Gender

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  • What Would It Take For Bill O’Reilly To Get Fired?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Over the past two years, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has drawn attention to President Barack Obama's clothing at a Muslim wedding and claimed Rep. Maxine Waters’  (D-CA) was wearing a “James Brown wig,” called “many” African-Americans “ill-educated” with “tattoos on their foreheads,” and praised the workplace conditions of the slaves who built the White House. A co-worker accused him of reducing her on-air time on his show after she turned down his repeated sexual advances. His yarns about heroically covering conflicts in the Falkland Islands, El Salvador, and Northern Ireland were exposed as fiction. His latest biography was rejected as "a disservice to history” written by "an opportunistic interloper" who "debases the historian's craft." This fall marks the 10th anniversary of O’Reilly’s shocked declaration that African-American patrons at a famous Harlem restaurant weren’t screaming expletives at the waitstaff.

    Given this track record, what would it take for Fox News to fire Bill?

    The reason O’Reilly has been untouchable is simple: He makes Fox News a lot of money. His show anchors Fox’s prime-time programming, bringing in the most viewers in cable news for 17 years, according to the network.

    There is no heir apparent. It’s difficult to imagine an Eric Bolling or Greg Gutfeld filling O’Reilly’s seat. If the network loses him, it’s screwed. And so Fox excuses offenses that would get talent at other networks -- or lesser lights at Fox -- kicked to the curb.

    Fox Does Damage Control For Fox’s Bigoted Commentary

    Don Imus, Juan Williams, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Curt Schilling, Pat Buchanan, and Laura Schlessinger were pushed out of CBS and MSNBC, NPR, CNN, ESPN, MSNBC, and her radio show, respectively, for making the sort of racially charged remarks that are a regular staple of O'Reilly's programming.

    Fox executives have a much higher tolerance for on-air bigotry (they hired Dobbs, Imus, and Williams after their scandals on other networks) but even they dropped E.D. Hill and Emily Austen after they made racially charged remarks.

    The latest controversy over O’Reilly’s casually racist attack on Waters is instructive. Seeking to stem the onslaught of criticism, a statement was released under O’Reilly’s name that minimized his comments but included the phrase “I apologize.” The statement circulated widely and was described by some journalists as O’Reilly “express[ing] regret.” Hours later, speaking to his own audience, the Fox host laughed his way through a similar statement before attacking Waters’ patriotism and dog-whistling some comments about her support for the “entitlement system.”

    Fox doesn’t appear to care about what O’Reilly says. It just does damage control.

    When O’Reilly’s Fabrications Were Exposed, Fox Attacked His Critics

    Journalists depend on the willingness of their audiences to believe them. That makes fabricating a story the profession’s greatest sin.

    When questions were raised about tales Brian Williams had told about his reporting exploits, NBC News convened an internal investigation of Williams’ claims that eventually led to his removal as anchor of Nightly News. Over the years, The New York TimesJayson Blair, The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke, and The New Republic’s Stephen Glass have all lost their jobs when stories they reported were exposed as inventions.

    O’Reilly spent much of 2015 trying to salvage his journalistic credibility after Mother Jones, Media Matters, and others dismantled a host of tall tales he had told about his journalism career. His incredible claims about reporting from the battlefield during the Falklands War, being present for the suicide of a key figure in the John F. Kennedy assassination, seeing “nuns get shot in the back of the head” during the civil war in El Salvador and “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast,” and getting “attacked by protesters” during the Los Angeles riots were all false.

    Rather than investigate the allegations, as a credible news network would, Fox sent O’Reilly out to deny the claims in interviews and on his program. As the fabrications mounted, the network released a statement attacking O’Reilly’s critics and saying they would no longer respond to the “accusation du jour.”

    For Fox, evidence that its top host had concocted stories about his past work was an attack to be deflected, not a serious allegation to be reviewed.

    Fox Paid Off A Former Employee Who Accused O’Reilly Of Sexual Harassment

    Fox spent much of last summer embroiled in a massive scandal over dozens of allegations of sexual harassment by its employees against its founder and CEO, Roger Ailes. After an internal review, Ailes resigned.

    But just weeks after Ailes’ termination, Fox’s parent company paid off former contributor Juliet Huddy to keep her from filing a lawsuit accusing O’Reilly of sexually harassing her for years and using his position to punish her when she rebuffed him (O’Reilly and the company denied the allegations).

    This was at least the second time O’Reilly had been accused of workplace sexual harassment; he settled a 2004 lawsuit by one of his show’s producers for millions of dollars. It’s unclear if the network has taken any steps to protect its employees from its star’s advances.

    What Would It Take?

    By Fox News’ own standards and the standards of the rest of journalism, O’Reilly should have been fired long ago.

    But O’Reilly seems to be worth more to Fox than its reputation with African-Americans offended by his comments, or its duty to other employees who might be subjected to his sexual entreaties, or its stature as an outlet that cares about journalism. Until the network’s executives start caring about something more than the bottom line, or O’Reilly’s ratings fall, or he finally does something so terrible that it offends the right stakeholders, his position at the network will remain secure.

    When Fox fired an executive just this week over racist remarks she allegedly made to African-American co-workers, the network put out a statement claiming, “There is no place for abhorrent behavior like this at Fox News.

    Apparently there is a place for that behavior: hosting the network’s highest-rated broadcast.

  • Bill O’Reilly’s History Of Racism

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was widely criticized for his racist remarks in which he mocked the hair of an African-American congresswoman, saying it looked like she was wearing a “James Brown wig.” This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has made such comments; in fact, he has a history of saying racist things.

  • O’Reilly Apologizes For Saying Rep. Maxine Waters’ Hair Looks Like A “James Brown Wig”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig.”

    During an appearance on Fox & Friends this morning, O’Reilly responded to a clip of Waters criticizing President Donald Trump’s supporters by saying, “I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it's the same wig.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy replied, “It’s the same one,” and Brian Kilmeade added, “And he's not using it anymore. They just -- they finally buried him.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt took issue with O’Reilly’s comments, saying, “I've got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that. She's a -- you can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive.” O’Reilly responded, “I didn’t say she wasn’t attractive. I love James Brown, but it's the same hair.”

    O’Reilly’s remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from commentators who called them racist and sexist. O’Reilly has a long history of making such comments.

    In a statement to Business Insider, he said: “As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.”

    He will reportedly address his comments on tonight’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor. It is unlikely that any apology tonight will be sincere -- on Twitter, he has promised a "big political correctness" segment on the show.  

  • The Viral Story About Missing Black And Brown Girls In D.C. Reveals A Huge Media Blindspot

    Women's Outlets Explain How These Stories Are Significantly And Routinely Undercovered

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    A social media post about missing black and brown girls in the Washington, D.C., area went viral, but the numbers it cited were incorrect. Women’s outlets -- primarily those geared toward young, black and brown audiences -- took the lead in explaining the underlying reality about media coverage of missing children that made the post so believable.

  • What 60 Minutes Didn't Mention About "Alt-Right" Men's Rights Activist Mike Cernovich

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & BRENDAN KARET

    CBS’ 60 Minutes featured an interview with self-professed “alt-right” figure and noted men’s rights activist Mike Cernovich on its March 26 edition, highlighting how he pushes false stories. Cernovich also has a history of racist and misogynistic rhetoric, has encouraged and promoted harassment, and has promoted numerous conspiracy theories, in addition to "Pizzagate."

  • Anonymous Message Boards Enable Illegal Activities And Politically Motivated Harassment Every Day

    Cases Of Online Harassment Against Celebrities And Members Of The Armed Forces Get Widely Reported, But They’re Just One Part Of Online Abuse

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Online message boards that allow anonymous posting -- including 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, and AnonIB -- tend to make headlines mainly when users illegally share private photos of high-profile women. But such photo sharing is just part of the relentless abuse that these sites constantly allow and enable.

    On a daily basis, users of these message boards target women, people of color, activists, members of the media, and vulnerable communities like undocumented immigrants by orchestrating online harassment campaigns, which can involve illegal activities like hacking and publishing personal information and images. The sites are often also the origin of unsubstantiated speculation, which can make its way to fake news purveyors and hyperpartisan blogs that push misinformation, sometimes causing dangerous real-life consequences.

    The actor Emma Watson was one of the victims of a recent illegal photo-sharing scandal, in which alleged personal photos were widely circulated on Reddit and 4chan. Weeks before, reports had revealed that members of the armed forces were involved in sharing “nude photographs of women, including fellow Marines -- some taken without their knowledge” through the anonymous posting site AnonIB, which was also implicated in the publication of hacked personal photos of a number of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, in 2014.

    The cases involving celebrities and members of prominent military institutions are widely reported, but their treatment is just one part of the picture. These sites enable victimization of other individuals on a daily basis -- often as part of orchestrated and politically motivated harassment campaigns. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston was the victim of doxxing -- the publication of personal information like phone numbers and addresses with the intent of enabling intimidation and harassment -- on 8chan following his reporting on President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax documents. Anonymous users on 4chan organized an effort to target undocumented immigrants, encouraging others to trick Twitter users into outing themselves as undocumented so they could “report” them to the authorities for deportation. Muslim activist Linda Sarsour, who has been repeatedly defamed on these sites, was recently smeared on 4chan as an “Islamist using the flag of feminism to subvert western women and entice them into supporting sharia law.”

    The forums have also been at the epicenter of unsubstantiated speculation that has been weaponized by fake news purveyors, in some cases with dangerous real-life consequences and negative impact on real people.

    While women aren't the only victims, misogyny is perniciously at the center of many of the posts on these forums. As reported by Gawker, message boards like 4chan, 8chan -- which was launched as a response to perceived censorship on 4chan and became a similar, but more anarchic, platform -- and AnonIB serve as a sanctuary where “angry, anonymous young men can dance out their anger against women”:

    On 8chan, Gamergate supporters battle against raging feminists and "social justice warriors." Like horny, teenaged Rush Limbaughs, they lament the media's penchant for "blaming whites for all its problems" and adorn unrelated posts with images of balloon-chested anime babes.

    [...]

    "Are women humans?" reads one image macro, posted in defiant response to a user who confessed sympathy for the victims of pick-up artists. The answer, obviously, is no. Another, particularly disgusting post proposes that "the real reason women hate rape" is that it "ignores their princess status."

    [...]

    On 4chan and 8chan, one could theoretically log on and have a real dialogue about music, sports, or any number of other topics. AnonIB harbors no such pretenses. Users of the anonymous image-sharing board—whose name literally means "anonymous image board"—want just one thing: to jerk off to stolen pictures of naked women.

    [...]

    Like 8chan, AnonIB started life after a 4chan rebellion. Back in 2006, after an incomprehensible series of events (see the Encyclopedia Dramatica entry on "/b/-day" if you'd like to give it a shot), Christopher Poole announced that posting child porn, "jailbait," or personal information on 4chan would henceforth result in consequences for the users involved. The horror! Just as they did this year, users left the site in droves, and AnonIB was there to scoop them up. As Encyclopedia Dramatica puts it, it was "the final cesspool for all of the shit generated by 4chan and its rivals."

    Over the following years, the site underwent a number of changes before emerging in its current, nude-centric permutation. Now that the flow of stolen pictures of naked famous women has slowed to a trickle, users are back to doing what they did before Celebgate: posting stolen photos of naked non-famous women.

    For many men, this misogyny has become a “gateway drug” into the so-called “alt-right,” a self-designated name for a faction of the white nationalist movement. As New York magazine’s Claire Landsbaum wrote, the ideology of men’s rights activists is “leaking into the teachings of … the alt-right.” Milo Yiannopoulos, who was until recently an editor for Breitbart.com, a "platform for the alt-right,” was behind Gamergate in 2014, which The New Yorker characterized as “a vicious campaign against feminists in the video-game industry.” In 2016, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter after he led a harassment campaign against black actor Leslie Jones for her role in the female-led reboot of the movie GhostbustersMembers of the “alt-right” have used these anonymous forums to hijack a number of cultural conversations with the purpose of marginalizing women, and the “alt-right” has infused the message boards with white supremacy, promoting a white- and male-centric cultural identity.

    The reality is, with their lax oversight for illegal content, these boards are enabling and promoting abuse, often politically motivated, defended as “free speech” by its perpetrators, on a daily basis -- whether or not it's on the front page of the news.

    Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh

  • Trump Rewards O'Reilly Minion Who Previously Aired Racist And Misogynist Reports

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox News host Jesse Watters will interview President Donald Trump for his show Watters World. Watters, who originally appeared on Fox as a correspondent for The O’Reilly Factor, has a track record of disparaging segments about immigrants, women, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. He has also produced reports in which he shamed homeless Americans, mocked members of the LGBTQ community, and “followed, harassed, and ambushed” a journalist.

  • Fox News’ Reporting On Fired US Attorney Ignores His Investigation Of Fox News

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    In over 40 segments from March 11 through 13 that discussed President Donald Trump’s firing of Preet Bharara, who was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Fox News failed to disclose that Bharara was investigating multiple potential crimes committed by the network, including allegedly hiding financial settlements paid to women who accused former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.

  • US Attorney Preet Bharara Was Investigating Fox News When Trump Fired Him

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump’s decision to fire U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara happened as Bharara’s office was reportedly probing Fox News over its alleged failure to inform shareholders about repeated settlements for allegations of sexual harassment and assault by former Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and other executives against female employees. Reports indicate Trump may pick one of Ailes’ former lawyers to replace Bharara.

  • Media Outlets Mention Trump's International Women's Day Tweet, Ignore Allegations Of Sexual Assault Against Him

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & KATIE SULLIVAN

    On International Women’s Day, cable hosts on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox Business Network reported on President Donald Trump’s tweet stating that he has “tremendous respect for women” without mentioning that at least 17 women have accused him of sexual assault or harassment.

    On the morning of March 8, Trump tweeted, “I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.” He followed that up with a second tweet, writing, “On International Women's Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world.” At least nine cable news shows reported on Trump’s tweet between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.: CNN’s New Day, At This Hour, Inside Politics, and Wolf; MSNBC’s Morning Joe, MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, the 11 a.m. hour of MSNBC Live hosted by Ali Velshi, and Andrew Mitchell Reports; and Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo. None of the nine shows mentioned that 17 women have come forward alleging Trump sexually assaulted or harassed them. In fact, no news program on any cable or broadcast network mentioned the accusations at all, according to a Media Matters search.

    In addition to the actual accusations, Trump himself was recorded in 2005 bragging to an Access Hollywood host about sexual assault.  

    While no show that reported on Trump’s tweet mentioned the accusations of sexual misconduct against him -- or that he responded to them with personal attacks, calling one a “horrible woman” and insulting another's’ looks -- The Atlantic’s Molly Ball said on CNN, “we should give him credit for not making a provocation and causing a whole controversy.” Ball claimed that, “because this women's movement has been so focused on opposition to Trump, it has, I think, become much more of a politically polarized occasion,” adding that it was “commendable” for “Trump to rise above it.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 8 of Trump’s tweet using the terms "Trump" and "women” as well as "Trump" and "tweet.” Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of the sexual assault allegations against Trump using the terms “grab" or "assault."