From the July 15 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The D.C. Circuit is expected to rule soon in Halbig v. Burwell, a lawsuit based on a fringe legal theory that could gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by eliminating federal exchange tax credits that significantly reduce the cost of private health insurance. Although this lawsuit has already been dismissed by legal experts and judges as meritless, right-wing media continue to misrepresent both the law and consequences surrounding Halbig.
The New Hampshire Union Leader rejected the factually accurate claim that the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision would result in gender discrimination while pushing the myth that the forms of contraception discussed in the case were actually abortion-inducing drugs.
A new profile of Larry Pratt, the odious executive director of fringe group Gun Owners of America (GOA) documents Pratt's lengthy history of extremism while noting that he is still treated by media as an authority in the gun debate.
The Pratt profile, authored by The American Independent Institute (TAII) fellow Alexander Zaitchik, was published July 14 as part of a RollingStone.com package, "America's Gun Violence Epidemic." Other articles in the series include an interview with former New York City mayor and gun violence prevention advocate Michael Bloomberg, a message from Richard Martinez, whose son was murdered in the recent Isla Vista, California mass shooting, stories from gunshot wound survivors, and an interactive map on gun violence in America.
Interspersed with accounts of Pratt's association with anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups, his call for the quarantine of AIDS victims, his support for the death squads of a genocidal dictator, and his longstanding engagement with bizarre anti-government conspiracy theories, Zaitchik recounts how Pratt is regularly called on by mainstream media outlets to participate in the debate over gun laws.
Indeed, a Media Matters analysis of cable news and major newspapers finds that media regularly turns to Pratt despite his place in the far-right wing fringe. Since the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Pratt has appeared during evening and Sunday programming on CNN seven times and three times each on MSNBC and Fox News.
From the July 12 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Right-wing media labeled the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to garnish the wages of polluters who have failed to pay their fines a "power grab," even though the agency is acting with authority granted to it by decades-old federal law that is already used by 30 other federal agencies.
On July 2, the EPA announced that it would implement a provision of the Debt Collection Improvement Act that would allow the agency to collect delinquent debts from polluters by garnishing their wages without first obtaining a court order. This law, which was approved by an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress and signed into law in 1996, is applicable not just to the EPA but all federal agencies. According to the text of the law and Department of the Treasury guidelines, all federal agencies who collect delinquent debts can "collect money from a debtor's disposable pay by means of administrative wage garnishment to satisfy delinquent nontax debt" without going to the courts first.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Times were quick to accuse the EPA of "flexing its regulatory muscle under President Obama" to "unilaterally garnish the paychecks of those accused of violating its rules," because the EPA's proposed rule would no longer require the agency to "obtain a court judgment before garnishing non-Federal wages." The Times framed the announcement as an EPA "power grab," even though the report later pointed out that "every federal agency has the authority to conduct administrative wage garnishment." Fox News was similarly outraged over the EPA's announcement, with Townhall.com news editor Katie Pavlich appearing on The Kelly File to claim that "the EPA now is acting as judge, jury, and executioner" by attempting to adopt the wage garnishment rule.
But Fox's senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, took it even further on the July 10 edition of Fox & Friends. Napolitano complained that the EPA did not have the authority to garnish wages without a court order because "Congress never authorized it. Congress couldn't authorize it. It blatantly violates the Constitution." Napolitano went on to claim that the EPA's proposed plan was "not legal" because the rule didn't protect debtors' "right to a hearing," and that it was "the president's people" who were behind the rule change:
Fox News suggested HGTV ran afoul of the First Amendment when it canceled an upcoming reality show following reports of the hosts' extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism.
HGTV cancelled its forthcoming reality show Flip It Forward following revelations that the hosts, Jason and David Benham, had an extensive history of anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim activism. Examples of the brothers' reported hate speech include David Benham likening the fight against gay marriage to that against Nazi Germany, and participation in protests against "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation." Benham has publicly highlighted Leviticus' punishment of death for gay sex and protested in front of mosques shouting "Jesus Hates Muslims."
After rushing to defend the brothers by claiming they were being punished for their Christian views, Fox News is now suggesting HGTV's decision to cancel the show violated the Benhams' First Amendment right to free speech.
On July 10, Fox News host Steve Doocy interviewed Jason and David Benham while an on-screen graphic declared they had been "fired for faith." Doocy argued, "You were fired for having an opinion. I mean, there's this thing called the First Amendment where people are entitled to their opinion and their Christian beliefs as well."
But the First Amendment does not protect individuals from being fired by private employers, as it does not limit the actions that private employers may take based on employees' speech. The First Amendment Center explained:
The First Amendment does not limit private employers. The Bill of Rights -- and the First Amendment -- limit only government actors, not private actors. This means that private employers can restrict employee speech in the workplace without running afoul of the First Amendment.
HGTV did not violate the First Amendment rights of the Benhams by dropping their show. As Columbia Law's Suzanne Goldberg pointed out in an interview with CNN, it was most likely a decision to protect the business' brand following widespread outcry against the Benhams' comments. Even David Benham told CNN that he does not hold a grudge against the network, telling Erin Burnett, "It was too much for them to bear and they had to make a business decision."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent wrote that some people who supported President Obama "defiled the sacrifices and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spat on his grave" because they voted for Obama "based on the color of his skin instead of the content of his character."
Nugent, who is also a spokesperson for Outdoor Channel, added in his July 9 column for conspiracy website WND that Obama's election represented "the worst case of racism I have ever witnessed in my lifetime":
We have all seen the roving reporter man-on-the-street interviews. I'm sure we all have some friends, acquaintances, even family members and others who have uttered the painful statement. I don't know about anyone else, but when I first heard people say that they voted for Barack Obama because he was black, or that it was "time" for a black president, my skin crawled.
I am well aware that that statement of mine will be isolated and made out to be "racist" by the dishonest media and the maniacally boneheaded Saul Alinsky gang over at the Huff-n-Puff Post and beyond, but the real horror is that the worst case of racism I have ever witnessed in my lifetime was the indecent choice en mass by millions of Americans who defiled the sacrifices and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spat on his grave when they actually admitted that they voted for this president based on the color of his skin instead of the content of his character.
In a later section of his column that sought to downplay racism in the United States, Nugent claimed he has "never personality witnessed" it in his lifetime:
Does racism still exist in America today? I'm guessing that is does, but in my nonstop world travels over a lifetime, being the ultra-gregarious chap that I am, enjoying the friendships of many good people, performing more than 6,500 concerts around the globe, diligently pursuing diverse peoples and places, I have never personally witnessed racism or hatred of any kind with anyone I have ever met.
MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh corrected attempts to cast doubt on the fact that Hillary Clinton served as defense attorney on a decades-old criminal case at the direction of the court, pointing out that, in fact, the judge had compelled Clinton to take the case.
The July 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews rehashed Hillary Clinton's work as a court-appointed defense attorney in the 1975 prosecution of an alleged rapist, a role that, while known publicly for years, is reemerging in wake of the conservative Washington Free Beacon's improper appropriation and publication of an interview Clinton gave in the mid-1980s discussing the case.
During the discussion, frequent MSNBC guest and president of the conservative Bernard Center for Women Michelle Bernard repeatedly suggested that Clinton had elected to represent the defendant of her own volition. Joan Walsh, Salon editor and MSNBC analyst, attempted to correct the record on Clinton's court appointment, pointing out that "she was court-appointed" and that the judge had forced her to take the case. Bernard, however, continued to imply Clinton may have voluntarily accepted the role after speaking with the prosecutor.
The fact that the court appointed Clinton to represent the defendant is not in doubt. The judge -- not the prosecutor -- directed Clinton to take on the case, as Glenn Thrush established in a 2008 Newsday report:
From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Joe Scarborough and Ezra Klein are helping to normalize guilt-by-association smears targeting defense attorneys based on their clients, arguing that Hillary Clinton's work defending an alleged child rapist in 1975 is becoming a political liability.
The American Bar Association has condemned this type of attack as "disturbing."
Clinton's work on the case, known publicly and reported on for years, re-emerged after the Washington Free Beacon violated library policy and published an interview Clinton gave in the mid-1980s discussing her legal representation of the alleged rapist.
Clinton defended her work on the case in an interview with Mumsnet that was published July 4, explaining once again that she was assigned to the case, that she asked to be relieved from the assignment, and that she "had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability."
Reporting on the warmed-over scrutiny of the case on Tuesday, Vox claimed that "a criminal defense case from Hillary Clinton's past as a lawyer is becoming a political liability." The headline ominously stated: "Hillary Clinton's legal career is coming back to haunt her."
Klein, the co-founder of Vox, appeared on Morning Joe to expand on the idea that Clinton's legal work was a political liability. "I think it's hard for folks to understand why you would go to the mat for a client who had done something terrible who you knew is guilty," Klein said. "And what she's saying there is that that was her obligation as a lawyer and that the prosecution had done a horrible job."
While Scarborough at one point agreed that attorneys "usually take that court appointment and do their best to defend their client," he subsequently tried to parse the distinction between a public defender and Clinton's role as a court-appointed attorney from a legal aid clinic:
SCARBOROUGH: [I]sn't there a distinction, though, between when you are hired by a public defender's office, and the purpose of the public defender's office is actually to give people the representation that they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America? And then you have Hillary Clinton's case, where she was running a legal clinic. She may have been court-appointed, but obviously she had a lot more discretion on whether she was going to take a child rapist or not on as a client than if you are a public defender, where you are working as a public defender, you have no choice.
Legal and child welfare experts told Newsday that Clinton's work in the case was appropriate in 2008, the last time her work in the case came under media scrutiny. Clinton wrote about the case in her 2003 autobiography, Living History. Jonathan Adler, a libertarian law professor, has urged Clinton's critics not to attack her representation in this case, specifically warning that it could be chilling to send a message to young attorneys that representing unpopular clients could become a "political liability."
Adler is not alone. Republicans Ken Starr, Lindsey Graham, and Michael Mukasey have all cautioned against using an attorney's clients as a cudgel.
A new commentary from the National Rifle Association claims that laws relating to the buying, owning, and carrying of firearms are "equally as unconstitutional" as Jim Crow laws that created legal racial discrimination in the United States.
The July 7 commentary was published by NRA News and is part of the gun group's recent efforts to reach a younger, more diverse audience. While discussing his interpretation of the Second Amendment, NRA News commentator Dom Raso said, "So just because someone makes a law that says you can't buy, own, or carry a weapon, doesn't make it lawful. Jim Crow laws were also passed and enforced and those were equally as unconstitutional. Too many Americans don't think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue and that's dangerous because all of those rights together define freedom."
Although the comparison is absurd on its face -- gun ownership laws cannot be compared to a pernicious body of law that legitimized a "racial caste system" in the United States -- Raso fails to appreciate that gun laws routinely face legal challenges, but are almost always upheld as consistent with the Second Amendment.
The landmark 2008 Supreme Court Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller ruled that many restrictions on firearms are lawful and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
From the July 8 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the July 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The Wall Street Journal downplayed a "rare" and "extreme" Supreme Court order that could make it even more difficult for women to obtain contraceptive coverage in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, arguing that Justice Sonia Sotomayor "may come to regret her furious dissent" from the ruling.
On June 30, the conservative justices of the Supreme Court held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the chain craft store was exempt from a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employer-provided health insurance plans to cover preventive health care services, including birth control. The majority opinion, helmed by Justice Samuel Alito, suggested that the government offer for-profit, secular corporations like Hobby Lobby the same accommodation that exempts religiously-affiliated non-profits from the birth control requirement. In order for such non-profits to take advantage of this exemption, they must sign a self-certification form that states their moral objection to birth control, which allows their insurance companies to provide the medications to employees at no additional cost.
But the Court, not to mention right-wing media outlets, ignored the flaw in this plan -- that the religious accommodation is also being challenged as an illegal burden on religious freedom. Wheaton College, a Christian school in Illinois, is one of the challengers arguing that signing the exemption form "makes it complicit in grave moral evil" because the college "sincerely believes" that signing will "enable the flow of abortion-inducing drugs." On July 3, the Supreme Court issued an emergency injunction in Wheaton's favor, excusing the college from signing the exemption form until after its lawsuit is heard by the lower courts. Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, dissented from the order, writing that "those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word. Not so today. ... [Granting the injunction] evinces disregard for even the newest of this Court's precedents and undermines confidence in this institution."
In a July 6 editorial, the Journal dismissed the significance of the injunction, and called Sotomayor's dissent an "overreaction":
Our guess is that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor may come to regret her furious dissent last week to a simple Court order granting a temporary religious liberty reprieve to Wheaton College from having to obey ObamaCare's contraception mandate. She and the two other female Justices accused the Court's majority of all sorts of legal offenses, not least dishonesty.
Wheaton is challenging that accommodation as too restrictive, but the Court did not rule on the merits last week. All it did was grant a reprieve from having to obey the mandate while the case is being heard. This says little about how the Court might eventually rule, notwithstanding Justice Sotomayor's angry implication. The reprieve will also not deny any reproductive services to anyone.
Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority had harmed the Court's reputation, but it seems to us that her overreaction did far more to make the Justices a political target.