CNN anchor Kate Bolduan confronted Representative Steve King (R-IA) with a very basic question this morning on New Day: "Do you just not like Latinos?"
The anchor framed her query around an exchange the Iowa congressman had with Republican strategist Ana Navarro on Meet the Press on Sunday.
King did not address Bolduan's query, responding, "I think it's pretty clear that Ana didn't veil her bias against me. She didn't address a single fact that I delivered. She simply hurled accusations and baseless allegations."
He went on to defend his track record in Congress, citing his record of passing amendments in the House of Representatives while avoiding the issue of his feelings towards Latinos.
Bolduan refused to let King dodge, telling the Congressman, "I don't want to linger on this too much, but you said Ana Navarro didn't answer any of your questions. You didn't really answer mine either. . . that your comments come across as a thinly veiled bias against Latinos."
King's response -- still not directly answering the question -- was to say that if people interpret his comments that way, "I'd like to have them explain it." He then reiterated his widely criticized statement warning against drug smuggling immigrants.
Bolduan deserves praise, not only for her follow up questions pressing the subject, but for broaching the subject of motivations. Too often reporters, especially on television, are loath to ask questions that cut to the core of the motivations of legislators. This is especially true when it comes to issues that cross difficult boundaries of race and class.
But Bolduan's question deserves to be at the center of the immigration debate as demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and other leading conservatives object to the bill with their usual vitriol.
On issues such as immigration and voting rights, there are clear racial implications to the public policy positions taken by our elected representatives regardless of party or ideology. Part of the media's role should be to unearth these motivations, even when forced to ask uncomfortable questions about bigotry. To not do this simply leaves viewers only partially informed.
Rush Limbaugh again took to the airwaves yesterday to obsess about Oprah's weight. The host, unconcerned with the icon's health, instead sought for the second time in a week to prove that as a wealthy woman, she could not possibly have to confront the ugly face of racism.
Oprah previously told Entertainment Tonight about her story of a store clerk in Switzerland who encouraged her to purchase a cheaper bag, steering her away from the higher priced item because it was "too expensive." Oprah said in the interview that the encounter shows that racism still exists, even for someone of her wealth. (The store, and the country of Switzerland have apologized to Oprah and she graciously told reporters that she was "sorry that it got blown up.")
Rush Limbaugh of course believes race could not possibly have been a factor in the story, and posited an alternative theory.
Rush believes Oprah was directed to lower cost items in the store not based on race, but instead on her weight:
LIMBAUGH: Oprah is a plus size woman, and there is discrimination against plus size women. You don't see a whole lot of really fashionable, wealthy overweight women. Most fashionably wealthy women are stick thin. They starve themselves, or they're bulimic or they're anorexic or whatever they do to maintain their social x-ray status. But you very seldom see a really weal-- unless you get into the frumpy, you know, 70s and 80s. But even then it's an exception, to see a very wealthy, overweight, fat woman. So The Oprah could have suffered a double whammy when it comes to discrimination.
Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi summer action film Elysium is raising hackles in the conservative media.
Set 140 years in the future, the rich have relocated off a crowded and polluted Earth and live life isolated on a space station called Elysium, filled with plenty of greenery, large homes, private security, and most importantly, a machine that can cure all medical issues -- technology not available to anyone not a citizen of Elysium. This paradise exists only a quick 19-minute shuttle flight away from Earth; with no hope of breaking the class barriers, immigrants attempt to sneak onto the space station in rickety and dangerous shuttles. Most of them are killed in the process, and those who make it there alive are instantly sent back to Earth.
Rush Limbaugh denounced Elysium as "a full-fledged anti-capitalist, pro-socialism movie" before expressing anger that the filmmakers and star Matt Damon deny there's political bias in the film.
At the Daily Caller, R.J. Moeller wrote that Damon and Blomkamp "know that the movie-going audience is primarily comprised of 12-21 year old boys who wouldn't know socialist propaganda if it spit in their Monster energy drink."
By contrast, progressive culture critic Alyssa Rosenberg wrote that, far from a political screed, Elyisum "fails in its mission to speak truth to power." The film never discusses the causes of inequality nor advocates real solutions to the problem. The right's real objection to Elyisum is that the very nature of the economic disparity at the heart of the story illustrates a world suffering the consequences of the policies conservatives advocate.
In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl this weekend, Donald Trump was asked for one word to describe himself. His response? "Smart." (At least he didn't say "humble.")
In terms of press savvy, Trump is smart enough to once again fool the media into another few years of conversations about whether he'll run for president.
It's clear there is a significant constituency of individuals in the Republican Party that would like to see Trump run -- and not just for the laughs. He strikes a tone that perfectly captures the essence of the modern conservative movement: He is smart enough to be dumb.
Ignorance is not a state of mind but, rather, a potent political strategy of the right. Mother Jones reported last week on a new study on media coverage of climate change published in the journal Public Understanding of Science that found "watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh both increase one's level of distrust of these scientific experts. Or as the paper puts it, '[C]onservative media use decreases trust in scientists.' "
On This Week ABC's Karl, his voice elevating in pitch as he traveled down the rabbit hole of rationality, asked Trump: "But you don't still question [Barack Obama] was born in the United States, do you?"
"I have no idea," Trump replied. "Was there a birth certificate? You tell me. You know, some people say that was not his birth certificate. I'm saying I don't know. Nobody knows and you don't know either, Jonathan."
In its online post of the interview, ABC felt compelled to label Trump's birtherism "a conspiracy theory that has been proven false."
The release of a month-old video showing three black students beating a white classmate on a bus in Florida has resulted in a mass outbreak of misplaced self-righteousness from the conservative media. This is their "ah-ha moment" - evidence that racism is a two-way street and that black civil rights leaders are the real bigots.
"Where is the civil rights movement?" They ask. "Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?" Contrasting civil rights leaders' actions following the killing of Trayvon Martin, the right argues that their silence in this case proves duplicitousness.
This chorus of ignorance only substantiates the right's inability to confront issues of race in an honest manner, preferring to attack those working for equality with false charges of hypocrisy.
The attack that occurred on the Florida bus was both tragic and horrific, but it is only comparable to Trayvon Martin's killing if you view the world through a one-dimensional racial lens.
The national outcry after the death of Trayvon Martin was not instantaneous. It emerged over the course of the forty-six day period after the killing when George Zimmerman had yet to be charged with a crime. In contrast, the three attackers on the Florida school bus were all arrested and indicted soon after the incident.
In the month since the attack, no one has excused the actions of the attackers, no one has suggested the victim deserved a beating, no one has rooted through social media accounts in an attempt to blame the victim, and no one suggested that he had it coming because of his choice of clothing. Conservatives engaged in all of these actions during the 46 days between the killing of Trayvon Martin and the arrest of George Zimmerman.
Erick Erickson doubled down on his sexist attack on Texas State Senator Wendy Davis as "Abortion Barbie," writing on RedState that the moniker "fits perfectly" and recommending it be used on the campaign trail. Erickson writes:
Abortion Barbie fits perfectly and I hope that moniker haunts [Wendy Davis] on the campaign trail. She is, after all, intent on building a national name for herself through abortion and pink shoes. I'm sure MSNBC will send her tampon earrings to go with the other accessories.
Let me quickly explain this to Erick. Applying the moniker "Barbie" to Wendy Davis in that context specifically demeans her based on physical attributes. Erickson also connotes the stereotype of "Barbie" representing a shallow and empty headedness. This is inherently sexist.
Anytime a female politician is singled out simply based on looks -- including certain attacks on Sarah Palin -- it's incredibly problematic.
Furthermore as the punch line of his joke, Erickson tosses in a shot at MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry wearing tampon earrings to protest women having their menstrual products taken from them as they entered the Texas State Capital. For Erickson the state aggressively attempting to control women's reproductive health is a joke.
In the world of Erickson his sexist remarks are fine because Davis "is ignorant of the horrors of Kermit Gosnell." Never mind that according to experts the Gosnell case has "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States." Any excuse to make a sexist attack.
For Erickson, whose history includes both odd sexist remarks and a defense of indefensible remarks by Todd Akin, recommending a sexist messaging assault as an electoral strategy belies just how the conservative media views the recommendations of the Growth and Opportunity project - the report written by the Republican National Committee after the 2012 elections on how to improve their electoral standing. Its findings are clearly being ignored.
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that helped force states and localities with a history of discrimination to have the Justice Department preclear proposed changes to voting regulations. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights icon, described the decision as "a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
Today marks the 48th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing that act into law.
Conservatives are apt to defend gutting the law by arguing that our country has made significant strides in racial equality over the past 48 years. That being the case, one would hope that segregationists' arguments against the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would have been relegated to the dust bin of history, rather than in use by conservatives today to defend discriminatory policies.
Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric used to attack the law and defend the Supreme Court's decision remains rooted in the segregationist defenses of Jim Crow. Regardless of the motives, the use of similar rhetoric shows a lack of historic perspective.
Keith Finley, a professor of history at Southern Louisiana University and author of Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Right, has detailed many of the arguments made by Senators from the old South as they fought the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on the floor of the chamber.
One such tactic was to accuse civil rights activists of aggravating racial tensions. According to Finley, Virginia Senator Henry Byrd, an opponent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, claimed Lyndon Johnson would only increase racial tensions by "inflaming so-called civil rights issues" if he pursued the legislation.
Forty-eight years later, that defense remains a go-to of civil rights antagonists.
Two weeks ago, Fox host Bill O'Reilly told his the audience that civil rights leaders want "to divide the country along racial lines because that's good for business." While O'Reilly was specifically referring to reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict among civil rights leaders, similar sentiment has been expressed throughout the right in defense of the court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act.
When Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would use available tools to continue enforcing the Voting Rights Act, Fox's Eric Bolling accused the nation's first black attorney general of "thumbing his nose at the Supreme Court so he can widen the race divide in America." Nina Easton, a Fortune columnist, said on Fox's Special Report that Holder's move was part of an "ongoing electoral strategy by this administration to gin up the black and Latino vote."
The fight to defeat the Voting Rights Act in 1965 also hinged on pivoting away from the central issue of voting rights to the canard of defending the process. According to Finley, Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender claimed race had nothing to do with his opposition to the Voting Rights Act. Instead, Ellender argued that he was simply maintaining the integrity of the electoral process: "the task of making it clear that one is not against voting rights, but only in favor of maintaining voting qualifications, is not always an easy one."
The same tactic is alive and well nearly five decades later and is made frequently by those advocating for strict voter ID laws, which experts say will disenfranchise minority voters.
When Mother Jones' David Corn published the internal deliberations of Groundswell, a right-wing listserve, one of the debates he highlighted centered on the issue of voter ID laws:
A high-priority cause for Groundswellers is voter identification efforts--what progressives would call voter suppression--and when Groundswellers developed a thread on their Google group page exploring the best way to pitch the right's voter identification endeavors as a major voting rights case was pending in the Supreme Court, the coalition's friendly journalists joined right in. Dan Bongino, the ex-Secret Service agent and 2012 Senate candidate, kicked off the discussion: "We need to reframe this. This narrative of the Left has already taken hold in MD. The words 'Voter ID' are already lost & equated with racism. Maybe a 'free and fair elections initiative' with a heavy emphasis on avoiding ANY voter disenfranchisement combined with an identification requirement which includes a broader range of documents."
In response, Tapscott suggested, "How about 'Election Integrity'?" And Gaffney weighed in: "I like it." Fitton noted that Judicial Watch had an "Election Integrity Project." Boyle proposed, "Fair and equal elections," explaining, "Terms 'fair' and 'equal' connect with most people. It's why the left uses them." Then came True the Vote's Anita MonCrief: "We do a lot under the Election Integrity Banner. Does not resonate with the people. Voter Rights may be better. We really have been trying to get the messaging right."
Hans von Spakovsky, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and leader in the conservative movement's war on voting, wrote in USA Today that voter ID laws were "to ensure the integrity of our election process."
Rush Limbaugh told his audience that Democrats only oppose voter ID laws "because that would have a very negative impact on cheating."
Finley points to Herman Talmadge, a Senator from Georgia, who claimed the 1965 Voting Right Act was unnecessary because the "[right to vote] is probably the most protected right we have." Echoes of Talmadge could be heard in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision this summer. The Wall Street Journal argued the Voting Right Act was "no longer necessary" due to "American racial progress."
Speaking about the Supreme Court's decision on Fox, network contributor Andrew Napolitano cheered the court's ruling, claiming the section stuck down "worked so well" that "the procedure is not necessary anymore."
Von Spakovsky claimed in 2011 there was "a complete lack of evidence that the type of systematic discrimination that led to [the 1965 Voting Rights Act's] initial passage still exists."
This 48th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act provides conservative media figures an opportunity to revisit the historical context of the language they use to confront issues of races, and begin to engage in a real conversation.
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."
The president's remark during his economic speech in Tennessee Tuesday that "for most of this year, an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals have shifted focus from what we need to do to shore up the middle class" once again revved up the conservative outrage machine.
Their fervor was only increased when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the ginned-up controversy about Benghazi talking points was among the "phonyscandals" President Obama was talking about.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz appeared on Hannity last night and accused the Obama administration of "try[ing] to personally disparage the people that are trying to get at the truth," and concluding that it's something "we should not stand for."
This sentiment was simply a repetition of what was being stated by conservative media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and the hosts of The Five as they simultaneously ignore the fact that each of their Benghazi charges are falling apart, now in fairly rapid succession.
Take for example the latest conservative media accusation -- that CNN was able to interview the purported perpetrator of the Benghazi attack yet the FBI has done nothing.
Eric Bolling claimed this was evidence that "President O" has "no suspects, no interviews, no leads, and no answers."
Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry questioned Jay Carney on this in the White House briefing room:
HENRY: How is it that someone who is potentially the lead suspect in this terror attack could sit down with a media organization for a couple of hours and never be contacted by the FBI?
Hopefully Henry and Bolling were watching Greta's show later that evening when she interviewed former FBI Special Agent Jonathan Gilliam and queried him on why CNN's suspect had not been interviewed by the FBI:
GILLIAM: [L]et's just go back to investigations 101 and think about this. First off,why in the world would an open investigation, that's active, would the investigators go and talk to a suspect? When I was in the FBI I could have talked to a thousand of the suspects that we were looking at. But we knew where they were, we knew what they were doing, and that's what leads an investigation.
And once again another element of the Benghazi scandal turns out to be phony. It's no surprise -- we have consistently witnessed over the past eleven months conservative accusations about Benghazi fall flat in the face of truth.
Of all social programs, in recent weeks nothing seems to rile up conservative media figures more than government programs designed to alleviate hunger.
This is a marked change from a time when former Republican Sen. Bob Dole (KS) was instrumental in the effort to "reform the Food Stamp Program (now known as SNAP), expand the domestic school lunch program, and establish the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children."
Fox News' Stuart Varney, who previously claimed all the poor lacked was a "richness of spirit," toyed with the notion of letting the children of poor immigrants starve. Varney this week claimed that the AARP's helping seniors get food benefits was tantamount to a "buy the vote campaign."
On Fox News, Brian Kilmeade attempted to cast aspersions on the White House by claiming two Americans "were added to food stamp programs for every job the Obama administration created." This numbers game was echoed by The Washington Times and Breitbart.com in an obviously attempt to stigmatize the program.
All three ignored the fact that 45 percent of benefit recipients are under 18 years old, nine percent are over the age of 60, and 30 percent have jobs that simply don't pay enough to afford to eat. (Of course Fox News also demonizes workers' attempts to earn a living wage.)