The National Rifle Association's media arm is defending a Maryland sheriff who warned that the enforcement of gun laws could lead to a civil war between his county and the federal government.
Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis made national headlines in September after telling a local news station, "As long as I'm the sheriff in this county, I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my citizens of their right to bear arms. I can tell you this, if they attempt to do that, it would be an all-out civil war, no question about it."
According to USA Today, Lewis made similar comments to a Delaware NBC affiliate, warning of a civil war with the federal government over the enforcement of a hypothetical ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
In response to Lewis' comments, gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) launched a petition calling for the revocation of Lewis' Maryland Police Training Commission certification. According to CSGV, "It is difficult to see how a law enforcement officer who is threatening to wage war with the United States government meets any recognized standards of public service. In the wake of his threatening comments, Sheriff Lewis should not be given the responsibility of training law enforcement officers in Maryland."
The NRA's media arm, NRA News, responded to CSGV's petition, terming it "pathetic" and downplaying the inflammatory nature of Lewis' comments.
NRA News host Cam Edwards claimed that CSGV was trying to "silence" Lewis "because of the sheriff speaking up the way he has." Edwards also offered a two-fold defense of Lewis' civil war comments that sought to downplay their nature.
National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator Ted Nugent suggested that President Obama is not a Christian and touted Republicans as "the only chance we have" to kill "the wolf at the door" during the 2014 midterm elections.
In an October 8 column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent, claiming to speak on behalf of "we the people," also conspiratorially questioned how unaccompanied children are arriving at the U.S. - Mexico border and wrote that the "vast majority" of those in poverty have "every imaginable luxury known to man":
Now more than ever, we the people are painfully aware that those subject to the separation of powers have become nothing more than a conspiratorial gang against us.
We refuse to believe that all those children showing up at our southern border just happen to make that near impossible journey all on their own.
We don't believe that our president is a Christian.
We can't believe our government squawks about so many living in so-called poverty when the vast majority of such poor people have cellphones and every imaginable luxury known to man.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board is criticizing a new Supreme Court case by downplaying serious allegations in the case that Amazon.com engaged in illegal employment activities and complaining about class action lawsuits.
On October 8, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, a case involving a class action lawsuit in which temporary contractors who worked in Amazon warehouses are accusing the retailer of wage theft. The lead plaintiff in the case, Jesse Busk, represents warehouse staffers who argue that they are owed back pay for the time they spent in lines for security checks after they had clocked out. Busk says he often waited upward of 25 minutes at the end of his shift to go through security, where guards checked each employee for stolen merchandise. Because the security screenings are mandated by company policy, Busk and the rest of the class argue they should be compensated for the time they spent waiting to be screened.
Although the court recently held that the time employees spend putting on and taking off protective gear is not compensable, the Busk case is far from a slam-dunk. But as far as the Journal editorial board is concerned, "this should be an easy call for the Justices." In an October 7 editorial, the Journal minimized how much time workers were required to wait in security lines, complained that suits to recover back wages for this unpaid time "benefit lawyers far more than workers," and misrepresented the holding in other wage theft cases to conclude that "[t]ime in security lines doesn't qualify" for compensation:
Standing in line might feel like work, but it isn't. Under the 1947 Portal to Portal Act, Congress specifically wrote rules to prevent employees from abusing an amorphous definition of work in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to claim they were entitled to be paid for a wide range of activities on work premises. Congress said employers weren't expected to pay employees for "walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform."
That understanding has been upheld by both the Second and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal. Workers must be paid only for activities that are "integral and indispensable" to their core job responsibilities. Time in security lines doesn't qualify.
This kind of FLSA litigation has been booming, especially as securities class-actions have become harder for the trial bar to win. From March 2011 to March 2012, 7,064 FLSA actions were filed in federal court, up from 2,035 a decade earlier.
If the Ninth Circuit's reasoning is upheld, it would encourage a wave of copycat suits and mean countless paydays for the trial bar. A similar lawsuit is pending against Apple, which checks employee bags for wayward iPhones. While the security delays are only minutes, a class-action suit would cost millions in settlements that would benefit lawyers far more than workers.
The 9th Circuit applied a two-part test in in its opinion to determine whether an on-the-job activity is "integral and indispensable" -- it must be both "necessary to the principal work performed" and "done for the benefit of the employer." In Amazon's case, the employees are arguing that the security checks meet this test, because the checks arise from their work in the warehouse, and uncovering theft is solely for the company's benefit.
The 2014 midterm election cycle is already one of the most expensive ever -- due in part to the Supreme Court's recent campaign finance decisions, which have opened the floodgates for billions of dollars in political expenditures to influence our election system. But the crisis is all but nonexistent on Fox News Sunday, which has rarely discussed money in politics outside of the overblown IRS targeting scandal.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court dismantled aggregate campaign contribution limits in McCutcheon v. FEC, making it easier for individuals to influence the political process by donating money to an unlimited number of candidates, political parties, and super PACs. McCutcheon was an extension of the court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, which allowed corporations to make unlimited political expenditures to support their favored candidates.
Since the Court decided to hear McCutcheon in 2013, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday has discussed campaign finance roughly as often as the Sunday morning news shows on other broadcast networks did -- but its coverage was almost always in relation to the allegation (and right-wing talking point) that the IRS unfairly scrutinized the tax-exempt status of Tea Party nonprofit groups and other conservative organizations.
In fact, out of nine segments on Fox News Sunday that discussed campaign finance reform, seven mentioned the IRS allegations or former IRS director Lois Lerner. The program's other two segments were passing mentions of the existence of campaign finance reform, not comprehensive discussions of the issue. While every other Sunday show aired at least one substantive segment on campaign finance reform, Citizens United, or McCutcheon, Fox News Sunday did not.
Below are five stories that Fox News Sunday could have covered to give its viewers a more complete picture of the crisis of big money in politics.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly smeared Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring by accusing him of turning a blind eye to child rape. In reality, Herring simply told health officials that teen pregnancy alone is not evidence of child abuse.
From the October 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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CHICAGO -- The national gun lobby in Washington, D.C. is a big machine, motored by a multi-billion-dollar industry. The sprawling network of hardcore activists remaking the political gunscape in statehouses and the courts, on the other hand, is small. How small? It's so small that when Jeff Knox stepped up to a microphone at the premiere gun-activist conclave and referred to "Dad," no explanation was needed. Everyone at the Gun Rights Policy Conference last weekend knew who "Dad" was. Dad was Neal Knox, the hardline National Rifle Association board member who until his death in 2005 used his newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, as a machine gun nest aimed at his NRA colleagues, ready to fire at the first sign of weakness or perfidy in defense of the Second Amendment. For holding the gun lobby to his iron standard without mercy, "Dad" became a godfather to the activists who gather every September at an airport hotel under the banner of the Second Amendment Foundation.
Knox had the full power of the family name behind him on Sunday afternoon when he stepped to a microphone, invoked his father, and accused another gun-rights legend, GRPC organizer Alan Gottlieb, of betraying the movement. The alleged betrayal concerned Gottlieb's writing and backing of an initiative on the Washington State ballot in November. Few Americans have heard of bill 591, but the controversy it has stoked within the gun-rights world tells us much about fissures within its ranks.
Gottlieb's controversial bill is a direct response to another initiative on the ballot, 594, which expands background checks to include sales at gun shows and over the Internet. It is polling high and expected to pass. If Washington votes "yes," it will join the growing list of states that have taken gun policy into their own hands in the wake of Newtown. Both the NRA and Gottlieb's organization oppose 594. But Gottlieb has done more than just denounce it. He has raised more than a million dollars to promote an alternative bill, 591, which would prohibit the state from ever "requir[ing] background checks on the receipt of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required."
Can you spot the offending language? It's this: "unless a uniform national standard is required."
For Jeff Knox and much of the gun-rights movement, to even accept the future possibility of federal background check legislation constitutes apostasy. Some of the groups represented at the GRPC are the ones who, along with stalwarts like the NRA and Larry Pratt's Gun Owners of America, mobilized in April 2013 to torpedo the Manchin-Toomey Senate bill, which would have closed background check loopholes across the country. After looking at the polling data, Gottlieb initially supported Manchin-Toomey as a way for the movement to get some "goodies" (such as relaxing laws on interstate gun sales) while supporting something that he thought was going to pass anyway. (Gottlieb later dropped his support when Chuck Schumer stripped the bill of Gottlieb's prized "goodie".)
Gottlieb's early support for the Senate bill earned him epitaphs like "sellout" and "traitor." But it's now looking like he understood something his critics did not. Steadfast opposition to a federal background-check bill would give rise to a growing and well-funded movement for background-check referenda in the states. In Washington, the coalition behind 594 is supported by a group of wealthy donors, including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, the head of the gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety. In his newsletter, Gottlieb describes their efforts as the "Billionaire's Club war against freedom."
So when Knox asked Gottlieb to defend the language of 591 at this year's GRPC, attendees sat up in their seats. After a weekend filled with enough policy weeds to replant the Everglades, the confrontation amounted to high-drama.
With his comb-over, pencil mustache, and brightly colored bowties, Alan Gottlieb has the presence of a harried, slightly eccentric accountant. But the Queens native is no dutiful CPA; he's a convicted tax felon who does not flinch easily on questions of strategy, let alone challenges to his commitment to the Second Amendment. In the 1970s, while still in his twenties, Gottlieb began organizing the legal workshops that grew into the brain trust that won the landmark Supreme Court rulings of Heller and McDonald, which enshrined gun ownership in the home as an individual right guaranteed by the Second Amendment. At the podium in Chicago, Gottlieb welcomed the chance to deliver a blunt message to the background-check dead-enders who had been calling him a traitor since Manchin-Toomey.
"The bottom line is that" the background check issue "is different" from other gun gun policy debates, Gottlieb explained, pointing to public opinion. "What issues do you find that get 70 to 90 percent of the people to agree on anything?"
After Knox asserted that he doesn't believe polls showing support for background checks, Gottlieb responded, "You may not believe the number, but I've seen well over 500 polls all across the country over the last six years on background checks. They all say the same damn thing. They're not wrong, believe me."
Knox countered with another reality: many gun groups, especially those in the referendum states of the southwest, are never going to sign off on background checks, ever, at any level. In Arizona, "I wouldn't be able to get our members to proactively concede anything," said Knox. His hardline solution is to "let them go ahead and deal with the consequences."
By "them," Knox means the feds. In the purist view, the best way to deal with any gun law is to dig in, take the hits, and ignore the law, forcing the government to "deal with the consequences." Knox said he wished the NRA had taken that approach with the 1934 National Firearms Act, which regulated machine guns and banned short-barrel rifles.
To Gottlieb, that's a doomed strategy. In any case, he stressed, "the Bloomberg people" know gun groups will never support background check legislation, so they can "knock our teeth out and there's nothing we can do about it." He later added, "They've got us hogtied because they know we're not going to change. I'm being honest with you. I'm not expecting you to change, but that's why we're going to lose."
When subsequent questioners echoed Knox, Gottlieb reminded his audience that even without a background check system in place, there are good reasons not to sell guns to strangers. "If you're stupid enough to sell a gun to someone you don't know, forget the criminal liability -- what about the civil liability?" he asked. "What about you getting sued" if the buyer kills someone?
After originally excluding mention of opinion editor David Keene's ongoing relationship with the National Rifle Association in his most recent piece for the paper, the Washington Times quietly added the disclosure after being contacted by Media Matters.
In a September 29 commentary, Keene wrote about the fight over gun legislation in Colorado, echoing the NRA's own messaging in the state. Keene, a former NRA president and current board member, is, according to the Times' own standards, "free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization." But his ongoing relationship with the gun group was originally missing from the column.
At the bottom of the original commentary, which appeared online and was the top-billed opinion piece in the print edition of the conservative paper, the following note was appended: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times."
Media Matters contacted Times editor John Solomon to ask about the omission, only hearing back after the column had been updated to read: "David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He is a former president and current board member of the National Rifle Association." (Solomon responded that the version he was viewing "has his role as current board member.")
After Keene described participating in the crafting of the NRA's 2014 midterm election strategy in a February 2014 interview with The Washington Examiner, Media Matters investigative reporter Joe Strupp asked Solomon whether Keene's continuing role with the NRA created a conflict of interest on the Times' opinion page.
While acknowledging Keene's ongoing NRA role, Solomon said, "Our ethics rules allow an employee in special circumstances to hold an outside position, if it is pre-approved and the appropriate ethical steps are followed. That's the case with David Keene and his membership on the board of the NRA. We knew when we asked David to be our opinion editor that he would continue on the NRA board. We also knew that his role with the NRA was publicly and extensively known."
Among the "set of rules" that Keene is supposed to follow, Solomon said, "He is free to write about the NRA in his personal weekly column as long as he discloses to the reader in that column his continuing role with the organization."
National Review Online's foremost legal analyst is continuing his colleagues' attacks on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by criticizing her for"speaking publicly on abortion policy," despite previously defending Justice Antonin Scalia's penchant for similar public comments and interviews.
In the past week, National Review "roving correspondent" Kevin Williamson echoed his outlet's debunked insinuations from 2009 that Ginsburg supported eugenics. Williamson accused her of harboring a "desire to see as many poor children killed as is feasibly possible," an argument that NRO editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg offered "three cheers for" and that Williamson later compounded when he argued that women who have abortions should be hanged. NRO legal analyst Ed Whelan continued the attacks on Ginsburg, joining other anti-choice voices in condemning Ginsburg's statements in a recent interview in which she criticized a Texas law that closed down a number of the state's reproductive health clinics, arguing that commenting on legislation that could soon be before the Supreme Court was grounds for her recusal.
But Whelan went on to broaden his critique of Ginsburg, suggesting in a later post that she not speak publicly about abortion policy at all, regardless of whether it is in reference to a reproductive justice case before the court or not. In a September 30 blog post, Whelan complained about Ginsburg speaking "on all sorts of other matters related to abortion policy" and suggested that it was improper for the justice to "speak her mind openly on this matter."
Whelan's condemnation of Ginsburg and her discussion of general "abortion policy" appears inconsistent with his defense of his former boss, Justice Antonin Scalia, who also frequently speaks on contentious public policy. For example, in 2011, when Scalia spoke at a "closed-door session with a group of conservative lawmakers," Whelan balked at the suggestion that Scalia's attendance at a Tea Party function was inappropriate. According to The New York Times:
M. Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former clerk to Justice Scalia, disputed [George Washington University law professor Jonathan] Turley's criticism.
"Does he think it's improper for any justice ever to speak to any group of members of Congress who might be perceived as sharing the same general political disposition?" Mr. Whelan told The Los Angeles Times. "My guess is that, schedule permitting, Scalia would be happy to speak on the same topic to any similarly sized group of members of Congress who invited him."
From the October 1 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Right-wing media outlets are complaining about the federal government's announcement that it will provide grant money to legal services organizations willing to represent undocumented immigrant children in deportation proceedings.
Earlier this summer, federal officials reported that a record number of unaccompanied minors were being apprehended while crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. Despite the fact that many of those children made the dangerous journey to escape horrific violence in their home countries, right-wing media still blamed President Obama for the increase in refugees, suggested that the children carried rare diseases, and claimed that they were "fronts for drug dealers" and terrorists. Although the number of unaccompanied minors coming into the United States has dropped over the last few months, children now in custody are entering deportation proceedings, and most of them will face the court with no lawyer -- a potential violation of due process that right-wing media don't seem to care much about.
Federal law allows immigrants "the privilege of being represented, at no expense to the government, by counsel of the alien's choosing." This privilege, however, is no guarantee and often hollow as many of these minors cannot afford a private attorney. As a result, thousands of children -- who have no money -- are forced to represent themselves in complex legal proceedings because there aren't enough lawyers available to take their case pro bono, without a fee. As The New York Times reported earlier this year, minors representing themselves in court "can be comically tragic, with preschoolers propped in leather-cushioned chairs facing off against federal lawyers." Although the grant money will be a step toward addressing this glaring civil rights problem, advocates agree that "it would only touch a fraction of all the unaccompanied minors who appear in court in the coming months."
To try to provide these preschoolers with basic due process, the Department of Justice announced plans to distribute $1.8 million in grants to legal aid organizations that represent unaccompanied minors in immigration court. The DOJ's grants will be awarded through AmeriCorps and "will enable legal aid organizations to enroll approximately 100 lawyers and paralegals to represent children in immigration proceedings." The Department of Health and Human Services also announced that it plans to give out $9 million over the next two years to help fund immigration services for children who face deportation.
But the right-wing media weren't wild about extending civil rights to these unaccompanied minors.
National Review Online complained that the grants hadn't received enough scrutiny in the media because they were "an unprecedented effort to shield illegal immigrants from deportation" and went on to say the grants are "legally dubious" and may be an "illegitimate use of taxpayer dollars." On the October 1 edition of Fox & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade also criticized the federal grants in his "News by the Numbers" segment:
Fox News is using the horrific murder of an Oklahoma woman to misrepresent President Obama's gun policy and to falsely accuse him of "wag[ing] a war on the Second Amendment" and of wanting to "ban guns in the hands of everybody except the police."
On September 26 a man who had been recently fired from his job at an Oklahoma food processing plant attacked his co-workers, beheading one with a knife and wounding another. The attack was stopped when the suspect was shot and wounded by the business' CEO, who is also a reserve sheriff's deputy. Local law enforcement has asked the FBI to investigate the crime to determine if there is any link to terrorism.
A September 30 segment on Fox & Friends used the Oklahoma murder to attack Obama, with co-host Steve Doocy asking, "So with yet another example of how guns save lives, why does President Obama and his administration continue to wage a war on the Second Amendment?"
In the discussion that followed, Doocy and guest Andrew Napolitano, Fox News' senior judicial analyst, pushed a number of myths about actions the Obama administration has taken to reduce gun violence, including falsely claiming that Obama supports banning civilian gun ownership, that Obama wants to use an international treaty to make it "very, very difficult to carry guns," that Obama has ordered doctors to ask patients about gun ownership, that Obama has forced people to disclose their race when buying guns, and that Obama has used executive actions "to limit the uses of guns."
(The segment also included false claims about gun violence generally, including the "more guns equals less crime" conservative media myth and falsehood that civilians with guns could serve as a panacea for public mass shooting incidents.)
After devoting a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials to highlight the "sexual assault crisis on American campuses," Time helped reframe the debate by questioning statistics that illuminate the prevalence of sexual assault.
In September, Time ran three problematic pieces online questioning the validity of statistics that highlight the prevalence of sexual assault.
In a September 29 "Ideas" piece discussing sex crimes on college campuses, Camille Paglia argued that "claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses" have been "wildly overblown." Asserting that most "campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault" are in fact "oafish hookup melodramas," Paglia went on to blame the victim by noting that the assaults had arisen from "mixed signals and imprudence on both sides."
The rush to condemn the statistics and dispute the gravity of sexual assault previously made its way to Time in a September 17 online piece in which Cathy Young called statistics on sexual and intimate violence in the United States from the CDC "misleading" and "inflated," claiming they were part of a "radical feminist narrative" that was unsupported by the data due to a broad definition of what constituted various acts of sexual violence.
A few weeks earlier, a September 2 online op-ed by the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Summers also asserted that the statistic showing one in five college women will experience sexual assault is a "feminist myth." Hoff Summers called the one-in-five statistic -- reported by the National Institute of Justice's study on campus sexual assault -- a "statistical hijinks," deeming the study flawed by an "overly broad definition of sexual assault."
Time's recent ink questioning the validity is troubling given its earlier reporting. In May, Time Magazine offered a comprehensive look at the "sexual assault crisis on American campuses," with a cover story and an accompanying series of editorials. Recognizing the pervasiveness of these crimes, their cover story explained that high instances of the rape at the University of Montana were no outlier among colleges in the United States:
Calling Missoula the rape capital is as misleading as it is ugly. The University of Montana isn't a bizarre sexual-assault outlier in higher education. Instead, it is fairly average. The truth is, for young women, particularly those who are 18 or 19 years old, just beginning their college experience, America's campuses are hazardous places. Recent research shows that 1 in 5 women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college.
By questioning the validity of sexual assault statistics, Time's most recent opinion pieces further stigmatize a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 60% of the time.
A donation website that George Zimmerman used to raise money for his legal defense reportedly "lit up" every time Fox News host Sean Hannity mentioned the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, according to a profile of the Zimmerman family in GQ.
Reporter Amanda Robb's GQ piece focuses on events following the acquittal of Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges stemming from a February 2012 shooting that left Martin, an unarmed Sanford, Florida, area high school student, dead of a gunshot wound. The shooting brought national attention on Zimmerman and also Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law, which played an important role in Zimmerman's acquittal.
Robb spoke with members of Zimmerman's family, and reported that the only media figure Zimmerman "liked" was Hannity, and that mentions of the Martin shooting on Hannity's Fox News show "lit up" donations to Zimmerman's website:
George hated journalists. He blamed them for turning him into a national villain. There was only one media figure he liked: Hannity. Fortunately, Hannity--and especially Hannity's viewers on Fox News--liked him back. George, whose legal debt was in the seven figures, briefly had a website that accepted PayPal donations, and it lit up every time Hannity mentioned the incident on-air.
Robb also reported that the Zimmerman family now lives in seclusion, citing security concerns, and passes time by "watching Spanish-language telenovelas and Duck Dynasty and Real Housewives and Fox News."