Michigan State University's president has published a 900-word defense of the school's decision to host George Will as a commencement speaker this weekend in response to widespread outrage from students who object to his past remarks on campus sexual assault.
President Lou Anna K. Simon stated that the university did not endorse Will's controversial June 6 Washington Post syndicated column suggesting that attempts to curb campus assaults have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." She wrote in part:
I'll leave it to Mr. Will to defend his comments and values, because this isn't about George Will. This is about us. And it is about the role of universities in a democratic society.
Having George Will speak at commencement does not mean I or Michigan State University agree with or endorse the statements he made in his June 6 column or any particular column he has written. It does not mean the university wishes to cause survivors of sexual assault distress. And it does not mean we are backing away from our commitment to continuously improving our response to sexual assault.
What it does mean is this: Great universities are committed to serving the public good by creating space for discourse and exchange of ideas, though that exchange may be uncomfortable and will sometimes challenge values and beliefs. There is no mandate to agree, only to serve society by allowing learning to take place. If universities do not hold onto this, we do not serve the greater good. Because next time it will be a different speaker and a different issue, and the dividing lines will not be the same.
Contrary to Simon's suggestion, Will is not participating in an open "exchange of ideas" in which students can engage with or question his remarks. Instead, his December 13 address will reportedly be a commencement speech to graduates from several MSU programs, who will have the option of either listening to his remarks or skipping their own graduations. Moreover, the "ideas" critics are objecting to are Will's comments about his audience, college students.
Additionally, the Post columnist will not only be addressing students but will be celebrated by the school, receiving an honorary doctorate for what Simon terms his "long and distinguished journalistic career."
Emily Gillingham, an MSU law school student and co-organizer of a protest against Will's involvement, highlighted the destructive nature of Will's participation, telling Media Matters last week,"I feel so bad for the people who are there who have survived sexual assault who George Will thinks are lying or it was some sort of pleasant experience."
Simon's statement comes in response to substantial criticism from the student body. More than 700 have already signed up for a protest the day of the speech, and MSU's Council of Graduate Students has passed a resolution calling on the administration to withdraw their invitation to Will.
In early October, the GOP developed a plan to make the federal government's response to Ebola a central part of its midterm elections strategy. Television media played into Republicans' hands, helping to foment panic about the disease. Following the diagnosis of a handful of U.S. Ebola patients, the major broadcast networks ran nearly 1,000 segments about the virus in the four weeks leading up to the elections. Coverage of the disease plummeted in the two weeks following Election Day, with the same networks running fewer than 50 total segments.
Fox News political analyst Erick Erickson, an influential voice among Tea Party Republicans, is calling on the new GOP Congress to push for a government shutdown.
In September 2013, House Republicans demanded that Obamacare be defunded, delayed, or derailed as their price for keeping the federal government open. The Senate refused to approve their spending bill, triggering a partial government shutdown and the furlough of 800,000 workers. After House Republicans failed to pass a new spending plan, the Senate passed a bill on October 16 that reopened the government. The partial shutdown took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy.
In a November 18 post to his RedState.com website headlined "Shut. It. Down.", Erickson says that the 2013 shutdown provides an excellent model for Republicans to follow now that they control both houses of Congress. He joins Rush Limbaugh in urging the GOP to use the threat of a shutdown to achieve their political goals.
According to Erickson, since the warnings of many Republicans that the party would be blamed for a shutdown and lose ground in the midterm elections did not come true, embarking on a similar strategy -- passing budget bills that defund Obamacare and any future immigration executive action -- makes sense. He writes that this strategy will expose Obama as a "petulant man-child":
Now, let us be clear on the parameters of the debate moving forward. I am not suggesting the GOP just say "to heck with it" and shut down the government. What I am suggesting is that the GOP pass everything except Obamacare funding and funding for any immigration actions the President wants to take.
And he will most certainly balk at all that.
So set the course. Defund Obamacare and block amnesty. Obama can defy the will of the people and refuse to work with Congress. Sure, the GOP may get blamed. But so what?
And that is key here -- so what. They got blamed last time and the public rewarded them with the biggest election wave in modern American political history from the local level to the federal level.
Block Obama. Let him show himself again to be the petulant man-child Americans have started recognizing. And this time, when he shuts down the government, keep it shut till you have your way and then hold public hearings to show how Obama selectively shut things down to hurt the voters intentionally.
At the end of the day, there is no other choice. Either the President will cave to a Congress just elected to stop him or the GOP will cave to a President no one likes.
Sharyl Attkisson was toasted by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) at a party last night promoting her new book. The former CBS News reporter has previously criticized other reporters for being too cozy with those they cover, denied promoting a conservative agenda, and insisted that her extensive reporting relationship with Issa "doesn't mean we like each other."
During the event at a Georgetown home, Issa reportedly praised Attkisson, telling the audience that "his committee wouldn't be able to do its job without journalists like" Attkisson, while criticizing NBC and MSNBC.
A photo posted by David Weigel (@daveweigel) onNov 11, 2014 at 4:22pm PST
In her book Stonewalled and during her book tour, Attkisson has repeatedly denied that she uses her journalism to advance a conservative agenda, saying that her policy preferences are "mixed" and that her reporting has been critical of both parties.
She left CBS amid claims from colleagues that her work, which often focused on trumped-up claims of Obama administration misdeeds, had a "political agenda," leading "network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting." She has since reported solely for right-wing outlets like Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group's network affiliates.
Attkisson lavishes praise on Issa in her book, describing him as a "former CEO and self-made millionaire from Califonia" who is a "dominant personality, quick study, and insanely confident." She laments how he is "viewed even more harshly by some in the news media" than past Oversight Committee chairs.
Ignoring Issa's long record of deceptive media manipulation, she criticizes her journalist colleagues for treating his claims with skepticism. Attkisson alleges that her fellow reporters are implicitly supporting the White House by suggesting that Issa may have political motivations for some of his claims, and suggests those reporters oppose him because he is a Republican.
She shows no interest in the evidence that supports that view of Issa. For example, shortly before gaining the chairman's gavel, Issa called President Obama "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times" and described one pseudoscandal as "an impeachable offense, according to [discredited political analyst] Dick Morris." He has frequently compared his investigations of the Obama administration to Watergate and Iran-Contra.
It's not surprising that Attkisson would praise Issa given how her reporting has depended on his committee. At CBS News, Attkisson frequently focused on topics that were the subject of Oversight Committee hearings, and her reports were often based on administration documents seemingly obtained from Issa or his staff.
In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, Attkisson denied claims that "she has uncritically broadcast Issa's allegations without appropriate vetting and scrutiny," but said that "I can see why people would think that, because a lot of times my reporting was in line with the same things Issa was investigating." She added that this "doesn't mean we like each other" and that she doesn't "pretend to be BFFs with him."
A photo posted by Hadas (@hadasdeoro) onNov 11, 2014 at 6:10pm PST
Republican pollster and CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz wrote in a New York Times op-ed that in the wake of the 2014 elections Republicans and Democrats should work together to pass "common-sense solutions." But Luntz's call for bipartisanship is absurd considering his reported responsibility for some of the partisan gridlock he is currently lamenting. On the night of President Obama's first inauguration, Luntz reportedly convened a meeting of GOP leaders to discuss how they could obstruct the president's agenda in order to win future elections.
In a November 6 op-ed, Luntz warned Republicans to "stop blustering and fighting" and urged the parties to work together because Americans want "progress" and "don't care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions":
Americans despair of the pointless posturing, empty promises and bad policies that result. Show that you are more concerned with people than politics. Don't be afraid to work with your opponents if it means achieving real results. Democrats and Republicans disagree on a lot, but there are also opportunities of real national importance, like national security and passing the trans-Atlantic trade deal.
Aside from a small activist constituency, Americans are not looking for another fight over same-sex marriage or abortion. This isn't to say that voters want their leaders to co-opt their convictions. People are simply tired of identity politics that pit men against women, black against white, wealthy against poor. More than ever, they want leadership that brings us together.
This isn't about pride of ownership regarding American progress; this is about progress, period. Americans don't care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They just want common-sense solutions that make everyday life just a little bit easier. But they can't get their houses in order until Washington gets its own house in order.
Sharyl Attkisson's new book shows the common interest between a discredited journalist trying to cash in on right-wing credibility and the conservative machine that wants its media worldview confirmed.
Attkisson resigned in March after two decades at CBS News, reportedly in part because she believed the network had stymied her reporting due to "liberal bias." Staffers there reportedly characterized her work, which often focused on trumped-up claims of Obama administration misdeeds, as "agenda-driven," leading "network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting."
In her forthcoming book, Stonewalled, Attkisson alleges that the press has been protecting Obama from scrutiny for ideological reasons. "Attkisson doesn't explicitly accuse CBS and the rest of the mainstream media of a pervasive liberal bias," writes Fox News' Howard Kurtz in a review. "But that view is clear from sheer accumulation of detail in her book."
Based on press accounts, Attkisson's allegations of CBS News' bias rely largely on her own recollections of conversations she says she had with her former colleagues. The network declined Media Matters' request for comment, but one apparent subject of Attkisson's criticism has denied her account.
Attkisson's credibility is central to determining whether to believe her claims. Given her history of conspiratorial claims and shoddy reporting -- including her false and baseless claim that Media Matters may have been paid to attack her -- it is difficult to take her story at face value. But one thing is clear: her message is very valuable to both right-wing media and Attkisson herself.
Several hundred students reportedly protested George Will's speech last night at Miami University in response to his claim that efforts to fight sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges" on college campuses.
Will, whose column is distributed by the Washington Post News Service and Syndicate, has been criticized by U.S. senators, media, and women's equality groups since the publication of his "coveted status" piece on June 6. Will has been making similar comments for more than two decades.
The columnist's appearance at the Oxford, Ohio, campus -- for which he received $48,000 -- became the subject of controversy over the last week. Nearly 1,200 students, faculty, and staff signed a letter stating that hosting Will "sends the wrong message to current students, prospective students, and their families about the tolerance of rape culture and predatory sexual behavior at Miami University," according to the Miami University Women's Center. The speech also drew criticism from professors at the school's Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies program and the national women's rights group UltraViolet.
While protesters outside the Farmer School of Business event were denouncing Will's appearance and discussing their experiences with sexual assault on campus, inside, Will was defending his column from student critics. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer:
In response to the student Will said many have misconstrued the points in his column but acknowledged the controversy, saying "I've written columns since 1973, but the one you are talking about has certainly gotten the attention of this campus."
In response, Will defended his column and criticized "the dubious sociology" of ill-defined federal definitions of sexual assault that he contends diminishes the legal rights of the overwhelmingly male defendants assumed "guilty until proven innocent" under the new laws.
A second student who asked about Will about his column, who identified herself as a victim of sexual assault, subsequently told Cincinnati's WLWT:
She said she asked Will about his comments concerning the cost of treatment for sexual assault victims.
"He replied in a series of non-finished sentences at which point I said, 'I have specifically received treatment and is it worth it?' and he said, 'Yes, it is, but only for real survivors of real rape,' and it was very diminishing and deterring my ability to talk about it," she said.
Watch this report on the protests from Cincinnati's WCPO:
Here are some images from the protest, courtesy of the Facebook page of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program:
It's become commonplace for the right-wing fringe to respond to breaking news by invoking Benghazi. The Ebola outbreak, the NFL's domestic violence problems, and the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 are just three recent examples in the panoply of events that remind conservatives of the terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound, which they've spent the last two years trying to turn into a political scandal.
It's more unusual for a journalist from a mainstream outlet to engage in this sort of behavior. But here's how Josh Kraushaar, the political editor for National Journal, responded to the October 8 Washington Post report that suggested senior White House aides had hidden their knowledge of the fact that "a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room" of one of the volunteers on the advance team for President Obama's 2012 trip to Colombia:
In isolation, the WH cover-up of staff misconduct is a blip. But it fits pattern of the WH hiding damaging info from the public b4 election.-- Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 9, 2014
... makes you wonder if the partisan criticisms have more merit than many first thought. http://t.co/5i7VKu1bXH-- Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 9, 2014
First instinct is to trust what the WH is saying, but they've squandered a lot of that trust lately.-- Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 9, 2014
Kraushaar's National Journal colleague Ron Fournier also recently invoked the administration's response to Benghazi as a reason for the public to doubt the federal government's response to Ebola.
Others referencing Benghazi in their discussions of the prostitution story include Ronald Kessler, the investigative journalist described as "a bit of a kook" who recently drew fire for suggesting that President Obama would be to blame if he were assassinated, and Steve Doocy, the Fox News host who previously complained that the deadly Hurricane Sandy "knocked [Benghazi] off the front page."
With the House Select Committee on Benghazi scheduled to convene for its first public hearing tomorrow, Media Matters is unveiling All Questions Answered, the definitive user's guide to the committee that demonstrates how conservative inquiries into the 2012 attacks have been litigated over and over again.
You can read All Questions Answered at BenghaziHoax.com, a new Media Matters website featuring our latest research and curating nearly 1,000 pieces we have produced over the past two years chronicling and debunking the lies right-wing media have pushed about Benghazi.
Fox News and the conservative media have been politicizing Benghazi for more than two years, seeking to turn the tragic events of that night into a phony scandal in order to damage President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The network took credit for House Speaker John Boehner's decision to create the select committee, a development Fox News contributors had sought for months. In the two weeks after the announcement the network devoted over 16 hours and 27 minutes -- at least 227 segments -- to Benghazi, a value of more than $124 million.
An excerpt from All Questions Answered details how the right-wing press turned an innocuous email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes into a sham "smoking gun," leading to the creation of the committee:
Conservative media outlets were up in arms, and they were soon followed by mainstream reporters. According to this new right-wing narrative, the White House had been withholding these emails from the public and congressional committees. But what did these emails actually demonstrate?
Rhodes' job on the National Security Council was to provide communications guidance to administration officials speaking on foreign policy issues. In the wake of upheaval across the entire region, with violent protests taking place in Cairo and the attack on the United States' diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Rhodes was tasked with preparing messaging guidance for then-national security adviser Susan Rice. In the emails unveiled by Judicial Watch, Rhodes took CIA-authored talking points -- whose creation had been made public in detail a year earlier -- and turned them into a messaging document.
That no new information was revealed mattered little. Simply the perception that the Obama administration was hiding something from the public created a media firestorm.
All Questions Answered goes down the list of conservative questions about Benghazi one by one, debunking the lies and myths about the attacks and the Obama administration's response.
All Questions Answered is a supplement to Media Matters' best-selling 2013 ebook The Benghazi Hoax, which "tells in intimate detail the story of the deception created by those who fill airtime with savage punditry and pseudo-journalism and how the Republicans in charge of the investigative committees were empowered but ultimately failed to find a scandal - any kind of scandal - to tar a Democratic White House."
A new book that seeks to damage Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi reportedly relies on long-debunked conservative myths.
On September 9, WND Books will publish Aaron Klein's The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don't Want You to Know. The book's release is the latest salvo from a conservative cottage industry that aims to make money and political hay out of both Benghazi and Clinton smears.
Klein, a senior reporter for the birther site WND, is not a credible author -- one of his recent books portrayed President Obama as a "Manchurian Candidate" whose autobiography was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers.
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard, who reviewed an advance copy of Klein's Benghazi book, reported that Klein argues "Clinton was unwilling to provide additional security to the diplomatic outpost and even played a role in sending Stevens to his 'doomed mission.'"
Klein's contention that Clinton "was unwilling to provide additional security to the diplomatic outpost" seems to reference the long-debunked conservative claim that the then-Secretary of State personally signed off on cables rejecting requests for additional security. When congressional Republicans first made that claim in April 2013, diplomatic reporters noted that every cable sent to the State Department from overseas facilities is addressed to the secretary, and every cable sent from the State Department is signed by the secretary, even though the secretary rarely reviews them.
In her 2014 memoir, Clinton wrote that she had never seen the cables in question, stating, "That's not how it works. It shouldn't. And it didn't."
Klein's claim that Clinton "played a role in sending Stevens" to his death in Benghazi has also been debunked. The State Department's Accountability Review Board reported that Stevens "made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice," with the trip's timing "driven in part by commitments in Tripoli." Gregory Hicks, who was Stevens' deputy, also testified before Congress that the ambassador "chose to go" to Benghazi.