According to the Urban Institute, 8.2 million Americans, disproportionately women and children, may become uninsured as a consequence of King v. Burwell. But for right-wing media, pointing out the dangerous consequences of the loss of health care subsidies is nothing more than a "scare tactic."
Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association's top lobbyist, falsely claimed that a recent move by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to ban a type of armor-piercing ammunition is motivated by animus towards women. In fact, the proposal aims to protect law enforcement officers.
On February 13 the ATF published a letter describing its intent to ban the importation and manufacture of a type of armor-piercing ammunition commonly called "green tip" that is used in AR-15 and other "AR-type" assault weapons. Because the "green tip" round contains a steel penetrator, it is more powerful than some other types of ammunition used in such firearms, and its use is already banned at some shooting ranges, including the NRA's.
The ATF is moving to ban "green tip" because it can penetrate a law enforcement officer's body armor when fired from a pistol. While in the past "green tip" ammunition was subject to an ATF exemption, the agency has become concerned in recent years over the growing popularity of AR-15-style pistols that accept "green tip" ammunition.
During a February 27 appearance on the NRA's radio show, NRA Institute for Legislative Action executive director Chris Cox argued against ATF's action, stating, "now is the time for gun owners, whether you like that AR platform or not, to recognize that they're banning it for a reason."
He then claimed that the move was motivated because the Obama administration allegedly doesn't like that women use AR-15 rifles, saying, "They're banning that ammo because they don't like the fact that women like the adjustable stock and the low recoil" found on the AR-15 platform. In urging supporters to oppose the ATF's move, Cox added, "if we stick together and stick to the right message we can turn this thing back around."
From the February 25 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the February 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the February 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Conservative media figures reacted with outrage to the February 22 Academy Awards ceremony, including one actress's call for gender pay equality.
From the February 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the February 22 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:
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State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki and her deputy, Marie Harf, have spent the week being attacked by right-wing media. They have been targets of particularly harsh, personal attacks, using language that demeans both women and is almost never used to describe men in similar high-profile positions, regardless of what they say.
On February 19, the Daily Caller equated Psaki to a game where players take turns kicking a bead-filled ball around, when it was announced she has been tapped by President Obama to be the White House Communications Director: "Hacky Psaki: Obama Spokeslady Kicked Back To WH After Stint At State Dept."
The National Review's Ian Tuttle called the two women an incapable "hapless duo" with a "Lucy and Ethel routine" (Harf is blonde, Psaki a red head) who were trying to create a version of the comedy film Legally Blonde at the US Department of State. In a separate piece, the conservative journal of record's Kevin Williamson called Harf "cretinous" and a "misfit who plays Messy Marvin to Jen Psaki's feckless Pippi Longstocking."
It's one thing to disagree with and criticize a strategy or policy, it's another to belittle and undermine a person's intelligence and legitimacy by resorting to misogynist attacks.
I've worked with Jen Psaki, she's no lightweight. While I don't know Harf, according to her bio she spent two years during the Bush administration as a CIA analyst on Middle East leadership issues, has a masters degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science with concentrations in Russian and Eastern European Studies and Jewish Studies, having graduated from Indiana University with honors.
Despite their credentials, Rachel Campos-Duffy, co-host of Fox News' Outnumbered, mocked the two women by saying they look more like sorority girls than serious professionals. Duffy's comment illustrates that denigrating, sexist comments reducing women to commentary about their looks or their intelligence aren't constrained by gender; nor are they constrained by political party, as attacks leveled from conservatives about Michele Bachmann's migraines illustrated.
The media's absurd 30+ year obsession with Hillary Clinton's appearance and David Letterman's comment that former Governor Sarah Palin had a "slutty flight attendant look" make it clear that almost nothing is out of bounds when criticizing a woman regardless of what she is saying. I say that as someone who -- despite profound substantive differences -- spoke out against the attacks made on both Palin and Bachmann.
What makes the right-wing media attacks against Harf even more egregious -- despite the familiarity of the larger pattern -- is that she is essentially saying the same thing a number of high-profile conservative men have also said previously. Yet those men weren't attacked -- some were even praised.
Harf drew the wrath of conservatives for commenting that "We cannot kill our way out of this war" against the Islamic State during a February 16 interview on Hardball. For this she is being portrayed as a "a damn naïve fool" by conservatives, who ignore her full comments, suggesting that she didn't also talk about the importance of military strikes as well as other tactics:
HARF: We're killing a lot of them, and we're going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians. So are the Jordanians. They're in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need, in the longer term - medium and longer term - to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups.
You're right, there is no easy solution in the long term to preventing and combatting violent extremism, but if we can help countries work at the root causes of this - what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business? Maybe we can try to chip away at this problem, while at the same time going after the threat, taking on ISIL in Iraq, in Syria, and helping our partners around the world.
Rush Limbaugh certainly didn't call Admiral Michael Mullen, then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, a "little girl" or say that he sounded like a "valley girl" when he basically said the same thing about the war in Afghanistan in 2008 testimony:
MULLEN: We can't kill our way to victory, and no armed force anywhere -- no matter how good -- can deliver these keys alone. It requires teamwork and cooperation.
While they were talking about different parts of the world at different times, both Harf and Mullen are making a broader point that given the nature of terrorist threats and the strategies they employ -- from the way they utilize social media, finance their operations, recruit and train from all over the world, targeting those who are most vulnerable to their message -- America must have a strategy that is multi-faceted and multi-national. That strategy includes not only airstrikes but also social media, helping countries build democratic institutions, and stabilizing their economy with the means for people to make a living.
In the four months after Chuck Todd took the reins of NBC's Meet the Press, guest diversity on the program showed notable improvement, with the show under his tenure becoming more diverse than its competitors on the other three broadcast networks and CNN. Todd tells Media Matters the show is striving to reflect the reality of 21st century politics while also crediting his young staff for urging the program to not only rely on a "white male perspective."
As part of our annual analysis of the Sunday morning political shows, Media Matters found that only 54 percent of Meet the Press guests were white men from when Todd took over hosting duties from David Gregory on September 7 through the end of 2014.
While that number is high relative to the overall population, it represents a seven-point drop compared to 2014 guests during Gregory's tenure. The figure also made Todd's Meet the Press more diverse by that measure than CNN's State of the Union, ABC's This Week, Fox's Fox News Sunday, or CBS' Face the Nation -- beating the latter two programs by more than ten percentage points.
Breaking the numbers down further, 28 percent of Todd's guests were women and 28 percent were people of color, both improvements from Gregory's totals and more diverse by those measures than the other four programs.
White men overwhelmingly dominated guest appearances on five Sunday morning political talk shows in 2014 - like they did in 2013 - according to a Media Matters analysis.
In September 1992, then-presidential candidate Ross Perot accused two female journalists of "trying to prove their manhood" following a TV segment that was critical of him. Perot, who had previously exited the race only to re-enter it, bristled at the scrutiny and deflected from the substance of the questions raised by whining that the style of the two women associated with the report was inappropriate or unbecoming.
Things have since improved for female TV anchors and journalists, but not nearly as much as they should have considering that criticism still tends to focus on style rather than substance. Today, most use euphemisms like "tone," "pushy," "toughness," or "not pressing enough" to criticize and undermine the credibility of female journalists.
On his February 8th show, Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News' MediaBuzz, actually defended the appalling behavior of Senator and potential 2016 GOP presidential contender Rand Paul, in which he condescended to, shushed, and told a female anchor to "calm down" during an appearance on CNBC. Co-host Kelly Evans was critical in her line of questioning, beginning the interview by asking Senator Paul about comments he'd made in a radio interview with conservative host Laura Ingraham just prior to appearing on CNBC where he said that he believed vaccinations "for the most part...ought to be voluntary."
In his analysis, Kurtz accused Evans of having a "chip on her shoulder" for starting the interview with this question. This, despite the fact that the question on vaccinating children was becoming something of a litmus test for potential GOP 2016 contenders, many of whom spent the week tripping all over themselves to walk the line between public safety, common sense and anti-science rhetoric. Evans actually gave Senator Paul (who is also a physician) the opportunity to clarify his comments, who initially gave a sarcastic non-answer, "I guess being for freedom would be really unusual? I guess I don't understand the point, why that would be controversial." Senator Paul's condescending tone continued from there, scolding Evans several times during the interview. Evans did interrupt as Senator Paul attempted to run down the clock with a classic politician non-answer in response to questions about reports suggesting that the long-term consequences of tax holiday legislation he'd introduced with Senator Barbara Boxer could potentially cost the federal governement money in the long run. Visibly agitated and thrown off his game, Paul resorted to shushing Evans in a manner that I last heard when a friend was trying to quiet her agitated baby. The interview ended with a final scolding from Paul and a respectful apology from Evans.
While many reviews acknowledged Paul's sexist behavior -- Kurtz himself said "shushing a host, especially a woman, did not exactly look gentlemanly" -- the Fox News host nonetheless blamed Evans for aggravating Senator Paul. Kurtz suggested that while the substance of the interview was legitimate, her "tone" was the problem. Kurtz chose not to focus on the behavior of a grown man and potential presidential candidate so quickly thrown off by a legitimate question that he resorted to deflecting by shushing and scolding. Instead, despite Senator Paul's attempt to bully Evans by telling her to calm down and attacking her credibility as a journalist, Kurtz suggested that Evans was the problem, because she "alienated" her guest. What Kurtz didn't acknowledge is that, as reporters are supposed to, Evans was part of advancing the story. The next day, Senator Paul went so far as to release a photo of himself getting a vaccination in an attempt to quell the mess he created with his comments the day before.
Just two months ago, Kurtz and his colleagues at Fox News were among the loudest to complain that the eight non-TV female journalists President Obama called on during his 2014 end of the year press conference actually weren't tough enough. The flutter created throughout Washington, D.C., that a president "only" called on women was insulting and annoying enough. The substance of the press conference ranged from President Obama's newsworthy comments regarding Sony's decision to pull The Interview from theaters, to the fate of the president's legislative agenda, the Keystone XL pipeline, and the beginning of normalizing relations with Cuba. Immediately afterwards, Fox News' White House Correspondent Ed Henry complained about the topics covered and that some of the questions posed by his female colleagues "just didn't press him."
Sexist criticism of the press conference did come from many directions including this tweet from Roger Cohen of the New York Times: "Questions only from women fine but WH might have advised male correspondents they could split on vacation early. #maledowntime."
But it was Kurtz's blog post for Fox News -- titled "Where Were the Tough Questions" -- that was particularly offensive. Kurtz diminished the questions posed by the female reporters, equating their style with substance by suggesting that the press conference was a dud because, "This is not unrelated to the fact that he (President Obama) skipped the front-row TV correspondents--Jonathan Karl, Ed Henry, Major Garrett--who tend to ask more confrontational and, yes, theatrical questions." While suggesting that stylistically TV journalists tend to ask more "theatrical" questions, Kurtz failed to include names of female White House TV correspondents.
While Kurtz criticized these female reporters for not being tough enough and CNBC's Evans for being too tough in her interview with Senator Paul, he thought his Fox News colleague Bill O'Reilly got it just right in his contentious 2014 Super Bowl interview with President Obama. O'Reilly continuously interrupted the President of the United States with questions about various debunked Fox conspiracy theories. The Atlantic described it this way: "O'Reilly would ask Obama if he had done something scandalous. Obama would say no, that's just factually wrong. O'Reilly would defend himself, saying he was just asking questions about what many believe. Obama would insist that they only believe it because Fox News treats it as fact. And O'Reilly would insist that he isn't behind it, he's just asking questions."
In defense of O'Reilly, Kurtz said, "Your interview wasn't nasty, it was aggressive ... Sure, you interrupted the president a lot but you had to do that because he's the master at running out the clock with lengthy answers."
In other words, a female reporter has a chip on her shoulder for being aggressive in an interview, while a male reporter is just doing what he had to. Watching Kurtz's defense of Rand Paul's shushing made me think of former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who was reportedly fired in part for being too "pushy."
Kurtz's sexism underscores the trap women face, one that needs to be called out at every turn: it's not about trying to be like men, it's about redefining the way it's done.
From the February 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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In 2014, weekday evening cable news programs featured significantly more male than female guests and commentators to discuss foreign affairs and national security stories, with women making up merely 22 percent of the total featured guests and commentators across the three networks.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' MediaBuzz:
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