From the May 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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In reporting on the recent Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia that killed eight people and injured up to 200 others, broadcast evening news programs and the Sunday morning political talk shows have largely ignored an outdated federal law that could deny financial compensation to victims and their families.
After the horrific Amtrak passenger train crash on May 12, much of the media coverage has focused on the technical causes of the accident and whether increased infrastructure spending might prevent future tragedies.
But a Media Matters analysis of evening news broadcasts and Sunday shows' coverage of the derailment indicates that the major networks have largely ignored how the victims of this crash might be denied financial compensation from Amtrak that will adequately cover their medical expenses going forward. Because of a 1997 federal law that limits the amount of money the victims can recover for their injuries to $200 million, many of the victims -- and the families of those who died -- may get stuck trying to pay for the costs associated with the crash out of their own pockets.
Only the May 17 edition of ABC News' This Week briefly mentioned the outdated law, in a segment with ABC's Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams. As Abrams explained, the $200 million cap is not per victim, but the total amount that can be paid out per incident, regardless of the number of fatalities or extent of survivor injuries:
Gun Owners of America -- a far-right gun group whose leader has been linked to white supremacists and has suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government -- will host Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to address the group's "activists."
GOA is headed by Larry Pratt, a conspiracy theorist who frequently espouses extreme views on gun regulation. The group is considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association touts itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."
According to an e-mail sent to GOA supporters, Cruz will speak at a "Tele-Town Hall" meeting on May 27. GOA "is surveying and interviewing all of the candidates," but Cruz is the first to agree to address the group:
Cruz, who has received campaign contributions from GOA, previously praised the group as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
Although media sometimes ignore GOA's extremism, the group and its leader ascribe to a hard-right ideology. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign after it came to light that he had spoken at a militia conference alongside leaders of the white supremacist movement. GOA also donated "tens of thousands of dollars" to white supremacy group CAUSE in the 90s.
On the issue of gun violence, Pratt has flirted with the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting were carried out by the government. Pratt has also suggested that politicians who support gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot and recently claimed that rioters in Baltimore should have been shot on sight. Among Pratt's lowlights:
A local reporter's five-year investigation into rape kit backlogs in Ohio helped inspire state-level reforms and identify hundreds of serial rapists, evidencing how good reporting can bring about positive change to states' handling of sexual assault -- a stark contrast to conservative media's dismissal of sexual assault that may actually discourage victims from coming forward.
Reporter Rachel Dissell discovered a decades-long backlog of untested rape kits while researching sexual assaults for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. As she told NPR's Fresh Air, the Cleveland police possessed at least 4,000 untested kits, which contain DNA evidence that could be used to identify and prosecute perpetrators. While many factors contribute to why the kits were left untested, Dissell explained that often times the perceived credibility of the victim played a role: "A lot of the victims whose cases didn't go forward and whose kits weren't tested were minorities. They were drug addicts. They had mental health issues -- all kinds of things like that that just really made them the most vulnerable and the least likely to be believed."
Dissell and The Plain Dealer's reporting helped inspire a groundbreaking Ohio law mandating that old and new rape kits be tested, leading to the reopening of nearly 2,000 rape investigations and the identification of over 200 serial rapists or potential serial rapists.
The positive impact of such reporting shines a light on conservative media's comparatively dangerous coverage of sexual assault, which actively reinforces the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to discredit research showing that one-in-five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men.
Glenn Beck's TheBlazeTV argued that the sexual assault epidemic is "completely untrue" by acting out sexual positions and labelling each skit "RAPE!", while George Will asserted that victim has become a "coveted status." Pundits from Rush Limbaugh to The Weekly Standard's Harvey Mansfield have blamed women for the epidemic, while other conservative talking heads stoke fears about a supposed increase in false reports of sexual assault. Others have explicitly blamed victims for their sexual assault, describing sexual assault survivors as "bad girls...who like to be naughty" and lecturing women about the burden of personal responsibility, saying, "It is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
Such disparaging coverage not only stigmatizes victims, it can actually discourage victims from reporting the crimes and their attackers in the first place. And sexual assault is already a vastly underreported crime -- estimates show that sexual assault goes unreported nearly 70 percent of the time.
In her interview with Fresh Air, Dissell described how discrediting sexual assault victims helps their rapists go unpunished: "They knew if they chose the most vulnerable women - the least likely to be believed - that they would never get caught. And I just don't know how that happened. How did we let them outsmart us for all that time?"
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed a former biker gang leader about a recent biker shootout in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead. O'Reilly's interview with his white guest was a sharp contrast to interviews the host regularly has with African-American guests, where he lectures them about black violence, culture, and family structure.
On May 17, authorities arrested roughly 170 bikers following the deadly shootout between biker gangs and police in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead and 18 wounded outside of a restaurant. According to The New York Times, "Law enforcement officials and gang experts said the conflicts between two motorcycle groups, the Bandidos and the Cossacks, led to the shooting."
During the May 19 edition of his show, O'Reilly interviewed former Bandidos biker gang member Edward Winterhalder to comment on the bloody shootout. During the discussion O'Reilly asked Winterhalder about alleged violence and criminal activity among biker gangs and allowed Winterhalder to explain uninterrupted that "there is a lot of different types of individuals in a motorcycle club" but most are law abiding citizens who "are just regular guys who have jobs, families, and kids ... the only thing they're guilty of is having a little too much fun on the weekends":
From the May 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox host Elisabeth Hasselbeck suggested that the U.S. justice system was too lenient on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who received the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bombing, complaining that his right to appeal upends the "justice" of the jury's verdict.
After a federal jury sentenced the Boston bomber to death last week, Fox & Friends hosted an attorney and death penalty advocate on May 18 to discuss Tsarnaev's right to appeal his sentence. Co-host Brian Kilmeade complained that the possibility of a lengthy process could mean "we're not going to get to kill this guy, are we?" Elisabeth Hasselbeck argued, "Where's the justice" if Tsarnaev can challenge the jury's verdict:
HASSELBECK: That relief was felt in Boston. We've got friends and family there ourselves, and I think most Americans looked at this as justice is done. But now we hear about this appeals process, and we're wondering, well, where's the justice in that?
An appeal is automatic in a federal death penalty case like this one. Tsarnaev will reportedly be moved to the U.S. penitentiary for federal death-row inmates while his attorneys challenge the verdict.
Broadcast evening news programs have been virtually silent on Congressional Republicans' repeated efforts to restrict women's access to reproductive health care by pushing an extreme 20-week ban on abortion.
House Republicans voted this week to ban the majority of abortions after 20 weeks. As The New York Times reported, the legislation is a new "version of a bill that Republican leaders had abruptly pulled in January amid objections from some of their own members" over a provision "that would have required women who became pregnant through rape to report their assault to law enforcement authorities" in order to gain an exemption from the ban.
Such legislation would have dangerous implications for women's health should it become law, as many serious health conditions for both mothers and fetuses cannot be discovered until around the 20th week of pregnancy. The latest version of the legislation requires sexual assault survivors to attend counseling 48 hours prior to receiving an abortion, a requirement that, as ThinkProgress noted, "appears to closely resemble the mandatory counseling and waiting period requirements that are already popular on the state level" which have been roundly criticized by health experts and medical professionals for being unnecessary and harmful to women.
Yet broadcast evening news programs have been all but silent in covering the Republicans' abortion ban.
According to a Media Matters review of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS' nightly news programs since January 1, ABC's World News Tonight and NBC's Nightly News have completely ignored the legislation, while CBS Evening News ran one segment highlighting the GOP proposal on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. PBS' Newshour devoted four segments to the legislation this year, and was the only network to cover the House's passage of the latest abortion ban.
The virtual silence of the broadcast evening news comes amid an unprecedented push by Republicans at both the national and state level to restrict women's constitutional right to abortion. An April 2 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that the first few months of 2015 have seen 332 provisions to restrict access to abortion introduced in the legislatures of nearly every state.
Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS evening news programs from January 1 to April 13, 2015 for the terms "abort!" or "reproduct!" We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the keywords.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent attacked President Obama and gun safety advocates for calling attention to the deaths of children from guns, calling such efforts "The Big Lie" -- a phrase associated with Nazi propaganda.
Gun accidents and homicides involving children happen far more frequently in the United States than in other affluent nations.
In a May 13 column posted on conspiracy website WND (World Net Daily), Nugent wrote, "The Big Lie about guns is that innocent kids are being gunned down or are accidentally shooting each other."
Arguing that "very few kids under the age of 10 die or are injured as a result of gun-related accidents," Nugent wrote, "The vast majority of teenagers who die as a result of guns are involved in gangs. They are punks, thugs and street rats who have dropped out of school and let out of their cages over and over again by a so-called 'justice system' gone bad."
Hitler first wrote about "the big lie" in Mein Kampf. The Nazi leader accused Jews of telling "the big lie" to corrupt "the broad masses," who he claimed "more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie." The phrase is also associated with tactics used by chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
It's hard to argue that accidental gun deaths involving children are not worth calling attention to, let alone that covering such tragedies is comparable to Nazi-style propaganda. And it is no surprise that accidental shootings involving children receive widespread media coverage, given how shocking and senseless they are.
According to a project of Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been at least 88 incidents just this year "in which a child 17 or under fired a gun unintentionally and someone was harmed as a result." In 2013, the group documented at least 100 accidental shooting deaths of children aged 14 or younger. A Mother Jones report that examined the same time period found 84 fatal gun accidents involving children aged 12 and under, 64 of which involved a child pulling the trigger, killing themselves or someone else, which debunks Nugent's claim that children are not "accidentally shooting each other."
The National Rifle Association's media arm is deliberately misrepresenting a proposed new law in North Carolina that would repeal background checks on private pistol sales, falsely claiming that it would merely shift required background checks from one government system to another.
In reality, the bill would eliminate a pistol permit requirement that currently ensures that buyers of pistols from private sellers at gun shows and online undergo a background check, thus creating a loophole for felons and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing firearms.
Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives are currently considering H.B. 562, a piece of legislation that would repeal a state requirement that anyone who wants to purchase a pistol first obtain a permit from their local county sheriff -- a process that involves undergoing a background check. H.B. 562 has so far passed two House committees, although an effort to fast-track it was recently abruptly canceled.
If the pistol permit requirement is repealed, individuals who buy from private sellers at gun shows or online would no longer have to undergo a background check before completing their purchase.
Right on cue, the National Rifle Association has unveiled its 2016 presidential election conspiracy theory with the baseless claim that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is harboring a secret plan to confiscate Americans' firearms. But Clinton has never endorsed such a plan and in fact has defended private citizens' right to own guns.
In a May 11 article published in the NRA's magazine and on its lobbying website, the gun group wrote, "Whether or not she understands the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton disdains and distrusts that freedom," and claimed Clinton "wants control over every aspect of your right to keep and bear arms -- so she can deny it at will."
Clinton's own recent statements about "the right of people to own guns" meant the NRA was forced to juxtapose a series of old Clinton quotes -- some dating back to the late 1990s -- and hope that its readers would make implausible leaps of logic to buy into the conspiracy theory that a President Hillary Clinton would confiscate firearms. The NRA ran a similar fearmongering campaign about President Obama during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections that also had zero basis in fact.
In the article, the NRA purports to describe a secret plan by Clinton to confiscate firearms. The alleged starting point for the plan, however, is based on a distortion of the truth.
From the May 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the May 11 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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A newly expanded version of the National Rifle Association's flagship magazine has already featured racist and sexist content, a claim that gun owners are the victim of "institutionalized discrimination," and other inflammatory commentary.
In recent weeks, the NRA has rebranded its magazine America's 1st Freedom. While the magazine was previously available in a print and digital format, a newly-launched website has more content, including "F1rst Things First" ("The Daily Threat Assessment for Your Firearm Freedoms"), features by a wide range of NRA writers and outside contributors, and material from the NRA's lifestyle magazine NRA Sharp and the NRA News commentator series.
In a May 4 feature that promoted controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws, former NRA lobbyist Darren LaSorte, who now works for the NRA's ad agency Ackerman McQueen, described a past experience where he would have felt "clearly justified in [his] mind" to push a homeless man who was yelling at him and waving his hands around his waist in front of a bus. As it turns out, LaSorte was actually able to defuse the situation by crossing the street.
LaSorte recounted how "[o]n an evening walk home from work a while back, a mentally ill man picked me out of the crowd for whatever reason and things went south from there." According to LaSorte, the man yelled at him and came "contact-close" while "[h]is hands went from waving wildly in the air to down around his waistline."
He then recalled almost pushing the man into traffic (emphasis added): "I was about to launch him away from me with an explosive and instinctive push to his chest. Just at that moment out of my peripheral vision, I noticed a city bus speeding by in the nearest lane of traffic. I stopped at the last moment and instead moved off a couple of feet to my right. If I had pushed him away from me, I would have been clearly justified in my mind, but the government might have viewed it differently if this man had been severely injured or killed by the passing bus."
Once the traffic light changed, LaSorte wrote that he walked across the street and the man did not follow him. Citing other instances of being approached by "someone suspicious," LaSorte promoted the NRA's work in advancing "Stand Your Ground" laws. These laws actually increase the incidence of homicide, and a primary criticism leveled at such laws is that they needlessly escalate situations, resulting in lethal outcomes.
From the May 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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