National Review editor Rich Lowry equated Kentucky senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' refusal to disclose which presidential candidate she voted for in 2012 with former Republican Rep. Todd Akin's (MO) stunning claim that it is "really rare" for a woman to become pregnant as a result of "a legitimate rape." Lowry suggested the two positions were politically equivalent "gaffes," whitewashing the fact that Akin's statement was not only absurdly disconnected from scientific reality -- it also happened to reflect actual policy priorities of the Republican Party.
During an October 10 interview with the editorial board of The Louisville Courier-Journal, Grimes said she "respect[ed] the sanctity of the ballot box" when asked if she voted for President Obama in past elections. During an October 13 candidate debate, Grimes reiterated her stance on voter privacy:
GRIMES: This is a matter of principle. Our constitution grants, here in Kentucky, the constitutional right to privacy at the ballot box, for a secret ballot. You have that right, Senator McConnell has that right, every Kentuckian has that right.
GRIMES: I am not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side or for members of the media.
In an October 15 column published by Politico Magazine, Lowry exclaimed that "Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Todd Akin of 2014," and argued that Grimes' stated position defending the secret ballot was "a defining political gaffe" for this election. He likened her comments to then-Rep. Todd Akin's infamous statements about rape and pregnancy, in which Akin stated that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare because, "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Lowry argued that the two candidates represented similar levels of political ineptitude, writing that each was "telegenic, mockable and universally condemned."
Grimes' decision to stand on principle with regard to voter privacy has been labeled a "gaffe" by some, but, as MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out, it is "an issue the media has deemed extremely important, but which actually affects no one."
By comparison, Akin's alarming comments on rape and pregnancy were reflected to varying degrees in actual policy decisions favored by Republican elected officials and candidates. Akin would later attempt to clarify his remarks amid a "firestorm" of controversy, but maintained his opposition to legal abortion access for women -- a constitutional right codified by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In 2012, many prominent Republican candidates and conservative media figures supported banning safe and legal abortion, making the issue a central part of campaign rhetoric.
In October 2012, Indiana Republican senate candidate Richard Mourdock voiced his opposition to abortion "even when life begins in that terrible situation of rape," stating that "it is something that God intended to happen." Around the same time, Republican Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois supported a ban on all abortion, including cases that would threaten the life of the mother. Walsh falsley claimed that "modern technology and science" had solved the problem of potentially life-threatening pregnancies. During a 2007 Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney said "we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period." He went on to state that it would be "terrific" if Congress passed a bill outlawing abortion, which he would be "delighted" to sign. Romney dodged abortion questions throughout his 2012 campaign, but promised to eliminate federal funding for women's health organizations like Planned Parenthood and vowed to be "a pro-life president."
Outlawing access to abortion remains a lightning rod for conservative media, with some right-wing outlets going so far as to tie debates about legal abortion to the crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Right-wing media figures like Karl Rove have pushed the myth that some forms of contraception are actually forms of abortion, while others such as Bill O'Reilly advanced extremist views on fetal "personhood" that would criminalize most abortions.
There is no appropriate comparison between Akin's extreme rhetoric and false scientific claims, and Grimes' personal defense of privacy at the ballot box.
Washington Post columnist George Will ignored Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner's controversial policy positions on women's rights to smear Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) as a one issue candidate. But Gardner has supported measures that would severely limit women's reproductive choice.
On October 10, the Denver Post editorial board endorsed Republican Cory Gardner citing Udall's prioritization of what the Post called "his obnoxious one-issue campaign" on women's issues like abortion.
George Will parroted the Post's criticism of Udall on the October 14 edition Special Report with Bret Baier. Will claimed that "the whole war on women thing has been really worn out by this point," adding that the issue has been settled because contraception and abortion rights have been firmly ingrained in America for more than 40 years:
The Wall Street Journal is dismissing efforts to convince corporations to be more transparent about their political contributions as "partisan agitprop," despite the fact that the conservative justices of the Supreme Court reaffirmed the need for such transparency in 2010's Citizens United decision.
Although a majority of Americans from across the political spectrum disagree with the court's decision in Citizens United and support a bipartisan effort to reduce the unprecedented influx of campaign spending and "dark money" in politics, the Journal isn't convinced that transparency and disclosure for corporations playing politics is worthwhile. In an October 14 editorial, the Journal complained that groups like the Center for Political Accountability targeted corporations in an attempt to "discourage businesses from participating in politics" by publishing an index that ranks companies based on how transparent they are about their political expenditures. The goal of the index is to encourage corporations to disclose their campaign contributions to their shareholders, since it is the shareholders' money that is financing the political spending in the first place.
But the editorial was unsupportive of the group's activities, despite the fact that the conservatives on the Supreme Court upheld campaign finance disclosures in their majority opinion in Citizens United as indispensable to their decision that corporations can influence elections as freely as actual voters:
Hey shareholders, want some stock tips from a nonprofit outfit that wants to discourage businesses from participating in politics? That's the dubious message from a new index designed to block the political speech of corporations while leaving unions free to donate as they please.
Every year, the George Soros-funded Center for Political Accountability publishes the Wharton-Zicklin index, which ranks companies based on their political disclosure. When the group isn't publishing the index, it spends its time pushing for shareholder proxy proposals that would force companies to disclose their political activity.
The activist group's tactics have also included pressuring companies to cave pre-emptively and disclose political activity for fear of becoming targets. The index ranks companies according to their political transparency and disclosure profile. The Center for Political Accountability then uses those rankings as a truncheon to lobby CEOs to advertise how and how much they spend on campaigns and lobbying.
Most shareholders aren't buying it, but the disclosure gambit deserves to be exposed as the partisan agitprop it is.
From the October 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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The Denver Post's endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (CO) claimed that he posed "no threat to abortion rights," a declaration that ignores Gardner's support of federal personhood legislation that would greatly infringe on women's access to health care and legal abortion.
Fox News Sunday hosted Karl Rove to analyze Senate midterm elections without disclosing his role with political organizations that have spent millions of dollars supporting Republican candidates in those races.
On the October 12 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace was joined by Rove and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi to discuss "the hottest races" in 2014. While Rove was introduced as "the architect of George W. Bush's two presidential victories" and described in on-screen text as a "former Bush White House advisor," no mention was made of his current political activities or affiliations. Rove commented on three Senate races in which his political groups have made a significant financial investment. Rove said he believed Republican Joni Ernst would win in Iowa because she had "united the party," claimed that voters in North Carolina would reject Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan because it's the only way to "send a message to Obama," and praised Alaska Republican candidate Dan Sullivan's energy policy.
Rove co-founded and advises two political organizations, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, that have spent nearly $8 million dollars against Democratic candidates in the Alaska, Iowa, and North Carolina races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Rove's political network poured more than $4.5 million in additional spending into those races in support of the Republican candidates.
American Crossroads has also received $300,000 from Dan Sullivan's parents. Sullivan's father reportedly "doesn't know with certainty that the funds will be spent on his son's race," telling Bloomberg News, "That will be up to the discretion of Karl Rove."
This is the second time in four weeks that the program has allowed Rove to provide election analysis without noting his role in attempting to influence those same races.
Later in the broadcast, Fox contributor Carly Fiorina predicted that Ernst and Cory Gardner, the Republican candidate for Senate in Colorado, would win, praising the candidates for "very clear platforms about what they think the priorities of this nation should be." Neither Fiorina nor Wallace noted that Fiorina heads the Unlocking Potential PAC, which has spent nearly $150,000 in support of the Ernst and Gardner campaigns.
Here is the full segment featuring Rove:
From the October 12 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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Rock The Vote president Ashley Spillane responded to Fox News hosts' criticism of the campaign encouraging young people to vote, saying the hosts' declaration that they don't want young people to vote if they "don't know the issues," is "crazy."
During the October 8 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-hosts Kennedy and Harris Faulkner chided the Rock The Vote "#TurnOutForWhat" campaign aimed at motivating young people to vote in the 2014 midterm elections "for the issues that matter to them." Faulkner claimed the campaign "is about kids getting high, getting drunk," and asked "do you really want to motivate them to vote and be ignorant at the polls?" Kennedy agreed saying "no" she didn't want young people to vote if they don't know the issues.
On October 9, Spillane responded on HuffPost Live, calling the view that young people shouldn't vote "crazy." She further explained that their comments exemplified a "problematic take on youth voting in American media":
Fox News provided a platform for Iowa Senate Candidate Joni Ernst (R) to recite talking points during an interview on the network, but neglected to ask Ernst about any of her controversial policy positions that are garnering widespread criticism across other media outlets.
During the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum interviewed Ernst about her campaign for the U.S. Senate opposite Democrat Bruce Braley. After highlighting a clip of Ernst's infamous campaign ad featuring the castration of pigs, MacCallum asked Ernst a series of softball questions including:
1. Were you nervous that that ad might backfire on you, Joni?
2. There's a huge ground game, Democratic ground game, very strong in Iowa left over even from President Obama's runs there. How are you going to compete with that?
3. How many undecided voters do you believe are out there right now, and what do you think is the major issue that's on their minds? What are they torn between and how are you going to reach them?
4. So I'm hearing in the local reporting that there's an increase in requests for absentee ballots from Independents and also from Democrats, so there's definitely an effort by your opponent to get out some of these voters who maybe don't usually vote in midterm elections. How does your ground game match up to what they're doing?
Fox's mild string of questions failed to get to the heart of Ernst's controversial platform. While MacCallum's inquiries into Ernst's "ground game" strategies provided the candidate a platform to discuss her own talking points, the interview failed to include the full scope of Ernst's controversial policy positions which have come under fire from other media outlets.
The Washington Post recently criticized the candidate for attempting to "cover her tracks" by backtracking on her previous support for a 'Personhood' amendment -- which would amend the state Constitution, preventing access to preventative health services for women including abortion and various forms of contraception.
ThinkProgress pointed out that Ernst is one of many Republican politicians that admit to "not knowing the science of climate change, but remain happy declaring we need do nothing about it," and noted that Ernst's climate denial was an issue so important it could cost her the election.
In a piece asking "How Does This GOP Senate Candidate Keep Getting Away With Such Terrible Gaffes," Mother Jones noted that Ernst has alleged that Obama has "become a dictator" and may deserve impeachment.
But any discussion of these extreme viewpoints were noticeably missing from today's interview.
Fox News is calling recent court decisions blocking voter ID laws a "setback," despite the fact that these decisions will allow more people to engage in the political process.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law -- a law that The New York Times called "one of the strictest in the nation." Even though these kinds of voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of color and in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent, right-wing media outlets has repeatedly celebrated them. National Review Online was highly supportive of Wisconsin's law in particular, and it called fears that the new ID requirements would cause "chaos at the polls" overblown because "there has been no such 'chaos' in any of the other states that have implemented voter-ID laws over the past ten years."
Elsewhere, in Texas, a federal court struck down that state's voter ID law -- another stringent law that right-wing media have described as "a good thing." However, in its ruling, the court called Texas' law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that "has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose."
Yet Fox News was apparently unmoved by the Texas court's proclamation that the right to vote "defines our nation as a democracy." On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said the "timing" of the orders was "very interesting." Her co-host, Bill Hemmer, said the decisions were "the latest setbacks" to laws "meant to crack down on voter fraud":
The timing is interesting, but probably not in the way MacCallum thinks. Although the court's order doesn't say why it stopped Wisconsin's law from being implemented, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston suggested that "the fact that this year's election is less than a month away may have been the key factor." In its brief in the Wisconsin case, the ACLU also argued that "[n]o court has permitted a voter ID law to go into effect this close to an election based on last-minute changes to the law." Had the law been implemented before the 2014 election, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters could have been affected. According to the ACLU and the Advancement Project, state officials would have had "to issue some 6,000 IDs per day between now and the election" to ensure that every eligible voter had the required form of identification.
From the October 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the October 9 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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The 2014 midterm election cycle is already one of the most expensive ever -- due in part to the Supreme Court's recent campaign finance decisions, which have opened the floodgates for billions of dollars in political expenditures to influence our election system. But the crisis is all but nonexistent on Fox News Sunday, which has rarely discussed money in politics outside of the overblown IRS targeting scandal.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court dismantled aggregate campaign contribution limits in McCutcheon v. FEC, making it easier for individuals to influence the political process by donating money to an unlimited number of candidates, political parties, and super PACs. McCutcheon was an extension of the court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, which allowed corporations to make unlimited political expenditures to support their favored candidates.
Since the Court decided to hear McCutcheon in 2013, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday has discussed campaign finance roughly as often as the Sunday morning news shows on other broadcast networks did -- but its coverage was almost always in relation to the allegation (and right-wing talking point) that the IRS unfairly scrutinized the tax-exempt status of Tea Party nonprofit groups and other conservative organizations.
In fact, out of nine segments on Fox News Sunday that discussed campaign finance reform, seven mentioned the IRS allegations or former IRS director Lois Lerner. The program's other two segments were passing mentions of the existence of campaign finance reform, not comprehensive discussions of the issue. While every other Sunday show aired at least one substantive segment on campaign finance reform, Citizens United, or McCutcheon, Fox News Sunday did not.
Below are five stories that Fox News Sunday could have covered to give its viewers a more complete picture of the crisis of big money in politics.
From the October 8 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Conservative activist Brent Bozell accuses Karl Rove of "ruining the GOP" in a new piece for Politico Magazine. The attack is the latest salvo in an ongoing war between Rove and numerous right-wing figures who consider him insufficiently conservative.
Bozell, who founded the conservative Media Research Center and chairs the conservative group ForAmerica, takes aim at Rove's recent advice for helping Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. According to Bozell, "Rove has never cared about conservatism and has spent his entire career opposing any Republican who might be successful in promoting or implementing a conservative agenda."
He also claims Rove "kneecapped tea party candidates in 2010," and asserts, "It's now time conservatives make sure Karl Rove no longer has any influence on their party."
Bozell's anger at Rove and his attempt to quell his outsized influence in the GOP is nothing new. Last year, after the announcement of Rove's "Conservative Victory Project" -- a new political group that reportedly intended to "recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts" -- Bozell and several other conservative activists wrote a letter discouraging donors from giving money to the new group. According to the letter, in the 2012 elections, Rove had "squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in what were arguably the most inept campaign advertising efforts ever."
And Bozell wasn't alone in recoiling at the formation of Conservative Victory Project. Other major conservatives, including several of Rove's Fox News colleagues, also called foul, labeling the group "absolutely repulsive" and calling Rove a "total loser" and a "propagandist." Whether it was due to conservative backlash or not, the group is seemingly defunct.
As Bozell's latest column indicates, conservative fury with Rove dates back years, including a number of acrimonious fights over people like Sarah Palin and former Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. Conservative media figures have at various points called Rove "absolutely useless," "an effete sore loser," and someone with a "country club attitude."
As part of his attack on Rove, Bozell writes, "This is the same man Media Matters has dubbed the Republican 'voice of reason.'" While the 2011 piece in question does call Rove "Fox News' unlikely voice of reason," it's hardly complimentary of him. The point was that Rove -- whom the piece also labeled a "shameless political hack" with a "storied history of dishonesty" -- was standing out at Fox News for throwing cold water on "joke candidate" Donald Trump's non-existent 2012 presidential run while the rest of the network cheered him on, not that Rove was a fount of wisdom.
In 2013, after an aide to Rove's Crossroads groups called Bozell a "hater," numerous Bozell allies wrote a letter calling for the aide's firing, explaining that Bozell is William F. Buckley's nephew and "a beloved and critically important player in American history."