Justice & Civil Liberties

Issues ››› Justice & Civil Liberties
  • NRA Filmed Its Rule-Breaking Pro-Trump Ad At Alexandria National Cemetery

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A controversial National Rifle Association ad filmed at a military cemetery in violation of government policy was shot at Alexandria National Cemetery.

    On June 30, the NRA Political Victory Fund launched a $2 million ad buy in swing states. The ad features veteran Mark Geist -- a survivor of the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks -- as he walks in and stands in front of a national cemetery.

    Because of the distinctive fencing and foliage, Media Matters can identify the cemetery as Alexandria National Cemetery. A Friday visit to the cemetery confirmed it as the location for the ad.

    The cemetery is located in Old Town, Alexandria, which is also the headquarters for NRA News and the site of an office of Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s ad firm.

    It is a violation of government policy to film a political ad at a national cemetery. In recent years, several political ads have been pulled because they were filmed in national cemeteries.

    Facing questions over where it filmed the ad, the NRA previously declined to tell ABC News where it was filmed, other than to say it was not filmed at Arlington National Cemetery.

    In the ad, Geist says, “A lot of people say they’re not going to vote this November because their candidate didn’t win. Well I know some other people who won’t be voting this year either.” The ad then shows footage of Alexandria National Cemetery.

     

     

    The ad goes on to use the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks to criticize Clinton and ends with a graphic that says “Trump 2016.”

    The area where Geist is shown walking and pausing at a gravesite is largely filled with Civil War era graves. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Alexandria National Cemetery is one of the original 14 national cemeteries established in 1862. The first burials made in the cemetery were soldiers who died during training or from disease in the numerous hospitals around Alexandria. By 1864, the cemetery was nearly filled to capacity, which eventually led to the planning, development and construction of Arlington National Cemetery.”

    Geist uploaded a photo to his Instagram page in May with the caption, “Alexandria National Cemetery visiting fallenpatriots from the civil war.#13hours #benghazi #markozgeist#neverhillary.”

    The ad has been criticized by veterans groups. VotVets.org has called for the ad to be taken down, while a national spokesperson for Veterans of Foreign Wars said, "Don’t use our dead to score political points." 

  • Five People Who Debunked Right-Wing Media Myths About Texas' Anti-Choice Law 

    Cable News Set The Record Straight On Abortion Safety And The Harmful Impact Of The Texas Anti-Choice Law That The Supreme Court Struck Down

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that Texas’ extreme anti-choice law HB 2 was unconstitutional because it imposed an “undue burden on abortion access.” Right-wing media have long insisted HB 2 was meant to protect women’s health. Here are five times cable news debunked this misinformation within the first day of media coverage of the decision.

  • The Inherent Contradiction Behind The NRA’s Anti-Clinton Benghazi Ad

    Star Of Ad Previously Said He Didn’t Hold Clinton Accountable For Benghazi Attacks

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s political action committee released an ad featuring a former CIA contracter present during the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks urging viewers not to vote for Hillary Clinton because of the attacks. But the contractor previously said that Clinton is not accountable for the attacks.

    USA Today reported on June 29 that the NRA Political Victory Fund was launching a $2 million ad campaign which the paper notes is “one of the larger expenditures by an outside group on behalf of the presumptive Republican nominee.” The NRA-PVF titled the ad “Mark ‘Oz’ Geist: Stop Clinton, Vote Trump.”

    The ad features Mark “Oz” Geist, a former CIA contractor who responded to the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi that claimed four American lives, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Geist is the co-author of 13 Hours, a book chronicling how he and other contractors undertook a rescue mission during the attacks. The book was later turned into a 2016 Michael Bay film with a similar title.

    In the ad, Geist, who has endorsed Trump, is shown walking through a cemetery while saying, “Hillary as President? No thanks. I served in Benghazi. My friends didn’t make it. They did their part. Do yours.”

    But Geist has said in the past he does not blame Clinton for the attacks. During a January 2016 appearance on ABC’s Nightline to promote the film 13 Hours, Geist disagreed with the notion that Clinton was “accountable” for the Benghazi attacks, instead blaming the terror group that carried out the attack. According to an ABC News writeup of the interview:

    But while many of Clinton's enemies use Benghazi to hold her accountable, Geist has his own perspective.

    “Do I hold her accountable? No. You know who I hold accountable is al-Sharia,” he said. “That’s who attacked them. That’s who killed the ambassador.”

    In addition, Geist has pushed back on the conservative media myth (which congressional investigations have also debunked) that Clinton or some other high-level Obama administration official issued a “stand down” order that delayed the attempt by him and other contractors to rescue Americans under fire during the attacks. During a September 9, 2014, appearance on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Geist instead blamed the delay responding on the CIA station chief, while attributing no “malice” to the chief’s decisions. From a CNN transcript of the segment (emphasis added):

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The chief of base wasn't telling the contractors to wait out of malice or unwillingness to help those under attack. There is a huge and fundamental difference between a short delay for security considerations and a stand down order.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    TAPPER: I understand that this might just be semantics. But their argument is that Bob wanted to make sure that they got Intel, wanted to make sure you had enough weapons, wanted to make sure there was enough backup. It wasn't a political decision.

    GEIST: Sure, sure.

    TAPPER: Your take?

    PARONTO: My take on that is the first five minutes -- and I've even said this, and I even said this to the committee when we were interviewed. I said the first five minutes, I'll give you that. It is a combat situation. We do need to adjust fire and get ourselves in order. The next 20 minutes, no. Tactically, that's unsound and minutes cost lives. And they died of smoke inhalation, Sean and the ambassador. So, once that comes about in that 20 minute time frame, the decision needed to be made. And we need to go - we need to stay in. Also, we didn't have a rapport with the 17 February militia.

    TAPPER: Right.

    PARONTO: So we are calling - calling- we are relying on somebody to rescue our friends and our comrades and we didn't trust them. We didn't initially trust them. We still don't trust them.

    TAPPER: Mark.

    GEIST: Well, you know, and we've never indicated that there was any malice from them. And why he made the decision. But you have six operators that have probably together almost 100 years of experience in counterinsurgency operations. The question that we have, is why wouldn't you utilize that asset that you have available to get out there and see and put eyes on to find out real true intelligence instead of depending on a local national to get that intelligence.

  • How The Nightly Network News Covered The Supreme Court's Rejection Of Texas' Anti-Choice Law

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    After the landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, two network evening news programs allowed anti-abortion activists to spin the ruling as a “loss for women’s health and safety.” But in actuality, the Supreme Court found that the requirements imposed by the Texas law addressed “no significant health-related problem” and are “nearly arbitrary” -- findings that two other networks highlighted.

  • The Supreme Court Just Exposed Right-Wing Lies In A Landmark Abortion Access Case

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2 placed an “undue burden on abortion access.” Supporters of the unconstitutional law argued that HB 2’s restrictions were necessary to protect women’s health and prevent another “Kermit Gosnell scandal” -- talking points pushed by right-wing media. Writing the majority opinion of the court, Justice Stephen Breyer rebuked these anti-choice myths, saying there was unequivocal  evidence that HB 2 lacked medical benefits and posed extreme harm to Texas women.

  • A Year After Marriage Equality, It's Time For Media To Stop Giving Anti-LGBT Liars A Pass

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    In the year since the Supreme Court struck down state-level same-sex marriage bans, anti-gay extremists have continued to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality in the media. After more than 12 years of pushing lies and wildly inaccurate predictions about the consequences of marriage equality, it’s time for the media to stop letting anti-gay activists comment on LGBT rights without disclosing their proven track record of dishonest extremism.

    It’s been a year since the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges decision which found state-level same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. In the decade leading up to the decision, anti-LGBT extremists and hate group leaders peddled specious talking points about the consequences of “redefining traditional marriage.” In media appearances, these figures predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a “slippery slope” to legalized bestiality, incest, and pedophilia; pushed the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men; and hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

    Several of these groups were so deceptive that in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), designated them anti-LGBT “hate groups” for “propagating known falsehoods” and pushing “demonizing propaganda.” One of these groups was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose officials have accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children into homosexuality and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for engaging in gay sex.

    For years, major cable news networks have hosted FRC representatives to comment on LGBT equality without identifying FRC as a hate group. Despite the efforts of progressive Christians to stop outlets from letting FRC representatives conflate their extremism with mainstream Christianity, the group continues to have a significant media presence. Since last June’s Obergefell decision, mainstream media outlets have continued to call on FRC to discuss LGBT rights, including:

    • The New York Times, NPR, and USA Today all cited FRC’s commentary on the Obergefell marriage equality decision without noting the group’s history of hate.
    • ABC's This Week invited FRC's Ken Blackwell -- who previously blamed same-sex marriage for a mass murder -- to discuss the court's decision.  
    • NPR featured FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg -- who spent 10 years as a "professional actor" before joining FRC -- to debate same-sex parenting.
    • FRC’s President Tony Perkins appeared on MSNBC to discuss meeting with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump assemble an “Evangelical executive advisory board,” featuring anti-LGBT extremists.

    In the past year, the media have given other anti-LGBT hate groups similar passes. In September, mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters failed to identify Liberty Counsel, the anti-LGBT hate group representing Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, instead calling it merely a “Christian” or “conservative” organization. In April, major news outlets largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender-inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT hate group.

    The few instances when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer did properly identify hate group leaders, anti-gay conservatives were predictably outraged. Right-wing anger at journalists who expose anti-LGBT extremism illustrates why it’s so vital to disclose when sources or commentators represent hate groups. The public has a right to know that the same groups with a track record of fearmongering about children’s safety to oppose marriage equality are now those peddling the anti-LGBT movement’s new favorite myth that LGBT nondiscrimination protections endanger the safety of women and children in bathrooms.

    A year after Obergefell, it’s time for the media to stop letting the same extremists use media appearances to float new lies and recycle mythical talking points to oppose LGBT equality. Outlets seeking to provide balanced coverage of LGBT rights ought to find commentators who don’t have a decade-long track record of spreading hateful lies about LGBT people. 

  • Florida Editorial Boards Lambaste Rubio’s Senate Record In Light Of Senate Run

    ››› ››› MARLEE PITTMAN

    After Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced his intention to seek reelection to the Senate -- despite previously pledging he would not run -- state editorial boards criticized the senator’s “thin record” and “absenteeism” from the Senate during his first term. Several outlets also criticized Rubio’s recent votes against stronger gun laws after claiming the Orlando terror attack on a gay nightclub motivated his reentry into the Senate race.

  • James O’Keefe Is Still Not a Journalist

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Since 2009, self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has repeatedly embarrassed himself while attempting to launch undercover stings targeting government agencies, media outlets, and  liberal organizations and institutions.

  • NRA Radio Show Compares Participants In Rep. John Lewis’ Gun Violence Sit-In To “Criminals And Terrorists”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s radio show compared participants in a sit-in in the U.S. House of Representatives being led by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) to “criminals and terrorists” reasoning that like terrorists, the sit-in participants were not following the rules.

    While the House was in session on June 22, Lewis and other Democratic members of Congress sat on the floor of the House, refusing to return to regular order until Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreed to call a vote on legislation to prevent gun violence.

    CNN.com described the move as “a dramatic protest inside the House of Representatives” that was “rich with historic symbolism.” Lewis, who as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized numerous sit-ins to protest racial discrimination during the 1960s, has been described as “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced.”

    During the June 22 broadcast of the NRA’s radio show Cam & Company, as the sit-in proceeded, host Cam Edwards claimed, “So in order to push legislation that the sponsors say would not have prevented the attacks in Orlando, Florida, they’re also going to flout the House rules. Kind of like, you know, criminals and terrorists flout the rules that we have in place right now and will continue to do so?”: