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.
After criticizing the Senate's bipartisan effort to address rising incidents of sexual assault in the military, The Weekly Standard's editor Bill Kristol doubled-down on his denial of the growing problem as a "pseudo-crisis," adding that conservative legislators' effort to erase the wide-spread retaliation faced by victims of sexual assault who report the crime is "an effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness."
On July 18, Kristol attacked Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) for supporting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)'s proposal to change the military's chain of command structure for reporting sexual assaults, which attempts to curb retaliation faced by those who report such an assault. Kristol accused the senators of "doing damage to conservatism" and again called the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military a "pseudo-crisis":
It was two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who, in response to a pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault, popped up to support Democratic legislation that would upend the military judicial system and strip commanders of authority. In their effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness, these Republican senators buy into the calumny that the military officer corps is full of individuals who couldn't care less about the men and women under their command.
What Kristol calls a "pseudo-crisis" is, in reality, nearly 3,400 reported incidents of sexual assault within the ranks in 2012, according to the Department of Defense's (DOD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. That represents a six percent increase from 2011's total reported sexual assaults, a growth DOD called "significant." According to a survey cited in the report, that number would skyrocket to approximately 26,000 sexual assaults if unreported incidents are included, up 35 percent from the previous year's estimate. Even more disturbing, the report found that 62 percent of victims who reported being assaulted faced retaliation as a result.
Military leaders such as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have decried this epidemic as a "crisis," and "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution."
Kristol's statement follows a week of sexual assault denial from his conservative magazine and website, The Weekly Standard.
On July 8, The Weekly Standard published an article titled "Harassing the Military" that declared, "there is no sexual assault crisis," citing the possibility that there may be a greater prevalence of sexual assaults within other communities. Later, a July 16 blog post promoted a U.S. Marine Corps officer's suggestion that the scope of the military's sexual assault problem is exaggerated. That same day, Kristol referred to the bipartisan Senate effort as a "proposal to undermine the military's chain of command on behalf of the pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault."
UPDATE: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a former prosecutor of sex crimes and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to Kristol's depiction of sexual assault in the military as a "pseudo-crisis," saying:
Thousands of reported sexual assaults, and many thousands more sex-related crimes that go unreported-combined with a decades-long inability to seriously address the epidemic-constitutes a crisis. It's a crisis for our military, their morale, and ultimately our national security. For someone who's constantly pushing for additional U.S. involvement in conflicts around the world, you'd think Mr. Kristol would share our goal of ensuring justice for those who are doing the fighting. Instead, his comments illustrate that while there's growing support for our historic reforms, all of us fighting for significant change must continue our effort.
After the Department of Defense reported a significant increase in sexual assault in the military, estimated at nearly 26,000 incidents in 2012, and after military leaders decried the epidemic as a "crisis," The Weekly Standard responded to Congress' preventative actions with sexual assault trutherism, denying the fact that a sexual assault crisis exists within the military.
After declaring that no more mosques should be built in the United States until it works out "who is not a terrorist," Fox News host Bob Beckel walked back his comments the following day. Yet he has failed to apologize for Islamophobic statements he has made in the past.
Beckel, a co-host on Fox's The Five, used reports of a tragic school massacre in Nigeria to criticize all Muslims on the July 9 edition of the program, ranting: "If it were up to me, I would not have another mosque built in this country until we got it worked out who is not a terrorist." The next day, Beckel attempted to walk back his remarks, explaining, "I think I overstated my case."
But Beckel has increasingly held all Muslims accountable for the brutality of a few without expressing regret.
In May, after a horrific beheading by a Muslim immigrant in London, the Fox host claimed the attack was a direct result of Britain's immigration policies with Islamic countries, saying it "is a product of the British allowing Muslims to come into their country." He added: "We better take a hard look at our immigration policy and the people we are allowing in here if they're going to come in here and preach hatred to us."
Beckel later wondered if the London attack and riots in a Muslim immigrant community in Sweden raised questions about the entire Muslim religion. He told his co-hosts on May 24, after Kimberly Guilfoyle criticized liberal immigration policies:
BECKEL: It's not about liberal policies it's about Muslims ... I mean that's what we're really talking about here. Who were the rioters in the last four nights? It was mostly young Muslim immigrants, right? Or people who were born -- in London the same thing. This is a part and parcel of a bigger picture having to do with the question of the Muslim religion versus --.
Beckel left the sentence hanging in the air.
Following the deadly bombing of the Boston marathon in April, Beckel called on the U.S. to suspend all student visas to Muslim countries because "we know" that "in the Muslim communities around the world, they do not like us. They recruit people from poor areas and they turn them into terrorists." He went on:
BECKEL: I think we really have to consider, given the fact so many people hate us, that we're going to have to cut off Muslim students from coming to this country for some period of time, so that we can at least absorb what we've got, look at what we've got and decide whether some of the people here should be sent back home or sent to prison.
BECKEL: I've said this before, I'll say it again. If you want us to be nice to Muslims in this country, if you want us to treat them with decency, then stop killing our people. Or you're going to pay a price for it. A big price.
So while it's laudable that Beckel chose to clarify his most recent Islamophobic remark, he still has many more explanations to make.
Media Matters intern Charlie Rafkin contributed to this report.
Fox News interviewed Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin this week -- two of the most vocal conservative figures speaking out in opposition to immigration reform -- yet asked neither guest about immigration.
Conservative radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin have been leading the charge against the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate and currently pending in the House of Representatives. Levin has named the potential legislation a "disgusting disgrace" and "a crap sandwich." Limbaugh has habitually misrepresented the content of the bill, which he calls "amnesty," and claimed that because some Republicans support it, "the establishment of this party is authoring its demise." Both men have attacked Republican officials who support the bill and urged them to oppose it.
According to Limbaugh, he requested to talk about immigration and the Republican party when he phoned in to Fox & Friends on July 2, but the network rebuffed his request. Limbaugh later told his radio audience, "They asked me, 'what do you want to talk about?' ... First thing out of my mouth, 'I want to talk about immigration and the state of the Republican party,' [but Fox] wouldn't go there. I had to bring it up myself to whatever extent that I did." Limbaugh concluded, "And that, by the way, is quite telling to me."
Interestingly, the next day Levin called in to Your World with Neil Cavuto and also avoided the topic of immigration. Levin and host Cavuto spoke for nearly nine minutes, but discussed only the Affordable Care Act.
While it is unclear whether Levin, like Limbaugh, desired to talk about immigration reform during his interview, it is notable that both anti-immigration reform voices were silent while on Fox News.
Fox News' America's Newsroom criticized a Hannity segment for "cross[ing] the line" of "civil society" after a frequent Hannity guest yelled for his female debate opponent to "know your role and shut your mouth." The daytime program wondered if this type of behavior -- not far from standard fare on Hannity and other Fox primetime programming -- damages the nation's ability to have serious discussions.
Radio host and frequent Hannity guest Bill Cunningham appeared on the June 20 edition of Hannity to debate Fox contributor Tamara Holder on the merits of claims that Attorney General Eric Holder mislead Congress while under oath. Out of the gate, Cunningham told Tamara Holder she was "one of the stooges of the left," pointing his finger at her while loudly shouting, "Sign the petition, Tamara! To call for the resignation of the chief law enforcement officer of this nation because he lied under oath when he criminalized journalism. And you know he did it but you refuse to do what's right." Holder replied that, "your finger does not prove your point," pointing back at Cunningham:
CUNNINGHAM: Whose finger's in my face right now?
HOLDER: Mine, because I'm telling you to shut up.
CUNNINGHAM: Wait a minute. You shut up. Know your role and shut your mouth.
HOLDER: My role as a woman?
CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. Yeah.
HOLDER: What is your obsession with stooges? Aren't stooges like little elves?
CUNNINGHAM: I'm sitting next to you. I'm sitting next to you. And you're a liberal stooge and an excuse-monger for the Obama administration.
HOLDER: Never mind. I --
CUNNINGHAM: What are you going to cry?
HOLDER: No! I'm not going to cry.
CUNNINGHAM: You're not going to cry?
The next morning, America's Newsroom dedicated a segment to whether Cunningham's behavior "crossed the line," concluding that conduct like this on Hannity stifled important public debate on national issues. Host Martha MacCallum appeared speechless after playing an excerpt of Cunningham's comments, asking, "Is this what we've come to? Is this civil society?"
Fox contributors Juan Williams and Mary Katherine Ham agreed that Cunningham's conduct was unacceptable, as Williams asserted, "He not only crossed the line, he obliterated the line ... I think it shut down the conversation. That doesn't help."
MacCallum shared the concern that personal attacks like Cunningham's damage the nation's ability to communicate, wondering, "What does this say, sort of, about our ability to communicate and you know, have a serious, respectful discussion on these things these days?" Williams replied, "What it does is, it makes it very difficult then to cross lines to have reasoned conversation."
Bill Cunningham has been crossing the line for years, and yet Fox continues to host him during primetime. Among his most egregious claims, Cunningham has declared President Obama "to be the beast. Six-six-six," and said that under the Obama administration "women are going to sell their bodies for pennies." He claimed the poor are in poverty "because they lack values, ethics, and morals" and advocated "beat[ing]" the hell outta" the homeless. Still, a Nexis transcript search finds Hannity has hosted Cunningham eight times so far in 2013.
CNN's morning program New Day aired a troubling report on allegations that celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was the victim of domestic abuse, describing her as "subservient" and quoting critics on Twitter saying her subsequent silence on the apparent assault "makes her look weak."
British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband, Charles Saatchi, were photographed this week during what appeared to be a domestic assault. Multiple photographs show Saatchi's hand grasping Lawson's neck during an argument. He later admitted to assault.
Neil Sean, whom CNN identified as an "entertainment reporter," appeared in New Day's packaged report saying the photos showed Lawson being "sort of subservient":
SEAN: She's always portrayed as a very powerful woman, a woman in control. So for her to be so sort of subservient, I think, is a rather telling story.
Later, CNN's Pamela Brown highlighted criticisms from unidentified people on Twitter who are charging Lawson's subsequent silence on the alleged attack "makes her look weak":
BROWN: Of course, we still don't know the full story. But a lot of people waiting for Nigella to come out and say something. People are taking to Twitter saying she needs to come out and address this. That she's this powerful figure, and this makes her look weak, according to some people, that she's not - but this is all a matter of opinion.
Fox News promised that it would "not leave" live coverage of the House hearings on the IRS controversy while paying only lip service to the simultaneous Senate hearings on the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.
On June 4, the House Ways and Means Committee held another round of hearings on the IRS' inappropriate criteria for scrutinizing conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. The same day, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings on the increasing problem of sexual assaults in the military, featuring testimony from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and top officers from each military branch.
Fox's America's Newsroom aired live footage of the House's IRS hearing before it began, then stayed live for witness testimony and congressional questioning. When cutting live coverage for commercial breaks, co-host Bill Hemmer assured viewers, "We have to take a commercial, we got to pay some bills here, but we will not leave this hearing."
By contrast, Fox only went live to the sexual assault hearing before it started, airing footage of representatives, staffers, and media figures waiting for the hearing to begin. Next to a splitscreen of the committee room, co-host Martha MacCallum and correspondent Jennifer Griffin discussed the military's growing problem for approximately three minutes before MacCallum cut away, explaining, "You can watch that hearing on our website at FoxNews.com. Click on the link on the homepage. We've got dueling hearings going on this morning."
The epidemic of sexual assaults in the military is a growing problem. A Department of Defense report estimated that 26,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in 2012 and that 62 percent of victims who reported the assault faced retaliation. During Tuesday's hearing, in testimony Fox did not air, Army Gen. Ray Odierno described the problem: "Sexual assault and harassment are like a cancer within the force -- a cancer that left untreated will destroy the fabric of our force."
America's Newsroom continued with live coverage of the House IRS hearings for the bulk of the two-hour program, never again mentioning the Senate hearings on military sexual assaults.
Erick Erickson is receiving much attention this week for his remarks that female breadwinners conflict with "biology" and "the natural world" and are "tearing [society] apart." But Erickson's comments are nothing out of the ordinary for the Fox contributor - he has a long history of making sexist, homophobic, and otherwise inflammatory statements.
Fox host Lou Dobbs and several Fox contributors -- all men -- lamented news that a record number of women are now the economic breadwinners of their families. The Fox figures worried about the dissolution of American society and nature.
Pew Research released a study on May 29 which found mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in a record 40 percent of all American households with minor children. Pew's report considered both single mothers and married mothers who earned a higher income than their husbands.
On his Fox business program, Dobbs described the Pew study as "showing that women have become the breadwinners in this country, and a lot of other concerning and troubling statistics." He went on to call the report suggestive of "society dissolv[ing] around us."
Fox contributor Juan Williams agreed, calling record female breadwinners indicative of "something going terribly wrong in American society":
What we're seeing with four out of 10 families, now the woman is the primary breadwinner. You're seeing the disintegration of marriage, you're seeing men who were hard hit by the economic recession in ways that women weren't. But you're seeing, I think, systemically, larger than the political stories that we follow every day, something going terribly wrong in American society, and it's hurting our children, and it's going to have impact for generations to come.
Erick Erickson, one of Fox's newest contributors, was troubled by female breadwinners and claimed that people who defend them are "anti-science." Erickson told viewers:
When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and female in society, and the other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complimentary role. We as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complimentary relationships in nuclear families, and it's tearing us apart.