If only Santa Claus were a homeless child.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly sparked outrage this week after insisting that Santa and Jesus were white:
KELLY: By the way, for the kids at home, Santa just is white but this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. Santa is what he is and we are debating this because someone wrote about it.
Those controversial comments came in reference to a thought-provoking post penned by Slate columnist Aisha Harris that appeared under the headline "Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore." Harris' piece is worth reading.
In short, she explains the confusion she faced as a child reconciling the ubiquitous images of a white Santa Claus with the one she experienced in her own neighborhood, where Santa Claus was black. It's a compelling take on the way media images and iconic cultural touchstones can marginalize:
I remember feeling slightly ashamed that our black Santa wasn't the "real thing." Because when you're a kid and you're inundated with the imagery of a pale seasonal visitor--and you notice that even some black families decorate their houses with white Santas--you're likely to accept the consensus view, despite your parents' noble intentions.
In an increasingly pluralistic society, Harris asks, shouldn't our seasonal icon be more representative of society?
It's worth asking why it is so important to Megyn Kelly that her audience (and the children she imagines are watching The Kelly File) maintain their conceptualization of Santa Claus as a white man. It's not as if Harris concluded that Santa should be a black woman. She proposed replacing Santa with a penguin.
Kelly helped cut her teeth at Fox as a member of Bill O'Reilly's culture warriors. In that context, her comments help explain the culture she is helping to defend: her own.
At the very least, Kelly's reaction to a non-white Santa demonstrates a troubling lack of empathy, but it is an empathy deficit that is becoming a pattern with Kelly, who went to great pains to portray herself as a non-ideological, serious reporter when she took over a primetime show.
Kelly has received some credit for speaking "truth to power" inside the Fox News bubble, in part getting accolades for aggressively challenging two of her male colleagues after they criticized female breadwinners as symptomatic of what is wrong with America in the 21st century. And there is no doubt that Kelly deserved credit for using her position of power to reject misogyny.
But her record of using that position of power to defend non-majority populations is sketchy when it comes to experiences outside her own.
After Kelly pushed back on one of her guests on Fox for referring to maternity leave as "a racket," Jon Stewart skewered her for having previously dismissed society's interest in making sure that workers have a basic level of benefits. Stewart demonstrated that Kelly's position on the danger of entitlements being "baked in the cake" was at odds with her newfound defense of workers being entitled to maternity leave.
In other words, the empathy deficit remained. It's just that Kelly's own culture now included maternity leave.
Kelly's warfare on behalf of her own culture taps into broader power dynamics that are at play throughout the media. As Media Matters has documented, broadcast and cable news is disproportionately the home of white men. And particularly in the arena of nightly television news, it is the dominion of highly paid elites who have the ability to set the agenda.
So it's important to look at the stories that don't get covered.
Megyn Kelly's rejection of a non-white Santa was one of 13 references to Santa Claus on major cable or broadcast news programs that night, according to Nexis. And the reasoning behind her discussion, Kelly explained on air, was that "somebody wrote about it."
The same justification could have been given for a discussion about homeless children. Yet by contrast, there were three references to homelessness that night. One of those came from a Fox host complaining that a Duck Dynasty star had been mistaken for a homeless person at a Caribbean hotel.
None of those segments told the story of Dasani, an adolescent homeless girl who formed the center of "Invisible Child," a New York Times expose by Andrea Elliot on homelessness in New York City running this week. According to Nexis, Dasani's story was the focus of only a single segment during evening and primetime news this week.
The Fox News regular broadly credited with creating the false accusation that President Obama omitted the words "under God" from the Gettysburg Address used the same false attack to ask whether Obama would have cut out the words "under Allah" if they had appeared in President Lincoln's famous speech.
Conservative media outlets were forced to issue embarrassing corrections Tuesday after running with the false accusation that President Obama excised the phrase "under God" when reciting the Gettysburg Address for a project organized by filmmaker Ken Burns. Burns has said that he asked Obama to read an early draft of the address, a draft that did not contain the phrase "under God."
Chris Plante, who hosts a morning radio show on Washington, D.C.-based WMAL, actually acknowledged at one point during his November 19 broadcast that an early version of the Gettysburg Address did not contain that phrase. But he still accused the president of plotting to "scratch out the phrase," after emphasizing that Obama was "the first black president." Plante then speculated that Obama would not have scratched out the phrase "under Allah" if it had been in the Gettysburg Address:
PLANTE: What? Barack Obama and his people have the Gettysburg Address in front of them and they're sitting up in leather-winged chairs at the White House with a red pencil going through the speech and they scratch out "under God" and then pass it to Barack Obama and he reads it that way? I mean, how does something like this happen? How stupid are these people? How dishonest are - how fundamentally corrupt, morally and otherwise corrupt, are these people? It is astonishing to me, and it just plays into the stereotype of these people being hostile. If it said "under Allah" would he have still scratched it out?
Earlier in the program, Plante invoked Obama's middle name, Hussein, while opining that it was "kind of peculiar" and "a head-scratcher" that Obama did not say "under God" while reciting the Gettysburg Address:
CBS News is under mounting pressure to launch an independent investigation into how 60 Minutes came to mislead its audience in an October 27th report that relied almost exclusively on a source they knew was an admitted liar.
CBS came under similar scrutiny in September 2004, when questions arose about the authenticity of documents 60 Minutes II used in a report challenging then President Bush's service in the National Guard.
On September 22, 2004, after CBS decided to appoint an independent investigation, a New York Times editorial said it was the right thing to do:
After an uncomfortably long wait, CBS has rightly gone public with its own doubts about the validity of the documents and commissioned an independent investigation.
On November 10, 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan issued an inadequate apology that has been dismissed by a broad range of media observers. The statement came after nearly two weeks of stonewalling amid evidence that CBS' key eyewitness, a British security contractor named Dylan Davies, had told conflicting stories about his whereabouts during the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Media Matters founder David Brock called Logan's November 10 apology "wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving," and reiterated his call for CBS to appoint an independent commission to investigate the since-retracted report.
60 Minutes aired an inadequate apology that not only failed to address fundamental questions about the CBS news magazine's vetting of an admitted liar who served as a key eyewitness in a story that the network has since retracted, but actually conflicts with CBS' prior explanation of that error.
During the November 10 edition of 60 Minutes, correspondent Lara Logan apologized to the audience and issued what she called a correction over an October 27 report on the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
LOGAN: We end our broadcast tonight with a correction on a story we reported October 27 about the attack on the American special mission compound in Benghazi, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. In the story, a security officer working for the State Department, Dylan Davies, told us he went to the compound during the attack and detailed his role that night.
After our report aired, questions arose about whether his account was true, when an incident report surfaced. It told a different story about what he did the night of the attack. Davies denied having anything to do with that incident report and insisted the story he told us was not only accurate, it was the same story told the FBI when they interviewed him.
On Thursday night, when we discovered the account he gave the FBI was different than what he told us, we realized we had been misled, and it was a mistake to include him in our report. For that, we are very sorry. The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth, and the truth is, we made a mistake.
Logan's claim that it was only after the 60 Minutes report aired that questions arose about the truth of security contractor Dylan Davies' account is undermined by what she said during an apology she issued over the same segment just two days earlier.
During a November 8 appearance on CBS' This Morning, Logan discussed the fiasco surrounding 60 Minutes with anchor Norah O'Donnell. During her apology, Logan made clear that the fact that Davies had previously told a different account of the events of that night was known inside 60 Minutes before they aired the version that lined up with what he wrote in his book:
O'DONNELL: But why would you stand by this report after Dylan Davies admitted lying to his own employer?
LOGAN: Because he was very upfront about that from the beginning, that was always part of his story. The context of it, when he tells his story, is that his boss is someone he cared about enormously. He cared about his American counterparts in the mission that night, and when his boss told him not to go, he couldn't stay back. So, that was always part of the record for us. And, that part didn't come as any surprise.
Media Matters founder David Brock called Logan's apology "wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving":
This evening's 60 Minutes response was wholly inadequate and entirely self-serving. The network must come clean by appointing an independent commission to determine exactly how and why it fell prey so easily to an obvious hoax.
Logan's slippery apology glosses over a key question that remains unanswered: why did 60 Minutes fail to inform its audience during the initial segment that its key eyewitness had told two contradictory accounts of what he did the night of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks?
Davies told both his employer and the FBI that he had not made it to the diplomatic facility until the morning after the attack. 60 Minutes aired a version that had Davies scaling a wall during the terrorist attack and striking an assailant with the butt of his gun. The version that 60 Minutes chose to air matched what Davies wrote in a book that was published by Simon & Schuster, a CBS subsidiary. Simon & Schuster has since pulled the book amid the controversy over the author's honesty.
How CBS News came to the decision to believe his current story is critical since a CBS subsidiary had a clear financial interest in the version of events 60 Minutes aired.
After a year of meticulously chronicling the right-wing lies behind the politicization of the American tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, Media Matters for America unveiled the definitive takedown of the Benghazi hoax.
An excerpt of The Benghazi Hoax, an e-book authored by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt explaining how the right-wing media turned a night of terror -- but also of valor -- into a phony scandal geared at damaging the Obama administration appeared Monday on Huffington Post:
No one could have imagined how quickly the murder of Stevens and three other Americans would become politicized by a hungry right-wing leviathan of savage punditry and pseudo-journalism. Nor could anyone fathom how the most basic facts would get twisted, contorted, and even invented out of thin air to create bogus narratives -- first to suggest that a U.S. president seeking re-election was incompetent, feckless, or sympathetic to terror, and then, when that faltered, to tarnish the reputation of his secretary of state as the public speculated she might run for president in 2016.
Had the Benghazi attack not occurred at this unique moment -- on a day when the Republican candidate for the presidency and his promoters in the conservative media were desperate for a new storyline, especially one that would undercut the popular effect of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden the year before -- this tragedy might not have been converted into a political scandal.
The Benghazi Hoax exposes Mitt Romney's bungled and shocking campaign to use Benghazi in his failed race against President Obama as the attack was still ongoing. The book details 15 Benghazi myths that right-wing media and Republicans in Congress have used in a reprehensible effort to damage the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- a campaign that continues to this day.
The New York Times reported that Fox News did not respond when asked to comment on Media Matters' plans to advertise the book on Fox's airwaves:
"We all agree that politicizing a terrorist attack crosses a line, but that's what Fox has done since tragedy struck in Benghazi," [Brock] says in the ad. "You, the Fox viewer, lose out when you don't get the facts, so we wrote a book about the Benghazi hoax. Get the facts for yourself."
A spokeswoman for Fox News did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rather than seeking to learn what went wrong with Benghazi's security in order to improve the security at other U.S. diplomatic facilities, Republicans in Congress, enabled every step of the way by the right-wing noise machine, have turned this American tragedy into a political football. But The Benghazi Hoax shows how, after 18 congressional hearings, more than 100 interviews, and the production of 25,000 administration documents, Republicans failed to find any wrongdoing by President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or any of their other targets.
From false claims about the "stand down" order that conservatives say was given to U.S. military forces during the attack, to conspiracies about Clinton faking a concussion to avoid testifying before Congress, the e-book gives readers the facts behind the right-wing lies.
In an interview with Politico, Brock explained what makes Benghazi different from other phony scandals that conservatives have tried to generate in the past. "Politicians of both parties can be expected to be dragged through the mud, but I think there's an element of the story that's important, which was there was a dishonoring of men and women who try to keep us safe, for partisan political gain," he said. "And I think there should be general agreement that politicizing a tragedy that results in American deaths crosses a line."
Retired General Wesley K. Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, praised the e-book, saying "David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt peel back layer after layer of partisan deceit to reveal the truth about Republican motives and methods in the aftermath of Benghazi - and in so doing offer a strong warning to America and our media to focus on the facts - not partisan rhetoric." John Podesta, Chairman at the Center for American Progress, describes the book as "riveting" and "thought-provoking." Podesta concludes, "David Brock provides a definitive factual account of the Benghazi attack, as well as an in-depth analysis of the right-wing campaign to misrepresent the tragedy for political gain. Readers who are frustrated by the rampant dishonesty in our political system will find, in The Benghazi Hoax, a rallying call for both political change and informed journalism."
Brock and Rabin-Havt's work builds on hundreds of pieces rebutting conservative media lies, smears, and conspiracies about Benghazi that Media Matters has produced over the past thirteen months.
The Benghazi Hoax is available via Amazon for $0.99.
The front page of The New York Times created a false choice between being patriotic and voicing skepticism of military force, pairing reports that residents of a town in Pennsylvania are opposed to military action in Syria with the headline "Proudly Patriotic But Skeptical On Syria Attack."
There is no inherent tension between skepticism of military action and patriotism. Any perception that questioning the use of military force raises questions about a skeptic's patriotism only exists because outlets like The New York Times create it.
The report itself details myriad reasons that residents in a southwestern Pennsylvanian town remain skeptical of the wisdom of intervention in Syria, contrasting that with overwhelming support among residents for military action in Iraq 11 years ago:
As President Obama tries to rally domestic support for military action against Syria, the skepticism in Waynesburg only underscores the political hurdles he faces. This bucolic, if fading, corner of southwest Pennsylvania wears its patriotism on its sleeve, shirttail and pockets. At the time of Mr. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, a Quinnipiac University poll in Pennsylvania found that 86 percent of the voters in and around Waynesburg were solidly behind him.
But in myriad ways, the calculus has changed. Some say they now believe that domestic needs neglected during a decade of war override foreign imperatives. Some, reviewing years of pitched struggle in Afghanistan and Iraq, see the Middle East as quicksand that must be avoided at all costs. Some say that Syria's civil war is Syria's problem, and that the United States is not the Mr. Fix-it for all of the world's crises.
And here, at least, more than a few see military action against Syria as unacceptable simply because it is Mr. Obama's idea.
Regardless of whether the answers to any of these questions lead to a decision to support military action or to oppose it, asking them says nothing about patriotism. And The New York Times, of all places, should know that.
More than a decade ago, skeptics were silenced during the run-up to the Iraq War. That example has led voices including that of Colin Powell to say that skepticism is necessary when considering the merits of military action. A lack of skepticism was central to The New York Times' own much discussed failures during the march to war in 2002-2003. In a 2011 column, Bill Keller, the editor of the Times during the Iraq War debate, wrote:
I remember a mounting protective instinct, heightened by the birth of my second daughter almost exactly nine months after the attacks. Something dreadful was loose in the world, and the urge to stop it, to do something -- to prove something -- was overriding a career-long schooling in the virtues of caution and skepticism.
As Americans again debate the wisdom of using military force to intervene in a foreign country, there is little value in creating a false choice between patriotism and skepticism.
CNN is using 21-year-old footage of Newt Gingrich attacking Hillary Clinton to promote the return of Crossfire, which Gingrich will co-host, and promising that the show will fixate on Clinton for the next several years.
CNN plans to relaunch the franchise in September and is running promotions for the show leading up to its September 16 premiere. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Gingrich will be "the marquee attraction" on the show.
And if a promo running at CNN.com is any indication, Gingrich will use his perch to renew his decades-long campaign demonizing Hillary Clinton. The promo, billed as a return to "Classic Crossfire," opens with the former Speaker of the House claiming: "The new Crossfire is going to bring a lot of new things to television, but it's also going to bring some that have been on a long time."
Former New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Marshall chastised Rush Limbaugh for "irresponsible" rhetoric and downplaying efforts to reduce concussions in football. Marshall's comments came on SiriusXM's The Agenda, hosted by Media Matters senior fellow Ari Rabin-Havt.
Limbaugh recently complained about the use of sensors in NFL helmets to monitor head injuries, saying it was evidence of "politics that has permeated football," and concluding:
LIMBAUGH: But I'm telling you it's being chickified. The whole thing, everything in our culture is being chickified. And some things fine, but not everything.
On Wednesday, Rabin-Havt asked Marshall, a two-time Super Bowl champion and 12-year NFL veteran, to respond. Marshall said Limbaugh's comments were "irresponsible" and cited several instances of teenagers being severely injured while playing football:
MARSHALL: It's very irresponsible. How about you become the father of a 17-year-old boy who plays in a football game on a Friday night, and is in need of medical attention. It takes 15 minutes for the medics to get there to attend to this kid who gets injured, and your kid dies on the football field. How about being that parent?
CNN reported on August 18 that a high school football player in suburban Atlanta died after suffering an on-field injury after coaches tried to revive him on the field while awaiting an ambulance Friday night.
Marshall also cited the example of Josh Haddock, a former high-school football star in Georgia who in 2010 suffered an injury during practice that required brain surgery. Haddock reportedly is helping to develop a helmet that could alert people to head injuries.
Marshall challenged Limbaugh to become part of the solution:
MARSHALL: Watch and hope that there is change coming down the pike. Be part of that change. Be part of trying to empower young people with knowledge and information about the risk associated with playing tackle football.
The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus will appear at an August 21 Tea Party meeting to whip up fears that comprehensive immigration reform "would change America irrevocably, and for the worse."
The Hancock Park Patriots, a Tea Party group based in Los Angeles, announced Kaus' participation in the event, promising that he would answer the questions "Can they be stopped?" and "What's the alternative?"
Kaus self-identifies as "neoliberal" and "common sense Democrat" but espouses a far-right ideology, including a fixation on union-busting, and his participation in the Hancock Park Patriots meeting makes clear that Kaus is anti-immigrant. The former Slate blogger has become obsessed with the issue, dedicating all but one of his posts in July on his Daily Caller blog to the subject.
Fox News dishonestly accused White House spokesman Jay Carney of calling the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, a "phony attack" -- a complete fabrication that in no way reflects the comments Carney actually made.
During the July 31 White House press briefing, Carney responded to a question challenging President Obama's criticism that Congressional Republicans have been fixated on "phony scandals." Carney said:
I think we all remember a few weeks ago when Washington was consumed with a variety of issues that, while in some cases significant, there was an effort underway to turn them into partisan scandals. I don't think anybody here would doubt that. And what we've seen as time has passed and more facts have become known -- whether it's about the attacks in Benghazi and the talking points, or revelations about conduct at the IRS -- that attempts to turn this into a scandal have failed.
While the hosts of The Five discussed the press briefing, Fox aired on-screen text that directly quoted Carney calling Benghazi a "phony attack."
Carney had identified as "phony" the fabricated controversy over talking points related to the Benghazi attack. At no point during the press briefing did Carney say that Benghazi itself was a "phony attack."