Multiple Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets, including the New York Post, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal, have launched false attacks against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's record on charter schools to paint him as waging a "war on children" and "poor kids," all while ignoring the benefits of de Blasio's push for universal pre-K in the city.
The attacks on de Blasio from Murdoch's media came in response to the announcement on February 27 that he blocked three New York City charter schools from using public school space rent-free. News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch himself kicked off the attacks with two incendiary tweets on February 27, asking how "de Blasio [can] do this" the same day President Obama unveiled his initiative for young boys and men of color, and falsely claiming that de Blasio's move "hurts poor families who only want a better school for their kids."
On Fox News, On The Record host Greta Van Susteren claimed the next day that "New York City democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, he just declared war on children," calling him "selfish, really selfish" and accusing him of "picking on the poor kids," asking, "Who could be that rotten?" On the March 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox correspondent Charles Gasparino accused "comrade Bill" of wanting "essentially to end charter schools." Later that day, The Real Story host Gretchen Carlson said that de Blasio "ax[ed] three planned charter schools," asking one of her guests, "Why is this an outrage in your mind that Mayor de Blasio is going to strip kids from going to charter schools?"
In print, the New York Post likened de Blasio's charter school move to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal (in which the governor's office engaged in political retribution), calling it "Chartergate" and writing that "de Blasio is taking good schools away from disadvantaged minority children to get back at his enemy." The Wall Street Journal editorial board called for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to defend the closed schools, claiming, "National Democrats are silent as Bill de Blasio kills charter schools."
But the facts tell a different story. According to The New York Times, de Blasio said "he would block three charter schools from using space inside New York City public school buildings." The Times explained that "[i]n reviewing 49 proposals to share school space approved under [former New York City Mayor] Mr. Bloomberg, he left untouched a majority of plans affecting charter schools." He did not "end" them or "kill" them or wage "war," as Murdoch and his media outlets claim. Furthermore, city officials told the Times that some of the plans, which were approved by Bloomberg, "would have required elementary school students to attend class inside high school buildings, and others would have required cutting programs for students with disabilities."
What right-wing media conveniently ignore in characterizations of de Blasio as picking on "poor kids" is his push for universal pre-K in New York City, which would mean greater early education access for every child regardless of their income status. The New York Times reported last week that de Blasio estimated "up to 29,000 [pre-K] seats could be opened at schools and so-called community based organizations" using his plan to fund pre-K through a higher state income tax. And as Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out in January, de Blasio's plan "reflects growing evidence ... that high-quality, universal access to pre-K can make a significant difference in the lives of children, especially those from low-income families."
Don't expect to get the facts from Rupert Murdoch's media outlets any time soon -- their history of inflated rhetoric about de Blasio ensures his education plans will continue getting the fact-free right-wing treatment.
Fox News promoted an effort to ban Isabel Allende's award-winning novel The House of The Spirits, thanking a North Carolina mother for a "keeping up the good fight" and using her campaign to lob yet another off-base attack at the Common Core educational standards.
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck reported that "parents are outraged over a new book being assigned to their high school students containing references to abortion and prostitution," and was quick to tie the book to the Common Core educational standards -- falsely labeling them the "Common Core classroom curriculum." She welcomed North Carolina mother Chastity Lesesne on to discuss:
The campaign to censor The House of The Spirits in North Carolina's Watauga County school district has sparked national scrutiny in recent weeks. As Michael Keegan, president of the free speech advocacy organization People for The American Way noted, Lesesne's censorship attempt ignores that "The House of Spirits is an internationally renowned work that is taught in high school Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs throughout the country." Chris Brook, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union-NC Legal Foundation, also warned of the "the slippery slope of banning books that promote critical thinking and classroom dialogue" and urged district officials to vote "in favor of the freedom to read."
Promoting censorship is an unusual position for Fox given that the network has previously cited First Amendment concerns as reasons to reject anti-bullying policies, allow anti-gay discrimination, contest a private company's decisions, and even offer a pro-fracking film undeserved awards.
In contrast to significant coverage on CNN and MSNBC, a search of Fox News transcripts indicates the network has yet to address the recent desecration of a statue at The University of Mississippi which commemorates the integration of "Ole Miss," despite the network's previous attacks on desegregation law.
Earlier this month, a noose and a confederate flag were found on the Ole Miss campus, draped over a statue of James Meredith -- the first African-American student to enroll at the school. A group of white fraternity brothers are suspected in the vandalism, and the students could face federal hate crime charges. But a search of network transcripts on Nexis suggests that Fox has failed to report on the story at all -- despite having plenty to say in the past about "axing affirmative action" in favor of "color blindness."
Right-wing media's response to recent challenges to affirmative action policies -- most recently from Michigan and Texas -- has been to unequivocally support the gutting of these equal opportunity admissions policies, which have strengthened diversity on campuses for the benefit of everyone. In discussing affirmative action, right-wing outlets have been prone to favorably refer to conservative Chief Justice John Roberts' overly-simplistic suggestion that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," when they weren't otherwise mangling the case law.
Lost in this conservative reporting is how a lack of diversity can lead to racial isolation for students of all colors and can contribute to racially-charged incidents of ignorance and hate on campus. Fox News, in particular, has had no qualms about misrepresenting the constitutionality of the diversity principle at the core of current affirmative action programs, which have been so crucial to ensuring that students and future leaders of color are not a rarity in the American educational experience. Their failure to report on the vandalism at Ole Miss unfortunately continues that trend.
When it comes to public education, Fox News loves to demonize the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards for K-12 students crafted by governors and state school officials across the country. The network has falsely characterized the standards as everything from too difficult to partisan brainwashing, and given credence to the lie that Common Core is a federally mandated program.
On February 26, while discussing Obamacare enrollment numbers, Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert invoked Common Core, saying, "I think they're doing Common Core math down in Washington. It doesn't all add up. You just throw some numbers together."
Nauert's misleading comparison is just the latest in a string of attacks on Common Core from Fox News, making it apparent that the network fails to understand how the standards work.
Despite the success of many female athletes representing the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women's sports in the United States -- Title IX -- has been conspicuously absent from media coverage of the games.
The passage of Title IX in 1972 led to an explosion of women's participation in collegiate sports. The law forbids most educational programs which receive federal funding from discriminating against participants based on sex, and specifically requires equal opportunity in athletic programs for men and women. The National Center for Education Statistics found that thanks to Title IX, women's participation in college-level sports has increased dramatically, particularly in the last decade.
The 2014 Winter Olympics provides even more evidence that the law has had a lasting effect on post-collegiate athletics as well. In the women's two-person bobsled, American women achieved history by taking home silver and bronze medals at the same Olympics. Each of the four women medaling in the event -- Elana Meyers, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, and Jamie Greubel -- participated in collegiate athletics before adapting to Olympic bobsled competition thanks to Title IX. The other American team competing in the medal round -- Lolo Jones and Jazmine Fenlator -- was also comprised of athletes who participated in college sport programs that likely owe their existence to educational reforms brought about by Title IX.
Furthermore, this year's gold medal match in women's hockey featured the two best teams in the world, the United States and Canada; of the two teams' 42 combined athletes, 36 played collegiate hockey in the United States (Olympic rosters here and here).
In 2012, when the law's 40th anniversary coincided with the Summer Olympics in London, America's athletic successes garnered praise for the law. Numerous outlets reported on the role of Title IX in leveling the playing field for American female athletes. Media outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated dedicated airtime and column space about the role of Title IX for American Olympians. The United States national team celebrated the anniversary with a lengthy and informative piece on its official website. The law was celebrated on The New York Times' official London 2012 blog.
But despite continued Olympic achievement for the United States' women's teams in this year's Winter Olympics, Title IX has received little attention from media this time around.
A Media Matters review of current Olympic coverage from three major print outlets -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal -- revealed no substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American Olympians since the start of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games on February 7. A further review of transcripts from broadcast evening -- ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS -- and cable evening and primetime -- CNN, Fox News, MSNBC -- news coverage of the 2014 Olympics shows a similar lack of coverage concerning Title IX's role in encouraging and supporting American female athletes.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) from February 7, 2014 through February 20, 2014. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: olympics or sochi or title nine or title 9 or title ix.
Media Matters conducted Nexis and Factiva (for The Wall Street Journal) searches for print articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post from February 7, 2014 to February 21, 2014, using the search terms: olympics or sochi or title nine or title 9 or title ix.
The following television programs were included in the data: PBS NewsHour, World News with Diane Sawyer, Evening News (CBS), Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Situation Room, Crossfire, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Live, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The Kelly File, The Ed Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air re-runs, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.
A FoxNews.com article repeatedly misgendered a transgender California teenager who recently made her school's softball team in a report on a new state law that allows transgender students to participate in programs that match their gender identification. The article also relied on an anti-LGBT hate-group leader in order to attack the law.
In the February 14 article, Fox reporter Perry Chiaramonte attacked a new law in California that allows transgender students statewide to use facilities and participate in sports and extracurricular activities in a manner consistent with their preferred gender. Chiaramonte problematically identified high school senior Pat Cordova-Goff as a "high school student who believes he is a girl trapped in a boy's body:
A California high school student who believes he is a girl trapped in a boy's body just made the girls' softball team.
Pat Cordova-Goff, 17, a strapping senior at Azusa High School, in Azusa, an hour east of Los Angeles, can play with and against girls because of a September change in state law went into effect last month. The law requires that, "a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records."
Goff, who is a cheerleader at the school, played freshman baseball when he considered himself a boy. He found out Friday that he made the cut.
In the article from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune which Chiaramonte linked to in his own article, Cordova-Goff specifically stated that she has identified as a transgender female for several years and uses female pronouns:
The 5-foot-8 Cordova-Goff has identified as a transgender female for several years. Thoughts of medical treatments or procedures are in the distant future, Cordova-Goff said.
"I can't afford a wardrobe and makeup and everything, so I don't have the resources to express myself the way I want to," Cordova-Goff said. "I'm really pushing myself to be myself, and I finally have started going by 'Pat,' started using 'she' and 'hers.' "
Fox's refusal to recognize Cordova-Goff's gender identity violates GLAAD's Media Reference Guide which calls on news organizations to refer to transgender people by their preferred gender pronouns: (emphasis added)
If it is not possible to ask a transgender person which pronoun he or she prefers, use the pronoun that is consistent with the person's appearance and gender expression. For example, if a person wears a dress and uses the name Susan, feminine pronouns are appropriate.
Fox's writing on transgender subjects is in direct contrast to other media organizations' decision to follow GLAAD's recommendations. Outlets like the Associated Press and The New York Times have instructed their writers to use a person's preferred pronoun and social media website Facebook recently expanded gender pronouns and identities -- though Fox News mocked that decision.
In a misleading tease for a segment about universal pre-kindergarten, Fox News host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that President Obama has vowed "to mandate universal preschool programs."
On the February 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson said before cutting to commercial break, "President Obama vowing to mandate universal preschool programs" and asked if the government has a "right to control your children." Obama's push for early education programs, however, does not include mandating them, as he specifically laid out in his State of the Union address when he asked Congress "to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four-year-old." And as Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic points out, "[P]articipation in the program would be strictly voluntary. Nobody is mandating that anybody go to preschool."
Evidence continues to mount that a new California law allowing transgender public school students to use the restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identity is being implemented successfully without causing the "anarchy and madness" predicted by right-wing media figures.
On January 1, California's recently enacted School Success and Opportunity Act went into effect, requiring public schools to allow transgender students to have access to facilities and extracurricular activities that correspond to their gender identity. A right-wing coalition aims to overturn the law in a November referendum, but an initial signature count suggested that the repeal campaign won't have sufficient signatures to put the law up for a vote. California officials have until February 24 to complete a signature-by-signature count.
Following passage of the law, right-wing media figures issued apoplectic predictions of bathroom harassment and inappropriate behavior, warning that students would pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into opposite-sex bathrooms.
Equality Matters contacted officials from a number of California's largest school districts to determine whether the right-wing horror stories about transgender students had come true in the first month of the law's implementation. Unsurprisingly, none of the school districts reported incidents of harassment or inappropriate behavior, with several pledging to continue accommodating transgender students even if the law is repealed in a referendum.
With 662,140 students enrolled in the 2011-2012 school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District educates more than one in 10 of all the students enrolled in California public schools. The School Success and Opportunity Act is hardly uncharted territory for the district, which began implementing trans-affirmative policies nearly a decade ago.
During that time, there hasn't been a single incident of bathroom misbehavior, according to Dr. Judy Chiasson, Los Angeles Unified's program coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity.
Contrary to predictions from the likes of Fox News' Greg Gutfeld and Bill O'Reilly that students would pretend to be transgender just so they could get into opposite-gender restrooms, "we have had no incidents of anybody pretending to be transgender," Chiasson told Equality Matters.
That's because the district has a case-by-case process in place by which to ensure that the district's transgender protections benefit students who actually are transgender.
"We go by the rule of thumb of 'consistent/persistent' [gender identity]," Chiasson explained. "We don't let children [decide], 'I'm gonna be a girl during P.E. and the rest of the day I'm going to be a boy."
Like Los Angeles, the San Francisco Unified School District codified transgender protections for its students well in advance of the statewide law.
"SFUSD policy has been in place successfully for ten years ahead of" the law, district spokeswoman Heidi Anderson said in an email. "We work actively with all families to guarantee their children are welcome and safe in our schools, and that of course includes our LGB students, gender variant students, and transgender students."
Anderson said that the district had "experienced no incidents" since the new look took effect - something she said wasn't surprising "given our success with this policy over the years."
From the February 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Not all elementary school children should get a free lunch.
That's how it appears on Fox News, anyway, which found sympathy for children whose school lunches were confiscated because parents had not added sufficient funds to their school accounts. The network wondered why the school could not give students the meals for free, a stark reversal from its attack on free lunches for low-income students as part of an "entitlement nation."
Fox's The Real Story devoted a segment on January 30 to the plight of elementary school children in Salt Lake City who saw their school lunches confiscated and thrown away, due to outstanding balances on their school lunch accounts. Host Gretchen Carlson expressed disbelief that "this really happened," wondering "what would the harm have been" in giving to the children the lunch for free "because they were going in the trash anyway."
From the January 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the January 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the January 18 edition of MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney:
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The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown that misleadingly accused teacher unions of "making it more difficult to protect children from molesters" and failed to disclose that Brown's husband is a board member of an anti-teacher union organization.
The Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act of 2013 from Rep. George Miller (D-CA) passed in the House of Representatives in October 2013. Politico reported that the bill will "require school employees, applicants and contractors to pass a comprehensive background check that includes a check of the FBI fingerprint database, standardizing national background check policy. It would forbid school districts from knowingly transferring employees who have engaged in sexual misconduct, and it would allow districts to share background check information."
In a January 17, op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Brown dismissed the objections of teacher unions such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) to the bill as "unconvincing," claiming the organizations' stance is "making it more difficult to protect children from molesters."
Campbell recounted two "horror stories" of sexual misconduct by teachers to paint the legitimate concerns of the AFT and NEA regarding the bill as an attempt by teacher unions to protect sexual predators:
These are sensible measures that are overdue. Yet the two most powerful teachers unions in the country have voiced objections to the bill. Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers complained about the bill before it passed the House. The NEA claimed in a letter to House members that background checks "often have a huge, racially disparate impact." Randi Weingarten, the AFT chief, warned of inaccuracies in the FBI database and cautioned that teachers would be inconvenienced by potentially long screening delays.
This response is unconvincing. Twenty-five states already use FBI searches in teacher hiring. More important, the bill includes an appeals provision for anyone who believes the results of background checks are mistaken.
However, the AFT, an organization that represents over 1.5 million teachers, does not oppose the bill. In an open letter to the House of Representatives the organization affirmed support for the bill while also addressing legitimate concerns and suggestions for "improving and strengthening the bill."
AFT specifically addressed parts of the bill that they believe need further consideration and deliberation including the possibility that imposing a national protocol could create inefficient duplication processes in states with already rigorous procedures, and that the data in FBI records used for background checks are often incomplete or inaccurate. AFT say they would also like the bill to consider how individuals will be burdened with addressing inaccurate data, and to address the possibility that this bill may cause serious backlogs and delay in the hiring process.
The NEA offered their view "that criminal background checks often have a huge, racially disparate impact. In addition, we are concerned that H.R. 2083, while well intentioned, may run counter to existing state laws requiring background checks." Although background checks have a history of acting as a racially discriminatory tool for companies, Campbell dismissed these points as "unconvincing."
In addition, WSJ did not disclose Brown's possible conflict of interest in writing about teachers' unions - her husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of StudentFirstNY, an organization that actively opposes teachers' unions.
The WSJ has a habit of failing to disclose their contributor's conflicts of interest when it comes to conservative policies the paper supports. According to a 2012 Media Matters review, WSJ's editorial page published op-eds from 12 writers without disclosing their roles as advisers to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. In 2012 the paper also did not provide Campbell's background when she wrote a similarly critical op-ed of teachers unions in New York.
The National Review Online decried new federal guidelines that could reduce the number of needless arrests and incarceration of minority students in public schools.
On January 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) issued new, optional guidelines to help public schools develop non-discriminatory disciplinary policies. Right-wing media were quick to accuse the Obama administration of playing the "race card" because the guidelines addressed the fact that minority students are far more likely to be disciplined -- often unfairly and excessively -- for nonviolent and minor disruptions in school. Because more and more schools rely on armed police officers known as "school resource officers" to handle behavioral problems, many students of color end up getting arrested and incarcerated.
NRO has previously called the new DOJ guidelines "disturbing." But in a January 16 editorial, the site went further, complaining that the guidelines were an overblown response to "spectral racism" and were based on "arbitrary evidence" (emphasis added):
The Obama administration is no stranger to trying to micromanage complex, intractable problems from Washington. But using the Civil Rights Act to direct schools' disciplinary practices might be its most foolhardy idea yet. Beginning in 2010, the Department of Education, led by the occasionally sensible Arne Duncan, announced that it intended to pursue vigorously civil-rights violations in the American school system. That's led to a number of DOE investigations of various school districts with racially disparate discipline rates.
The feds contend, as an aside, that discrimination in discipline shows up in studies when controlling for poverty and other factors, but the evidence for this contention is ludicrously weak. Federal civil-rights investigators don't have to publicly disclose the grounds they've used to initiate investigations of racial discrimination, but their work so far leans as heavily as the new guidelines do on evidence of disparate statistical impact, rather than on indications of real bias and disparate treatment. They will not admit that they rely on such arbitrary evidence, since there is little statutory justification in the Civil Rights Act for such a disparate-impact case, but the objection is clear enough: Certain minorities are disciplined at higher rates than whites are, so racism must be at work.
When such a simple heuristic is applied, schools will feel even more pressure than they already do to adopt a simple solution: try to discipline all races, regardless of behavior, at the same rate. This might mean arbitrarily increasing rates of punishment for whites or, much more likely, reducing them for blacks and Hispanics, disadvantaging their classmates of all races who'd like peaceful classrooms.
No one should be surprised by the Obama administration's zeal for alleging racial discrimination when it isn't there ... But it is still shocking that the federal government is effectively encouraging schools to judge students on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.
The entire point of the DOJ's guidelines is to encourage schools to stop mistreating students based on the color of their skin, so it's odd that NRO would conclude the exact opposite.