Fox News aired a misleading graphic to cast doubt on the effects of climate change by purporting to show that Arctic sea ice is increasing -- but the graphic only highlighted two years out of context, 2012 and 2013, hiding the fact that 2012 was a record-breaking low for Arctic ice following decades of decline.
On the May 10 edition of Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling attempted to question the existence of global warming trends by airing a graphic of Arctic sea ice thickness while saying to one of his panelists, "it shows that the polar ice has increased between 2012 and 2013, Julie, by 50 percent. 50 full percent and they're calling that a full icecap recovery."
What Bolling and the graphic failed to mention was that 2012 was a record-breaking year for Arctic sea ice lows, reaching the lowest level measured since record keeping began in 1979. The increase in 2013 from such an anomaly was to be expected. Furthermore, the decades leading up to 2012 showed an extreme decline in Arctic ice. Had Fox aired an accurate graphic with full context, it would have looked more like this, which illustrates the fallacy of using a single year's data to discredit a long-term trend:
Fox's climate denial comes on the heels of the release of the third National Climate Assessment (NCA) report on May 6, which outlined how climate change has already hurt the United States, and explained the dire consequences to be expected if no action is taken to mitigate global warming. Fox gave little coverage to the report when it was released, using it mostly to promote more misinformation -- at one point even calling climate change a "superstition."
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has a history of deceiving media by misrepresenting evidence at a congressional hearing, a worrying past given his new role as the leader of the House select committee investigating the Benghazi attacks.
Gowdy was chosen on May 5 to run the new select committee into the Obama administration's handling of the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya, and was described by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as "dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come. His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel."
But Gowdy's apparent "zeal for the truth" has not stopped him from misleading past congressional investigations into the attacks with media figures who are eager to amplify Republican scandal-mongering.
At a previous House hearing on Benghazi on May 8, 2013, Gowdy purported to read from a State Department email sent a day after the attacks, which Republicans claimed revealed State officials knew that terrorists were behind the attacks but initially attempted to cover-up this knowledge for political reasons. Gowdy quoted a State official as saying in this early email, "the group that conducted the attacks...is affiliated with Islamic terrorists."
Fox News immediately ran with Gowdy's line, claiming that the email opened up new questions about the administration's response to the attacks, including questions "about the accuracy of the past testimony of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
But when The New York Times obtained an actual copy of the email in question, they found that it referred to "Islamic extremists," not terrorists. The senior State Department official who sent the email, A. Elizabeth Jones, was noting exactly what senior White House officials and then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice had all acknowledged: the possibility that extremists could had been involved in the assault.
In response to the clear evidence that he had misrepresented an official email in a Congressional hearing, Gowdy deflected, claiming there was no relevant distinction between "extremists" and "terrorists" -- even though making that very distinction was exactly what Republicans were attempting to accuse the administration of doing in their supposed "cover up" of Benghazi. His Republican colleagues once again turned to Fox to push out the new line, now claiming the email said "definitively" that "it was Ansar-al-Sharia, Islamic extremists, that committed this terrorist act," despite the fact that the email still made no reference to terrorism.
As Republicans gear to up use this new select committee to continue to push the Benghazi hoax, media should be wary of trusting Gowdy's interpretation of the record -- he can't always be trusted to accurately quote reality.
Part of the past success of the anti-choice movement has been using the media to convince Americans that abortion is gross and dangerous. As Amanda Marcotte has explained, the anti-choice movement loves to focus particularly on third-trimester abortions, "because they are especially disgusting":
...and therefore make a good cudgel to attack all abortion rights. And since they are so emotionally fraught, they have a great deal of appeal to the ghouls that populate the anti-choice movement, the ones who spend obscene percentages of their lives dwelling on graphic pictures of dead fetuses.
But third-trimester procedures are only about one percent of abortions performed in the US; the overwhelming majority -- 90 percent -- occur during the first trimester, and are significantly safer and easier medical procedures. Most women can take a simple drug; if they opt for surgery, the procedure takes just a few minutes.
But conservative media and anti-choice activists have dominated the conversation about abortion, allowing myths, misinformation, and stigma to perpetuate.
This damaging deficit of accurate information in the media prompted Emily Letts, an abortion counselor, to film her own first-trimester abortion and post the video online. As she explained in an opinion piece for Cosmopolitan, the misinformation about abortion has overwhelmed the reality, and shame and fear of the procedure makes finding the facts more difficult:
I searched the Internet, and I couldn't find a video of an actual surgical procedure in the clinic that focused on the woman's experience. We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like. A first trimester abortion takes three to five minutes. It is safer than giving birth. There is no cutting, and risk of infertility is less than 1 percent. Yet women come into the clinic all the time terrified that they are going to be cut open, convinced that they won't be able to have kids after the abortion. The misinformation is amazing, but think about it: They are still willing to sacrifice these things because they know that they can't carry the child at this moment.
Posting a video about your abortion may seem provocative. But the video is not graphic or scary. It shows Letts' face as she softly hums to herself during the five minute procedure, quietly and calmly, and shows her speaking to the camera before and after the procedure about how she's feeling. At the end, a month after the abortion, she says she knows that it was the right choice for her, and that she wanted to share her story.
After Letts released the video of her abortion, Fox News launched a series of personal attacks on the 25-year-old, going so far as to question her mental stability. Because she tried to help other women who find themselves in similar difficult situations by accurately documenting her own personal experience, Fox's The Five described her actions as everything from a publicity stunt to genocide. Later the same night, Fox host Andrea Tantaros called her "disturbed," while Sean Hannity attacked her need for an abortion, repeatedly suggesting she could have just used birth control, and called the video "sick." Neither The Five nor Hannity actually played the full video for their viewers, which is just over three minutes long.
Letts was trying to help combat the misinformation spread by Fox News and conservative media every day about abortion, so it's unsurprising that they reacted with personal attacks on her. Conservative media have even helped manipulate mainstream journalists into parroting anti-choice lies, and have played a role in shaming women who have abortions or who support those who do.
Inconsistencies between a CBS News internal review following a botched 60 Minutes report on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and a New York magazine article revealed open questions about the program and the journalistic standards practiced at the network.
Fox's newest show, Outnumbered, features a rotating cast of four female hosts, one male host, and a litany of sexist tropes.
The program premiered April 28 with female co-hosts Jedediah Bila, Harris Faulkner, Sandra Smith, Kimberly Guilfoyle and their male co-host of the day Tucker Carlson, who was honored with the Twitter hashtag #ONELUCKYGUY and described by the women as "a good enough sport to join us on day one."
When Fox announced the new show, Amanda Marcotte noted its premise: "The man will be 'outnumbered,' meaning that even though Outnumbered is supposedly a female-centric show, the male point of view is still so central that it gives the show its title." The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg similarly predicted that the program would find its "heat" by highlighting opposition between men and women, essentially parodying "what conservatives often accuse feminists of wanting to do to men: overwhelm them and shout them down as a sort of rhetorical reparations for years in a subordinate position."
These predictions proved accurate. In fact, Outnumbered's set even placed the lone man at the center, surrounded on a couch by the female hosts wearing Fox's famous short skirts. The hosts kicked off the show by indulging the parody that men and women are profoundly opposed to each other, with Carlson joking at the very beginning that he was "in a defensive crouch already," because living with four women had given him experience he needed to "submit" and handle this "outnumbered" position:
Cliven Bundy's abhorrent, racist comparison of slavery to federal poverty assistance bears a striking resemblance to common claims from conservative media, who have frequently invoked slavery to describe the supposed damage "the welfare state" has done to black Americans.
Nevada rancher Bundy, who was praised by conservative media for engaging in an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay decades worth of federal grazing fees on public land, on April 19 questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," telling a reporter in a racist rant:
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted, Bundy's repugnant rhetoric sounds familiar -- it's the same logic behind many right-wing criticisms of the social safety net. Media Matters has been tracking this type of offensive rhetoric for years.
During the fight over health care reform, Rush Limbaugh claimed that "It won't be a matter of whether you have coverage or don't have coverage. What'll matter is that all of us will be slaves; we'll become slaves to the arbitrary and inhumane decisions of distant bureaucrats working in Washington where there's no competition, nobody you can go to if you don't like what you hear from the bureaucrats that you have to deal with."
When Glenn Beck was a host on Fox News, he had an obsession with comparing things to slavery, including the claim that progressive policies created "slavery to government, welfare, affirmative action, regulation, control," and that "big government never lifts anybody out of poverty. It creates slaves." In 2008, Jim Quinn, the co-host of the radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose, was forced to apologize for comparing "slave[s] in the Old South" to welfare recipients today, when he claimed that the only "difference" was that the "slave had to work for" the benefits Quinn said they received.
In his 2008 book Let Them In, The Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley argued that the Great Society programs of the 1960s were ultimately worse for black families than slavery, writing "The black family survived slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, but the well-intentioned Great Society sounded its death knell."
More recently, Riley promoted the twisted logic of George Mason University's Walter Williams (who has often guest-hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show), who claimed that because more black children live in single-mother families now, welfare "destroy[ed] the black family" more than slavery:
During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."
Ted Nugent, National Rifle Association board member and a favorite of conservative media, has become infamous for his extreme racism for calling President Obama a subhuman mongrel -- but Nugent also used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to claim that the Great Society programs were "responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined." In a 2011 Washington Times column, Nugent also suggested that the Democratic Party is the "modern-day slave master" to low-income Americans.
Vox's Matt Yglesias noted the irony of Bundy criticizing the government for assisting Americans through federal programs, when he himself has benefited from federal subsidies which keep the cost of grazing low for ranchers like himself. And though the abhorrent comparison of slavery to welfare is ridiculous on its face, it's worth noting that federal benefit programs have been vital in keeping Americans out of poverty -- in fact, federal programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half, whereas in 1967 they only reduced poverty by a single percentage point.
Conservative media may finally renounce Bundy and his lawless cause following his racist remarks; but they should also renounce this harmful, inaccurate comparison.
When guns are involved in domestic violence, women die.
This simple fact was the basis for a tweet from Everytown for Gun Safety, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's new gun violence prevention group, which noted that the presence of a gun makes it five times "more likely that domestic violence will turn into murder." Everytown has stated that they want to help prevent these deaths by closing "the loopholes that make it easy for domestic abusers to get guns without a background check." While federal law prohibits a convicted domestic abuser or individual subject to a permanent restraining order from owning a gun, abusers subject to temporary restraining orders can still buy firearms in many states, and abusers can avoid background checks by purchasing their firearms through private sales.
But conservative media ignored these facts to falsely claim Everytown wanted to "disarm women," not their abusers, and argued women would be safer if they had increased access to guns to use as self-defense. Breitbart.com's AWR Hawkins wrote that Everytown was putting victims in danger because "the gun may be the only thing that gives the victim of abuse a fighting chance of survival." Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich told NRA News that the gun safety group was playing on the fears of "ignorant, emotional women." And former Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller claimed on Fox that all of Everytown's gun safety efforts were merely an effort "to lure in women voters," arguing that because gun murders are down, it was somehow impossible that domestic murder could be a significant problem facing women.
But the data shows that Everytown is right. Having a gun in the house doesn't make women safer -- in fact, studies have shown that domestic violence involving guns is significantly more likely to result in women dying.
Women accounted for a small share of total guests featured during weekday evening economic coverage on the three major cable news networks, despite a renewed focus on economic discussions that significantly affect American women.
A Media Matters analysis conducted over the past year revealed that women comprised just 28.4 percent of total guests featured in weekday evening segments dedicated to economic news and policy debates on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.
Women make up slightly more than half of the total United States population and represent a significant majority of the voting public, but their voices remain vastly underrepresented in cable news segments on the economy.
Previous Media Matters studies have shown that weekday evening cable news coverage of the economy in particular fails to feature economists and experts. This failure is more shocking when measured in terms of gender -- women made up less than 10 percent of economist appearances in the past year.
Given that women make up more than 50 percent of the country, all economic issues are women's issues, and the lack of adequate female representation in these segments is a significant failure. But it is particularly glaring given the recent emphasis from policy makers and advocates across the political spectrum to highlight economic issues that disproportionately affect American women.
For example, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), roughly 56 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and recently dozens of women in the economics profession signed a public letter circulated by EPI imploring lawmakers to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to this level and tying it to inflation now has the support of congressional Democrats and the White House, but weekday cable guest lists have mostly not included female economists whose research and advocacy support the effort.
The lack of adequate female guest representation in economic discussions is not a result of a lack of available and qualified candidates. Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), is a prominent advocate for public policies focused on issues of particular importance to women. Economists Heidi Shierholz and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute have written extensively on the impact of low wages on women and the importance of health care reform. Jeanneatte Wicks-Lim of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) also specializes on studying policy effects on low-wage workers. Michigan State University economist Lisa Cook has been a recurring guest on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry in the past, but did not appear during MSNBC's evening weekday lineup in the past year. Christina Romer of the University of California, Berkeley is the former chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and co-authored President Obama's economic recovery plan in 2009 with economist Jared Bernstein, himself a regular guest on MSNBC.
The economics profession produces more than enough women with the talent necessary to advocate policies or comment on research in the cable news sphere. It is time for guest lists to start reflecting the diversity of opinion and expertise held by women in the field.
As journalists covering the Fort Hood mass shooting ponder possible connections between the shooter's mental health and his crime, they have largely ignored a major factor behind the inadequate support and treatment military service members have received for mental health conditions more generally: the vast over-commitment of troops to fight two wars simultaneously for over a decade.
Spec. Ivan Antonia Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others before taking his own life at Fort Hood, TX, on April 2. Lopez served a four-month term in Iraq, though he reportedly did not see combat. He was being treated for depression and anxiety, and was in the process of being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD can be triggered by a broad spectrum of emotional and physical traumas, including the loss of a loved one, seeing the after-effects of violence, and experiencing sexual assault, but it is still unclear if Lopez had this condition and the nature of his treatment is largely unknown. An Army psychiatrist who examined Lopez recently reportedly found no "sign of likely violence, either to himself or to others."
Many individuals with PTSD never demonstrate violent behavior, and the likelihood that they will commit mass murder "is extraordinarily small," according to Janice Krupnick, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. (Studies have shown that people with mental health conditions in general are more often the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.)
Again, Lopez's mental health may prove entirely irrelevant to the mass shooting. But a story that has been largely undercovered in the media is how rising rates of depression, suicide, and PTSD in the military relate to the military's over-commitment in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In order to supply enough service members to fight two wars simultaneously, the military abandoned previous regulations and put stress on already limited support systems, causing what commanders refer to as "overstretch."
Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Defense Department standards disqualified recruits who suffered from PTSD and hadn't receive treatment. But Army mental health experts acknowledged early on that those standards were being relaxed in light of the troop shortage. The need for more troops to fight both Iraq and Afghanistan -- and meet the Bush administration's specified troop commitment levels -- required Army mental health experts "to weigh the needs of the Army" ahead of the needs of the individuals. The Associated Press reported in 2006 (emphasis added):
Although Defense Department standards for enlistment disqualify recruits who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the military also is redeploying service members to Iraq who fit that criteria, the [Hartford Courant reported].
"I'm concerned that people who are symptomatic are being sent back. That has not happened before in our country," said Dr. Arthur S. Blank, Jr., a Yale-trained psychiatrist who helped to get Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder recognized as a diagnosis after the Vietnam War.
The Army's top mental health expert, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, acknowledged that some deployment practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome back into combat, have been driven in part by a troop shortage.
"The challenge for us ... is that the Army has a mission to fight. And, as you know, recruiting has been a challenge," she said. "And so we have to weigh the needs of the Army, the needs of the mission, with the Soldiers' personal needs."
An Army-funded review of the mental health of soldiers who served from 2004 to 2009 found "one in five Army soldiers enter the service with a psychiatric disorder, and nearly half of all soldiers who tried suicide first attempted it before enlisting."
And it's not just new recruits. The Washington Post reported that a diagnosis and lack of treatment for PTSD was also no longer "a barrier to being redeployed" for troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that military mental health experts knew for years that redeployment without treatment could drastically increase the risk of damaging mental health conditions. In 2006, a Department of Veteran's Affairs study revealed that within just 30 days of redeployment Army and Marine Corps service members showed higher mental health concerns and higher probable PTSD rates. The risk increases with each additional deployment; one study found that 27 percent of soldiers reported serious combat stress or depression symptoms on their third deployment.
A 2010 PBS Frontline special highlighted how the surge -- in which more than 20,000 additional troops were committed to Iraq in 2007 on top of existing forces -- particularly forced the recruitment and redeployment of troops who would otherwise have been ineligible. The special focused on the Third Platoon, which was sent back to Iraq after only one year at home, and then had their deployment extended to fifteen months. "The military now acknowledges that is not enough time for soldiers to recuperate," PBS reported. "Our ultimate goal is one year deployed, two years home," Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, then-Army vice chief of staff, told PBS. "We have not reached that goal for all units. It's a supply and demand problem. I cannot do anything about the demand. I only have a finite supply. And when the demand goes up, and orders are given, we provide the soldiers."
A decade ago, the Associate Press reported that roughly 1 in 8 returning soldiers suffered from PTSD, according to the Army's first study of the mental health of troops who fought in Iraq. Now estimates place it closer to 2 in 10 -- a 60 percent increase. Suicide rates dipped last year from their alarming highs over the course of the wars. The rate of suicide (which can be sparked by a range of mental health issues) for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2009, while the rate for those who never deployed nearly tripled. Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that 22 veterans kill themselves every day.
There is some hope. President Obama issued an executive order in 2012 ordering Veterans Affairs to expand its suicide prevention and mental health services, and the Army has upped the number of mental-health professionals traveling with troops in the field. Following the previous Fort Hood shooting, in 2009, the Defense Department implemented numerous changes, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel remains committed to implementing those improvements in the system.
But according to Defense Department data, about 2.5 million Americans in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and related Reserve and National Guard units have been deployed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. 400,000 service members have completed three or more deployments. Nearly 37,000 have been deployed more than five times. An excellent in-depth look at veterans from The Washington Post, published just days before the recent Fort Hood shooting, noted that more than half of the millions who were deployed "struggle with physical or mental health problems stemming from their service."
With those numbers, is it really any wonder that the military has struggled to provide adequate support to Ivan Lopez and others like him?
Image via Flickr user Dave O using a Creative Commons License
Fox News' timeline of the administration's response to Benghazi omitted President Obama calling the attack an act of terror, which he did repeatedly in the days following the September 2012 tragedy.
During the April 2 congressional testimony of former Deputy Director of the CIA Mike Morell, in which Morell explained his role in helping craft the administration's response to the terrorist attacks in Libya, on-screen graphics labelled "Fox Facts" provided a timeline of the administration's actions in 2012. The timeline claimed that the White House did not call Benghazi a "terrorist attack" until September 20, instead saying the attacks "stemmed from protests":
Addressing the nation on September 12, the day immediately after the attacks, Obama said: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America."
The next day in Colorado, Obama again referred to the Benghazi attack as an act of terror.
Then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on Sunday political talk shows September 16, and based her remarks on the "talking points" which had been written by the CIA based on intelligence available at the time. Rice made clear during her appearances that her comments were based on "our current best assessment" that the Libya attacks were not premeditated, acknowledged that the perpetrators were "extremists," and said that future investigations and analyses by intelligence services "will tell us with certainty what transpired." The suggestion that the attacks stemmed from protests against an anti-Islam film came from those same CIA talking points.
Fox has attempted to rewrite the timeline of the terrorism comments multiple times, repeatedly insisting that the President and the White House did not accurately characterize the attacks, even going so far as to suggest the administration was engaged in a cover-up. During the 2012 election, Fox figures blasted CNN's Candy Crowley for accurately explaining that the President had immediately described the attacks as terror, with one Fox show airing a graphic of Crowley on fire.