"It's a situation basically directly out of a Kafka novel, and I can't think of anything more unjust."
That's how Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute of Legal Reform (ILR), framed the current state of securities class actions. When the Chamber talks, right-wing media listen -- which is why it matters when its representatives liken class action lawsuits to Kafkaesque hellscapes, worse than anything else in the world.
On February 28, the Chamber hosted "Erica P. John Fund & Beyond: The Past, Present, and Future of Securities Class Actions," an event where Chamber-selected panelists discussed the perils of the next big class action case before the Supreme Court, Halliburton Co v. Erica P. John Fund. At the heart of the case is the so-called "fraud on the market" theory, decades-old Supreme Court and legislative precedent that businesses interests are asking the conservative justices to overturn.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano made the evidence-free claim that Attorney General Eric Holder personally approved low-level Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) undercover stings that have recently come under criticism because of their use of faulty investigative techniques.
ATF storefront sting operations -- where undercover law enforcement agents set up sketchy storefronts to attract drugs and firearms which are then taken off the street -- came under scrutiny in January 2013 with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's investigative reporting on a Milwaukee sting known as Operation Fearless. According to the Journal Sentinel, Operation Fearless "resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store." A follow-up report identified six other problematic storefront stings conducted by ATF.
The ATF has acknowledged flaws in the storefront sting process and has issued new guidelines that aim to prevent future debacles. At the same time ATF has also pointed to more than 250 convictions obtained and over 1,300 firearms recovered as a result of the stings. The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General is also conducting a review of four of the 37 undercover storefront operations conducted by ATF. The ATF is cooperating with the investigation and currently has no active storefront sting operations.
Fox News is trying to pin the blame for the failed stings on Holder. On the March 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy introduced the idea of Holder's supposed involvement in the stings by stating, "So it's a dumb idea, it's a bad idea, it's an illegal proposition. Okay, who's at the head of the Department of Justice? Eric Holder. Would this have been approved by him?"
Napolitano replied, "I don't know personally if it was approved by him, but it's almost inconceivable after Fast and Furious that something of this magnitude could happen without him knowing. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he had to approve it because it involved too much expenditure of money and too much manpower. They set it up in 40 different cities."
This baseless accusation is the latest attempt by Fox News to use failed ATF law enforcement operations as a way to bludgeon Holder.
Conservative website The Daily Caller published in its entirety an over-the-top fundraising pitch from National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre that suggested the only way to save America is to buy an NRA membership.
The March 3 column posted in the Caller's "Guns and Gear" section included the phone number for an NRA membership hotline and a link to a website where Caller readers can purchase a discounted NRA membership:
Like other material published by the NRA at the Caller, the fundraising pitch was filled with paranoid rhetoric based on the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is plotting to confiscate privately owned firearms.
Controversy surrounding Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with National Rifle Association board member and conservative columnist Ted Nugent -- after Nugent called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" -- demonstrates how far-right media figures can damage the GOP brand.
While the Abbott campaign initially feigned ignorance of Nugent's hateful and alienating rhetoric, the "subhuman mongrel" slur received substantial media attention when it was made public in January.
As the controversy unfolded, Nugent, who is also a spokesman for the Outdoor Channel, was also widely derided for his profane and derogatory descriptions of women, leading some to point out that Abbott's campaign decision was at odds with the GOP's purported plan to provide better outreach to women and minorities.
A look back at the how the story progressed is below.
The National Rifle Association's Connecticut lobbyist detailed a plan to remove from office lawmakers who voted for bipartisan gun safety legislation following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and boastfully suggested that the NRA was responsible for the decision of two pro-gun safety legislators not to run for reelection this year.
The NRA's claims about being able to influence the outcome of elections -- often advanced by a lazy media conventional wisdom -- are overstated. In fact research has shown that the NRA's endorsement and campaign contributions have little impact on the outcomes of elections, clearly evidenced by the NRA's disastrous 2012 federal election spending where more than 95 percent of $18 million spent by the NRA went to elections where the NRA-backed candidate lost.
Appearing on an NRA News program, the NRA's Connecticut state liaison Anna Kopperud said that 2014 will be "the year where we pick up our baggage and move forward" and spoke of a need to "correct some of the wrongs that we saw last year" following the enactment of gun safety legislation in the state.
MSNBC and CNN both shined a spotlight on the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme anti-gay group behind Arizona's recent effort to allow businesses to refuse service to gay customers. The networks' decisions to profile ADF stand in stark contrast to a broader media tendency to ignore anti-gay group's records of extremism.
In the same week that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer chose to veto SB 1062, a measure that would have expanded protections for businesses refusing service to gay customers, both CNN and MSNBC ran segments profiling ADF, which drafted the law along with the Center for Arizona policy.
During the February 25 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper noted the similarities between the talking points used by proponents of SB 1062 and similar measures in other states, tracing their shared "genetic code" back to ADF. Though Cooper invited ADF to participate in the segment, the group declined:
While requiring background checks on gun sales is overwhelmingly popular with the general public, members of conservative media have used false statements and paranoid rhetoric to fight legislation to require checks for more than 20 years.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, commonly known as the Brady Bill or Brady Act. Signed by President Clinton in 1993 after a multi-year legislative effort, the law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on customers to prevent felons and other dangerous people from acquiring firearms. While a legal challenge invalidated a waiting period requirement in the Brady Bill created so local law enforcement could process background checks, in 1998 the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System was launched, allowing gun dealers to perform often instantaneous background checks on customers. Since then, the law has stopped more than 2 million gun sales to prohibited individuals.
The law derives its name from President Ronald Reagan's press secretary Jim Brady, who was shot and seriously injured during an assassination attempt on Reagan on March 30, 1981, at the Washington Hilton. Reagan was shot in the chest and arm and underwent lifesaving emergency surgery. In a 1991 letter published in The New York Times, Reagan ruminated on the anniversary of the 1981 shooting, writing, "This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress now -- the Brady bill -- had been law back in 1981." Jim and his wife Sarah Brady continue to advocate for gun violence prevention polices through their close work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
In contrast to significant coverage on CNN and MSNBC, a search of Fox News transcripts indicates the network has yet to address the recent desecration of a statue at The University of Mississippi which commemorates the integration of "Ole Miss," despite the network's previous attacks on desegregation law.
Earlier this month, a noose and a confederate flag were found on the Ole Miss campus, draped over a statue of James Meredith -- the first African-American student to enroll at the school. A group of white fraternity brothers are suspected in the vandalism, and the students could face federal hate crime charges. But a search of network transcripts on Nexis suggests that Fox has failed to report on the story at all -- despite having plenty to say in the past about "axing affirmative action" in favor of "color blindness."
Right-wing media's response to recent challenges to affirmative action policies -- most recently from Michigan and Texas -- has been to unequivocally support the gutting of these equal opportunity admissions policies, which have strengthened diversity on campuses for the benefit of everyone. In discussing affirmative action, right-wing outlets have been prone to favorably refer to conservative Chief Justice John Roberts' overly-simplistic suggestion that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," when they weren't otherwise mangling the case law.
Lost in this conservative reporting is how a lack of diversity can lead to racial isolation for students of all colors and can contribute to racially-charged incidents of ignorance and hate on campus. Fox News, in particular, has had no qualms about misrepresenting the constitutionality of the diversity principle at the core of current affirmative action programs, which have been so crucial to ensuring that students and future leaders of color are not a rarity in the American educational experience. Their failure to report on the vandalism at Ole Miss unfortunately continues that trend.
PolitiFact reports that National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent exaggerated his law enforcement credentials, which included his claim that he is "a cop in Lake County, Michigan" and that he "conduct[s] federal raids with the DEA and ATF and U.S. Marshals and the FBI and Texas Rangers."
In giving Nugent's claims a "pants on fire" designation, PolitiFact said none of the agencies mentioned by Nugent confirmed his participation in raids. The Texas Rangers issued a flat denial, telling PolitiFact, "In regards to your question about the Texas Rangers, that did not occur." The ATF, the federal agency tasked with enforcing gun laws, said "[w]e are not aware of him conducting any raids with us." The U.S. Marshals confirmed that Nugent had shot footage of a ride-along in 2005 when a raid was conducted for his Spirit of the Wild TV show, but that civilian observers of raids "cannot go with us into private residences."
PolitiFact concluded, "He is not a cop in Michigan by any conventional meaning of the word. No agency said that he presently plays any role in any of their raids."
While PolitiFact only rated Nugent's claims about his law enforcement credentials that were made during a recent appearance on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, Nugent has also previously claimed that for decades he has received "official" training from elite military units.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly and senior political analyst Brit Hume were shocked by the suggestion that Arizona's anti-gay law might allow "a Christian doctor who is deeply conservative in his religious views to deny treatment" to patients on the basis of sexual orientation, an interesting change of pace for a network that has no problems regularly defending the religiously-based denial of women's health services.
In a February 25 segment on Fox's The Kelly File, Kelly and Hume agreed that the Arizona law -- which could provide legal protections to religious business owners who deny services and accommodations to gay couples on the basis of their sexual orientation -- went too far because the possibility of denying medical services to gay people was "an order of magnitude greater than the legal right to deny services to a gay wedding":
But neither Kelly nor Hume managed to point out the obvious -- Christian doctors are already enabled to deny services to all women on religious grounds.
After months of championing anti-gay business owners and criticizing efforts to protect gay and lesbian customers from discrimination, Fox News is finally waking up to the consequences of its fear mongering campaign - and it doesn't like what it's seeing.
The Supreme Court's historic decision to strike down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 left many anti-gay marriage activists reeling. Recognizing that their decade long fight against marriage equality was quickly becoming a lost cause, many anti-gay conservatives turned their attention to an issue that they believed might offer them more traction - the religious liberty of anti-gay business owners.
While opponents of marriage equality have long warned about businesses being forced to serve gay couples, it's only recently that the issue of protecting anti-gay business owners became a rallying cry for social conservatives.
That rallying cry has been largely amplified by Fox News, which in recent months has worked to tout anti-gay business owners as martyrs, victimized by gay activists seeking services for their same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies.
Falsely accusing gay activists of ushering the "death of free enterprise" in America, Fox News has highlighted a number of anti-gay horror stories in which religious business owners have faced penalties for refusing to serve gay customers:
In each of these cases, the business owners were found to have violated their state's non-discrimination laws. And in each of these cases, Fox News depicted the business owners as victims whose religious freedoms were being threatened by being required to serve gay customers.
Media covering the controversy over Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with inflammatory National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent are touting a poll showing Abbott with an 11 point lead as proof that Nugent has not hurt Abbott's campaign. But data collection for the poll ended on February 17, a day before the Nugent-Abbott controversy first received widespread attention.
On February 18, the day Nugent made two campaign appearances with Abbott, the Texas Democratic Party condemned Abbott for campaigning with someone who had recently called President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." A week-long media firestorm ensued that included condemnations of Nugent from prominent GOP figures, a disingenuous apology from Nugent, and a contentious appearance by Nugent on CNN.
On February 24, University of Texas/Texas Tribune released a poll conducted between February 7 and 17 showing Abbott leading likely opponent Democrat Wendy Davis 47 percent to 36 percent. 17 percent of voters were undecided in the poll. Notably, the polling covers a period when Davis was receiving largely negative press coverage because of a right-wing media smear campaign about her biography.
Still, members of the media have erroneously used the polling to offer insights about the impact of the Nugent controversy on the Texas governor's race.
From the February 25 edition of KFTK's The Dana Show:
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Right-wing media mischaracterized a recent Supreme Court case as evidence of executive overreach on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though the challenged agency action was one where the EPA specifically declined to act as aggressively as the law allowed.
On February 24, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, a case that could hinder the EPA's ability to regulate harmful greenhouse gases if polluting industry interests have their way. Right-wing media outlets like Fox News and The Wall Street Journal were quick to portray the case as an overextension of the EPA's regulatory authority. The WSJ editorial board -- whose disdain for clean air is well-documented -- accused the agency in a recent editorial of "crowbarring carbon into what it admits is an unworkable regulatory framework."
More recently, in a February 24 segment on Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier, legal reporter Shannon Bream framed the legal issue as "whether the agency had the right to literally rewrite" the Clean Air Act:
From the February 24 edition of Fox News Radio's Tom Sullivan Radio Show:
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