Lisa Sendrow, whose experience of college sexual assault was dismissed by The Washington Post's George Will, slammed the columnist for silencing the voices of survivors and rejected the idea she received any privileges from her status as a survivor, as Will suggested. Instead, she said she was diagnosed with PTSD following her assault and received violent threats after her story was first reported.
Will's June 6 column sparked outrage from women's organizations, U.S. senators, and college rape survivors for suggesting that sexual assault victims -- or people who Will decided were only claiming to be sexual assault victims -- enjoyed "a coveted status that confers privileges." To make his point, Will relied on an anecdote from a Philadelphia magazine article about a young woman from Swarthmore College, implying that he didn't believe her story qualified as an actual incident of assault:
Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. "sexual assault." Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student "was in her room with a guy with whom she'd been hooking up for three months":
"They'd now decided -- mutually, she thought -- just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. 'I basically said, "No, I don't want to have sex with you." And then he said, "OK, that's fine" and stopped. . . . And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn't do anything -- I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.'"
Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped. Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of "sexual assault" victims.
Will didn't name the woman in his column, but Philadelphia magazine did -- this is Lisa Sendrow's story.
Sendrow graduated from Swarthmore in 2013 and now works as a legal assistant. She told Media Matters in an interview over the weekend that she first "tried to avoid the Will piece as much as possible," but after friends pressed her to read it she found the column "infuriating," and felt that his dismissal of her story was dangerous to survivors.
"No one wants to hear that you brought this on yourself," she said, while discussing her reaction to Will's piece. "No one wants to relive the experience or tell that story, when they haven't really had a chance to reflect. You can't really heal if people are telling you that it's your fault. But that's what Will did."
Sendrow explained that she has experienced sexual assault multiple times, but decided to officially report this particular experience and talk to Philadelphia magazine in part because at the time she worked as an advocate for survivors on a campus hotline. "I realized that I could no longer be an advocate and tell survivors to go to the college and report if I wasn't going myself." But the decision wasn't easy, and that contributed to her choosing to wait before initially reporting. "The fact that Will said I waited [to report the assault] -- most women wait awhile. You have to think about what happened, you have to heal."
Research from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that 1 in 5 women had been sexually assaulted while in college, and repeat victimization is common. Reporting rates are particularly low on campuses, and campus assailants tend to be repeat offenders. "This is the only sexual assault I've ever reported," Sendrow noted, "because I felt I was the most safe reporting this one."
She added that she "was also raised to think I put myself in this situation, and it took me a really long time. After hearing others' stories I realized it wasn't my fault -- I was raped. I didn't want to be diminished, I didn't want to be afraid."
While the Philadelphia magazine story clearly documented a serious example of sexual assault (notably, Sendrow specifically stated that she did not consent), Sendrow felt that the magazine took her story and others out of context and omitted key details, "which was exactly what we didn't want to happen." Her assault was "more violent than what [the Philadelphia magazine reporter] wrote. The way he made it seem was very small in comparison." Sendrow added that she received "very threatening" messages from her attacker days after the assault, which the Philadelphia story hadn't included. She had hoped that talking to the media would in part help other survivors by showing they no longer had to be afraid and that their stories couldn't be diminished, and was frustrated when that was "exactly what [Will's column] did."
Sendrow also vehemently rejected Will's claim that survivors might have a coveted status. "I absolutely have not received any privileges from sexual assault. [Will] has clearly never experienced the fear of sexual assault," she said. "He clearly has no idea how hard it is to sleep, to walk around, thinking at any moment this person that you live down the hall from could come out."
She saw a counselor and was diagnosed with PTSD following the assault, she said, which "is pretty common for a lot of survivors I know. It did not help my grades, it did not help my social status. I lost a lot of friends ... No one tells you, 'oh you're a survivor, let me give you a free lunch.' No one gives a shit about you. What benefit could we possibly get? Sometimes I feel like I can't have a real relationship because someone might touch me in the wrong way. How is that okay?"
Sendrow told Media Matters she received violent threats after the Philadelphia article was published. One threat said that she and the other women quoted in the story "deserved to be stoned." Others said "I should be raped again, or 'really' raped, that I was a slut, you know, using my sexual background to say I deserved it."
For Sendrow, most upsetting about Will's column was that "he was politicizing sexual assault, he's a conservative columnist, but why should sexual assault be political?" She criticized him for putting the term sexual assault in quotation marks, implying doubt in survivors' stories, and for using her personal story to "describe the experience of all survivors, and [making] it seem very small." She added, "it was mostly upsetting because I don't feel like survivors' voices were heard."
Will's full column, Sendrow said, made it feel "as if women don't have a voice. Anything bad that happens to a woman, it doesn't matter, because we're the ones who are at fault. And this is already what we're told every single day," she concluded. "We're raised all our lives to think this isn't an issue. But this is an issue. This is why people are triggered, this is why people have PTSD. People will go through their lives thinking rape culture isn't real."
In the end, Sendrow wondered whether Will would have been able to similarly dismiss her story of assault if it came from someone close to him.
"What if [Will's] daughter -- I don't know if he has a daughter -- but would he say to her, that this didn't happen?" she asked. "If she came to him crying, or even not crying, but if she came to him and told him this story, would he just say it wasn't real?"
For more than twenty years, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has been attacking Hillary Clinton from a shallow well of insults, routinely portraying the former secretary of state and first lady as an unlikeable, power-hungry phony.
Media Matters analyzed 195 columns by Dowd since November 1993 containing significant mentions of Clinton for whether they included any of 16 negative tropes in five categories (listed in the below methodology). 72 percent (141 columns) were negative towards Clinton -- only 8 percent (15 columns) were positive. The remaining 20 percent (39 columns) were neutral.
For example, Dowd has repeatedly accused Clinton of being an enemy to or betraying feminism (35 columns, 18 percent of those studied), power-hungry (51 columns, 26 percent), unlikeable (9 columns, 5 percent), or phony (34 columns, 17 percent). She's also attacked the Clintons as a couple in 43 columns (22 percent), many of which included Dowd's ham-handed attempts at psychoanalysis.
Dowd's latest column discussed Clinton's book tour for her new memoir Hard Choices. In a tortured comparison, Dowd compared Clinton to Elsa from the popular Disney movie Frozen. Dowd concluded, "Those close to them think that the queen of Hillaryland and the Snow Queen from Disney's 'Frozen' have special magical powers, but worry about whether they can control those powers, show their humanity and stir real warmth in the public heart."
Dowd described Clinton's memoir as "a testament to caution and calculation," an accusation she has lobbed at the former secretary state for decades. Dowd called Clinton "scarred and defensive" and asserted that she lives in an "ice palace." The Frozen comparison is one of dozens of pop culture references Dowd has invoked in her writing about Clinton.
Dowd has stuck to this script for over two decades now, and shows no signs of letting go.
Nearly 40 percent of Fox News' interview of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was devoted to the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, worth over $2 million in publicity value.
On June 17, Fox anchors Bret Baier and Greta Van Susteren interviewed Clinton during her book tour for her new memoir, Hard Choices. Baier started the interview by asking Clinton about the capture earlier that day of a suspect in the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities and focused on Benghazi for most of his questions.
According to a Media Matters analysis, Baier devoted 12 minutes and 16 seconds to questioning Clinton about Benghazi during the interview -- 38 percent of the total interview, which was 32 minutes and 10 seconds long. According to TVEyes' "national publicity value," the time Fox News devoted to Benghazi during the interview carried a value of approximately $2,169,986.34.
Previously, Media Matters found that just two weeks of Fox's obsessive Benghazi coverage in early May was worth over $124 million. TVEyes Media Monitoring Suite, a subscription-only database of television broadcasts, estimates the value of 30-second slots on any given program. Fox's June 17 interview with Clinton was estimated at $88,450.53 per 30 seconds.
Fox News personalities are questioning the timing of the Obama administration's capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected leader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, ignoring the complicated logistics involved in carrying out the dangerous apprehension in an unstable foreign country.
Conservatives have responded to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by attacking his father, questioning President Obama's sanity and patriotism, and calling for impeachment.
After reportedly leaving CBS News because of the network's supposed political bias, Sharyl Attkisson is now working for the conservative Heritage Foundation as a "senior independent contributor" to their online news outlet The Daily Signal.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported in March that sources said Attkisson left CBS because she "had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network's liberal bias," while some staffers characterized her work as "agenda-driven," leading "network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting." Attkisson had supported CBS' disastrous Benghazi reporting, which the network ultimately had to apologize for and retract, and CBS executives reportedly saw her as "wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue." She also released an error-ridden report on clean energy, and relied on partial information from House Republicans in a botched story on the Affordable Care Act.
Following her departure from the network, Attkisson attempted to paint herself has a victim of media bias, floating baseless conspiracy theories suggesting Media Matters had been paid to attack her work. She was unwilling to provide specifics, but claimed there was a "political aspect" to her troubles at CBS and that her supervisors gave in to "well organized" outside campaigns that complained about coverage. Conservative media outlets, particularly Fox News, rallied to Attkisson's defense, with personalities showering praise on her shoddy work and indicating they wanted her to join the conservative network.
The Daily Signal debuted June 3 with a report from Attkisson and the first of three planned interviews with her, in which she said she hoped she could "bring under-served stories to a broad audience through an editorial process that doesn't censor, that doesn't try to direct a story to go in a certain unnatural direction."
The conservative outlet has said it plans to do "true, straight-down-the-middle journalism," while simultaneously attracting a younger audience that "will find themselves persuaded by the conservative commentary and analysis that will draw on the think tank's scholars and researchers." The Heritage Foundation, which the New York Times described as providing "the blueprint for the Republican Party's ideas in Washington," recently lost some if its "most prominent scholars." The Times added, "research that seemed to undermine Heritage's political goals has been squelched." The think tank also started the political group Heritage Action, which has proven to lean so far to the right that some congressional Republicans have reportedly distanced themselves from the group.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that The Daily Signal will use Heritage's blog The Foundry as inspiration, which has in the past attempted to inject "its worldview into the mainstream press."
UPDATE: Media Matters founder David Brock released the following statement:
Sharyl Attkisson began auditioning for this role long before she left CBS. Her shoddy reporting on Benghazi, health care reform, and the Obama administration was relentlessly hyped by conservatives who then celebrated her hollow claims that her departure from the network was the result of liberal bias.
Media Matters has rebutted error-ridden reporting from Attkisson when she was part of the mainstream media and we look forward to continuing to do so now that she has found a happy home in the right wing.
ABC News' Jonathan Karl hyped misleading accusations from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the Obama administration obstructed investigations into Benghazi by not releasing an email showing the White House contacted YouTube with concerns about an anti-Islam video as the attacks unfolded. But the White House's contacts with YouTube were reported by ABC News mere days after the attacks and acknowledged by the White House.
In the days immediately following the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and other members of the administration described the assault as developing from spontaneous protests against an anti-Islam video that had been posted on YouTube, which had inspired riots across the Muslim world. That conclusion was consistent with the analysis of the intelligence community at the time. But because it was later revealed that there was no protest in Benghazi, conservatives led by Fox News have since claimed the Obama administration engaged in a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
In a May 22 post, Karl quoted Issa's selective leak of a single sentence from a State Department email sent on the night of the attack. That sentence explains that the White House was reaching out to YouTube with concerns that the attack stemmed from the anti-Islam video. Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claimed the State Department "has attempted to obstruct" the email's disclosure:
A still-classified State Department e-mail says that one of the first responses from the White House to the Benghazi attack was to contact YouTube to warn of the "ramifications" of allowing the posting of an anti-Islamic video, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The subject line of the e-mail, which was sent at 9:11 p.m. Eastern Time on the night of the attack, is "Update on Response to actions - Libya." The was written hours before the attack was over.
Issa has asked the White House to declassify and release the document. In the meantime he has inserted a sentence from the e-mail in the Congressional Record.
"White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic] to advice ramification of the posting of the Pastor Jon video," the e-mail reads, according to Issa.
"The e-mail shows the White House had hurried to settle on a false narrative -- one at odds with the conclusions reached by those on the ground -- before Americans were even out of harm's way or the intelligence community had made an impartial examination of available evidence," Issa said.
Issa is calling on the White House to release an unclassified version of the document.
"While the information I have cited from this e-mail is clearly unclassified, the State Department has attempted to obstruct its disclosure by not providing Congress with an unclassified copy of this document," Issa said.
Conservative media hyped a misleading chart attempting to show that the number of Americans receiving federal disability benefits has reached unsustainable highs, comparing the figure of recipients to the population of random countries around the world. Accurate charts putting the figure in reasonable context, however, show that the number of needy Americans in this safety net program is astonishingly low.
On May 21 Fox News and the Drudge Report hyped the findings of conservative news site CNS which pushed the false idea that too many Americans are currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, stating that the number has reached "a new all-time record" and featuring a graph blasting the fact that more people get disability benefits than live in Greece and Tunisia:
There are also more people in the state of Ohio than Greece or Tunisia, but that isn't cause for alarm. A more accurate graph showing the number of Americans who receive this necessary benefit shows that compared to the total number of Americans who have disabilities, and the total population of the U.S., relatively few individuals are on this government program:
CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly said his network would not "to be shamed into" covering the new special House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi by "others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums."
Zucker discussed his plans for the network at the Deadline Club's May 19 annual awards dinner during an interview with New York Times television reporter Bill Carter, Capital New York reported. When asked about the new select committee formed by House Republicans this month to yet again investigate the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities, Zucker criticized "other news organizations" who attempt to "shame" journalists, adding, "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it":
And will it cover the special committee hearings by House Republicans to probe the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack? Zucker told Carter he didn't know yet.
"We're not going to be shamed into it by others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums to shame other news organizations into covering something," he said. "If it's of real news value, we'll cover it."
Fox News has been the primary media force behind the Benghazi hoax since September 2012. In addition to consistently pushing phony outrage and misinformation about Benghazi, Fox has frequently issued attacks on "mainstream media" for supposedly failing to adequately cover the story. The network began pushing for the establishment of a select committee in July 2013; after one was announced in early May, the network bragged that their coverage was in part responsible. Fox has since attempted to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the investigation.
Despite their excitement, the questions Fox insists the new committee will "answer" have already been well-documented and explained, and given that the attacks have already been examined by an independent State Department panel as well as at least five House and three Senate committees, whether the new committee finds anything Zucker would deem "of real news value" remains to be seen.
The New York Post took quotations out of context to push the sexist smear that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's wife Chirlane McCray was a "bad mom," after McCray admitted that she initially found balancing children and her career to be challenging.
A May 18 Post article featuring the headline, "NYC's first lady: I was a bad mom" claimed that McCray admitted in a New York magazine profile that she "was unable to embrace motherhood and initially neglected Chiara," her daughter. The paper went on to claim that McCray's disclosure was "bound to horrify most moms":
In a startlingly frank confession, Mayor Bill de Blasio's wife says she was unable to embrace motherhood and initially neglected Chiara, who last year dropped the bombshell that she was in treatment for abusing booze and pot.
"I was 40 years old. I had a life. Especially with Chiara -- will we feel guilt forevermore? Of course, yes," McCray told New York magazine for its cover story this week.
"But the truth is, I could not spend every day with her. I didn't want to do that. I looked for all kinds of reasons not to do it."
The disclosure -- bound to horrify most moms -- shatters the carefully crafted image of de Blasio's close-knit family, which helped vault him into office.
The Post ran the article as its May 19 cover story:
But the full context of the New York magazine profile makes clear that while McCray initially found "as with so many women" that juggling new-motherhood with her career was a challenge, she became fully "committed" and was "a devoted and relaxed parent" -- a far cry from having "neglected" her child (emphasis added):