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  • What Wisconsin Journalists Want The National Press To Know About Scott Walker

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker formally enters the presidential race, journalists in his home state say the national press should focus their reporting on his polarizing history fighting abortion rights, gay marriage, and public information disclosure, while also highlighting his push as a state assemblyman for mandatory prison time that has overwhelmed the state's prison system.

    Many Badger State scribes also point to the state's poor economic record, while describing Walker as an "extreme" politician whose far-right approach may not work in a national race.

    "He is not as charismatic as I think a lot of people think," said John Nichols, an associate editor at the progressive Capital Times in Madison. "The drama, the excitement associated with Scott Walker is that he did some extreme things that scared a lot of people."

    "He's a pretty polarizing character," said political reporter Kate Pabich of WMTV, the NBC affiliate in Madison. "If he gets the GOP primary nomination he is going to have a hard time appealing to a national stage. The things he's done, the ultra-conservative things he's done, the 20-week abortion, the stance on gay marriage, will be an issue."

    Pablich was referring to the state ban on abortion after 20 weeks, which passed in the Wisconsin Assembly just last week -- with no exceptions for rape or incest, reportedly at Walker's insistence -- and which is likely to get Walker's approval.

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel capital reporter Jason Stein said the abortion ban is important because "that could be banned at the national level" if Walker is elected president.

    Stein also said media should examine a so-called "right-to-work" law Walker signed in March that strips unions of vital resources by allowing private-sector employees to opt out of paying union dues, as well as his support for a severely restrictive public information overhaul that would have disallowed public access to many state records and documents.

    "They were sweeping," Stein said of the public information restrictions. "They would have exempted the vast majority of legislative documents" from review, allowing "the administration as well as any other state agency to withhold deliberative materials used to arrive at a policy decision," he concluded.

    After the restrictions were approved in the legislature's Joint Finance Committee, they were shelved following public outcry.

    Stein, who co-wrote a book about Walker's 2011 collective bargaining battle with state unions, also urged national reporters to look at Walker's time as Milwaukee County Executive, adding, "There was much more gridlock and his not being able to accomplish what he wanted. He was head-butting a lot with a Democratic County board."

    Capital Times' Nichols said Walker's claims about a great economic record in Wisconsin are misleading.

    "The Wisconsin economic story is not a particularly good story," he said. "Wisconsin trails a lot of neighboring states in economic vitality; its job growth is not particularly good."

    He said Walker promised when he first ran in 2010 to create 250,000 new jobs in his first term. But that fell far short, according to Politifact, which estimates only about 146,000 new jobs created during that time.

    "For all of his talk of becoming an economic savior, he is weaker on economics than a lot of people think," Nichols said.

    Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and a former longtime reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, agreed.

    "He did promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term, the numbers show he got about half that goal," Hall said. "The economy here continues to concern a lot of people. Yes, jobs are being created, but are they the right kinds of jobs?"

    Hall also cited the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, or WEDC, which Walker created to spark job growth. A state audit in May by the non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau found problems with its compliance and practices.

    Jim Fitzhenry, a top editor for Gannett Wisconsin Media, which operates newspapers and websites in 10 cities, said few national outlets seem to know about Walker's support for tighter mandatory sentencing that has ballooned the state's prison population.

    Known as "Truth-in-Sentencing," the restriction, passed by the Wisconsin state legislature in 1998, requires that many inmates serve their entire sentences without parole and increased the length of prison time for others.

    Walker co-sponsored the legislation as a state assemblyman and helped lead it to passage as chair of the state assembly's Committee on Corrections and the Courts, according to a lengthy report on his past prison reform actions in The Nation earlier this year.

    "It took away quite a bit of judicial discretion in sentences," Fitzhenry said. "Unlike a lot of his counterparts, Scott is still very much adamant for Truth-in-Sentencing."

    The Nation report detailed how Truth-in-Sentencing overburdens the Wisconsin prison system so much that it had to contract with a private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America, whose executives have also contributed to Walker's campaigns.

    A 2004 Journal Sentinel analysis of the law looked at data from Truth-in-Sentencing's first four years in existence and estimated that it would cost the state an additional $1.8 billion through 2025.

  • After Lambasting "Sanctuary Cities," Hannity Goes Quiet Upon Learning Giuliani Enforced Similar Policy As NYC Mayor

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI & NICHOLAS ROGERS

    After days of criticizing "sanctuary cities" and claiming they give safe haven to criminals and terrorists, Fox News' Sean Hannity had little to say on the matter while interviewing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who enforced his own "sanctuary policies" during his eight years in office.

    Following the July 1 shooting death of a San Francisco woman allegedly by an undocumented immigrant, conservative media reignited a debate on so-called "sanctuary cities," which limit local police enforcement of federal immigration laws. Hannity made his views known by declaring such cities dangerous safe havens for criminals and terrorists.

    But then, on the July 8 edition of his show, Hannity hosted former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to discuss "sanctuary cities" and the unsubstantiated claim that undocumented immigrants, in general, engage in a wide range of criminal activity. Giuliani explained that New York City's "sanctuary city" policy -- which he admitted he helped develop -- was adopted as a way to reduce crime by focusing on immigrant criminals instead of undocumented crime victims who aid police, children whose parents may be undocumented, or people seeking emergency hospital treatment. Guiliani described his city's policy as one of "don't ask." Hannity's only comment was to agree that not deporting undocumented residents who help with police investigations "makes sense" before he refocused the conversation on undocumented criminals. He neither refuted nor criticized Guiliani's explanation of the valid reasons to establish "sanctuary cities." Watch:

    While Guiliani attempted to distance New York's policy from that of San Francisco, the fact is that New York's policy is nearly identical to San Francisco's and other "sanctuary cities'."  As FactCheck.org pointed out after Guiliani attempted to claim that New York was never a "sanctuary city," cities like Seattle and San Francisco have similar "sanctuary policies" but if someone commits a crime, "then, in virtually all these localities and states, you're no longer protected or insulated":

    New York's executive order, first issued in 1989 and later renewed by Giuliani, called for local-federal cooperation in cases of suspected criminal activity and also allowed city employees to talk to federal agencies about an immigrant when it was "required by law." Other cities on CRS' list have similar requirements. San Francisco, for instance, which declares itself "a City and County of Refuge," permits cooperation between law enforcement and federal authorities if an immigrant is arrested on felony charges or has been previously convicted of a felony. Seattle's policy says: "Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to prohibit any Seattle city officer or employee from cooperating with federal immigration authorities as required by law." Police may also ask about immigration status if an officer believes a felony suspect previously may have been deported. 

    "There are different levels of detail in the policies. There are different goals in the policies," says Marshall Fitz of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "But for the most part, I think they are designed to provide a comfort level to immigrants that the police are, unless you're engaged in a crime, the police are not immigration agents. ... If you commit a crime ... well then, in virtually all of these localities and states, you're no longer protected or insulated."

    San Francisco and other "sanctuary cities" -- like New York, which under Guiliani attempted to sue the federal government to ensure its sanctuary policies were not dismantled by federal legislation -- have been found to be in accordance with all federal and state laws. In addition, as the Congressional Research Service has noted, as long as there is no specific policy banning the transfer of information from local authorities to federal immigration authorities, which don't collect such information -- or as Giuliani said, have a "don't ask" policy -- all "sanctuary cities" are in accordance with federal law and legal precedence.

  • Fox News Doctor: Gender Equality Means Men Can Now Hit Women

    Blog ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD

    Men not hitting women may be an "antiquated notion" because of co-ed sports and the gender equality movement, according to Fox News' Keith Ablow.

    That was the Fox News contributor and "Medical A-Team" member's takeaway from a newly surfaced surveillance video showing then-Florida State University quarterback De'Andre Johnson punching a female student in the face at a bar.

    Discussing the assault and Johnson's subsequent dismissal from the team on the July 8 edition of Fox & Friends, Ablow stressed that while he doesn't personally believe men should hit women, "that may be an antiquated notion if you look at our culture, which has just in a wholesale way dispensed with all gender quote-unquote stereotypes."

    Ablow went on to blame co-ed sports and a culture that tries to "dispense with the idea of gender differences" for an environment in which a man would punch a woman. If men are accustomed to competing against women in wrestling matches, Ablow said, then "when you're in a bar and she slaps you, you punch her in the face":

    ABLOW: Listen if you're saying that it's just fine to flip a girl onto her back in a wrestling match, and pin her to the ground and take some joy in that -- well then I guess if you're in a bar and she slaps you, you punch her in the face. Not in Ablow's world, because you'd never be wrestling her to begin with.

  • Ann Coulter Claims Credit For Donald Trump's Anti-Immigrant Bomb Throwing

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Anti-immigrant conservative pundit Ann Coulter is claiming responsibility for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's incendiary rhetoric characterizing Mexican immigrants as criminals and "rapists."

    On June 1, Coulter released the book Adios, America, which purports to document the Democratic plan to turn the United States "into a third world hellhole" through immigration from places like Latin America. The book recycles nativist talking points and, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "routinely cites white nationalists, anti-Muslim activists and anti-immigrant groups" to attack immigrants, especially on crime.

    During his June 16 presidential announcement speech, Trump said the U.S. "has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems" such as Mexican murderers and rapists:

    TRUMP: The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems. Thank you. It's true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we're getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They're sending us not the right people.

    Trump's remarks sparked a furious backlash from Hispanic advocacy groups, businesses tied to him, and some Republicans. Many on Fox News, however, have defended Trump. Coulter has frequently appeared on the conservative network to push Adios, America