Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen dismissed the real-life rape of a minor as "manhandl[ing]" and refused to acknowledge the realities of the sexual misconduct, a longstanding and common practice for Cohen.
In a Post op-ed on September 2, Cohen highlighted singer Miley Cyrus' recent MTV performance where she infamously twerked in order to bring attention to a New Yorker report by Ariel Levy on the horrific rape of a minor in Steubenville, OH in August 2012. Cohen euphemistically characterized the victim as being stripped and manhandled:
The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse. The next thing you should know is that there weren't many young men involved -- just two were convicted. The next thing you should know is that just about everything you do know about the case from TV and the Internet was wrong. One medium fed the other, a vicious circle of rumor, innuendo and just plain lies. It made for marvelous television.
The New Yorker piece was done by Ariel Levy, a gifted writer. When I finished her story, I felt somewhat disconcerted -- unhappily immersed in a teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic that I felt like a visitor to a foreign country. That country, such as it is, exists on the Internet -- in e-mails and tweets and Facebook, which formed itself into a digital lynch mob that demanded the arrest of the innocent for a crime -- gang rape -- that had not been committed. It also turned the victim into a reviled public figure, her name and picture (passed out, drunk) available with a Google query.
And yet what indisputably did happen is troubling enough. A teenage girl, stone-drunk, was stripped and manhandled. She was photographed and the picture passed around. Obviously, she was sexually mistreated. And while many people knew about all of this, no one did anything about it. The girl was dehumanized. As Levy put it, "[T]he teens seemed largely unaware that they'd been involved in a crime." She quoted the Jefferson County prosecutor, Jane Hanlin: "'They don't think that what they've seen is a rape in the classic sense. And if you were to interview a thousand teen-agers before this case started and said, "Is it illegal to take a video of another teenager naked?," I would be astonished if you could find even one who said yes.'"
Illegal is sort of beside the point. Right, proper, nice, respectful, decent -- you choose the word -- is more apt. This is what got me: a teenage culture that was brutal and unfeeling, that treated the young woman as dirt. "'She's deader than O.J.'s wife. She's deader than Caylee Anthony,' " one kid exulted in a YouTube posting. "'They raped her harder than that cop raped Marsellus Wallace in "Pulp Fiction." She is so raped right now.' " Yes, I know, they were all drunk, woozy and disoriented from a tawdry cable TV and celebrity culture.
After bizarrely emphasizing that what happened in Steubenville did not involve rape by intercourse, Cohen later referred to the crime as stripping and manhandling without ever definitively acknowledging that the assault amounted to rape. Of course, an Ohio jury found that the victim was raped and two teens were guilty of the crime.
The Washington Post published a problematic op-ed by Betsy Karasik, a Dupont Circle artist described by the Post as a "writer and former lawyer," that argued for the legal acceptance of consensual sexual relationships between teachers and their underage students.
Karasik's column centered on a widely discussed Montana case in which a 49-year-old teacher was sentenced to 30 days in prison after the statutory rape of a 14-year-old student, who several years later committed suicide. This sentence, which many feel was far too lenient and which came after the judge stated that the student was "older than her chronological age," led to a national public outcry.
Karasik, however, found herself "troubled for the opposite reason":
I don't believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.
Karasik does acknowledge that "that teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation."
From the August 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the August 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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On August 12, a federal court judge ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was improperly performing the common police tactic of "stop and frisk" by unconstitutionally targeting persons of color without reasonable suspicion. The New York City Council agreed, and passed legislation over a mayor's veto on August 23 to safeguard against future unconstitutional applications of this long-standing enforcement tactic. Right-wing media responded by ignoring the constitutional violations and instead defended the NYPD's actions for "establishing a sense of order."
Fox News and right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh have not hesitated to inject harmful and unnecessary racial overtones into their coverage of an Australian teen shot and killed at random in Oklahoma. Fox and Rush are feeding into a well-worn script of biased media coverage of violent crimes that academic research has shown favors white people and disparages black people with seriously ill effects on racial comity and equal justice in America.
On August 16, three teens -- one white, two black -- shot and killed Christopher Lane, an Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.
Conservative media figures pounced on the story with a racial lens. On his radio show, Limbaugh called the murder, "Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse," and speculated that the teenagers "got bored and said, 'Let's go shoot a white guy!'"
Over at Fox News, guest Pat Buchanan appeared on the set of On the Record With Greta Van Susteren to predict that the shooting was "racial" while running through a list of dubious statistics on interracial crime that he used to claim that "racial hate crimes [are] 40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community, and nobody talks about it."
On the morning side, Fox & Friends wondered why civil rights activists Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson hadn't responded to the murder, while Fox News' White House correspondent Ed Henry asked Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest if the White House had any reaction to Lane's murder "apparently by three African-American young men."
Unfortunately, Fox News' coverage of this tragedy fits a long pattern of racially-biased media coverage of crime stories -- a pattern that has demonstrably harmful effects. Professor of media & public affairs at George Washington University Robert Entman highlighted a few of the subtle media trends recorded in various studies. They include:
1. Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to appear as lawbreakers in the news - particularly when the news is focusing on violent crime. [...]
2. [W]hites are overrepresented as victims of violence and as law-enforcers, while blacks are underrepresented in these sympathetic roles.
3. [B]lacks in criminal roles tend to outnumber blacks in socially positive roles in newscasts and daily newspapers. [...]
4. [D]epictions of black suspects...tend to be more symbolically threatening than those of whites accused of similar crimes...In the ubiquitous "perp walks," blacks were twice as likely as whites to be shown under some form of physical restraint by police - although all were accused of scary and generally violent crimes.
7. [B]lack victims are less likely to be covered than white victims in newspaper coverage of crime.
Fox News has recently engaged in racebaiting by baselessly claiming that a Florida student's beating on a school bus and the shooting of an Australian college student in Oklahoma were racially motivated. But police and a prosecutor involved in these cases debunked these claims during interviews on Fox.
In early August, a video of three teenagers beating another student on a school bus in Florida spread across national news outlets, and an August 6 report from the Orlando Sentinel noted that the attack was in retaliation for the victim notifying school officials that the three teens tried to sell him drugs. But Fox News took a different angle. Since all three of the alleged perpetrators are black, and the victim is white, Fox repeatedly claimed that race was the motivating factor for the attack. On August 9, Fox host Steve Doocy bragged that it was Fox News that brought race "to the forefront" of the story.
But the day before, Fox had interviewed the police chief of the town where the beating occurred. During the interview, Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent said: "The race difference between the victim and the defendants in this case is purely coincidental, there is absolutely no indication that race was a motivator in the attack."
Instead of learning from their mistake, Fox News hosts also baselessly insisted race was a factor when reporting on the tragic death of Christopher Lane, an Australian attending college in Oklahoma. Because Lane was white and two of the three suspects charged in connection with his shooting are black, Fox presented this crime as having a racial bias. On the August 21 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts demanded to know why President Obama, Al Sharpton, or Jesse Jackson hadn't commented on the case, an attempt to connect this crime to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Once again, an official involved with the case debunked the network's assertions that race was a factor in this crime. On August 22, Fox News host Greta van Susteren interviewed local District Attorney Jason Hicks, who said that with all of his evidence for the case, he had nothing to "indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
How many more crimes will Fox News falsely charge are motivated by race?
From the August 22 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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In response to a new ad that cites the death of Trayvon Martin to encourage states to end Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, Fox's Hannity claimed the laws actually benefit black Americans more than any other race. The falsehood, first pushed by the conservative blog The Daily Caller, ignores the fact that homicides with black victims are disproportionately found to be justified in SYG states, as well as SYG's impact on states' homicide rates.
Bill O'Reilly decried the "corroding culture" and "derelict parenting" in America today and claimed that President Obama has "never addressed" the issue. In fact, the president has discussed the issue several times -- including during the administration's push for gun control legislation and as recently as last month following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On August 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly discussed the recent murder of Australian college student Christopher Lane and connected it to the "corroding culture" and "the corruption of certain groups in this country." When O'Reilly Factor guest Kate Obenshain wondered why President Obama is not "jumping in right now to say 'we have a serious problem among our young people.'" O'Reilly responded saying, "He doesn't believe we have a serious problem among our young people." Fox contributor Kirsten Powers challenged O'Reilly's assertion, but he continued, "Five years in office. He's never addressed it one time -- the culture, the coarse culture, the derelict parenting -- he's never made it a centerpiece. We've had healthy gardens. We've had 'let's do some exercise.' We've had a whole bunch of other outreach programs. Nothing about this."
But as recently as July 19, President Obama spoke at length about issues young African Americans face while giving remarks on race and the death of Trayvon Martin. The president said, "We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," before continuing:
OBAMA: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And during the administration's recent push for new gun control legislation, Obama addressed a crowd in Chicago to stress the need for stronger families to help reduce crime and violence. According to an NBC Chicago transcript of the speech, Obama said, "There's no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."
Pat Buchanan continued his long history of racially controversial statements by using the murder of an Australian student in Oklahoma to engage in a discussion of interracial violence that appeared to serve no purpose other than to perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans.
Last week, an Australian baseball player jogging in an Oklahoma neighborhood was shot and killed "by three 'bored' teenagers who decided to kill someone for fun."
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, guest Pat Buchanan speculated that the shooting was "racial" (even though one of the alleged perpetrators is white). He blamed hip-hop, rap, and cable television for engendering a culture of violence among young African-Americans before claiming that "racial hate crimes" are "40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community, and nobody talks about it." He argued that African-Americans are disproportionately violent and pointed out that "interracial rape is almost exclusively black-on-white," comments that echo century-old stereotypes of African-American men as innately brutish predators.
From the August 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the August 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News hosts repeatedly attacked a federal court opinion that found that the New York Police Department's (NYPD) version of stop and frisk was unconstitutionally applied by arguing stop and frisk in general is constitutional, a misleading conflation of the NYPD's enforcement tactics and proper stop and frisk procedure.
The co-hosts of Fox News' The Five struggled to grasp the facts surrounding the New York City Police Department's (NYPD) use of a law enforcement tool known as stop-and-frisk. In their rush to attack a federal court decision finding the NYPD tactics violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, the Fox figures bungled even the most basic stop-and-frisk facts.
Federal judge Shira Scheindlin ruled on August 12 that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York City. According to the New York Times, Scheindlin determined that "the Police Department resorted to a 'policy of indirect racial profiling' as it increased the number of stops in minority communities. That has led to officers' routinely stopping 'blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.'" Indeed, between 2011 and 2012, nearly nine out of ten people stopped by NYPD for a stop-and-frisk were black or Hispanic.
Fox's The Five responded by attacking the decision with a litany of falsehoods about stop-and-frisk, mangling even the most basic aspects of the practice.
Various co-hosts claimed the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy was behind the reduction in murder rates and firearms confiscations in New York City.
While New York's violent crime rates are indeed falling, statistics indicate this is not due to the NYPD's accelerated stop-and-frisk program. New York's murder rate began dropping before stop-and-frisk was ramped up. According to Forbes contributor Naomi Robbins, the "astronomical increase in stop-and-frisk came well after the significant decrease in number of murders, and thus cannot be the cause of the drop." As for guns, fewer than 0.5 percent of stop-and-frisk stops produce one, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union:
Tellingly, the hosts ignored the fact that multiple cities without similar stop-and-frisk policies have had greater reductions in violent crime than New York.