CNN's Jake Tapper grilled a lawmaker who sponsored Arkansas' "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA), demonstrating the hypocrisy of conservatives who deny that "religious freedom" laws are intended to protect anti-gay discrimination.
Conservative media outlets have been scrambling to defend "religious freedom" laws in places like Indiana and Arkansas, which provide a legal defense for businesses and individuals who cite their religious beliefs in order to refuse service to LGBT customers. Proponents of these two states' RFRAs have repeatedly denied that the "religious freedom" laws would allow for anti-LGBT discrimination, despite evidence to the contrary.
During the April 1 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper, Tapper interviewed Arkansas state Senator Bart Hester (R), a sponsor of the state's proposed RFRA. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declined to sign the measure into law today, suggesting that it be reworked to more closely mirror federal law. Tapper began the interview by asking whether RFRA would allow Christian business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples if they felt serving them would violate their religious beliefs. Hester responded that RFRA doesn't allow discrimination but would allow Christian businesses to refuse gay customers.
The result was an awkward four minute exchange during which Tapper repeatedly tried to get Hester to acknowledge that refusing service to a gay couple is, in fact, discrimination:
TAPPER: This is what I don't understand with supporters of this type of legislation. Would it allow the florist to not give flowers to the same-sex couple or not? You're saying almost two things. You're saying that there's no discrimination, but the Christian conservative doesn't have to participate in a ceremony they find objectionable. It's just one or the other. I'm just trying to figure out what it does, I'm not judging the legislation.
TAPPER: How are they going to stay true to their conservative Christian beliefs and also not discriminate? This is what I don't get here. Are you saying that they can hold true and not participate in an event that they don't find holy, that they think is objectionable or sinful? Or are you saying that they have to? I'm confused.
TAPPER: I feel like people who are supporting this law are kind of fudging whether or not standing up for the Christian conservatives allows them to discriminate against same-sex couples in a ceremony or an event that they don't sanction. It would permit discrimination, is what you're saying, in the name of their religious rights.
Right-wing media have been mocking a recent resolution to address the disproportionate impacts that women will face from climate change, laughing at the possibility that "climate change will turn women into prostitutes." But the grim reality is that climate change will affect women in ways that should not be laughed at or ignored.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation on March 25 to "recogniz[e] the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change." When an identical resolution was introduced in 2013, PolicyMic reported that it would oblige Congress to "acknowledge the disparate effects that climate change will have on women, build gender into a framework for combating climate-related issues, and take steps to reverse this disparity."
Right-wing media coverage of this bill, on the other hand, has been exclusively focused on sex -- by ridiculing the notion that climate change could force women into prostitution.
Conservative news sites published scandalizing headlines such as Breitbart's "Congresswoman Claims Climate Change Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes," WorldNetDaily's "Lefty Lawmaker Warns: Climate Change Makes Women Prostitutes," Powerline's "Will Global Warming Cause Prostitution?" and Daily Caller's "Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): Global Warming Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes For Food." A blog post on the American Spectator wrote that climate change "is going to be great for dudes, who apparently don't have to worry about any negative effects of the transactional sex they engage in as a result of the warming climate." An editorial at Tennessee's Kingsport Times-News quoted the movie Forrest Gump to attack the proposal, writing: "Forrest Gump said that 'stupid is as stupid does.' Witness Rep. Barbara Lee, Democrat of California ... [who says] that global warming will force women into prostitution." Fox News' late night show Red Eye devoted several minutes to mocking the idea that climate change harms women more than men. And Rush Limbaugh asked on the March 27 edition of his show, "which came first, prostitution or climate?"
They are all are referring to a single line in the bill's text: "[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health."
The harmful impacts of climate change on women, which Rep. Lee's resolution hopes to address, are no laughing matter. A United Nations analysis detailed how women are often more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men, particularly in developing countries, and that it is therefore "important to identify gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change." U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres noted further in a CNN.com op-ed that "women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt":
Iowa radio host and Washington Times columnist Steve Deace strongly criticized Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) after Pence agreed in a press conference to amend Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which would give businesses the right to discriminate against LGBT Americans, calling Pence "gutless" and comparing him and other state Republicans to "eunuchs."
Deace, who is notoriously anti-gay, initially supported Pence on his March 30 radio show, instead blaming the "rainbow jihad" and "religious bigots" for causing an unnecessary issue with a law he incorrectly claimed was the same as in 19 other states.
Despite the backing of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates, Pence held a press conference announcing he would revisit the law and ensure there were protections for LGBT Americans. On his March 31 show, Deace called Pence a "gutless hack," and said that any chance he had at the Republican presidential nomination is gone. Deace added of Republicans: "When you look between their legs, there's no there, there. Eunuchs all. Well, almost all. GOP leadership is rapidly removing any reasons for a conservative to vote Republican, let alone remain one."
In an interview with the Washington Post and on his show, Deace said RFRA is "the first litmus test of the race" and that for him, if a candidate did not align themselves with anti-gay laws, they would be a non-starter in his eyes.
Deace, who has frequently appeared on cable television to discuss how national stories will play out in Iowa, was recently called one of the "most powerful Republicans you've never heard of" by Bloomberg Politics because of his influence in the key primary state of Iowa.
Full segment below:
Fox News' Andrea Tantaros defended Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), asserting that businesses owners "would go out of their way not to discriminate." But a business owner in Indiana has already pledged to use the law to deny services to LGBT customers.
Indiana's "religious freedom" law -- which provides a legal defense for businesses that refuse to serve LGBT customers for religious reasons -- ignited a firestorm of criticism this week, with legal scholars and LGBT advocates raising concerns about the law's broad language.
On the April 1 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Tantaros downplayed concerns about the law, claiming, "these big businesses are going to go out of their way, of course, not to discriminate," adding that she doesn't "see Christian businesses refusing to serve eggs to anyone."
But at least one Indiana businessowner has already pledged to refuse to serve LGBT people. Crystal O'Connor, an owner of Memories Pizza shop in Walkerton, told ABC 57 that she supported RFRA and would refuse service to a gay couple because "we are a Christian establishment." "If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no," she stated.
Recent revelations that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush "has given his tacit endorsement" to a group that will funnel dark money to benefit a potential presidential run raise questions about how the media will respond, given how the press has frequently treated publicly disclosed charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation as a major scandal for Hillary Clinton.
Jeb Bush "has given his tacit endorsement" to Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit organization established by a former Bush staff member that shares its name with two Bush affiliated political committees, according to a March 31 report from The Washington Post. The nonprofit allows Bush to side-step campaign finance laws that cap donations from individual donors and require donations to political action committees (PACs) to be publicly reported, permitting "individuals and corporations" to "give as much as they want while remaining anonymous." As noted by the Post, experts now predict that the creation of the "Bush-allied nonprofit" may push other candidates to create similar groups, "injecting more secret money into the political process."
The media have previously gone to great lengths to scandalize donations to the Clinton Foundation, a global charity, devoting weeks of coverage in order to speculate about the impact of donations to a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run. The criticism has come in spite of the fact that those donations were publicly disclosed by Clintons, whose foundation according to the The Washington Post "goes beyond legal requirements" for transparency at a philanthropic organization. Various media figures baselessly speculated that the donations were "another way in to Clinton's potential campaign" and National Journal's Ron Fournier even asserted that donations to the charitable organization were proof that the Clintons would "cut any corners for campaign cash."
The press' obsession with Clinton Foundation donations is in direct contrast to their lack of interest in controversial campaign donations to potential 2016 GOP contenders, like dark money donations benefitting Wisconsin Governor and 2016 presidential hopeful Scott Walker. On March 23 Yahoo News reported that the "richest man in Wisconsin" had made over $1.5 million in secret donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a "pro-Walker advocacy group" where Walker helped generate large undisclosed donations. The group also worked to defend him in the 2012 recall election. However, according to a Media Matters analysis, the story went largely unreported by the media.
CNN highlighted religious support for LGBT equality in its coverage of Indiana's "religious freedom" law, avoiding the common 'God versus Gays' trope that typically defines coverage of debates over LGBT issues. CNN's coverage is in line with polls that show increasing support for marriage equality and LGBT rights by a variety of major religious groups.
During the April 1 edition of CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Costello invited Matthew Vines, a gay Evangelical Christian, to discuss Indiana's widely-criticized "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA). The law has been at the center of controversy over concern that it provides a legal defense for individuals or businesses to cite religious beliefs as a justification for refusing service to LGBT people.
The Outdoor Channel's new documentary on gun-free zones, hosted by Katie Pavlich and hyped by Fox News, will feature right-wing media's favorite gun myths -- including the false claim that gun-free zones encourage mass shootings and may "creat[e] an environment for criminal activity to run rampant."
The April 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends hyped the Outdoor Channel's Safe Haven: Gun-Free Zones In America documentary premiering later that day, featuring its trailer and highlighting film-host and Fox contributor Katie Pavlich. Using the premiere to push the conservative myths that shooters specifically target locations that don't allow guns and that more guns would prevent mass shootings and other crimes, host Steve Doocy asserted that "you think gun-free zones, that's going to be safe, but that means if you don't have a gun, the bad guys do and you're in trouble." Pavlich agreed, adding, "gun-free zones are not gun-free, it gives criminals an ability to have the upper hand on people who are simply following the law."
Megyn Kelly continued her misinformation campaign in defense of Indiana's "religious freedom" law, claiming that the measure won't further discrimination against LGBT people because discrimination is already allowed in Indiana, due to a lack of statewide protections against anti-gay discrimination. In fact, the "religious freedom" law threatens to trump municipal non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation, such as the one in Indianapolis.
On the March 31 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, Kelly hosted yet another misleading segment on Indiana's widely-criticized "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," a law that provides a legal defense for individuals and businesses who cite their religious beliefs against private plaintiffs or the government when refusing to serve LGBT people.
Kelly invited Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to defend the law for the second night in a row. During the segment, Kelly argued that RFRA couldn't lead to discrimination because LGBT persons in Indiana are not guaranteed equal treatment under the law:
KELLY: Even though Governor Pence, for some reason, will not get specific about whether this law would specifically, in any case, allow a florist, for example, objecting to a gay wedding to decline to participate in the gay wedding - let's just assume for the purposes of this hypothetical that discrimination against gays was illegal in Indiana - which it's not, by the way -
KELLY: But if it were, do you believe that this law would then protect the religious objector?
KELLY: I want the viewers to understand this, that this law does not allow discrimination against gays.
KELLY: That is already legal in the state of Indiana!
KELLY: Until the state of Indiana - it is, Tony!
PERKINS: But how often does it happen?
KELLY: Until the state recognizes gays and lesbians as a protected class and passes an anti-discrimination law against them, they can be fired for any reason, they can not be served for any reason.
In sharp contrast with its intense scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's private email server, the media has largely remained mum on Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) own habit of deleting official emails sent from a private email account. MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out that the hosts of Fox News' The Five gave Rubio a free pass on his email history, while continuing to disparage Clinton's private server.
According to a statement by Clinton's lawyer, the former Secretary of State's email server was wiped clean after she turned over approximately 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that not only did Rubio correspond with reporters on a private email account while he served as a leader in the Florida House, but when the Orlando Sentinal requested those emails, Rubio's spokesperson said they had been deleted.
In a March 31 article for MSNBC.com's MaddowBlog, Benen pointed out that while co-hosting the March 30 edition of The Five, Rubio failed to answer a direct question about whether he would publicly disclose his own private emails, writing, "At this point, Dana Perino, the former press secretary in the Bush/Cheney White House, jumped in to criticize Clinton in more detail, and Rubio never responded to the question. Which is further evidence that the politics of emails is trickier than Republican would like."
Benen went on to describe how similar the two email stories actually are:
But in an unexpected twist, it was a question from a Fox News co-host that demonstrates how easy it is to remove "Clinton" out of that sentence and put in the name of several Republican presidential candidates, including "Rubio." Consider:
In Rubio's case, the senator concedes he did official work on his private account, but he insists the deleted private emails had nothing to do with his official duties. Perhaps the way to be certain is to pursue full disclosure - up to and including careful technology scrutiny of computer servers - just to make sure he didn't do anything wrong.
Why should Rubio be trusted to make decisions on his own about which of his emails should be deleted?
I suppose the obvious answer is that the Florida senator isn't accused of any official wrongdoing, so there's no need to review his communications. But - and this is key - Clinton isn't facing any serious allegations, either, Benghazi conspiracy theorists notwithstanding.
The media also ignored former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's email habits. In the wake of a Clinton feeding frenzy, the major networks paid minimal attention to the seven years it took for Bush to comply with a Florida statute requiring him to turn over private emails.