UPDATED: Fox News' Liz Trotta Condemned For "Abhorrent" Remarks On Sexual Assault In Military

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

This post was updated on February 15 to include further reaction to Trotta's remarks.

Fox News contributor Liz Trotta is drawing strong criticism for her remarks on sexual assault in the military, including from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), and a veterans group who called on Trotta to apologize.

During a Fox News segment on Sunday about new rules regarding women in the military, Trotta reacted to a Pentagon report showing a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults since 2006 by stating: "Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact."

Trotta also attacked the Department of Defense for increasing funding for support programs for victims of sexual assault. Trotta remarked, "the feminists have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims' advocates, sexual response coordinators. ... you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much." When Fox News anchor Eric Shawn said that "many would say that they need to be protected," Trotta replied: "That's funny, I thought the mission of the" armed forces "was to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war."

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment about the remarks.

"Contrary to Trotta's comments, being a victim of rape or sexual assault is not in the job description of a US Service Member," said Rep. Jackie Speier in a statement to Media Matters. "It is shameful for anyone to assert that the military does not have an obligation to protect its troops and it is abhorrent that a journalist would spin the Pentagon's statistics about rape and sexual assault in a way that suggests these crimes are normal or acceptable."

Rep. Niki Tsongas said in a statement:

"The statements made by Ms. Trotta over the weekend are deplorable. They are an affront to our brave men and women in uniform who are serving, fighting, and dying for our country and its principles of equal treatment under the law for all Americans. The Pentagon rightly recognizes that the protections for our servicemembers must improve and that sexual assault within the ranks must not be tolerated."

Mother Jones national security reporter Adam Weinstein, who served in the Navy, blasted Trotta for suggesting "that women who defend this country should expect to get raped" and that military men "are monsters who can't stop themselves from raping women in close proximity, and shouldn't be expected to." On Time.com, author and Army veteran Donna McAleer wrote an opinion piece rebutting Trotta. Steve Benen, a producer and blogger for MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, wrote: "It's hard to even comprehend such a twisted perspective. ... That anyone would find such attitudes acceptable is just stunning."

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center said in a statement that it "is saddened by" the remarks:

"The National Sexual Violence Resource Center is saddened by recent comments by Fox News contributor Liz Trotta about sexual assault in the military. Contrary to Ms. Trotta's viewpoint, this is not just a 'feminist' issue. It is a human rights issue. Sexual violence, including rape, impacts men, women and children across the life span. No one should 'expect' to be raped. Our CEO, Delilah Rumburg, served on the Department of Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, and is aware of the work needed to strengthen prevention and response initiatives within the military. Our organization has several resources available to help educate the media and individuals, such as Ms. Trotta, about sexual violence and how it affects individual soldiers, families and their communities."

VetPAC, a political group that supports veterans running for office, released the following to Media Matters strongly condemning the "inappropriate comments" and requesting an apology:

WASHINGTON, DC -- Leaders from VetPAC, a coalition of veterans, working on behalf of veterans who want to continue their public service, responded to inappropriate comments made by Fox News Contributor Liz Trotta on Sunday night's news segment about women in the military.

"Women, unfortunately, are frequently judged and minimized as Liz Trotta did in a rare and vile way. Liz made a big mistake when she insinuated that the men of the military are rampantly and indiscriminately raping women with whom they serve. The finest men I have ever known serve in the military, she owes them an apology," said Heather Beaven, VetPAC Board Member.

"This is blatantly disrespectful to the women who I have served alongside with in combat. As someone who has seen firsthand the sacrifice that female service members have made on the battlefield, I feel this type of rhetoric is unacceptable and undermines women's service on and off the battlefield," said Justin Ford, President of VetPAC.

VetPAC strongly condemns Liz Trotta's statement and requests an apology to the women who continue to honor and sacrifice for their country.

Media Matters also received a statement from Anu Bhagwati, the executive director of Service Women's Action Network, about Trotta's remarks:

"It has become a desperate but popular myth among commentators recently that women's presence in the military necessarily means they will get raped. First, the mere presence of women in the workplace does not turn men into rapists. Second, the majority of victims of military rape over time have been men. In fact, half of the Military Sexual Trauma patients being treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals today are men. The reason rape is still so prevalent in the military is not because men and women work alongside one another in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, but because the U.S. military justice system is broken. There are currently few deterrents to rapists or the commanders who protect them. Serial predators can largely expect to enjoy full military careers without ever being punished for the violent crimes they commit."

Media Matters asked the Department of Defense for comment about Trotta's remarks. The Office of the Secretary of Defense responded by pointing to Secretary Leon Panetta's remarks on sexual assault in the military and emailed a statement from the Secretary of Defense' press secretary, George Little. Little stated: "The United States military has a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault. It's a serious crime, and the Secretary believes strongly in taking decisive steps to prevent it and in prosecuting those who commit it."

This isn't the first time that Trotta has come under fire for her commentary on Fox News. In 2008, Trotta expressed her desire to "knock off" "both" Osama bin Laden and then-candidate Barack Obama. She later apologized for her "lame attempt at humor."

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