Fox News and the Daily Caller claimed that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida "benefit" black Americans, ignoring the fact that fatal shootings with black victims were more likely to be found "justified" than those with white victims, and that black shooters who killed whites were the most likely to be found guilty.
Stand Your Ground laws (Also termed "Shoot First" or Kill At Will) allow individuals who believe their life or safety is in danger to use lethal force in self-defense without being required to retreat in certain situations. Such laws have been passed in more than 20 states, and attained notoriety due to their role in the Florida trial over the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. The laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims that has triggered an inquiry by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the laws while speaking at the NAACP national convention on July 16, suggesting that they encourage "violent situations to escalate in public" and have "victimized too many who are innocent."
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade attacked Holder for his comments on July 17, calling the remarks "divisive" and citing the Daily Caller to claim "when it comes to the Stand Your Ground rule ... the law has helped African Americans" in Florida. According to the Daily Caller, black individuals "benefit" from Florida's Stand Your Ground law at a "disproportionate rate" because those who used the defense were successful 55 percent of the time, while white individuals were only successful in 53 percent of cases (including pending cases).
But the data the Daily Caller cited, from The Tampa Bay Times, reveals that contrary to the claim that blacks largely "benefit" or have been "helped" by Florida's Stand Your Ground law, those who killed black people and cited Stand Your Ground got off at a higher rate than those who killed white people. Additionally, a comprehensive review of Stand Your Ground states found that black individuals citing the statute whose victims were white were less likely to go free than any other perpetrators.
For fatal cases that have reached a verdict in Florida, the attack was more likely to be considered justified if the victims were black (78 percent) than if the victims were white (56 percent), according to the Times database.
Research conducted by John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, has also suggested that blacks do not necessarily "benefit" from such laws. Roman found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, "the killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks." Roman found that white people were 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than another white person across Stand Your Ground states. He found that white shooters with black victims were disproportionately more likely to be found justified in non-stand your ground states as well, but to a lesser extent.
Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation similarly showed that nationwide, 34 percent of cases involving a white shooter and a black victim were deemed justifiable, while "in similar situations, when the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was ruled justifiable only 3.3% of the time."
Media are misleadingly hyping Republican anti-choice rhetoric to promote the idea that legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is "reasonable." In fact, many severe health complications for the mother and fetus are only discovered during or after the 20th week of pregnancy, and research has found that financial hardship forces many women to delay the procedure.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is doubling down on his attacks on Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, calling Martin an "enraged black man-child" and a "Skittles hoodie boy."
On July 13 a jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Martin. Zimmerman had said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin, who was carrying a bag of Skittles and wearing a hoodie, during an altercation in Zimmerman's gated community on February 26, 2012.
In a July 14 column for conservative news website Rare, Nugent called Martin a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe" who was "responsible for his bad decisions," claiming that the "only racism on that night was perpetrated by Trayvon Martin, and everybody knows it."
Nugent doubled down in a July 15 World Net Daily column titled "What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Do?" describing Martin as "an enraged black man-child" and a "dope-smoking, dope-peddling, gangsta wannabe, Skittles hoodie boy:
[A]ll thinking people are very relieved that George Zimmerman was found not guilty by the intelligent, justice-driven women of the jury, in spite of the façade presented by the prosecution and forced by the threat of racism by everyone from President Obama, to Eric Holder, the New Black Panther gangstas, NAACP, excuse makers of every stripe and even the governor of Florida, but still this innocent man who simply defended his life from a violent, life-threatening, bloodying, head-and-face slamming attack by an enraged black man-child has so wrongly paid an inexplicable price financially and emotionally.
The parents of Trayvon Martin get a huge million-dollar-plus payoff from the gated community just to shut them up, and so obviously to fend off the ambulance chaser racist lawyers for the simple fact that their son was guilty of a vicious, violent attack on a man for no good reason whatsoever.
What did the gated community have to do with any of it? Where is a judge capable of making a justice call in this travesty? Does anyone care at all anymore?
The entire system is screwed up.
But George Zimmerman and his entire family, innocent of any wrongdoing, have lost everything and will be in debt for a long, long time for having to fight the trumped-up charges that he "profiled" and/or set out to murder the poor, helpless, dope-smoking, dope-peddling, gangsta wannabe, Skittles hoodie boy.
Fox News' Stuart Varney ignored the recent economic crisis to attack the Obama administration for increased enrollment in food security programs that help feed children and keep many Americans out of poverty.
On the July 9 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney accused the Obama administration of transforming "America from a dynamic prosperous growth economy into a bureaucracy that redistributes wealth." Varney claimed that increased enrollment in a variety of food security programs -- including those that are intended to help low-income women and children who were found to be at nutritional risk -- was a sign of economic failure, claiming that "101 million Americans currently receive some kind of food aid from the federal government":
VARNEY: That's an extraordinary situation. You've got nearly 47 million on food stamps. That's one in six of the population. You've got 32 million getting school lunches, free or at virtually no cost. 10 Million get school breakfast free or at virtually no cost. Women, infants, and children, the WIC program, 8 million there. The milk and summer food program goes to 2 million people. Farmers' market coupons are given away to nearly 2 million women and children.
Varney's focus on the number of people receiving food assistance misses the point: these programs succeed in helping to alleviate hunger and poverty for millions of Americans, including children.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, kept millions of people "out of poverty in 2011, including 2.1 million children," while lifting more children above 50 percent of the poverty line than any other benefit program. The school lunch, breakfast, and summer food programs provide free or reduced price meals to children who live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level, and are critical for reducing child hunger. According to research highlighted by Michigan State University, child food insecurity is "associated with significantly poorer cognitive functioning, decreased school attendance, or diminished academic achievement." Finally, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program and the Farmer's Market Nutrition Program protect low-income mothers and children under the age of five who are assessed to be at nutritional risk by providing them with access to affordable, healthy food.
In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 16.7 million children. According to Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief charity, "households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children," and 36.8 percent of households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average were headed by single mothers.
Research has shown that children born to low-income women who had access to food stamps grew up with better health outcomes than those who did not have access to the program, and a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that SNAP benefits reduced the "prevalence, depth, and severity" of poverty between 2000 and 2009. The USDA also found that the positive effects of SNAP were especially strong during the recession, which Varney ignored. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over 65 percent of the growth in SNAP benefits from 2007 to 2011 could be attributed to the weak economy.
As the economy improves, SNAP spending as a share of GDP is projected to shrink to 1995 levels by 2019. But Varney hid that positive indicator in favor of continuing Fox's campaign to demonize these programs that reduce child hunger and keep children out of poverty. Fox News has previously asked if children should have to work for their school meals, and Fox News host Andrea Tantaros celebrated Thanksgiving by mocking food security programs as a diet plan.
Fox News and The Wall Street Journal stoked fears that a delay in the verification systems of health care reform would lead to fraud, while ignoring the fact that the government will conduct audits before implementing a stronger verification system and will heavily fine individuals who misrepresent their eligibility.
The Washington Post reported on July 5 that until 2015, the federal government will not require 16 states and the District of Columbia -- which are running their own health insurance marketplaces -- to verify whether an individual accurately reported that they currently do not receive affordable health insurance from their employer and are eligible for health care benefits under the new law. These benefits include tax subsidies for Americans who earn less than 400 percent of the poverty line and some additional Medicaid coverage.
On the July 8 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed the government "is not going to be able to verify whether or not you have the right income standards so they're going to trust people. What could possibly go wrong?" Fox News host Bret Baier, who was a guest on the program, further claimed the government was "not going to check to see if anybody qualifies to receive benefits" and suggested the move would lead to misspent funds, saying "you could see taxpayer dollars going out the window." Co-host Gretchen Carlson agreed the program would be "rife with fraud," while Doocy suggested this system would result in "a quarter of a trillion dollars" of fraud:
DOOCY: If you're just going to trust people to tell the truth, how is that going to work out when it comes to fraudsters if you look at the Earned Income Tax Credits. Right now, they say that about 25 percent of the people who get them don't deserve them. They should not be applying for them. But they get them. So if you use that same metric, you could probably lose, over 10 years, a quarter of a trillion dollars to fraud on this program.
The claim that this delay could result in fraudulent spending echoed a July 7 Wall Street Journal editorial, which claimed that "millions of individuals [could] decide they're eligible for the subsidies," resulting in "as much as $250 billion in improper payments in its first decade."
As state legislatures debate 300 new bills to further restrict women's constitutional right to legal and safe abortions, media should know that abortion is already restricted in the U.S. at unprecedented levels, that experts say it is medically unnecessary to require clinics to obtain hospital admitting privileges and adopt surgical center standards, and that limited access to abortions severely harms low-income women.
A Wall Street Journal news article stoked fears that immigration reform would lead to an increase in unemployment, while ignoring the Congressional Budget Office's assessment that in the long-term there will be no effect on the employment rate.
A July 2 Journal article relied on man-on-the-street interviews and opinion polling to hype the fears of some Democratic voters that immigration reform could "squeeze the wages and jobs of native-born workers." Though the article cited a former chief economist at the Department of Labor who explained that immigration makes it easier for companies to hire U.S. workers, the article ignored a CBO report which found that immigration reform will have no long-term effect on unemployment and wages.
In fact, according to the CBO report, while enacting the immigration reform bill would cause a temporary increase of 0.1 percent in unemployment over the next five years because of the expanding workforce, there would be little effect in the long-term and "no effect on the unemployment rate after 2020." From the report:
In the long run, the actual unemployment rate in the economy tends to be close to its natural rate. The natural rate of unemployment of the additional immigrants would be comparable, on average, to that of the current population, CBO expects, so there would be little effect on the unemployment rate in the long run. Thus, in the long run, the number of employed people would increase by the same percentage as the growth in the labor force--by about 3½ percent in 2023 and by about 5 percent in 2033, CBO estimates.
Furthermore, the CBO found that average wages would increase by 2033, and that over the long term immigration reform would boost capital investment and raise productivity of labor and capital.
The Journal itself has previously acknowledged the economic benefits of immigration reform. Indeed a June 20 Journal editorial noted that the CBO report found the proposed legislation was "pro-growth" and would result in rising standards of living, higher wages, and increased productivity:
CBO also sensibly notes that newcomers to the U.S. tend to belong to either the least- or most-skilled groups of workers, so any harm for most average Americans is nonexistent. In fact they will benefit from rising standards of living and higher wages that faster growth makes possible.
New workers with lower skills or less education like farm hands or bar backs fill gaps in the U.S. labor market and will see their earnings rise over time. Let's also not forget that the Senate bill greatly increases H-1B visa quotas and green cards for tech and science grads, so the U.S. will see an influx of the engineers, Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs who generate the innovations that increase economic output faster. The CBO cites the large body of empirical literature on such "positive spillover effects" as a major reason productivity will rise.
Right-wing media misleadingly hyped a congressional hearing to falsely claim that disability fraud is leading to increased claims and depleting the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. However, testimony from a Social Security Administration official at the hearing revealed that fraud is not a major problem in the disability program and demographic changes explain increased disability claims.
The Washington Post's Melinda Henneberger hid the facts behind a defeated Texas bill that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks, which a majority of Texans opposed and which would have unconstitutionally limited access to safe and legal women's health services.
On June 25, a Democratic filibuster during a special session of the Texas state senate effectively blocked a bill that would have banned all abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill included exceptions for cases when the life of the mother was threatened but not for rape or incest, and if it had passed Texas would have some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country. Governor Rick Perry has called a second special session to take up the bill again, starting July 1.
Henneberger claimed in her Washington Post blog She The People that while she admired Wendy Davis, the Democratic senator who carried out the filibuster, she still supported the bill, in part because more Americans and American women favor than oppose restricting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy:
Because no matter how many thousands of times abortion rights supporters repeat that the bill's ban on abortions after 20 weeks is anti-woman -- hateful in effect and by design -- that's just the opposite of the way I see it. And it isn't how a majority of Americans, or American women, see it, either:
In a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, Americans said they favor a bill like the Texas measure, 48 percent to 44 percent. More than half of politically unaffiliated Americans -- 53 percent -- backed such a bill. And 50 percent of women said they were in favor compared to 46 percent of men.
But a recent poll revealed that in fact a majority of Texans do not support the restrictions on abortion the bill proposed. According to the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR), a representative poll conducted June 17 - 19 found that 51 percent of Texans opposed the legislation. 63 percent said the state has enough restrictions on abortion already, and 80 percent did not want the special session to deal with matters of abortion at all. Fifty-two percent of Texans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and 74 percent -- including a majority of Republicans and Independents -- say private medical decisions about abortion should not be made by politicians. Fifty-seven percent do not trust the governor or the legislature to make decisions about women's healthcare.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) criticized The Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto's "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault," following Taranto's claim that efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military constitutes a "war on men."
In a June 17 WSJ column, Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that Sen. McCaskill's efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men." McCaskill has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who ignored her legal advisors to overturn the ruling of an Air Force jury that found an officer guilty of sexual assault. Taranto blamed the victim of the assault for "recklessness" and claimed that McCaskill's work was an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
McCaskill responded to Taranto on June 27 in an op-ed at the Daily Beast, writing that he has a "disregard for the severity of sexual assault" and highlighting his "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault":
Mr. Taranto says that I'm involved in a crusade to "criminalize male sexuality." For decades, from my time as a courtroom prosecutor and throughout my career in public service, I have indeed done my best to criminalize violence. And I have never subscribed to Mr. Taranto's bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault as somehow being a two-way street between a victim and an assailant.
Mr. Taranto's arguments contribute to an environment that purposely places blame in all the wrong places, and has made the current culture and status quo an obstruction to sorely needed change.
My colleagues and I are fighting not to criminalize men, but to bring the cowards who commit sexual assault to justice. And our fight won't stop until we give the brave men and women of our military the resources and justice they deserve.