National Review's Kevin Williamson declared that the epidemic of campus sexual assault "is a fiction" and compared efforts to curb the crime to "mass hysteria" during the Salem Witch Trials.
Rolling Stone recently retracted its controversial article on sexual assault at the University of Virginia, following a review by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) which determined the report to be a "journalistic failure."
National Review correspondent Kevin Williamson responded by issuing a blanket denial of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses across the country. "There is no epidemic of rapes on American college campuses," Williamson wrote. "The campus-rape epidemic is a fiction." He likened outrage over campus sexual assaults to "mass hysteria" during the Salem Witch Trials and "the Satanic-cult hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s."
But sexual assault on college campuses is a serious issue -- and one that experts say is vastly underreported. Experts have estimated that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while at college, and the problem may be even more serious than statistics on the crime reveal. According to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network, sexual assault is "one of the most under reported crimes," with nearly 70 percent of crimes going unreported to police.
National Review's response to the CJR report on Rolling Stone takes the very position CJR explicitly warned against. In its review, CJR cautioned that the Rolling Stone case should not be used to discredit the larger movement to address campus sexual assault, writing, "It would be unfortunate if Rolling Stone's failure were to deter journalists from taking on high-risk investigations of rape in which powerful individuals or institutions may wish to avoid scrutiny but where the facts may be underdeveloped."
Moreover, Williamson's attempts to deny the seriousness of campus sexual assault are in line with National Review's history of repudiating the existence of rape. The outlet has repeatedly dismissed efforts to curb sexual violence, even going so far as to blame victims for crimes perpetrated against them.
A new survey of firearm experts reveals a consensus debunking the myths the gun lobby and conservative media use to try to infect the national dialogue on gun safety to create the appearance of legitimate debate.
From the April 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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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."
Comedy Central's The Daily Show debunked some of right-wing media's favorite myths about campus sexual assault, highlighting the high levels of the crime occurring at colleges and universities, the low instances of false reporting and the rarity of punishment for those accused.
During a March 25 interview on The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart spoke with Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, the director and producer of The Hunting Ground, a recently released "exposé of sexual assault on U.S. campuses," and discussed many of the most widespread misconceptions about campus sexual assault. The segment highlighted the harmful implications failing to address the issue has across the country:
Many of the myths highlighted by The Daily Show are baseless falsehoods that continue to be peddled by right-wing media outlets in order to downplay the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Here are three of right-wing media's favorite myths about campus sexual assaults, debunked:
Despite a recent push by The Wall Street Journal to highlight men who "say colleges are too quick to believe an alleged victim's testimony," suggesting that false reports of sexual assault are on the rise, instances of false allegations are actually very rare.
"False reporting of rape is exactly the same as any other crime, and you don't hear people concerned about the false reports of carjacking, or the 2 percent of false reports of burglaries," explained Ziering to Stewart. "But it is statistically not anomalous. That is what everybody needs to keep in mind." Indeed, according to a report by the National Center for the Protection of Violence Against Women, "methodologically rigorous research" has found the rate of false reports to be extremely low -- between 2 and 8 percent.
Conservative media figures like Fox News' Andrea Tantaros often hold up efforts to address sexual assault as proof of a "war" on men on boys, but many institutions actually favor alleged perpetrators when investigating the crimes.
As the The Hunting Ground's director Kirby Dick noted, "It is more likely that somebody who is sexually assaulted will leave school than the perpetrator will be kicked out ... A very small percentage of perpetrators are actually kicked out. The numbers are astonishingly low." A national survey conducted for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) supports Dick's assertion, finding that many colleges and universities "afford certain due process elements more frequently to alleged perpetrators than they do to survivors" and that schools often fail to penalize perpetrators.
After the White House released a report on addresesing campus sexual assault in 2014, conservative media rushed to try to discredit findings that one in five women experience attempted or completed sexual assault while in college. In the time since, media have continuously questioned statistics finding a high prevalence of the crime, with right-wing media figures like Rush Limbaugh going as far as to claim that "it's not happening" at all."
But as Dick pointed out, "The reality is that rapes are happening at all schools. In epidemic proportions." Numerous organizations have spoken out defending these findings. Right-wing media's efforts to dismiss the epidemic of campus sexual assault further stigmatize a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 60% of the time.
From the March 24 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Recent Media Matters studies found that local New York City television stations gave disproportionate coverage of crimes committed by African-Americans when compared to actual NYPD crime statistics. Studies consistently report that media over-representation of black people as criminals perpetuates racial stereotypes and can shape everything from personal bias to criminal justice outcomes.
Two Media Matters reports analyzing nightly news coverage show New York City outlets have named African-Americans as suspects in murder, theft, and assault stories at a rate at least 14 percent higher than reflected in actual NYPD arrest rates averaged over the last four years. Rashad Robinson, executive director of the civil rights group ColorOfChange, explained the negative impact of the media's overrepresentation of African-Americans as criminals:
In addition to reaching out to all four New York stations, ColorOfChange recently released a report card, "Not To Be Trusted: Dangerous Levels of Inaccuracy in TV Crime Reporting in NYC," evaluating the stations in light of Media Matters' latest study. Stations have been slow to react to the report; WNBC, the only station so far to comment, released a statement to Capital New York expressing a commitment to diversity and balanced reporting.
Racial bias in crime reporting is not limited to New York City. Studies in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles found that people of color are more likely to appear as perpetrators in media coverage of crime. Researchers at the Heinz Endowments' African American Men and Boys Task Force found that in Pittsburgh, not only did "[c]rime stories [lead] all news topics" linked to black men, but these stories also "tended to get more prominent play in the news, with stories more likely appearing atop the news page or at the beginning of the evening newscast."
Racial over-representation in news reports has real effects on news media consumers. Evidence presented in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media suggests that overrepresentation of African-Americans as criminals "strengthens the cognitive association between Blacks and criminality in the mind" of the audience.
In The Black Image in the White Mind, authors and Professors Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki explained that exposure to images and reports of African-Americans as criminals reduces white viewers' empathy and "heightens animosity" towards African-Americans. Entman and Rojecki added that the media's overrepresentation of blacks as criminals could also "reduce apparent and real responsiveness of White-dominated society to the needs of poor minorities":
To the extent local television news thereby undermines the fragile foundations of racial comity, it could reduce apparent and real responsiveness of White-dominated society to the needs of poor minorities, especially Blacks. The result, in turn, is continued employment discrimination and government unresponsiveness to the urban job loss and economic dislocation that has so traumatized the inner city -- and consequent breeding of crime.
From the March 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Four major broadcast television stations in New York City have continued to give disproportionate coverage to crime stories involving African-American suspects, a Media Matters analysis found. Between August 18 and December 31, 2014, the stations' late-night news broadcasts on weeknights still 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.
A Wall Street Journal report on campus sexual assault suggested false accusations of sexual assault are on the rise but failed to explain the rarity of such accusations. What's more, studies show that universities tend to favor accused perpetrators over victims when investigating sexual assault reports, and the myth of widespread false accusations may actually deter victims from reporting assaults to police.
Right-wing media are accusing President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder of supposedly fostering a culture that led to the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri.
Fox & Friends highlighted the Department of Justice's finding of systematic racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department to blame Attorney General Eric Holder for the shooting of two police officers, after previously overlooking the racial bias findings when the report was first released in order to hype the lack of charges against Darren Wilson.
On March 4, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released the findings of their Ferguson investigation in two reports. One report stated that police officer Darren Wilson's "'actions do not constitute prosecutable violations' of federal civil rights law," while the second report found "systemic racial discrimination by the Ferguson Police."
On the March 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, reporter Peter Doocy described the DOJ's finding of racial bias, emphasizing that Attorney General Eric Holder "floated the possibility" of dissolving the Ferguson police department as a result, while co-host Steve Doocy linked the DOJ report and Holder's response to the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson. Doocy described the shooting, saying, "a new wave of violence comes one week after Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to dismantle that city's police department," and questioned whether it was "what he wanted."
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano whether Holder "fuel[ed] the flame," and Napolitano asserted, "he probably did fuel the flame," emphasizing that "the political environment in which this happened, obviously, the flames were fanned by" Holder.
Right-wing media are scandalizing President Obama's refusal to conflate terrorism with all of Islam, attacking the president for not focusing on "Islamic extremism" in the three-day White House summit to combat violent extremism. But the conservative outrage ignores the fact that conflating terrorism with an entire religion would harm U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by alienating allied Muslim nations and play into the hands of terrorists who claim the U.S. is at war with Islam.
From the February 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the February 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show: