Following the release of a new video showing NFL player Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious, many in the right-wing media responded by blaming the victim, focusing on the fact that the two wed after the incident.
When it comes to sexual assault on college campuses, Fox News host Lou Dobbs doesn't see "anything controversial" about telling women not to drink in order to avoid sexual assault.
In August, former George Washington University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg came under fire for comments he made on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, where Trachtenberg argued that women should be "trained not to drink in excess" so that they can fend off potential rapists.
During the September 3 edition of Outnumbered, Dobbs vocalized his support for Trachtenberg's comments, wondering "why there should be anything controversial" about advising college students to avoid alcohol to protect themselves from sexual assault. He went on to explain that the "vulnerability" of drinking is a "disastrous choice" to make, while co-host Harris Faulkner agreed, that "personal responsibility... is very important in all of this":
But the implication that preventing sexual assault is as simple as telling women not to drink is faulty. Although excessive alcohol consumption may play a role in encouraging damaging behavior, "[t]he fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault," according to a literature review from the National Institutes of Health:
[M]en are legally and morally responsible for acts of sexual assault they commit, regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated or felt that the woman had led them on previously. The fact that a woman's alcohol consumption may increase their likelihood of experiencing sexual assault does not make them responsible for the man's behavior, although such information may empower women when used in prevention programs.
And as an expert explained to USA Today, "People don't get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk. People get raped because there is a perpetrator there -- someone who wants to take advantage of them."
Dobb's dismissal of sexual assault as a problem that can be mitigated by educating women not to drink places blame squarely on victims' shoulders instead of pointing the finger at perpetrators of sexual assault. Such willingness to shift responsibility away from perpetrators to the victims contributes to the dangerous culture of stigmatization that keeps many survivors from reporting the crimes in the first place.
From the August 26 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
From the August 26 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
A Media Matters analysis found that four major broadcast television stations in New York City gave disproportionate coverage to crime stories involving African-American suspects over the past three months. The stations' late-night news broadcasts on weeknights covered murder, theft, and assault cases in which African-Americans were suspects at a notably higher rate than the rate at which African-Americans have historically been arrested for those crimes in New York City.
From the August 25 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing media outlets criticized the Obama administration over news that three administration officials planned to attend shooting victim Michael Brown's funeral, citing the myth that the White House failed to send representation to the funeral of Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who was killed in Afghanistan -- In reality, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attended the two star general's service.
Fox News selectively clipped Attorney General Eric Holder's Ferguson, Missouri, statement on the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown to accuse him of taking sides against the police in the coming Justice Department investigation -- though Holder explicitly noted that, "as a father of a teenage son" and "as the brother of a retired law enforcement officer," he understands both sides.
Days after selectively editing a statement from President Obama to claim the administration is "choosing sides" in Ferguson, Fox tried the same tactic with Holder. The network aired a deceptively clipped portion of Holder's July 21 statement about his visit to the town, which has been the center of national attention since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by an officer of the St. Louis County Police Department.
On Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said the clip showed Holder "personally claiming that he understood the public's mistrust toward the police" in a way that may "inflame racial tension." Doocy suggested that "there's been a rush to judgment" by Holder and the administration. Fox News contributor Linda Chavez agreed that Holder was "basically picking a side." She went on to argue that the administration has been "playing the race card" and exploiting the black community for political gain:
CHAVEZ: I do think there's something going on. I think it's politics, it's all about domestic politics. I think it's an exploitation of the black community. I think it is playing the race card and I think it's disgraceful.
The full context of Holder's statement contradicts Fox's narrative that Holder has already sided with critics of the Ferguson police. The portion of the statement that Fox aired came immediately after Holder noted that felt personally affected by the tensions in Ferguson because he understood both sides on a personal level.
Holder said that, "[a]s the brother of a retired law enforcement officer," he understood the " tremendous threats and significant personal risk" that police who "lives on the line every day" have to factor into rapid decision-making, but also noted that "as a father of a teenage son myself" he understands the community's need for answers.
What's more, Holder's comments following the portion Fox aired go on to condemn the violence in Ferguson, with Holder stating, "I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring. To a person yesterday, the people I met with, take great pride in their town and despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the violence that we have seen over the past couple of weeks."
Here's a longer version of Holder's statement, from CNN (the portion Fox aired is in bold):
Now although our investigation will take time, and although I cannot discuss the specifics of this case in greater detail since it remains open and very active, the people of Ferguson can have confidence in the federal agents, investigators and prosecutors who are leading this process. Our investigation will be fair, it will be thorough, and it will be independent.
On a personal note, I've seen a lot in my time as attorney general but few things have affected me as greatly as my visit to Ferguson. I had the chance to meet with the family of Michael Brown. I spoke to them not just as attorney general, but as a father of a teenage son myself. They, like so many in Ferguson, want answers. In my conversations with dozens of people in Ferguson yesterday, it was clear that this shooting incident has brought to the surface underlying tensions that have existed for many years. There is a history to these tensions and that history simmers in more communities than just Ferguson.
Law enforcement has a role to play in reducing tensions as well. As the brother of a retired law enforcement officer, I know firsthand that our men and women in uniform perform their duties in the face of tremendous threats and significant personal risk. They put their lives on the line every day and they often have to make split-second decisions.The national outcry we have seen speaks to a sense of mistrust and mutual suspicion that can take hold in the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities.
I wanted the people of Ferguson to know that I personally understood that mistrust. I wanted them to know that while so much else may be uncertain, this attorney general and this Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson.I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring. To a person yesterday, the people I met with, take great pride in their town and despite the mistrust that exists, they reject the violence that we have seen over the past couple of weeks.
In that sense, while I went to Ferguson to provide' assurance, in fact, they gave me hope. My commitment to them is that long after this tragic story no longer receives this level of attention, the Justice Department will continue to stand with Ferguson. We will continue the conversation this incident has sparked about the need for trust building between law enforcement officers and the communities that they serve, about the appropriate use of force, and the need to ensure fair and equal treatment for everyone who comes into contact with the police.
A Fox News segment asked whether the "unarmed teen" description of Michael Brown is misleading and featured Fox contributor Linda Chavez arguing that such a description enhances racial fears and is an attempt to play the "race card."
On August 25, Chavez and Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy aired surveillance footage from the convenience store that Michael Brown allegedly robbed before his death, and used this to argue that describing Brown as an "unarmed teen" at the time of the shooting is misleading.
In an op-ed Chavez wrote for the New York Post, she argued that "The actual images of Brown on the video surely do not bring to mind a harmless teen." During the segment on Fox, on-screen text asked if the "unarmed teen" description of Michael Brown was misleading while Chavez argued that Brown was an adult male "who is six foot four and weighs almost three hundred pounds":
CHAVEZ: I think that what is happening is really not calming racial fears but is actually enhancing them by acting as if, you know, this mantra of the unarmed black teenager shot by a white cop. You know, that description in and of itself actually colors the way in which we look at this story. We're talking about an 18-year-old man who is six foot four and weighs almost three hundred pounds, who is videotaped just moments before the confrontation with a police officer strong arming an employee and robbing a convenience store.
From the August 24 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
Loading the player reg...
From the August 21 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
Loading the player reg...
From the August 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
A Washington Post article about sexual assault on college campuses failed to provide crucial context about how rare false reports of these incidents actually are.
After the White House formed a task force in January to address the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, a wave of bipartisan efforts to address the problem have pushed the issue into the national spotlight.
In the August 20 article, the Post discussed the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses by centering the issue around how those accused of the crime were "fighting back against what they call unfair disciplinary systems and publicity that threatens to shatter their reputations." The Post also aired concerns from "some of the accused" that the nationwide push to curb campus sexual assault "has led to an unfair tipping of the scales" against alleged perpetrators.
But at no point did the Post report that the rate of false reports of sexual assaults is low. Most rigorous research puts the rate at between 2 percent and 8 percent, according to a recent report published by the National District Attorneys Association's National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women.
Studies like the recent national survey conducted for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have also found that colleges not only routinely fail to investigate sexual assault allegations, but when they do, some institutions actually "afford certain due process elements more frequently to alleged perpetrators than they do to survivors."
The perpetuation of the myth of widespread false reports has serious consequences. According to the White House report on sexual assault, this myth in particular "may help account for" low rates of both the reporting of sexual assault and arrests of perpetrators:
Many factors may contribute to low arrest rates, and these cases can be challenging to investigate. However, research shows that some police officers still believe certain rape myths (e.g., that many women falsely claim rape to get attention), which may help account for the low rates. Similarly, if victims do not behave the way some police officers expect (e.g., crying) an officer may believe she is making a false report -- when, in reality, only 2-10% of reported rapes are false.
Geraldo Rivera is once again citing alleged appearance as a mitigating factor in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, evoking footage of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie to contextualize potential police motive for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
While newly released video footage purports to show 18-year-old Brown robbing a convenience store prior to his death, Ferguson police have emphasized that the suspected crime is entirely unrelated to the police stop and subsequent shooting that resulted in Brown's death. According to the town police chief, Brown was stopped because he was "walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic."
This fact did not stop Fox News host Rivera from citing Brown's appearance in the video as potential evidence to the justification of Brown's death.
In an August 15 editorial for Fox News Latino, he wrote that even though police don't link the alleged robbery to Brown's police stop, "At the very least, watching the surveillance video of Brown allegedly robbing the convenience store should alter our perception of the victim. According to Rivera, "The portrait of the kid as an unarmed, innocent, college-bound youth ruthlessly shot in the back while trying to surrender seems incomplete at best." A few days later in a Fox News appearance, Rivera predicted that "menacing" footage of the unrelated robbery could lead to the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed Brown:
RIVERA: The white jurors will look at that convenience store surveillance tape. They will see Michael Brown menacing that clerk. The white jurors will put themselves in the shoes of that clerk. They'll say, of course the officer responded the way he did. He was menaced by a 6' 4", 300-pound kid, 10 minutes fresh from a strong-armed robbery. The officer was defending himself. The white jurors will put themselves in the white officer's place. The black jurors will see Michael Brown, despite his flaws, as the surrogate for every black youngster ever shot.
In both instances, to illustrate his point, Rivera invoked the appearance of Trayvon Martin. Citing surveillance video of Martin, a black teenager wearing a hoodie in a convenience store prior to his shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman, Rivera wrote that the teen looked "like every 7/11 robbery suspect ever caught on tape."
Martin's appearance led to the acquittal of his killer, Rivera claimed, because "the jury of six women, five white and one Hispanic ... saw the young man through Zimmerman's eyes, threatening and dangerous."
The Fox host gained notoriety in 2012 for blaming the shooting death of Martin on his hoodie, what Rivera deemed "wannabe gangsta," "thug" attire. And despite promising in early 2014 to discontinue using the phrase "thug," which he conceded was akin to "the new n-word" following Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's explanation that the words carried the same racial connotations, only four months later Rivera returned to using the pejorative on the Fox News airways.
Take a look at Rivera's record of using appearance as an explanatory variable when it comes to the shooting deaths of black teens:
Fox News has repeatedly dismissed the federal civil rights investigation into the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, calling it "political optics" and an example of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder playing "the race card." In fact, under long-standing civil rights law, the federal government has parallel investigative powers alongside local authorities and frequently investigates local police departments that may have a pattern or practice of abuse.