelled her into the conservative media spotlight. Right-wing outlets such as Fox have been notorious for amplifying Islamophobic voices in an effort to spread fear that Muslims are 'taking over,' while pushing the idea that Islam is adverse to Western values.
Conservative media have greatly enabled anti-Islam propaganda, and have had a significant role in propagating the belief that Islam is a violent religion and is therefore something the United States must fight against. On April 9, Fox host Andrea Tantaros exemplified this when she defended Hirsi Ali by arguing "we are" at war with radical Islam because "they are going to kill us, as the Qur'an states according to Bernard Lewis and many other scholars, they're going to kill us, Sean, until we are all Muslims or ruled by Muslims."
Fox and other conservative voices such as Pamela Geller, Zuhdi Jasser, and the National Review use figures like Hirsi Ali to boost their own anti-Islamic positions as legitimate, giving them cover to continue spreading anti-Muslim hate. Conservative media's rush to uphold Hirsi Ali's story is therefore much more a defense of their own Islamophobic narratives than of Hirsi Ali herself.
Violence against women in any form is a serious issue in many societies, and to limit the discussion by portraying it as a problem specific to the Muslim community, while dehumanizing an entire faith, is irresponsible, inimical to the cause of women's rights, and it is Islamophobic.
As Evelyn Alsultany, author of Arabs And Muslims in the Media and associate professor at the University of Michigan, told Media Matters, Hirsi Ali "has not promoted any kind of true understanding of Islam, but has provided justification for the public and the government to perpetuate racism." Alsultanty explains further:
While she has brought attention to oppression that some Muslim women face, she has done so by simplistically blaming Islam. As a result, she has powerfully contributed to naturalizing the idea that Islam in and of itself is the enemy of democracy and civilization. This idea has serious consequences. It has led to Muslims in the West facing a spectrum of experiences, from hostile questions about their faith to hate crimes. It has provided justification for the U.S. to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, that has negatively impacted the lives of Muslim women through war.
Communications director to the Center for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Ibrahim Hooper similarly pointed out that Hirsi Ali's rhetoric hijacks legitimate issues and "demonizes Islam." As Alsultany concludes, "we need to find a way to discuss a serious problem -- violence against women in a way that does not present the problem as exclusive to Muslim women."
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is now a contributor at ABC News, after a decade spent offering inaccurate predictions and baseless smears against Democrats on Fox News.
On the February 2 edition of ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos noted that Kristol was one of the network's newest contributors. Kristol announced back in August 2013 that he no longer had an exclusive contract with his previous employer, Fox News, and was now "free to inflict my insights on viewers of the other networks as well."
Kristol's decade of "insights" at Fox included inaccurate predictions about the Iraq War, saber-rattling for war with Iran, dismissing legitimate military scandals, and smearing Democrats. He was one of the worst of the media's Iraq War boosters, insisting that there was "almost no evidence" that "the Shia can't get along with the Sunni," and that "American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators."
He also claimed that military sexual assaults were a "pseudo-crisis," helped lead a smear campaign against then-nominee for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, dismissed the devastating effects of the recent government shutdown by claiming "no one no one is going to starve in Arkansas," and claimed that Hillary Clinton only won the 2008 New Hampshire primary because "she pretended to cry; the women liked it."
In a statement to Politico, executive producer of This Week Jonathan Greenberger said Kristol is "'an original thinker' that will make their team stronger."
Following an announcement that House Republican leaders will unveil a set of "principles" for guiding debate on immigration reform, conservative media urged Republicans to reject these and any attempts to pass immigration reform legislation this year. This is the latest in a series of conservative media attacks against the immigration reform effort that began in 2013.
Declassified transcripts from House Armed Services Committee hearings on the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks revealed Fox News' highly politicized Benghazi reporting rarely reflected the facts on the ground.
In response to Senate Democrats invoking the so-called "nuclear option," right-wing media advanced a number of myths not only about filibuster reform, but about the qualifications of President Obama's nominees who have languished in the confirmation process. What right-wing media have ignored is that Democrats used the "nuclear option" only after unprecedented GOP obstruction prevented Obama's judicial and executive nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.
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."
Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol praised Republican efforts to force congressional staffers to foot the entire cost of their health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"), pretending any subsides Congressional staffers receive from their employer would be tantamount to "special treatment."
With the deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown looming, Republican Senator David Vitter (LA) proposed an amendment to the spending bill that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown. His proposal, passed by the House on a 228 - 201 vote, eliminates health care subsidies members of Congress and their staff will receive from their employer, the federal government, to help pay the cost of their coverage under the Obamacare exchanges.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol praised the plan as an "extremely strong, political, and substantive" provision during an appearance on the September 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report. Discussing the possibility of a government shutdown, Kristol claimed:
KRISTOL: This is the best political ground for them to fight on ... They are getting rid of the exemption -- the special treatment for congressmen who get special treatment -- better than that of anyone else who's forced into the exchanges.
When host Bret Baier pointed out that even some Republican congressmen disagreed with the measure because they "don't think that their staff should have to feel the pain here," Kristol doubled down:
KRISTOL: I think the House Republicans are intelligent to insist on it, to prevent the Obama administration's change of it and to say, 'I'm sorry, there's no reason Congress or their staffs, nice people though they are, should get a better break than all the other Americans who are being forced into the exchanges under Obamacare.'
The "better break" Kristol cites is actually a special punishment targeted at congressional staff members, a punishment Vitter and House Republicans are fighting to continue.
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol announced he no longer has an exclusive contract with Fox News and is now "free to inflict my insights on viewers of the other networks as well." Over the past decade, Kristol's "insights" have included horribly inaccurate predictions about the Iraq War, saber-rattling for war with Iran, dismissing legitimate military scandals, and smearing Democrats.
Media personalities on broadcast network Sunday shows advanced the right-wing myth that the Obama administration has given Congress a special exemption from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ignoring that the decision fixed a problem that would have treated congressional employees differently from all other Americans.
Following right-wing media's efforts to portray an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) rule clarification as an "exemption" or "dispensation" to congressional staffers, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol appeared on the August 11 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday and suggested that Congress was not "covered by the same rules as the rest of the country" with respect to the health care law:
On Meet the Press, CNN contributor Ana Navarro similarly focused on the decision, complaining of "strategic cut-outs" and claiming that the administration has "been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare":
NAVARRO: But I also think, you know, it's rather rich for the president to be throwing stones that way when what we've seen is an administration that has been making nothing but exceptions on this Obamacare whether it's for corporations or for congressional staff. So maybe he should talk about implementing the whole thing he passed and not doing these exceptions that I'm very disappointed Republicans and Democrats stayed quiet on the exceptions for the congressional staff that were made this last week. There should be more focus on well, if you passed it, live with it, instead of rather than making these very strategic cut-outs.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees the health benefits of federal government employees, responded to the ACA's Grassley amendment with a rule clarification. The amendment requires members of Congress and their staffs to enter the exchanges that were otherwise intended for people without access to employer-based coverage. OPM's decision allows the government to contribute to insurance premiums for members of Congress and staffers moved to the ACA exchanges.
In the Health Affairs blog, health care expert Timothy Jost noted that "[f]ar from exempting Congress from ACA requirements, as some have reported, the amendment subjects members to a legal requirement that will apply to no other Americans."
Jost further explained that Congress would have no way to pay for their employees' coverage through the law because the exchanges were meant to provide access to health care for individuals and small businesses, and that staffers would not receive a tax credit to help pay for coverage because their salaries are generally above the limit for premium subsidies. This would, in effect, force them to pay the full price of their insurance for no reason.
The Obama administration's compromise is to permit the federal government to contribute toward employee insurance on the exchanges, but to render those employees ineligible for any tax credits or subsidies.
"Members of Congress and their staff must go into the exchange," said an administration official. "No ands, ifs, or buts. They will not be eligible in any way for subsidies or tax credits. But they don't lose their current employer contribution."
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.
Radio host Mark Levin attacked 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch and Fox News Channel for "bias" in pro-immigration reform reporting, continuing to grow the divide between conservative talk radio hosts and the network.
On the July 15 edition of his radio show, Levin -- who has previously called the immigration reform bill a "disgusting disgrace" and a "crap sandwich" -- discussed a recent tweet by Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox, that declared Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was correct about the immigration reform effort and expressed support for the immigration reform bill. Levin then accused Fox News of biased reporting on immigration reform and accused "a number of hosts" who support immigration reform of not reading the bill:
This isn't the first time Levin has taken issue with what he referred to as "our favorite cable channel." On the July 12 edition of his show, Levin attacked Fox News contributor Karl Rove over his support for immigration reform saying, "you know what number Karl Rove never puts on that whiteboard? His win-loss percentage."
Earlier this month, both Levin and fellow conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh appeared on Fox, but neither was asked about immigration reform, despite their well-known outspokenness on the immigration reform effort. After Limbaugh's interview, he went on his radio show to criticize the network and claim that Fox wouldn't allow him to discuss the immigration reform effort. Yet, after walking back his comments, Limbaugh was allowed to speak on the topic during Fox News' The Five for almost ten minutes.
In addition to a conservative radio schism, conservatives in print media have also pitted themselves against one another over immigration, most recently between New York Times columnist David Brooks -- an immigration reform supporter -- and National Review's Rich Lowry and The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, who wrote an op-ed calling on House Republicans to "[put] a stake through" comprehensive immigration reform.
Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol ignored President Obama's history of improving border security when he suggested on Fox News Sunday that the president may choose not to enforce the border security provisions in the Senate's immigration reform bill.
The comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate on June 27 includes strong increases in border security measures. These measures include the placement of 17,000 additional Border Patrol agents, at least 700 miles in fencing along the border, and dozens of additional helicopters and marine vessels to help with border surveillance.
On July 14, Kristol claimed that Republicans can't trust Obama with the border enforcement provisions of the comprehensive immigration bill, asking, "[c]an anyone seriously believe he's not going to waive pieces of, piece of, aspects of a piece of legislation he doesn't like -- border security?"
Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane responded to Kristol on the show by noting the high level of deportations under Obama's presidency. The facts show that Lane is correct -- deportations are at record highs, with more than 400,000 people deported in FY 2012:
The facts also show that Obama has done much to tighten border security. The number of immigrants with criminal convictions has surged under the Obama administration, nearly doubling from 2008 to 2011. The number of Border Patrol agents has more than doubled since 2001. The number of apprehensions at the Southwestern border has dropped dramatically as these border security measures have increased.
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol and The National Review's Rich Lowry are calling on House Republicans to obstruct comprehensive immigration reform efforts by not passing any immigration reform bills out of the chamber.
In a July 8 op-ed titled "Kill the Bill" cross posted on The Weekly Standard and The National Review's websites, Kristol and Lowry argued that House Republicans should not pass any immigration reform legislation. Doing so would obstruct immigration reform efforts by preventing Senate and House representatives from meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate's bill and any bill that may pass the House:
House Republicans may wish to pass incremental changes to the system to show that they have their own solutions, even though such legislation is very unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. Or they might not even bother, since Senate Democrats say such legislation would be dead on arrival. In any case, House Republicans should make sure not to allow a conference with the Senate bill. House Republicans can't find any true common ground with that legislation. Passing any version of the Gang of Eight's bill would be worse public policy than passing nothing. House Republicans can do the country a service by putting a stake through its heart.
Others in right-wing media have proposed a similar strategy of obstruction. On the June 25 edition of her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham and guest Kristol endorsed obstruction, arguing that the House and the Senate reconciling their immigration reform bills would result in a problematic law and should therefore be avoided. In addition, during the June 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity, guest Ann Coulter warned that "if the House passes anything concerning immigration" and conference with representatives from the Senate, the resultant bill "will come out an amnesty bill." She claimed that if a reconciled bill passed, "the country is over."
Right-wing media have long encouraged Republicans to engage in obstruction, including on the appointment of President Obama's second-term nominees and stricter gun violence prevention laws.