Olivia Kittel

Author ››› Olivia Kittel
  • The Conservatives Who Said That Trump’s New Campaign Chief Betrayed Breitbart's Memory By Backing Donald Trump

    ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s new campaign chief Stephen Bannon is the executive chairman of conservative website Breitbart News, which has been embroiled in a civil war over the publication’s Trump support. Numerous conservative media figures have slammed Bannon -- who is taking a leave of absence to work for Trump -- and Breitbart News for destroying the legacy of the site’s founder Andrew Breitbart, who said in 2011 that Donald Trump is “not a conservative.”

  • NBC Gives Glenn Beck A Platform To Re-Mainstream Himself

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    NBC's Chuck Todd gave noted-conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck a national platform to re-mainstream himself on the July 17 edition of Meet The Press. Todd introduced Beck as "founder of the conservative website and TV network The Blaze" and a "vocal critic of Donald Trump right from the start."

    During his appearance, Beck criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his vice presidential running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence -- who Beck alleged has previously criticized Trump behind closed doors -- and lamented that "the problem is in our society that there's no authenticity. You can't trust anybody." Beck also criticized Republican officials, including RNC chairman Reince Priebus.

    After the interview, Todd said he was “aghast” and there were “some times where I felt speechless” during Beck’s interview, but didn’t disclose during or after the interview that Glenn Beck is a noted conspiracy theorist. Beck’s Fox News show was cancelled in 2011 after the network lost sponsors for the program due to continuous controversy over its bizarre and extreme content.

    Ranging from violent, racist, and anti-semitic rhetoric to outlandish conspiracy theories, Beck’s on-air track record includes  accusing President Obama of being a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people," claiming that "all of the decisions that the president has championed" led to the terrorist attacks on Paris, and repeatedly invoking Nazis, Hitler, and the Holocaust to attack his political opponents.

    Over the past year, Beck has been vocally critical of Trump, likening his Muslim ban proposal to the policies of Adolf Hitler. He also has called Trump a progressive and asserted that if Trump wins the GOP presidential nomination it will "bring an end to the Republican Party."

    Beck has also  threatened to quit the National Rifle Association (NRA) over the long-debunked conspiracy theory that NRA board member and conservative activist Grover Norquist is an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. Beck's antics culminated in an NRA investigation and Norquist "voluntarily suspend[ing] his Board activities pending the outcome."

  • Fox Personalities Respond To Gretchen Carlson's Sexual Harassment Lawsuit With Familiar Victim-Blaming

    Fox’s Response Serves As A PSA In How NOT To Cover Sexual Harassment Stories

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    After Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox CEO Roger Ailes, Fox News personalities have rushed to defend Ailes while disparaging Carlson’s character, dismissing her allegations, and accusing her of having ulterior motives. Their response mirrors the false tropes the network hosts push in their sexual assault coverage.

    On July 6, former Fox News host Carlson filed a lawsuit against Fox CEO Roger Ailes, alleging that he fired her “after she rebuffed Mr. Ailes’ sexual advances and also tried to challenge what she felt was unequal treatment of her in the newsroom by some of her male colleagues.” Carlson also alleged that while she was a host of Fox & Friends, her co-host Steve Doocy “engaged in a pattern of severe and pervasive mistreatment” of Carlson. Carlson has been a witness to years of sexism from her male colleagues, plenty of it directed at her.

    Several other women have come forward with complaints or contacted Carlson’s law firm to report similar experiences of mistreatment.

    Numerous Fox figures have rallied to Ailes’ defense, falling back on the network’s long-held strategy of dismissing sexual harassment – and even sexual assault – allegations by blaming the victims, trying to discredit the allegations by disparaging the victims’ characters, and rushing to defend the character of the accused. Just as New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman predicted, the “Fox News PR machine” is fighting the sexual harassment allegations by “try[ing] to discredit Carlson’s claims and any of the other women’s claims who come forward.”

    Disparaging The Victim’s Character

    After Carlson filed her lawsuit, her former Fox colleagues defended Ailes by immediately disparaging her character, dismissing her allegations, and suggesting she may have had ulterior motives.

    Greta Van Susteren suggested Carlson may have falsely accused Ailes of sexual harassment because she was “unhappy that her contract wasn’t renewed.”

    In a flurry of tweets on July 12, Sean Hannity dismissed Carlson’s allegations, suggesting that if she had really been harassed, she would not have stayed, asked for more airtime, or written to Ailes:

    Brit Hume asked Carlson why she didn’t just quit following the alleged harassment:

    This behavior isn’t new for Fox figures. In the past, Andrea Tantaros has asked, “At what point do women need to take some responsibility” for sexual harassment. Hannity blamed a victim of sexual harassment for “staying in the car” with the accused offender after the alleged harassment. Greg Gutfeld claimed that victims allege sexual harassment “to safeguard future reputation-damaging things.”  

    The network’s victim-blaming isn’t limited to sexual harassment. Hosts have blamed victims of sexual assault for “wearing a miniskirt,” characterized victims as “bad girls … who like to be naughty,” and altogether disputed the prevalence of sexual assault.

    Defending The Character Of The Accused

    Fox figures also responded to Carlson’s lawsuit by touting Ailes’ character.  

    Jeanine Pirro called Carlson’s allegations “absurd” and called Ailes a “no-nonsense guy,” saying, “I just loved him.”

    Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that of the women she’s talked to at Fox, “Nobody believed” Carlson’s allegations, adding that Ailes “is a man who champions women.”

    Bret Baier said that’s “not the Roger I know,” and added, “I can’t say enough good things about Roger.”

    Neil Cavuto called Carlson’s allegations “sick” and said they “don’t remotely resemble the Roger that I know” because Ailes “is ALL professional.”

    Ainsley Earhardt, Martha MacCallum, and Harris Faulkner have also vigorously defended Ailes, calling him a “father figure” and a “terrific boss.”

    By focusing on defending the character of the accused, reporters treat the accused offender as the victim. And it’s not just Ailes. Fox has a history of treating accused offenders as victims, including by claiming  that the focus on campus sexual assault amounts to “a war happening on boys” and dubiously hyping the frequency of false accusations of sexual assault against men, even though  false accusations are rare.  

  • A Comprehensive Guide To Benghazi Myths And Facts

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & OLIVIA KITTEL

    After nearly four years of right-wing myths about the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and as Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the attacks release their reports, Media Matters has compiled a list of more than 50 myths and facts regarding the origin of the attack, the security surrounding the compounds, the Obama administration’s handling of the attack during and after its occurrence, attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other lies and misinformation regarding the Benghazi attack.

  • This Supreme Court Case Propelled By Right-Wing Media Myths Could Have Major National Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month in the landmark abortion case centered around 2013 Texas law HB 2, a statute that was propelled by right-wing media myths and imposes unnecessarily restrictive requirements on the state’s abortion providers. If the country’s highest court allows the Texas law to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent, opening the door for similar restrictions in other states and putting women’s health at dire risk.  

    Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt ­–  “the most important Supreme Court abortion case in a generation,” –  will determine the fate of HB 2, the Texas law that has already forced nearly half of the state's abortion clinics to close by placing medically unnecessary requirements on providers. HB 2 "requires abortion doctors to be affiliated with nearby hospitals and also limits abortion to ambulatory surgical centers," under the guise of necessary women’s health protections, but health experts overwhelmingly say those requirements are both dangerous and “medically unnecessary.” Admitting privileges laws like Texas' HB 2 not only impose stricter requirements on abortion providers than on facilities that perform riskier procedures, but they also severly limit the number of abortion providers; most providers "cannot meet the number-of-admissions standard for gaining privileges because so few of their patients need hospital care."

     

     

    In the March oral arguments, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller relied on a common right-wing media myth to justify the restrictions, falsely claiming that they’re necessary to prevent another “Kermit Gosnell” scandal in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths in Philadelphia. But Gosnell’s crimes bear no resemblance to safe, legal abortions –  such as  those performed at the clinics targeted by HB 2 – and the Texas law, if allowed to stand, could actually make crimes like Gosnell’s more likely given that his business model was to prey on low-income women who could not access legal abortions and “felt they had no alternative.” The Texas lawmakers who pushed for this legislation echoed the right-wing media myth that women's health clinics were unsafe and required increased regulation, capitalizing on a lie that originated with anti-choice activists. Numerous reviews have concluded that abortion facilities nationwide are safe, routinely inspected, and subject to onerous regulation.

    The Texas law has already forced more than half of the state’s abortion clinics to close, and if the law is allowed by the Supreme Court to take full effect, another 10 of the 19 remaining clinics in the state could close meaning that 75 percent of all of the clinics in the state will be shut down because of  the law. The final remaining clinics would all be clustered in metropolitan areas. This means the average distance women must travel each way to reach a clinic would be 85 miles (the national average is 30 miles), with nearly 1 million women more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion provider, effectively ending “abortion access for low-income women in rural areas of the state, who are already having a hard time finding providers.” Research conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) demonstrated the law has “resulted in significant burdens for women” attempting to access abortion care, and the burdens would disproportionately impact low-income women, women of color, and Latinas in particular.

    But it’s not just Texan women’s fates at stake in the Supreme Court ruling. The same medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers exist in at least 22 other states -- and dozens of additional abortion restrictions exist throughout the country.

    As Refinery29’s Lilli Petersen explained, “what’s at stake in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt isn’t actually the legal right to have an abortion, but what states are allowed to do to regulate the procedure.” A “decision in favor” of HB 2, Petersen expounded, “would set a national precedent and open the door for other states to enact similar limitations on abortion.”

    If the Supreme Court finds in Texas’ favor it's likely to have an immediate impact on neighboring state Louisiana, for example, which passed a similarly styled law in 2014. If allowed to stand, Louisiana’s law would shutter three of the state’s four abortion clinics. Just days after hearing oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court issued a brief order that reversed the Fifth Circuit, allowing the temporary closed clinics in Louisiana to reopen, but the law’s ultimate fate is still in question. Likewise Alabama has also passed a similar bill that requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. That law has been struck down by a federal court but its status could also be affected by the ruling in Whole Women’s Health and reportedly “if the law is allowed to take effect, four of the state’s five clinics would close, and the lone surviving clinic could never meet the demand for abortions in Alabama, which average around 9,000 a year.”  

    If the impact in Texas is an indicator of what might happen elsewhere, the consequences of the Supreme Court upholding HB 2 are dire. Another TxPEP study predicted that if the Supreme Court fails to overturn HB 2, women in Texas will become increasingly more likely to self-induce abortion "as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access." Incidents of self-induced abortions are most prevalent among women who reported facing significant obstacles to reproductive healthcare in the past, as is the case with Latina women living in a rural area of Texas that has seen several clinic closures.

    In a New York Times article, economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz outlined how demand for self-induced abortion is concentrated in areas where abortion is most difficult to access, “reminiscent of the era before Roe v. Wade.” Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed data based on Google searches for phrases like “how to miscarriage” and “how to self-abort,” and found that the “state with the highest rate of Google searches for self-induced abortions is Mississippi, which now has one abortion clinic.” Stephens-Davidowitz concluded: “there is an unambiguous fact in Google search data that the eight justices of the Supreme Court and everyone else should know. In some parts of the United States, demand for self-induced abortion has risen to a disturbing level.”

    As Dr. Daniel Grossman, co-author of the TxPEP study told reporters, "This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk."

    Medically unnecessary restrictive laws don’t protect women and they don’t curb the number of abortions. They actually tend to increase unsafe abortion, according to international evidence. As Taylor Crumpton wrote in Glamour magazine, “when providers are too far away, or waiting periods become untenably long, women look to cross the border to secure abortion-inducing medication or try to get abortion pills through the black market.”

    Unless the Supreme Court makes a binding rule striking down both restrictions in HB 2, the door to similar restrictions in other states will be left wide open. The outcome could also be negatively affected by the unprecedented GOP obstruction of the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Due to the empty seat, there’s a chance the court could deadlock or postpone a decision, which could permit Texas HB 2 to stand, but wouldn’t set a binding precedent, “leaving uncertainty for other states and highlighting more than ever the importance of the next Supreme Court appointment,” as The New York Times reported. That uncertainty could weigh especially heavily on “states like Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin [as they] press to remove blocks on their admitting-privilege laws.”

    Refinery29 has laid out a number of possible outcomes:

  • The Charade Behind Megyn Kelly's Trump Interview

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s upcoming interview with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will undoubtedly be used by the Fox PR machine to capitalize on Kelly’s charade as an unbiased, hardball-throwing journalist. But, it should be used instead as an opportunity for media to put their misplaced praise of Kelly into context with the rest of her career, including her history of using her Fox platform to promote egregious right-wing misinformation.

    Kelly’s interview with Trump will air during a Fox TV special on May 17, and follows a private meeting that took place between the two at Trump Tower in April. Fox has hyped that the interview will cover Kelly and Trump’s months-long feud that was kicked off when Trump attacked Kelly as a “lightweight journalist,” and culminated in Trump’s refusal to attend an ultimately-canceled Fox News presidential debate. Kelly has said the goal of the interview is an “interesting, compelling exchange,” asserting “I don’t feel any need to go in there and try to take down Trump.”

    Fox has already capitalized on the feud, parlaying it into high-profile interviews of Kelly on late night talk shows and morning news shows, as well as a series of laudatory profiles that applaud her as an "independent" "rising star" with a "reputation for asking tough questions to anyone.” Tuesday’s interview will likely prove just as useful for Fox, delivering high ratings and buzz to the network, giving Kelly’s tough journalist charade another platform, and undoubtedly delivering the latest round of misplaced praise for her performance.

    But this interview is an opportunity for media to put the full context of Kelly’s career on display as their recent series of laudatory profiles has failed to do. Kelly has a long history of misinformation campaigns and out-of-touch comments regarding race, LGBT issues, gender, reproductive rights, Islam, immigration, and climate change.

    She's used her prime-time Fox show to push falsehoods about the 2012 Benghazi attacks and Planned Parenthood, most recently asking whether a "political hit job" was at play in the grand jury indictment of two members of the group that released deceptively edited smear videos to attack the organization.

    She regularly hosts Tony Perkins, the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group, and has shown a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on race, ranging from claiming a 14-year-old black teenager who was the victim of a police officer's use of excessive force “was no saint, either” to calling Black Lives Matter protesters "beyond the bounds of decency."

    As positive press highlights Kelly's "occasionally, yet highly entertaining, bucking of the conservative party line," they downplay the fact that her show "is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows." Even the writer of Vanity Fair's glowing cover story, after making those observations, eventually noted that Kelly's "talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox."

    Image by Sarah Wasko

  • Fox Está Usando Un Índice De Seguridad Nacional Descartado Para Levantar Miedos Anti-Inmigrantes

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL English language version

    Fox News demostró su tendencia a infundir temores anti-inmigrantes cuando recientemente aprovechó un reporte de que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional puso fin a un programa de seguridad fronteriza que en realidad nunca fue implementado -- y fue desechado debido a preocupaciones de que llevaría a los medios a emitir alarmas sin fundamento. Fox usó las noticias para infundir temores sobre "ilegales entrando al país".

    De acuerdo a la Associated Press, el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS por sus siglas en inglés) desechó una propuesta para un programa que nunca fue implementado y que consistía en el uso de un índice basado en colores para medir la seguridad fronteriza. El programa, propuesto por el personal de la agencia, habría usado un sistema de colores para señalizar las millas a lo largo de la frontera estadounidense, "donde sería más probable que la Patrulla Fronteriza captura inmigrantes ilegales". Rojo simbolizaría "alto riesgo", amarillo "riesgo mediano" y verde "bajo riesgo". El programa nunca fue implementado, y fue desechado luego de que un grupo de consultores del DHS coincidieron en que era "una sobre-simplificación de un problema muy complejo", y advirtieron que podría llevar a figuras mediáticas a sensacionalizar los temas de seguridad fronteriza y a "producir historias engañosas sobre una frontera fuera de control".

    Los consultores del DHS explicaron que debido a que el programa mediría la seguridad fronteriza en solamente "tres grandes canastas" (rojo, amarillo y verde) -- y debido a que dos de las canastas pueden interpretarse como indicadoras de seguridad laxa -- "reporteros sedientos de titulares que llamen la atención" podrían hacer uso del índice para provocar reportes amarillistas e infundir temores de que hay una "frontera fuera de control".

    Los presentadores de Fox News inmediatamente aprovecharon el anuncio del DHS para hacer precisamente eso. En la edición del 22 de abril del programa de Fox News Fox & Friends, la presentadora Heather Nauert repetidamente infundió temores sobre “inseguridad fronteriza”, diciéndole a sus televidentes "acostúmbrense a ... ilegales entrando al país" porque el personal del DHS desechó el “índice de colores” representando la seguridad fronteriza “mientras ustedes dormían”. El reporte de Nauert fue acompañado por imagenes en la pantalla mostrando grandes números de inmigrantes cruzando la frontera y escalando una pared; dijo que la audiencia debería "acostumbrarse a este tipo de escenas":

    Fox tiene una larga historia de infundir miedos anti-inmigrantes sin fundamento alguno para crear la falsa impresión de que "la inmigración ilegal se ha disparado a niveles sin precedente" cuando en realidad, varios estudios demuestran que la inmigración ilegal se encuentra ahora "a sus niveles más bajos desde 2003" y que ha ido declinando continuamente desde 2008. La AP notó que las capturas por parte de la Patrulla Fronteriza han disminuido a su cifra más baja en 44 años, y aunque este número no necesariamente cuenta la historia completa, puede indicar que "la frontera está relativamente segura".

  • Fox’s Latest Anti-Immigrant Alarmism Sensationalizes A DHS Program Scrapped Over Concerns It Would Fuel Media Misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL Versión en español

    Fox News’ latest round of anti-immigrant fearmongering seizes on a report that the Department of Homeland Security ended a border security program that was never actually implemented – and was scrapped based on concerns it would baselessly fuel media fearmongering. Fox used the news to stoke fears about “illegals crossing into this country.”

    According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) scrapped a proposal for a never-initiated program to use a color-coded index system to measure border security. The program, proposed by agency staff, would have used a color system to measure miles along the U.S. border “where the Border Patrol was likely to capture illegal immigrants.” Red would indicate “high risk,” yellow “medium risk,” and green “low risk.” The program was never implemented, having been scrapped after DHS consultants agreed it was “‘an oversimplification of a very complex problem,’” and warned it could lead media figures to sensationalize border security and “produce misleading stories of an out-of-control border.”

    DHS consultants explained that because the program would measure border security in just “‘three large baskets,’” (red, yellow, and green) -- and because two of the baskets could be interpreted as indicating poor security -- “reporters with an appetite for eye-catching headlines” could use the index to fuel sensational, fearmongering reports of an “out-of-control border.”

    Fox News hosts immediately seized on the DHS announcement to do just that. On the April 22 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert repeatedly stoked fears of “border insecurity,” telling viewers to “get used to … illegals crossing into this country” because DHS officials scrapped the “color-coded bored index” “while you were sleeping.” Nauert’s report accompanied on-screen graphics of immigrants crossing the border in large numbers, and scaling a wall; she said viewers should “get used to scenes like this”:

    Fox has a long history of baselessly stoking anti-immigrant fears to create the false “impression that illegal immigration has soared to unprecedented levels” when in reality, multiple studies show that illegal immigration is “now at its lowest level since 2003” and that it has been declining steadily since 2008. The AP noted that Border Patrol apprehensions fell to a 44-year low last year, and though that number does not give a complete picture, it may indicate that “the border is relatively secure.”