NBC Entertainment's plans to produce and air a miniseries about Hillary Clinton just ahead of the 2016 presidential election raises serious questions about NBC News coverage of the former U.S. Senator and secretary of state and whether it will be slanted or tainted by the parent company's commercial interests.
On July 27, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt announced plans for a Clinton-based miniseries timed to precede the 2016 presidential race as part of a new NBC effort "to create 'event' programming that will draw viewers to the shrinking world of broadcast network TV."
NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd acknowledged the complication this will create in a series of posts on his Twitter account, surmising that "Clinton lovers or haters will assume some sort of NBC News involvement" and assuring his followers that NBC News "has nothing to do" with the miniseries.
NBC News, via Todd, appears to be publicly quarantining itself from NBC Entertainment, though the network itself has yet to address the thorny ethical issues raised by the close nexus between NBC News and NBC Entertainment and the financial interests at stake in NBC producing a miniseries connected to Clinton's potential political future. It remains to be seen whether American media consumers will accept the distinction and whether NBC's reputation for objective journalism will be tarnished by NBC's pursuit of ratings gold.
Right-wing media have responded to a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a barrage of false attacks and overheated rhetoric. The rule, which attempts to increase minority access to community resources like public transportation and education, has been called an act of "tyranny" designed to "encourage diversity, for diversity's sake."
In a press briefing July 19, President Obama responded to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, saying, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago...the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that - that doesn't go away." Right-wing media figures responded to the president's remarks with attacks.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly sent his producer Jesse Watters to interview participants at Brooklyn, NY's historic Mermaid Parade. The resulting video package mocked the appearance and demeanor of the interviewees -- many of whom were dressed in drag -- in order to imply the subjects were disgusting, deviant, and unfit to be around children.
The July 11 video package, part of a recurring segment on The O'Reilly Factor dubbed "Watters' World," featured clips of the Fox contributor conducting interviews with attendants and participants of Brooklyn's Mermaid Parade, a large art parade founded in 1983 with the goal of promoting self-esteem and self-expression in the Coney Island neighborhood.
The package featured Watters asking parade-goers dressed in drag and in costumes a variety of questions, followed by derisive reactions from either Watters or from inserted film clips that depicted famous actors and actresses in moments exuding disgust or disdain. One clip of an attendee dancing near Watters was spliced together with a clip of Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura character puking into a toilet. At one point, Watters asked a parade-goer -- who revealed he was a teacher -- whether he was "setting a good example" for children:
After the package played, O'Reilly opined, "I'm not being a wiseguy or being offensive. It seems like there are a lot of gays attracted to this ... Why is that?'':
WATTERS: I think a lot of the transvestite community descends on Coney Island during this parade. I have no idea why. But they're very flamboyant and set the tone for the rest of the parade.
O'REILLY: Just a week ago there was a gay pride parade. How many parades do you want?
WATTERS: Well they like parades! They're into pageantry, they like to show off their wares.
O'REILLY: Well was that the prevailing theme here? Crossing dressing, transvestite people?
O'Reilly has a history of promoting damaging depictions of people who don't conform to strict gender norms, including advising parents to punish boys who like the color pink and warning that watching transgender people on television might cause kids to experiment with homosexuality.
A day after Rush Limbaugh walked back his criticism of Fox News and declared they were "on the same team," Fox hosted the conservative radio host and allowed him to opine on the subject of immigration reform -- a subject the network had previously avoided with Limbaugh.
On July 2, Limbaugh complained on his radio show that during an earlier interview on Fox & Friends, Fox had not allowed him to talk about immigration reform or the state of the Republican Party. Limbaugh said he requested to discuss the topic "three or four times" but the network was "not interested in bringing this subject up," which Limbaugh sniped was "quite telling."
The following week Limbaugh criticized the network again. When a radio caller complained about a liberal Fox contributor, Limbaugh told him to "stop watching these people"
On July 9, Limbaugh walked back his complaints of Fox, asserting, "I did not tell anybody to stop watching Fox" and stressing that there is no Fox News policy in place that censors him from discussing immigration. Limbaugh said that "this whole drummed-up thing between Fox and me" is "all B.S." He emphasized that he and Fox are "on the same team."
The next day, Fox's The Five hosted Rush Limbaugh via telephone to discuss immigration reform efforts, among other topics. The Five, which rarely features guests, allowed Limbaugh to discuss his opposition to immigration reform for nearly ten minutes.
The nexus between Fox and Limbaugh is well-established. Fox News hosted Limbaugh a day after he thanked the network for defending his 2012 tirade against Sandra Fluke.
Glenn Beck launched a sordid smear campaign against Teresa Heinz Kerry, the hospitalized wife of Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing her and the State Department of orchestrating her medical scare to divert public attention away from reports about the whereabouts of her husband during Egypt's most recent transition of power. In a pair of cheap shots on his radio program and web show, Beck speculated that Heinz Kerry is lying and drew an institutional connection between what he baselessly suggests is Heinz Kerry's fake injury and the 2012 concussion suffered by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which Beck referred to at the time as a "scam."
On July 3, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was deposed by the country's military leaders amidst popular protests. That same day, CBS reported that one of its producers had spotted Secretary Kerry aboard a yacht in the Nantucket Boat Basin. The State Department denied the allegations, and noted that Kerry was "working all day and on the phone dealing with the crisis in Egypt."
Four days later on July 7, 74-year-old Heinz Kerry, Kerry's wife, was hospitalized with symptoms of a seizure that left her in critical condition. Doctors upgraded her condition to "fair" on Monday morning.
On his radio show, Beck compared Heinz Kerry's hospitalization to that of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a blood clot, which he suggested was orchestrated to distract the press from the Benghazi attacks. Beck called the State Department's denial of Kerry's whereabouts a "huge scandal" and wondered if Heinz Kerry's injury -- which took place four days after Morsi's ouster -- was also orchestrated as a distraction, asking "You expect me to believe that Mrs. Ketchup is in critical condition? I mean, no offense, maybe she is." Beck then compared Heinz Kerry's medical scare to Clinton's in 2012, wondering of Clinton's treatment, "Was that just a scam?"
Beck repeated his accusation on his web show, saying of Clinton's hospitalization and treatment, "I didn't believe that. That was to get out of Benghazi." He equated this with Heinz Kerry, adding:
BECK: I mean, I wish Teresa Heinz Kerry the best. But I find it fascinating that she is in critical condition this weekend after the State Department was caught in a lie. The same day the State Department is caught in a massive, massive lie, the same the press is no longer asking anybody about that, because Teresa Heinz is now in the hospital. So, you can't ask any tough questions. This government has zero credibility.
Beck has a history of capitalizing on his media presence to lob attacks against powerful women during their most vulnerable moments. In December, when Clinton first sustained a concussion, Beck ridiculed her and asked whether Clinton's injury was a "scam," claiming, "She shouldn't be President of the United States if she's going into the hospital for some sort of heart condition or brain condition or whatever she was in the hospital for."
Other right-wing media figures joined in mocking Clinton's injury. Several pundits on Fox News Channel accused Clinton of faking her injury in order to avoid testifying before Congress about the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
A Fox News segment billed as an effort to uncover the opinions of New York City taxi drivers on immigration reform repeatedly mocked non-white immigrants' national origin and ability to speak English.
The July 1 video package, part of a recurring segment on The O'Reilly Factor dubbed "Watters' World," featured clips of Fox contributor and O'Reilly producer Jesse Watters conducting man on the street interviews with cab drivers. Fox host Bill O'Reilly described the impetus for the segment, saying, "Many immigrants, both legal and illegal, drive taxi cabs. So we sent Watters out to check out that situation."
The package interspersed brief clips of the interviewees, all of whom spoke with accents, with clips of movie characters who were often shown repeating the same phrase in a comedic accent. The characters, like Jim Carrey's Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber or Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat Sagdiyev in Borat!, were juxtaposed with the drivers in an unflattering manner that served only to ridicule their accents, the perceived depth of their comments, or their home country. At one point, Watters asked a participant, "Let me see your papers. I'm kidding around, I believe you."
After the package played, O'Reilly questioned whether there were any women featured. Watters responded, "There was the one babe, with the red dress ... the nicest dressed taxi cab driver I've ever seen."
Watters routinely misinforms Fox viewers and has a history of controversial comments that includes Watters asking, "Is there a Muslim problem in the world?"
Rush Limbaugh ignored the various obstacles the LGBT community continues to face, from employment discrimination to the ability to use public accommodations, when he declared that "all the gay issues are behind us" in wake of Wednesday's Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality.
The Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States on June 26 struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied married same-sex couples the benefits and protections afforded to married couples under federal law.
Limbaugh responded to the news by stating, "With all of today's Supreme Court decisions on all of the gay issues, all the fatwas, we had DOMA, we had Proposition 8, so now all the gay issues are behind us ... So now the gays are free to turn out and support Republicans now."
Later in his show, Limbaugh claimed, "For all of human history, marriage was that between a man and a woman. And everything was hunky-doory. Everything was fine ... Then all of a sudden one day, homosexuals decided that it wasn't fair. That they couldn't get married. So they began to agitate and stir things up."
Of course, despite Wednesday's decisions, the struggle for equality under the law is ongoing for the LGBT community, and the status of equality in America is anything but "hunky-dory." Here are a few of the unresolved challenges gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people continue to face in the wake of Windsor:
This is by no means a comprehensive list.
Limbaugh's revisionist history and dismissive attitude toward the status of equal standing of his fellow listeners came as many others in the right-wing media sphere decried today's Supreme Court decisions as paving the way for the legalization of "incest and bestiality."
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied married same-sex couples the benefits and protections afforded to married couples under federal law. Many right-wing media voices expressed displeasure with the result. This item will be updated throughout the day.
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck ran to the defense of celebrity chef Paula Deen's right to use racial slurs without fear of being fired from her lucrative deals with the Food Network, QVC, and others. Deen came under fire after she admitted to using the racial slur on several occasions. Beck claimed her critics were engaging in "McCarthyism" and described Deen's words as "violations of political correctness, nothing more."
Deen is being sued by Lisa T. Jackson, a manager at Deen's restaurants in Georgia, over allegations of sexual and racial harassment. A deposition from the proceedings revealed that Deen repeatedly used racial slurs and other offensive language. From The Daily Beast:
In her testimony, Deen admits to using the N-word, reveals her ambivalence towards people watching pornography at a place of work, and--the arguably racist, definitely bizarre bit that's made headlines Wednesday--details the Southern plantation wedding of her dreams, in which black waiters serve guests slave-style.
In the aftermath of the deposition's release to the public, Deen issued a recorded apology. The Food Network announced that her contract will not be renewed, and QVC -- the home shopping network -- is reviewing their business relationship with Deen.
On his June 24 web show, Beck used the backlash against Deen as a platform to rant about what he believes is the active destruction of Constitutional principles, arguing that attacks on Deen over the content of her speech are symptomatic of the nation's decline. Remarkably, Beck invoked the name of African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. to defend Deen's use of racial slurs and attack the use of public boycotts -- a tactic King and others utilized to great effect during the civil rights movement.