Hillary Clinton returned to South Carolina this week to rally support for her 2016 White House bid, and despite speaking at length about the substance of her campaign platform, media chose to fixate on her southern accent.
While speaking to the South Carolina Democratic Women's Council, Clinton laid out her vision for America and highlighted her support for President Obama following their 2008 primary fight. In her remarks, Clinton placed a heavy emphasis on her support for gender pay equality and helping middle class families, while pushing for civility and coalition-building:
CLINTON: We will have disagreements. We will have debates, but I want you to know that I will be remembering what I think should be at the core of every political campaign, how we treat one another, and how we care for this if we have been given, the United States of America.
Media's takeaway from the event? Clinton's southern accent.
CNN's New Day host Alisyn Camerota declared Clinton's accent is "an interesting twist" to her campaign, while MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said that, "Hillary Clinton got her southern accent back after, like, 20 years." Vox.com dedicated a post to exploring the origins of the accent, writing that "there is a certain fascination worthy to be had of public figures who can turn their accents on and off."
Such superficial coverage of Clinton's event is unsurprising, given media's seeming preference for fluff over substance in coverage of the Clinton campaign and their repeated attempts to sensationalize Clinton's voice.
Fox host Elisabeth Hasselbeck suggested that the U.S. justice system was too lenient on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who received the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bombing, complaining that his right to appeal upends the "justice" of the jury's verdict.
After a federal jury sentenced the Boston bomber to death last week, Fox & Friends hosted an attorney and death penalty advocate on May 18 to discuss Tsarnaev's right to appeal his sentence. Co-host Brian Kilmeade complained that the possibility of a lengthy process could mean "we're not going to get to kill this guy, are we?" Elisabeth Hasselbeck argued, "Where's the justice" if Tsarnaev can challenge the jury's verdict:
HASSELBECK: That relief was felt in Boston. We've got friends and family there ourselves, and I think most Americans looked at this as justice is done. But now we hear about this appeals process, and we're wondering, well, where's the justice in that?
An appeal is automatic in a federal death penalty case like this one. Tsarnaev will reportedly be moved to the U.S. penitentiary for federal death-row inmates while his attorneys challenge the verdict.
Fox News dismissed criticism of 2016 presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee's sham product endorsements, suggesting he was merely following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, who appeared in product advertisements during his acting days.
Huckabee, a former Fox News host, has a history of peddling sham-medical cures, conspiracy theories, and financial fraudsters in rented space on his Fox-promoted email list. The GOP contender even promoted a "kitchen-cabinet cure" for diabetes in a recent online ad, a shady product The New York Times described as a "dubious diabetes treatment."
Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade jumped to defend Huckabee's product endorsements on May 11, one day after CBS' Bob Schieffer confronted the candidate about his "diabetes cure" hucksterism. Kilmeade compared Huckabee to former President Reagan, arguing that like Huckabee, Reagan "advertised for a few products in between becoming governor and president and when he was an actor":
KILMEADE: I like to add to this, just to give you color on the Huckabee situation. He was asked a question about some of the products he endorsed, including one for diabetes when he was in between being governor, when he was at Fox, and when he was in between running for president, which is now. I thought he gave a pretty good answer for that. He says I'm not embarrassed to say if something could help you with diabetes, I'm going to support it. Plus you're in the free market. I believe there's guys like Ronald Reagan who advertised for a few products in between becoming governor and president and when he was an actor.
While a Fox News employee, Huckabee profited from renting his MikeHuckabee.com email list to a wide range of shady characters, including a medical quack claiming he knew Alzheimer's disease cures; a for-sale stock pundit that was fired from Fox; a financial firm that was fined by the government for engaging in "deliberate fraud"; and a survival food company that profits off of readers' fears of being "herded into FEMA camps." Fox News helped grow his email list, and in turn, Huckabee used his eponymous program to bolster his own political ambitions, even announcing he was considering a presidential run on his final broadcast.
Right-wing media has a long history of serving as Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) biggest cheerleaders, dating back to Cruz's 2012 Senate victory which he credited to Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck, showcasing the influence of conservative media in shaping election outcomes.
Following Cruz's announced bid for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, Media Matters looks back at some of right-wing media's most effusive praise of Cruz.
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Hannity featured the senator in an hour-long special on the March 23 of edition his Fox News show. Hannity highlighted Cruz's campaign announcement speech, and allowed Cruz to promote his platform.
Hannity has fantasized about a Cruz campaign for years before the official campaign launch. During Cruz's February 26 speech at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity jumped on the main stage to proclaim that with Cruz, "we can fundamentally transform America" in 2016.
After Cruz announced the launch of his campaign, Rush Limbaugh praised Cruz, suggesting that he "might be the smartest man in Congress."
In July 2014, Rush predicted that if Ted Cruz continued his rise in "dominant influence," he would lead a nascent Republican "revival" that is "just awaiting leadership."
In September 2013, Limbaugh lashed out at Fox News' Brit Hume for alleging that Cruz was influenced by Limbaugh and other conservative media in his repeated efforts to defund Obama's health care law. Limbaugh defended Cruz, asserting that "Ted Cruz isn't afraid of anybody," and went on to praise the Republican senator, saying "Ted Cruz is fighting for freedom in the greatest tradition of American freedom fighters." Limbaugh added that in his efforts to defund the health care law, "Ted Cruz is attempting to  marshal the support of the American people ... in the greatest traditions of the American founding and the existence of the country."
Beck praised Ted Cruz after the launch of his campaign, championing Cruz's "long, long, impressive resume," saying "you can't pigeonhole him as stupid," adding "I can't wait to see him in a debate."
On his radio show in December 2013, Beck likened Cruz to Ronald Reagan saying, he "may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99 percent of the politicians I have ever met."
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Laura Ingraham applauded him for "stand[ing] firm for the constitution," and claimed Cruz will be tough competition for Republicans because he represents "more of a traditionalist point of view" and a more "Reagan-esque" form of conservatism.
Levin railed against Fox News for "trashing" Ted Cruz after the senator launched his campaign, likening Cruz to Reagan, and asserting that like Cruz, Reagan would have been "trashed all over" Fox News.
In August 2013, Levin declared Cruz "one of the bright lights of the Republican Party" for "exciting the base" after he "demonstrated that he can beat the establishment as he did" during his 2012 Senate campaign. Levin defended Cruz from a "vicious, vile, poisonous attack by the establishment including Bush staffers."
In June 2014, Hugh Hewitt proclaimed that Cruz "may be the smartest senator," telling Joe Scarborough on his radio program, "he's just not gonna back down and we need some of that in our party." Hewitt went on to compare Cruz to Reagan, saying he has "the same demeanor" as Reagan, "the same kind of charisma, easy affability and smart, smart, smart."
Cable news networks spent just 12 minutes covering the revelation that Jeb Bush waited seven years to comply with a Florida law requiring him to turn over his private email correspondence, while the same networks devoted hours to reports about Hillary Clinton's use of private email when she served as secretary of state.
Media outlets are holding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a higher standard by scandalizing her use of personal email while at the State Department, claiming the practice raises questions about her "transparency." In reality, other public officials -- including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R), who is attacking Clinton over the emails, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell -- have exclusively used personal email.
The Hill legitimized Republican claims that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to delay its vote on net neutrality to give the public time to review the idea, ignoring the fact that the agency received nearly 4 million comments -- which overwhelmingly favored net neutrality -- during an open-comment period in 2014.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson distorted President Obama's explanation that U.S. ground troops are not necessary to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in order to claim Obama believes it's not in our national interest to defeat the terrorist group.
In his February 11 request to Congress for an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, Obama stated that "our core objective is to destroy ISIL." He emphasized his opposition to engaging in "another prolonged ground war in the Middle East," which he said is "not in our national security interest." He explained further that a ground campaign is "not necessary for us to defeat ISIL." From a transcript of his remarks (emphasis added):
THE PRESIDENT: This resolution reflects our core objective to destroy ISIL. It supports the comprehensive strategy that we have been pursuing with our allies and partners: A systemic and sustained campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Support and training for local forces on the ground, including the moderate Syrian opposition. Preventing ISIL attacks, in the region and beyond, including by foreign terrorist fighters who try to threaten our countries. Regional and international support for an inclusive Iraqi government that unites the Iraqi people and strengthens Iraqi forces against ISIL. Humanitarian assistance for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Syria, who are suffering so terribly under ISIL's reign of horror.
The resolution we've submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases -- and, yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment. But they do not have a combat mission. They are focused on training Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces.
As I've said before, I'm convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That's not in our national security interest and it's not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL -- and that's what they're doing.
But Fox viewers heard a much different description of Obama's sentiment the next day on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. According to Carlson, "The president said we have no national security interest in this fight." After airing a short video depicting a portion of his remarks (but omitting Obama's statement about destroying ISIS), Carlson asked Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), "What did President Obama mean yesterday when he said that it's not in our interest to defeat ISIL? Huh?"
Playing word games with Obama's remarks is one of Fox News' favorite pastimes. The network often feigns outrage over distorted or selectively cropped comments, setting up easy attacks on their fictionalized version of the president.
ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham scoffed at the "Like A Girl" Super Bowl commercial promoting girls' self-esteem, calling its empowerment message "a non-issue" written by the "PC police."
During Super Bowl XLIX, Always aired its "Like A Girl" commercial, intended to "reclaim a phrase that's been used to police gender roles and stereotypes that are harmful." In the commercial, adults, young boys, and young girls are asked to demonstrate "what it looks like to run like a girl" or "throw like a girl." While adults and young boys treated the phrase as a pejorative, flailing about and acting weak, young girls responded in earnest, saying to "run like a girl" means to "run as fast as you can."
The next day on her radio program, Laura Ingraham mocked the ad's message, and in the process demonstrated the very bias the ad meant to expose. Ingraham bragged, "I was a tomboy growing up. No one ever said I threw like a girl ... Maybe I just don't have empathy."
Dismissing the ad's empowerment message, Ingraham stated, "This is PC police," and went on to suggest that girls' self-esteem is a "non-issue":
INGRAHAM: It's such a non-issue. First of all, boys are the ones who need more help in school these days. Boys are the ones who are falling behind girls. Boys are the ones who are seeing their sports programs cut because of Title IX because we have to have everything balanced. Boys are the ones who need additional help today. So, 'throw like a girl,' 'kick like a boy,' I mean, 'do pull-ups like a girl,' 'do pull-ups like a boy.' Honestly.
CNN contributor Newt Gingrich revived a debunked claim about Boko Haram's designation as a terror group in order to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to attendees at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Gingrich claimed that the Obama administration, currently and during Clinton's tenure at the State Department, is not doing enough to confront terrorism threats. As evidence, Gingrich pointed to Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group based in Nigeria, saying, "Boko Haram has ten thousand fighters, and last year Boko Haram killed more people than Ebola. But the State Department for years, under Secretary Clinton, wouldn't even list them as a terrorist group."
The implicit argument of Gingrich's attack is dishonest -- experts, including a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria appointed by President Bush, opposed designating Boko Haram a terror group out of concern it would empower the extremist group. Instead, in 2012 the State Department under Clinton designated the individual leaders of Boko Haram as "foreign terrorists." Reuters reported that the move was historic, noting it was the "first time [State] has blacklisted members of the Islamist group." Boko Harm went on to receive designation as a terrorist group in 2013.
Gingrich's smear was right out of the conservative media playbook. Fox News and other right-wing outlets spent considerable time suggesting Clinton and the Obama administration tried to appease Boko Haram, even suggesting the administration was partially responsible for the failure to save 300 young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.