Right-wing media are painting a false picture of the education debate in New York City, portraying Mayor Bill de Blasio as against "minority children" while ignoring his city-wide push for universal pre-kindergarten (pre-K), a program that has been shown to improve minority students' academic performance.
On February 27, de Blasio announced that he would block three charter schools from operating in city public school space rent-free. Having inherited 45 total co-locations from his predecessor Michael Bloomberg, the mayor approved 36 of them, including 14 of the 17 charter schools that applied. This decision resulted in a firestorm of attacks from conservative media who distorted facts to claim de Blasio is waging a "war on children."
Those attacks have shifted to "de Blasio vs. minority children," a frame circling multiple right-wing media outlets, including National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, and The Washington Times. NRO's Mona Charen accused de Blasio of "training his fire on the poorest and most vulnerable," while Thomas Sowell's column, published in the Examiner and the Times, claimed that "If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left's avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now."
Pitting de Blasio against minorities isn't a new smear tactic for right-wing media -- the New York Post accused de Blasio of a "war on minorities" roughly one week after he clinched the Democratic primary last September.
Multiple studies have found universal pre-K to be highly beneficial. According to the Center for American Progress, three longitudinal studies on early childhood education "showed not only immediate academic gains but also benefits into adulthood, such as reduced need for public assistance, lower crime rates, and higher earnings." CAP also noted that recent studies have shown pre-K to be effective in "boosting school readiness and academic achievement," including gains in language, literacy, and math skills.
The results from a study on Georgia's pre-K program released last week held that the state's program "produces significant positive outcomes for children, regardless of family income level or English language skills." The scientist who led the evaluation claimed that the study's findings "demonstrate compelling evidence for the impact of Georgia's statewide early education program on children's readiness skills."
What's more, universal pre-K has been shown to improve the academic skills of minority students. The New America Foundation stated in previewing an October 2013 report detailing the benefits of pre-K that "early education is one of the most powerful ways to close the achievement gap between low-income and minority children and their more-advantaged peers." In addition, New America Media, in an article titled "For Minority Kids, Preschool Narrows Education Gap," reported on the benefits of pre-K for African-American and Latino students:
Research on the Chicago Child-Care Centers initiative, published in mid-2011, also emphasizes the positive effects of early education. The study, conducted among 1,400 low-income African American children who were observed for 28 years, show an increased high school graduation rate (50% compared to 39%), lower participation in special education (14% versus 25%), and better results on standardized tests of language and mathematics.
Among Hispanics, data from the Universal Pre-K program in Oklahoma conducted during the early 2000s by the Center for Research on Children in the United States (CROCUS) at Georgetown University, indicates that Latino preschoolers benefited the most from quality preschool. While all students showed improvements in letter and word recognition (+52%), spelling (+27%) and mathematical problems (+21), the progress among Latino children was even higher, at +79%, + 39 and + 54%, respectively.
Image via Herald Post using a Creative Commons License
Fox News has an enemy in the education debate, and that enemy is teachers unions.
In the weeks since New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would block three charter schools from using public school space rent-free, conservative media have sent themselves into a tizzy distorting the mayor's record, accusing him of waging a "war on children" and calling him "Comrade Bill." Perhaps no outlet was more indignant about de Blasio's decision than Fox News, whose hosts and pundits seemed incapable of discussing the story without blaming teachers unions, devoid of any evidence or support.
Watch below for Fox's "All Speculation, No Corroboration" approach to blaming teachers:
Fox's misguided outrage is unsurprising given the network's track record on unions. Its hosts and commentators have previously asked if "teachers unions [are] ruining your kids' education" and referred to labor unions as "parasites" that are "not doing anything" for workers. Fox host Dana Perino even suggested earlier this year that instead of making an "anti-NRA" film, filmmaker Harvey Weinstein could better "tackle gun violence if he would take on the teachers unions."
Multiple Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets, including the New York Post, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal, have launched false attacks against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's record on charter schools to paint him as waging a "war on children" and "poor kids," all while ignoring the benefits of de Blasio's push for universal pre-K in the city.
The attacks on de Blasio from Murdoch's media came in response to the announcement on February 27 that he blocked three New York City charter schools from using public school space rent-free. News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch himself kicked off the attacks with two incendiary tweets on February 27, asking how "de Blasio [can] do this" the same day President Obama unveiled his initiative for young boys and men of color, and falsely claiming that de Blasio's move "hurts poor families who only want a better school for their kids."
On Fox News, On The Record host Greta Van Susteren claimed the next day that "New York City democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, he just declared war on children," calling him "selfish, really selfish" and accusing him of "picking on the poor kids," asking, "Who could be that rotten?" On the March 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox correspondent Charles Gasparino accused "comrade Bill" of wanting "essentially to end charter schools." Later that day, The Real Story host Gretchen Carlson said that de Blasio "ax[ed] three planned charter schools," asking one of her guests, "Why is this an outrage in your mind that Mayor de Blasio is going to strip kids from going to charter schools?"
In print, the New York Post likened de Blasio's charter school move to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal (in which the governor's office engaged in political retribution), calling it "Chartergate" and writing that "de Blasio is taking good schools away from disadvantaged minority children to get back at his enemy." The Wall Street Journal editorial board called for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to defend the closed schools, claiming, "National Democrats are silent as Bill de Blasio kills charter schools."
But the facts tell a different story. According to The New York Times, de Blasio said "he would block three charter schools from using space inside New York City public school buildings." The Times explained that "[i]n reviewing 49 proposals to share school space approved under [former New York City Mayor] Mr. Bloomberg, he left untouched a majority of plans affecting charter schools." He did not "end" them or "kill" them or wage "war," as Murdoch and his media outlets claim. Furthermore, city officials told the Times that some of the plans, which were approved by Bloomberg, "would have required elementary school students to attend class inside high school buildings, and others would have required cutting programs for students with disabilities."
What right-wing media conveniently ignore in characterizations of de Blasio as picking on "poor kids" is his push for universal pre-K in New York City, which would mean greater early education access for every child regardless of their income status. The New York Times reported last week that de Blasio estimated "up to 29,000 [pre-K] seats could be opened at schools and so-called community based organizations" using his plan to fund pre-K through a higher state income tax. And as Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out in January, de Blasio's plan "reflects growing evidence ... that high-quality, universal access to pre-K can make a significant difference in the lives of children, especially those from low-income families."
Don't expect to get the facts from Rupert Murdoch's media outlets any time soon -- their history of inflated rhetoric about de Blasio ensures his education plans will continue getting the fact-free right-wing treatment.
When it comes to public education, Fox News loves to demonize the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards for K-12 students crafted by governors and state school officials across the country. The network has falsely characterized the standards as everything from too difficult to partisan brainwashing, and given credence to the lie that Common Core is a federally mandated program.
On February 26, while discussing Obamacare enrollment numbers, Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert invoked Common Core, saying, "I think they're doing Common Core math down in Washington. It doesn't all add up. You just throw some numbers together."
Nauert's misleading comparison is just the latest in a string of attacks on Common Core from Fox News, making it apparent that the network fails to understand how the standards work.
In a misleading tease for a segment about universal pre-kindergarten, Fox News host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that President Obama has vowed "to mandate universal preschool programs."
On the February 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson said before cutting to commercial break, "President Obama vowing to mandate universal preschool programs" and asked if the government has a "right to control your children." Obama's push for early education programs, however, does not include mandating them, as he specifically laid out in his State of the Union address when he asked Congress "to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four-year-old." And as Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic points out, "[P]articipation in the program would be strictly voluntary. Nobody is mandating that anybody go to preschool."
A six-part series by New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick destroyed several myths about the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, myths often propagated by conservative media and their allies in Congress to politicize the attack against the Obama administration.
Since the September 2012 attacks, right-wing media have seized upon various inaccurate, misleading, or just plain wrong talking points about Benghazi. Some of those talking points made their way into the mainstream, most notably onto CBS' 60 Minutes, earning the network the Media Matters' 2013 "Misinformer of the Year" title for its botched report.
Kirkpatrick's series, titled "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," debunks a number of these right-wing talking points based on "months of investigation" and "extensive interviews" with those who had "direct knowledge of the attack." Among other points, Kirkpatrick deflates the claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the attacks and that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
Fox News, scores of Republican pundits, and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), among others, dragged then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice through the mud for citing talking points that mentioned an anti-Islamic YouTube video on Sunday morning news programs following the attacks. Despite right-wing media claims to the contrary, however, Kirkpatrick stated that the attack on the Benghazi compound was in "large part" "fueled" by the anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube. He wrote (emphasis added):
The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO's extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers. A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.
Another talking point that right-wing media used to accuse the Obama administration of a political cover-up was the removal of Al Qaeda from Rice's morning show talking points. Kirkpatrick, however, affirmed in his NYTimes report that Al Qaeda was not involved in the attack in Benghazi (emphasis added):
But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda's international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker's boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.
Kirkpatrick also dispelled the notion that the attack on the compound was carefully planned, writing that "the attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs."
This NYTimes report should lay to rest these long-debunked yet oft-repeated talking points on the part of both right-wing media and their conservative allies.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Right-wing media figures capitalized on provocative advertisements for Obamacare from non-profit groups in Colorado to attack a woman who uses free birth control as a "slut," "whore," and "prostitute."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson used the "female reproductive system" as a metaphor to chide Washington, D.C. Republicans over defunding Obamacare.
In a September 17 post at his RedState blog, Erickson wrote that he "cannot use the word" he wanted to use to describe Washington Republicans who are supposedly "surrender[ing]" on the issue of defunding Obamacare. Accompanied by a photo of Code Pink protesters dressed as female reproductive parts, Erickson likened the GOP to the word he apparently couldn't use:
More Americans oppose Obamacare now than at any time. As rhetoric on defunding Obamacare has gone up, so has Republican popularity and opposition to Obamacare. A full quarter of the American public wants Congress to actually blow up Obamacare. When is the last time a full quarter of the whole population wanted Congress to do any one thing?
More than half want Obamacare either destroyed or substantially changed.
But the GOP, its allies in the press and pundit core, and its very leadership are such [insert euphemism of choice related to the female reproductive system] that they'd rather plan their surrender before making their retreat. [emphasis added]
Erickson has a history of sexist comparisons, including referring to the first night of the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 as the "Vagina Monologues." Recently, he claimed that people who defend female breadwinners are "anti-science" because males are "typically...the dominant role," and referred to Texas State Senator Wendy Davis as "Abortion Barbie."
The Daily Caller launched numerous sexist attacks against Crossfire co-host Stephanie Cutter in its "first, and hopefully last," review of CNN's newly resurrected debate show.
After Crossfire's premiere on September 9, Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley wrote a review of the show that focused largely on denigrating the "catty air-kissing backstabbing" Cutter while mostly ignoring co-host Newt Gingrich and guests Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). In roughly 600 words, Howley made the following five observations about Cutter:
The Daily Caller was founded by Tucker Carlson, who co-hosted Crossfire's original incarnation from 2001 to 2004. The show was canceled shortly after a guest appearance by The Daily Show host Jon Stewart.
The Associated Press reported that Clear Channel has lifted the ban they previously imposed on ads for a women's health clinic for its stations in Wichita, Kansas.
Media Matters reported on July 26 that the Trust Women Foundation (TWF), which runs the South Wind Women's Center in Wichita, confirmed that two radio ads for the clinic were pulled from local Clear Channel FM stations one day after their initial broadcast. TWF was reportedly told that the ads had been pulled due to complaints to the station, but at least four other radio and print outlets in Wichita ran similar ads for the Center with no report of complaints.
The Center operates in the same location where Dr. George Tiller had operated his own clinic. Tiller, who was the target of both an intense campaign of demagoguery by conservative media and a campaign of terrorist violence by anti-abortion extremists for his willingness to perform abortions in a state where such services are scarce, was shot to death in a Wichita church in May 2009.
In response to the ban, non-profit group Women, Action and The Media posted a statement reportedly issued by Wichita Clear Channel's General Manager Rob Burton which said, "KZSN has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience." Burton's statement was surprising given that Clear Channel's affiliate syndicates Rush Limbaugh, who has a long history of divisive and hateful rhetoric on women's health.
The AP's August 27 report noted that Clear Channel "reversed course as supporters of the South Wind Women's Center prepared to deliver a petition Wednesday with 68,000 signatures," and that "based on a 'thoughtful discussion' with the clinic, Clear Channel said it made sense to take a closer look at the criteria it uses to determine whether an advertisement should air."