Justice & Civil Liberties

Issues ››› Justice & Civil Liberties
  • Wash. Post Editorial Board Debunks Susan B. Anthony List’s Baseless Planned Parenthood Attack Ad

    Editorial Board: The Ad Is “Effective,” But “It Is Easy To Make A Point If You Cherry-Pick Information.”

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On March 26, The Washington Post’s editorial board highlighted the misleading tactics of the latest Planned Parenthood attack ad from the anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List).

    SBA List released an ad in February titled “What is Planned Parenthood really about?” to encourage congressional support for defunding Planned Parenthood -- despite the organization’s essential role as a safety net health care provider. The ad contained several points of misinformation about Planned Parenthood’s services and the feasibility of other providers filling the resulting gap if Congress succeeds in defunding its clinics.

    As the Post’s editorial board noted, however, while SBA List’s ad may seem “effective in delivering its message ... it is easy to make a point if you cherry-pick information and don’t worry about staying true to the facts.” For example, the ad repeated the frequently debunked argument that defunding Planned Parenthood would create more resources for "real health-care centers for women." As the editorial board explained, the “truth is that a cutoff would tear a huge hole in the safety net for the 2.5 million patients - the majority of them low-income."

    From the March 26 editorial:

    Not “even a scintilla of evidence.” That was the judgment of a federal judge last month in Texas about allegations of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. He was not alone in finding that the health-care organization did not illegally profit from fetal-tissue donation: Three Republican-led congressional investigations, 13 states and a Texas grand jury all could find no substance to claims about the alleged sale of “baby body parts,” which gained currency through videos released by anti-abortion activists.

    It is important to point out these facts in light of an advertising campaign that uses misleading data and half-truths in a bid to whip up support in Congress for a cutoff of federal support to Planned Parenthood. While the would-be cutters suffered a setback with last week’s collapse of the Republicans’ attempted overhaul of health care, which also targeted Planned Parenthood, it is clear the threat remains and that misinformation will continue to be a key weapon.

    [...]

    The ad is effective in delivering its message — but then, it is easy to make a point if you cherry-pick information and don’t worry about staying true to the facts.

    [...]

    The ad’s most pernicious distortion centers on the argument that Congress should redirect the federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood to “real health-care centers for women.” Studies and real-life practice have established that there simply are not enough community health centers to fill the gap that would be created if Planned Parenthood lost Medicaid funds. The truth is that a cutoff would tear a huge hole in the safety net for the 2.5 million patients — the majority of them low-income — who each year go to Planned Parenthood centers for basic medical needs. Congress should reject it.

  • Activists Call On iHeartRadio To Break Its Silence On Racist Radio Host

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A coalition of 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups signed a letter expressing concern that iHeartRadio has not confirmed whether it gave a “talk personality of the year” award to a conservative radio host who regularly featured a racially charged segment dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.

    For several years, conservative syndicated radio host Michael Berry hosted a “Butcher Bill” segment in which he ridiculed Chicago’s gun violence victims and smeared the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry also played “bingo” with the victims’ injuries and mockingly suggested that if “you don’t want to hear shots and feel pain” in Chicago -- referring to the common police blotter description of what happened to victims -- you should wear “earmuffs.” In a February 27 press release, Talkers magazine announced that Berry would receive an award for “best news/talk” personality of the year at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles.

    After receiving criticism for his segment, Berry announced that The Michael Berry Show would stop airing the weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, saying he has “to make better decisions.” But it is not clear whether he actually received the award, and iHeartRadio has not answered questions about the matter.

    Media Matters and 20 other civil rights and gun violence prevention groups are asking iHeartRadio to break its silence and publicly state whether it honored Berry. From the March 24 letter:

  • Milwaukee Journalists: Sheriff David Clarke Is “Missing In Action”

    “It’s Horrible. He’s Got People Dying In His Own Jails And He Is Nowhere To Be Found”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County in Wisconsin has become a fixture on Fox News and at conservative political events, regularly serving as a shameless advocate for President Donald Trump.

    But local journalists who report on the 15-year sheriff of Wisconsin’s most populous county say his newfound national spotlight sharply detracts from his law enforcement duties. They note that he spends much of his time away from home, either promoting Trump or pushing his new book, Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America

    Wisconsin reporters also point out that his local approval ratings continue to fall as he ignores his responsibilities, as well as a string of troubling incidents that have occurred in the past few years. Chief among the concerns are four inmate deaths that occurred in his jails in 2016, which Clarke has failed to adequately explain, they say.

    “It gives the impression that he is missing in action and that he is an advocate for the Trump administration,” Daniel Bice, a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who has reported extensively on Clarke, said about his recent actions. “The perception is that he has gone from being the sheriff to being an advocate for Trump -- that is his primary role right now.”

    Clarke, a Democrat and African-American, is among Fox News' favorite guests. A search of Fox News transcripts on Nexis since 2015 finds he has made prime time appearances more than 100 times, in most cases to discuss national issues, not his home county. (Nexis does not capture Fox News appearances on morning and daytime programming.)

    In addition, a recent Journal Sentinel review of Clarke’s outside income disclosure statements found he had earned more than $220,000 in 2016 from speaking fees and related expenses, along with other gifts, during speeches to 34 different groups in 20 states outside of Wisconsin. These earnings outpace his sheriff salary which is $132,290.

    “He’s not around and he’s not doing his job and not providing any leadership,” said Charlie Sykes, a longtime conservative Wisconsin talk show host now appearing on MSNBC and WNYC Radio in New York. “His approach has been to refuse to comment, refuse to be transparent in any way, and attack anyone who raises questions about it.”

    And then there are the questionable incidents involving Clarke, ranging from his tweet calling CNN’s Marc Lamont Hill a “jigaboo” to his alleged harassment of a fellow airplane passenger.

    Clarke also called for a boycott of a local Fox affiliate, claiming it presented “fake news” and “racist” coverage.

    “He doesn’t talk to the local press except through the county sheriff’s Facebook page, but he does talk to Fox News, which is a contrast,” Bice said. “The assumption nationally among the conservatives is that he is beloved here, but even conservatives are frustrated with how long he is gone and not doing his job.”

    Clarke was first appointed sheriff in 2002, winning re-election later that year and again in 2006, 2010 and 2014. He is up for re-election again in 2018.

    But he didn't gain national prominence until his last election, when groups of gun-safety advocates helped support an effort to have him voted out.

    When he won that election, local reporters say, he started getting national attention as a gun-rights advocate and law enforcement voice. He drew further attention last year when he spoke out against the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it a hate group. He was also an early Trump supporter.

    One of the misconceptions about Clarke, however, is his image as a crime-fighter, local journalists say. His office does very little in the way of policing, with most of its work focused on the county's jails, highways, and parks.

    “The county sheriff has almost nothing to do with crime. The police handle the crime,” said Bruce Murphy, editor of UrbanMilwaukee.com, former editor of Milwaukee Magazine and onetime Journal Sentinel reporter. “He’s the classic example of all hat and no cattle. He talks tough and he has the impression of being this guy who is taking care of crime, and he has very little to do with it.”

    A January 31 report from Public Policy Polling found that Clarke had a 31 percent approval rating among local voters, and it noted that “voters consider him to be somewhat of a national embarrassment.” It also revealed that 65 percent believed Clarke has had a negative impact on Milwaukee County’s image.

    PolitiFact, meanwhile, has deemed 75 percent of his statements that it reviewed false or mostly false.

    “He’s very thin-skinned. He enjoys the limelight, likes the big checks and flying first class,” said Mike Crute, a talk show host on WRRD News Talk 1510 in Milwaukee. “It’s horrible. He’s got people dying in his own jails and he is nowhere to be found.”

    Crute added: “He is a guy who undermines the office and the public service office. It’s all narcissism, building himself as a TV brand, following Trump’s example. The sheriff’s office and its duties are just tedious to him. He doesn’t do anything.”

    James Wigderson, assistant editor of the conservative website RightWisconsin.com, called the outside appearances “a distraction.”

    “The fact that he probably earns more from speaking fees than he does at his day job leads you to believe that his day job has to be suffering at some point in this process,” Wigderson said. “It’s a mixed bag in Milwaukee County when you are more frequently appearing on Fox News nationally than you are on the local news discussing what is going on in Milwaukee County.”

    Journalists also say that he has not properly addressed the jail deaths or his constant trips out of town. When Media Matters approached him at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in February outside Washington, D.C., Clarke declined to comment on either.

    Most reporters who cover Clarke believe he will not run for re-election in 2018, due in part to his diminishing local image and popularity, but also because of his continued support for Trump, as many believe he still hopes to serve the president in some capacity.

    “He’s become a Fox News commentator/Trump surrogate and at that point has become almost completely disconnected with the community,” said Sykes.

    In response to a request for comment, Fran McLaughlin at Clarke's office sent the following:

    I spoke with the sheriff :

    The left (Progressives, Democrats) doesn't think a black guy is capable of handling many things at one time. Let me introduce them to Sheriff David Clarke. He's added Tammy Baldwin to the list. He's EVERYWHERE! He's too busy to talk to you right now though. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

  • How Highlighting Personal Narratives Combats Abortion Stigma

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On March 21, the 1 in 3 Campaign held an event titled “Stories from the Resistance,” where speakers shared their abortion stories in an effort to counteract abortion stigma -- the idea that abortion is inherently wrong or socially unacceptable. In reporting on the event, media outlets highlighted the speakers’ personal narratives, thereby helping to combat abortion stigma.

  • CNN’s Dana Bash Debunks All Of Tom Price’s Inaccurate Claims About Planned Parenthood -- Except One

    During CNN’s Health Care Town Hall, Only Price’s Misleading Claim About The Fungibility Of Planned Parenthood’s Funds Goes Unchecked 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    During CNN's March 15 town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, CNN's Dana Bash soundly debunked Price's inaccurate arguments about Planned Parenthood in all instances but one: Price's claim that money given to Planned Parenthood was "fungible."

    Price -- who has a long history of pushing disastrous health care policies -- used the town hall as an opportunity to mislead viewers about the accessibility of essential care without Planned Parenthood, arguing that community health centers (CHCs) can handle the demands of providing essential care services. He also claimed that defunding Planned Parenthood is necessary because some Americans are concerned that “their federal tax dollars [are] used for abortion services.” Bash rebuked several of Price’s assertions, noting that the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion and that CHCs could not possibly fill the gap left behind by defunding Planned Parenthood. Bash explained that “105 counties across the country have Planned Parenthood and that is the only clinic offering a full range of contraceptive methods to women.”

    Unfortunately, Bash and co-moderator Wolf Blitzer did allow Price to get away with one inaccuracy by letting him claim -- uncorrected -- that eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood is necessary because “that money is fungible," implying that federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood support abortion, even if indirectly. Despite providing robust pushback and asking important follow-up questions during the rest of the forum, Bash and Blitzer moved on from this comment without addressing Price’s dangerous claim.

    Voices on the right have long used the argument that money is fungible to discredit Planned Parenthood and call for the defunding of its clinics across the country, suggesting that federal support for the organization’s services indirectly enables or contributes to its ability to provide abortions. But as the Guttmacher Institute points out, this logic is flawed: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” The organization also notes that it is “hypocritical” to claim the “fungibility” problem only in relation to abortion providers, but not with regard to other federally subsidized organizations including religious groups and charities. 

    Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. When this many people risk losing access to care, it is imperative for media to use extreme care in addressing the topic, including correcting those like Price when they spread misinformation about the consequences of Republicans’ efforts to upend the American health care system. 

  • This Is The Fox News Appearance That May Have Doomed The Muslim Ban -- A Second Time

    Judges Highlight Senior Trump Advisor Stephen Miller's Statement On Fox As A Reason “Muslim Ban 2.0” Could Be Just As Unconstitutional As The Original

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Senior presidential advisor Stephen Miller’s February 21 admission of intent on Fox News has ensnared President Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban in its second attempted rollout.

    The Trump administration’s first version of the likely unconstitutional Muslim ban was previously blocked by multiple federal judges, and one of the decisions was already unanimously upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The 9th Circuit court noted that Trump and his supporters’ previous statements expressing their intent to discriminate on the basis of religion and ban Muslim immigration can “be used in proceedings” to prove the policy’s unconstitutionality.

    For example, Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani admitted to Fox News that after Trump announced the original “Muslim ban” the then-presidential candidate asked Giuliani to show him “the right way to do it legally.”

    On March 6, Trump enacted a slightly altered version of the first Muslim ban, hoping to avoid judicial concerns with the possible unconstitutionality of the original. This new “Muslim Ban 2.0” was also immediately challenged and on March 15, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order on the ban.

    In addition to referencing Giuliani’s admission of the unconstitutional religious discrimination behind the original ban, the district court’s decision also cites Miller’s February 21 appearance on Fox News. In that interview, while defending the second version of the Muslim ban currently under challenge, Miller argued that “nothing was wrong with the first executive order” and admitted to host Martha MacCallum that this redraft of Trump’s executive order would be designed to “have the same basic policy outcome” as Trump’s original rejected Muslim ban.

    As the court explained, "These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose. Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, 'secondary to a religious objective' of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims."

    From the February 21 edition of Fox News’ The First 100 Days:

    MARTHA MACCALLUM (HOST): So, everybody is anticipating the next rollout of the next executive order, which is supposed to clarify some of the issues that were perhaps wrong with the first one and then got too caught up in the courts. So how is it going to be different this time?

    STEPHEN MILLER: Well, nothing was wrong with the first executive order. However, there was a flawed judicial ruling that was erroneous. The president recently read the statute from the Immigration and Nationality Act, which clearly states, he has the power as president to impose any restrictions he deems necessary when it's in the national interest.

    However, because of the exigency of the situation and the need to protect our country, and to protect our citizens, the president is going to be issuing a new executive action based off of the judicial ruling, flawed though it may be, to protect our country and to keep our people safe, and that is going to be coming very soon.

    MACCALLUM: Alright. Grant Burschet is 18 years old, but he wants to know specifically how the second order is going to be different.

    MILLER: Well, one of the big differences that you're going to see in the executive order is that it's going to be responsive to the judicial ruling, which didn't exist previously. And so these are mostly minor technical differences. Fundamentally, you're still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you're going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.

    UPDATE: A March 16 decision from a federal court in Maryland, which blocked the revised Muslim ban as well, also cited Miller’s quote that the revised ban would keep the “basic policies … in effect.” The ruling noted, “The history of public statements continues to provide a convincing case that the purpose of the Second Executive Order remains the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban. The Trump Administration acknowledged that the core substance of the First Executive Order remained intact. ... These statements thus continue to explain the religious purpose behind the travel ban in the Second Executive Order. Under these circumstances, the fact that the Second Executive Order is facially neutral in terms of religion is not dispositive.”

  • 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.

  • Fox News Hosts Have No Clue What Planned Parenthood Does

    Hosts Of The Five Get Everything Wrong About Planned Parenthood In Order To Prop Up Republicans' Disastrous Health Care Bill

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the release of Republicans’ long-awaited plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Fox News’ The Five put on a masterclass in how to get everything wrong about Planned Parenthood’s services and the implications of the attempt to defund the essential health care provider.

    Earlier this week, Republicans unveiled their alternative to the ACA, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The proposed bill includes two provisions targeting abortion providers: one that would prohibit federal funds for nonabortion care from going to any organization that privately funds or facilitates abortions, and one that would disincentivize private insurers from offering abortion coverage in their plans. The Daily Beast noted that these provisions “could easily be a one-two punch for low-income women seeking reproductive health care, effectively choking out funding for their local Planned Parenthood clinic while dictating that … they’ll have to pay out-of-pocket or have the foresight to purchase a special abortion insurance rider.”

    During Fox News’ The Five, hosts Eric Bolling, Dana Perino, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Greg Gutfeld modeled exactly what media outlets should not do when reporting how the proposed bill would impact access to vital reproductive health care. Although no federal funds can or do support abortion services under current law, the hosts wrongly alleged that Planned Parenthood uses federal money to cover abortions in addition to spreading the debunked myth that community health centers (CHCs) can compensate for the loss of the organization’s essential services:

    1. The Five Repeated The Right-Wing Media Myth That Planned Parenthood Gets Federal Funds Earmarked For Abortion Services

    MYTH: Planned Parenthood gets federal funding to pay for abortion services.

    FACT: The Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal abortion funding -- with negative consequences for abortion access. 

    Right-wing media and administration officials like Kellyanne Conway have long insisted that Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer money to fund abortion services -- despite a longstanding prohibition on the use of federal funds for this purpose.

    Since 1977, the Hyde Amendment has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. In January, the House of Representatives voted to codify and dangerously expand the Hyde Amendment -- making The Five co-host Eric Bolling’s March 7 allegation that federal funds being used for abortion was a “gray area of Planned Parenthood” even more baseless than when he made the same claim in December 2015.

    Although the Hyde Amendment prohibits even the allocation of federal funds for abortion, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle argued that “some of the federal funding from the United States government is allotted for abortion services” and that “federal funds should not be marked [for abortion].”

    To his credit, Fox’s Bob Beckel -- guest co-hosting during the March 7 segment -- attempted to refute his colleagues’ claims by explaining the Hyde Amendment and its implications for abortion funding. Unfortunately, Bolling interrupted Beckel, and admonished him that the hosts were "all familiar with the Hyde Amendment.” 

    Missing from the conversation was the devastating impact that provisions like the Hyde Amendment have on abortion access for the most vulnerable. A 2016 report from the Guttmacher Institute detailed the act’s effects on low-income and marginalized communities, finding that the “number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services.

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and American Indians -- also suffer a major impact from the Hyde Amendment's restrictions.

    2. Community Health Centers Can’t Replace Planned Parenthood -- Especially As A Provider Of Affordable Contraceptives

    MYTH: Community health centers can easily and seamlessly replace Planned Parenthood clinics.

    FACT: Planned Parenthood is an essential and irreplaceable primary and reproductive health care provider.

    Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice lawmakers frequently -- and erroneously -- argue that the organization’s funds should be shifted to “community health clinics” (CHCs).

    During the March 7 edition of The Five, co-host Dana Perino echoed these claims about the alleged capacity of CHCs to replace Planned Parenthood. Perino stated that funding would transition from Planned Parenthood to CHCs, and that there wasn’t “going to be enough acceptance of that” among objectors to the AHCA. 

    Ignoring the fact that many CHCs don’t facilitate or support access to contraceptives, Perino also puzzlingly argued that Republicans would compromise on defunding Planned Parenthood by making contraceptives more accessible over the counter and at other clinics. In response to a question from Bolling, Perino further clarified that she thought Republicans would “try to get [Planned Parenthood’s] funding pulled but be able to provide access” to contraceptives through CHCs that would “handle this better than Planned Parenthood.”

    Although anti-choice lawmakers believe CHCs could absorb patient demand should access to Planned Parenthood be eliminated, experts call this claim “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.”

    While Planned Parenthood clinics all offer preventive and basic care services, clinics can qualify to be classified as “community health clinics” while providing more limited care -- making direct comparisons between the overall numbers a misleading measure of actual health care provision capacity.

    Beyond questions of CHC’s capacity, Perino also missed the memo that transitioning contraceptives from a prescription-based product to an over-the-counter one would make this essential form of care prohibitively expensive and put it out of reach for many. As Slate’s Christina Cauterucci reported in 2016, “taking birth control out of the realm of insurances” only sounds “like a win to people who don’t want the government” providing contraception.

    3. Attacking Planned Parenthood’s Abortion Services Perpetuates Stigma

    MYTH: Abortion is wrong, “vile,” “sick,” or socially unacceptable.

    FACT: Abortion is a common and overwhelmingly safe medical procedure.

    Abortion stigma is the “shared understanding” that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable. This belief is reinforced through media coverage, popular culture, and by a lack of accurate information among many about the procedure itself.

    Despite the fact that abortion is both common and overwhelmingly safe, right-wing media and anti-choice groups have consistently attempted to “exploit the stigma of abortion” to restrict access to the procedure and shame providers and patients alike.

    During the March 7 edition of The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld claimed that funding Planned Parenthood forces people to “pay for someone else’s abortion,” which he called “a moral intrusion.” Ignoring the reality that taxpayer money doesn’t support abortion services, Gutfeld continued that pro-choice advocates’ goal is to “dehumanize the unborn child to a mass of cells” -- a common right-wing media allegation that perpetuates abortion stigma by casting those who have abortions as “selfish” or “sickening.”

    Abortion is a vital and essential part of comprehensive reproductive health care. As Steph Herold wrote for Rewire, separating “abortion from the rest of reproductive health care ignores the reality that millions of people across the country need access to abortion services, and that abortion services are a crucial part of family planning services.”

    A transcript of the March 7 edition of The Five is below:

    ERIC BOLLING: President Trump is offering the abortion provider a deal. The funding will stay if abortion goes away. Planned Parenthood has rejected that offer, saying they will always stand for women's ability to make decisions about their health and lives without interference from politicians. OK, bring it around, K.G. I think the offer -- look, as it stands, federal funding can't be used for abortions, but that’s that gray area of Planned Parenthood.

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: Right, certainly. So what he's doing is he's trying to make compromise -- he has acknowledged in the past that in fact Planned Parenthood does provide valuable medical services and screening for women. It does. The problem they have is that it is morally objectionable to millions of Americans that some of the federal funding from the United States government is allotted for abortion services. So the president is saying, you also take in a tremendous amount of money from private resources and donations. Perhaps you should earmark those funds that are private, do with it what you will, that's their business for their organization. But federal funds should not be marked for that.

    BOLLING: Well let me get Dana in.

    BOB BECKEL: Of course. Get the women in first.

    [...]

    BOLLING: Your thoughts on both the Trump administration and the Planned Parenthood response.

    DANA PERINO: I think this was a chance for President Trump to fulfill a campaign promise, and social conservatives really want this, Republicans want this. And remember when they were going to shut down the government last year when Republicans were all mad and they said the one thing that they really were mad about was that the Republicans weren't able to pull funding for Planned Parenthood. Even though Planned Parenthood itself actually has a pretty good approval rating, so it was harder back home. There were some senators, like Susan Collins of Maine , I think, who said that this shouldn't be in the Obamacare bill at all. Or I guess what we are calling it the American Health Care Act.

    The money, instead they are saying, will go to community health care centers. I don't know if there's going to be enough acceptance of that. Cecile Richard of Planned Parenthood, they’re going to fight tooth and nail. And I think what will actually end up happening is Republicans will put on the table that they believe that access to contraception should be available easily over the counter. And that that would be a way to maybe try to get this funding pulled but be able to provide access to the kind of products that they provide there.

    BOLLING: So, get it straight, Greg, I think, are you saying provide funds but earmark it for contraception --

    PERINO: Well, the money would go to community health centers, and arguably the community health centers would say, ‘Oh, well we can handle this better than Planned Parenthood.’

    GREG GUTFELD: Well, I mean. It comes to down to, if you believe that abortion is the taking of a life, then forcing you to pay for somebody else's abortion is a moral intrusion. That's the argument. I am amazed how the media salutes conscientious objectors over war but not abortion. And so instead what -- the goal here is to dehumanize the unborn child to a mass of cells. So it's like medical procedure, like getting a mole review -- a mole removed. So therefore somebody else could pay for it. So someone has to speak up for those who cannot speak up for those who cannot speak themselves which is why this dialogue, wherever it goes, is important. Because you are actually talking about this question.

    BOLLING: Why can't Planned Parenthood just decide to have one service for abortion and separated with a Chinese wall and all the other services?

    BOB BECKEL: They do. I hate to correct my learned colleagues. They actually have degrees. But there are not a single dime of federal dollars going to abortion. Something called the Hyde amendment. Henry Hyde made it --

    BOLLING: We're all familiar with the Hyde Amendment --

    BECKEL: Well --

    BOLLING: But if 80 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion --

    BECKEL: No, it's not even close to that!

    BOLLING: And we're giving them $300 million a year, then --

    BECKEL: You're not asking the taxpayers a single thing for an abortion. Planned Parenthood does among other things, a lot of screening, a lot of mammograms, they save a lot of lives. And the idea that he would take on all of this -- first of all he was pro-choice when he was thinking about running for mayor 15 years ago. And the other thing, he has no idea. He doesn't know what Planned Parenthood does.

  • When Jeff Sessions Feverishly Urged The Recusal Of An Attorney General On Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In November, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) called on the sitting attorney general to recuse herself and appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations related to Hillary Clinton's use of private email. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are now demanding that now-Attorney General Sessions do the same thing amid reporting that he failed to acknowledge during his confirmation hearing that he met with Russia’s ambassador as a Donald Trump surrogate during the 2016 presidential campaign season.

    In a November 5 letter posted on FoxNews.com that was signed by Sessions, he berated then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch for not recusing herself from the Clinton email investigation, and called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate instead:

    Attorney General Lynch and former President Clinton met on the Phoenix, Arizona tarmac days before Secretary Clinton was to be interviewed by the FBI for possible criminal activity. It has been reported that her staff ordered witnesses not to take pictures and no one was present during their 39-minute conversation. General Lynch never recused herself from decisions on the Clinton investigation after her self-admitted “mistake,” as it has also been reported that she continues to deny the FBI the authority to convene a Grand Jury, which is necessary for any meaningful investigation.

    It has also been reported that General Lynch opposed Director Comey from fulfilling his obligation to Congress by informing members of the discovery of 650,000 emails on Anthony Weiner’s and Huma Abedin’s computer, the existence of which had been concealed from government authorities.

    Recusal is a formal process. It is a written document specifically describing the scope of the recusal and designating the official in charge of the recused matter. If General Lynch went through the proper procedure for recusal, she has not publicly shared it.

    [...]

    In 1991-1992, a Special Counsel was appointed for three separate matters: House Bank, Iraqgate, and Inslaw. It was also done in 2003 in the Valerie Plame matter.

    Instead of moving with dispatch to ensure a vigorous investigation of Secretary Clinton, it appears that the Justice Department, along with State, have enabled the Clinton campaign to “slow roll” the inquiry.

    General Lynch continues to exert control of a matter that she should have assigned to another official.

    We are distressed by widespread and credible reports that FBI agents have been hindered by the Justice Department’s withholding of basic investigative tools, such as grand jury subpoenas, which are fundamental in a complex investigation.

    It is time to do what should have been done long ago – appoint a Special Counsel.

    Sessions doubled down on this claim during a November 6 interview on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, saying “We need an independent person, person that's not politically connected, that people in America can have confidence in to take over this investigation and make sure it's done correctly, to bring charges if need. Hopefully not charges. Hopefully they're not needed. But there are some serious allegations here that the American people need to know are fully investigated”:

    MARIA BARTIROMO (HOST): I want to talk about this letter that you penned along with others like Rudy Giuliani, Frank Keating, Victoria Toensing and Henry McMaster. This is a letter basically saying, look, it is time for Loretta Lynch to appoint a special counsel because this brings me to the question of the morning after. Regardless who wins, Senator, you're going to have the next day and you're going to have real issues on the table. Will Hillary Clinton be able to make important decisions when she's got these investigations overhanging? What does the morning after look like for Trump? And what do you want to see in terms of this special counsel?

    SESSIONS: Well, you should never politicize criminal investigations or prosecutions. We should never do that. But the situation is such and the facts are such that we have an investigation going now, and there's a lack of confidence, in fact, zero confidence really that the attorney general is doing anything other than delaying this investigation and not pursuing it effectively. It's been ongoing for over a year. A special prosecutor would have been the appropriate thing to do to take it out of politics and maybe would already have been completed, but the rumors we hear are that the FBI is being obstructed and delayed and blocked by the Department of Justice, Attorney General Lynch. So, I think this is a serious matter. We've just got to have integrity in our criminal justice system. Everybody deserves a fair day in court, but we need a fair investigation, too, and I'm afraid that's not happening.

    BARTIROMO: Well, in the letter, you and your colleagues write, look, the Department of Justice has been thwarted by top officials' refusal to conduct a proper investigation of former Secretary [Hillary] Clinton's unsecured email server and the pay-for-play accusations. So if Donald Trump were to win the presidency, is he going to move to remove Loretta Lynch?

    SESSIONS: Well, of course, there will be a change in the attorney general, as well in every cabinet position. Remember, Loretta Lynch serves at the pleasure of President Obama. She doesn't have a termed office. She knows who appointed her and she knows whose pleasure she serves at. So we need an independent person, a person that's not politically connected that people in America can have confidence in to take over this investigation and make sure it's done correctly, to bring charges if need -- hopefully not charges. Hopefully they're not needed. But there are some serious allegations here that the American people need to know are fully investigated. You know, FBI Director Comey did the right thing when he found new evidence. He had no choice but to report to the American Congress where he had under oath testified the investigation was over. He had to correct that and say, this investigation is ongoing now. I'm sure it's significant or he wouldn't have announced that.

    BARTIROMO: Right, which is the question I'm trying to get at in terms of Hillary Clinton. Should she win the presidency, what is she going to do in terms of governance? Can she govern effectively if she's got these investigations going on? Will she have to change FBI directors knowing that Jim Comey is pursuing this? Or are we going to have four years of, you can't get anything done because of these investigations and the challenge from the Republicans like naming new Supreme Court justices?

    SESSIONS: Well, it is a dangerous thing, no doubt. It puts a cloud over her tenure as president. What is she going to do about the attorney general? Who will she appoint? Will it be an utter loyalist, as it appears Loretta Lynch is and Eric Holder was during his tenure, or will it be someone that has the respect of the American people who can handle a complex matter and do it right with confidence. To me, at this point, it's so off track and so badly handled that an independent counsel is the right thing, I have no doubt about that.

    Sessions is now facing demands from even Republican members of Congress that he recuse himself from the Department of Justice investigation into ties between President Trump’s associates and Russian officials, following revelations that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador but told his confirmation committee, under oath, that he had not met with any Russian officials. From The Washington Post:

    Top Republicans said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from federal investigations of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

    House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tweeted early Thursday that “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”

    Later, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement, “Jeff Sessions is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the DOJ Russia probe.”

    [...]

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is also demanding a special counsel to investigate the Trump administration for ties to Russia, “given AG Sessions’ false statements about contacts with Russia.”