From the February 18 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:
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CNN host Wolf Blitzer weighed in on the controversy surrounding Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's decision to campaign with inflammatory National Rifle Association board member and Outdoor Channel spokesperson Ted Nugent. Blitzer condemned Nugent for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel" and predicted that Abbott will be forced to jettison Nugent from his campaign.
Abbott's decision to campaign with Nugent has proved controversial, particularly because of Nugent's history of extreme misogyny and other inflammatory commentary. The Texas Democratic Party, women's group Annie's List, and the campaign of Wendy Davis have all condemned Abbott for his association with Nugent.
During the February 18 edition of Wolf on CNN, Blitzer invited Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater to discuss the ongoing controversy. According to Blitzer, "Nugent's presence hit a sour note with a lot of people. They say Texans deserve better than a candidate who would align himself with someone like Nugent who offered a hate-filled assessment of the president." Blitzer went on to state, "Shockingly, Abbott's campaign brushed aside the criticism, saying they value Nugent's commitment to the Second Amendment."
Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is facing criticism over his decision to campaign with National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent because of the rocker's inflammatory attacks on women and racially charged commentary about President Obama.
After reports emerged that Nugent would be making two February 18 campaign appearances with Abbott, the move was condemned by the Texas Democratic Party, women's group Annie's List, and the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis.
Citing Nugent's recent characterization of Obama as a "mongrel" -- a term that describes a dog of indeterminate breed -- the Texas Democratic Party issued a press release calling on Abbott to cancel the planned appearances:
Austin, TX -- This Tuesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott is set to have joint appearances with right-wing radical Ted Nugent. According to the Texas Eagle Forum, the Attorney General will join Nugent for events in Denton and Wichita Falls.
According to the Dallas Morning News, "Just last month, [Nugent] told Guns.com at the Las Vegas hunting and outdoor trade show that, 'I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.'" [Dallas Morning News, 2/13/2014]
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released the following statement:
"Just last month, Ted Nugent called President Barack Obama a 'subhuman mongrel' and 'gangster.' He spews hate against our first African-American President and in return, Attorney General Greg Abbott welcomes him to the campaign trail. Is this how Abbott celebrates Black History Month? Texans deserve better than a statewide office holder and candidate running for governor who welcomes Ted Nugent and his repugnant comments. I can't help but recall the old saying, tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are."
CNN falsely reported that Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of Michael Dunn for the killing of Jordan Davis, a black teenager.
While visiting a Jacksonville gas station in November 2012, Dunn fired ten shots into an SUV full of black teenagers after they refused to turn down the volume of their music. The shots killed Davis, who was unarmed. Dunn subsequently claimed that Davis threatened him, drawing comparisons to George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin and reviving media attention on the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association and allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat in some circumstances.
On February 15, Dunn was found guilty on four charges, including three for attempted second-degree murder on the other teens in the car, but the jury could not come to a decision on the first-degree murder charge tied to Davis' death. In their article on the verdict, CNN inaccurately reported that "stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn":
The incomplete finale to this emotional, hot-button trial -- partly because of the fact Dunn is white and the teenagers who were shot at, including Davis, are black -- echoed George Zimmerman's trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin about 120 miles down the road in Sanford, Florida. While stand your ground wasn't used by Dunn, his lawyers did argue that he fired in self-defense.
In fact, "Stand Your Ground" is embedded in the Florida statute dealing with the "use of deadly force" in self-defense, and was specifically cited by Dunn's lawyer and noted in the judge's instructions to the jury. During closing arguments, Dunn's lawyer Cory Strolla explained, "His honor will further tell you that if Michael Dunn was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in a public place where he had a legal right to be, a public parking lot asking for a common courtesy, saying thank you, trying to tell the guy I said thank you. He had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force." Strolla later added of the law, "It's not because I wrote it. It's not cause I like it. We're not here to change it and we're not here to fight it. We're here to apply it."
CNN previously reported that "Stand Your Ground" played no role in the Zimmerman trial, even though the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force. A Zimmerman juror subsequently told CNN that they had found Zimmerman not guilty because Zimmerman had "a right to defend himself" by killing Martin under "Stand Your Ground."
Inflammatory conservative columnist Ted Nugent will be making two campaign appearances with Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Abbott is predicted to run against Democratic opponent Wendy Davis, who has been the target of sexist attacks from the conservative media. Nugent himself has a lengthy history of vile misogynist commentary.
In its continued opposition to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and a proposed amendment to this historic law, The Wall Street Journal published a misleading op-ed by Hans von Spakovsky, an unreliable contributor to the National Review Online.
The op-ed of von Spakovsky, a right-wing activist who has called the "modern 'civil rights' movement" indistinguishable from "discriminators and segregationists of prior generations" and whose attempts to fearmonger about "virtually non-existent" voter fraud have been repeatedly discredited, followed a WSJ editorial that compared the bipartisan attempts of Congress to update the VRA with that of "Jim Crow era Southerners."
Although this new effort to strengthen the VRA through the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 has prominent Republican support, von Spakovsky claimed "[t]his bill really isn't about the [Supreme Court's recent Shelby County v. Holder] decision. It is about having the federal government manipulate election rules to propagate racial gerrymandering and guarantee success for Democratic candidates." From the WSJ op-ed, which defended the conservative justices' gutting of the VRA in Shelby County and smeared the subsequent bipartisan efforts to repair the damage:
Before Shelby County, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required certain states to get "preclearance" from the federal government before making any voting changes. But the Supreme Court ruled that the formula to determine which jurisdictions were covered was unconstitutional because it was based on 40-year-old turnout data that did not reflect contemporary conditions. Census Bureau data show that black-voter turnout is on a par with or exceeds that of white voters in many of the formerly covered states and is higher than the rest of the country. We simply don't need Section 5 anymore.
In Shelby County, a radical break from precedent that has been described by experts as "on a par with the Court's odious Dred Scott and Plessy decisions and other utterly lamentable expressions of judicial indifference to the ugly realities of racial life in America," the bitterly divided Supreme Court struck at the heart of the VRA's efficacy by dismantling its "preclearance" process.
Even as the conservatives did so, however, Chief Justice John Roberts explicitly told Congress to fix this formula that requires covered jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to submit election changes for federal review before implementation. Contrary to von Spakovsky's strange assertion that "this bill really isn't about" Shelby County and is "an attempt to circumvent" the decision, this new bipartisan legislation is actually a direct response to Roberts' invitation to Congress to "draft another formula based on current conditions."
Admittedly, this new formula is more complex than von Spakovsky's preferred method of determining voter suppression by "turnout data," a confusion between correlation and causation that has been described as a rudimentary failure of "Statistics 101." Rather, Section 5 of the VRA imposes the preclearance process on jurisdictions with an incorrigible track record of suppressing votes based on race, and the formula to determine this discrimination has been changed in the new legislation to incorporate a comprehensive and rolling 15-year record.
The claim of the op-ed that the old formula led to "unwarranted objections" on the part of the Department of Justice toward alleged voter suppression is also inaccurate; this preclearance mechanism has been extremely effective at stopping racially discriminatory election changes. In fact, the two cases that von Spakovsky highlights both involved Section 5 successes.
Local reporting on Texas divorce law has finally put to rest the right-wing media smear that gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis lost or gave up custody of her children, debunking this myth as the lie it always was.
Since she announced her candidacy for governor, national right-wing media figures have gone after Davis and scrutinized her parenting choices in a way no male candidate would ever have to confront. One nasty example has been Fox News contributor and RedState editor Erick Erickson, who has repeatedly referred to Davis as "Abortion Barbie," baselessly questioned her mental health on the basis of routine legal pleadings, and misrepresented the terms of her divorce settlement.
It was also the discredited Erickson who quickly jumped at the opportunity to help spread perhaps the most persistent myth about Davis -- that her ex-husband, Jeff Davis, "got custody" of her two daughters following their 2005 divorce decree. This falsehood was unfortunately started by the Dallas Morning News, whose January 18 profile of Davis was criticized for various reporting failures. Although the Dallas Morning News never corrected the language in the original piece, the reporter correctly described what actually happened in a later article, in accordance with the editor's online admission that the original version "left some readers perhaps too free to misinterpret the situation. We will print a clarification in tomorrow's newspaper."
In short, Davis never lost or gave up custody of her children; rather, she was granted what's known under Texas law as "joint managing conservatorship" of her daughters. "Custody" isn't even the relevant legal term in Texas divorce proceedings.
By the time the Dallas Morning News mentioned Davis' joint conservatorship, the smear had already gained traction. Versions of the myth eventually cropped up in the New York Post (which claimed Davis "lost custody" of her daughters), Breitbart.com (she "gave up custody"), and even Ann Coulter jumped into the fray, accusing Davis of telling "huge whoppers" and erroneously reporting that the Texas family court "awarded [Jeff Davis] full custody."
Unlike the Dallas Morning News, right-wing media have yet to issue a "clarification," let alone a much-needed correction and apology to Davis after their distortions about Davis' divorce raced from the fringes of the internet to Fox News. Davis herself expressly pointed this out in a recent speech, saying, "I never gave up custody of my children. I never lost custody of my children. And to say otherwise is an absolute lie."
The Drudge Report and Fox Nation are promoting an outlandish report from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' website Infowars that suggests a sinister purpose behind a Department of Homeland Security procurement request for 141,160 rounds of .308 rifle ammunition.
Jones and his website have long fearmongered about the government's bulk purchase of ammunition. Conservative media outlets and Republican politicians have followed Jones' lead and run wild with the conspiracy, suggesting that the government was preparing for widespread civil unrest, attempting to limit the civilian ammo supply, or even planning to wage war against Americans. The conspiracy even inspired a Republican-led House Oversight Committee hearing and Republican-backed legislation to limit government ammunition purchases.
A man accused of violating Washington, D.C.'s gun laws is conservative media's latest dubious "hero" in its ongoing effort to attack stronger gun laws.
Right-wing media are defending a Washington, D.C. man on trial for possessing unregistered ammunition by making a flawed comparison between his situation and NBC News host David Gregory's display of a high-capacity ammunition magazine on Meet the Press following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Conservative media's complaint that Washington, D.C. financial advisor Mark Witaschek faces trial while Gregory faced no criminal charges ignores that those two situations rest upon entirely different circumstances.
On the December 23, 2012, edition of Meet the Press, Gregory showed, for demonstration purposes, a 30-round high-capacity ammunition magazine like the one used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives nine days earlier. In Washington, it is illegal to own a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. NBC apparently ran the segment after a miscommunication with law enforcement. Gregory's display of the magazine angered conservative media including Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller who wrote that Gregory "should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." In January 2013, Washington prosecutors announced that Gregory would not be charged with a crime in a letter that explained, "Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States."
Witaschek's legal problems began in the summer of 2012. Following alarming allegations that Witaschek threatened his "estranged wife" with a gun, police visited his home on two occasions. During both visits, police found unregistered ammunition in Witaschek's home. In Washington, D.C., only individuals who have registered firearms may possess ammunition. Witaschek was charged with violating Washington's gun laws. The charge from the first police visit was thrown out because even though Witaschek consented to a search, the visit was conducted without a warrant. Witaschek was offered a plea deal that included no jail time and a $500 fine to resolve the charge from the second police visit, which was performed with a warrant. Witaschek rejected the offer and plans to go to trial on the remaining charge.
The Wall Street Journal renewed its opposition to all things union in a recent editorial, complaining about a proposed rule change that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hopes will make union elections more efficient.
On February 5, the NLRB announced a series of proposed rule changes that streamlines labor organizing, including a new rule that could eliminate long delays that hinder employees' ability to vote up or down on union representation.
In a February 10 editorial, the WSJ framed the new rules as an attack on employers, arguing that a change in election timing could "unbalance" employers' First Amendment rights. This is far from the first time the WSJ has taken an unfair dig at unions and their members, but this time the editorial board's defense of an employer's right to badmouth unions during an election managed to completely ignore how unfair anti-union sentiment has flourished under the old system.
The WSJ also mischaracterized the NLRB's previous attempt to change the rules in 2011 as "failed," even though it later admits that the court that heard the case did not overturn the rule on substantive grounds, but rather because of procedural concerns. Specifically, because the Republican appointee to the NLRB in 2011 made good on his threat to "block" the rule by refusing to vote, the court ruled he had successfully denied the board of its required quorum.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker baselessly criticized President Obama for his administration's "willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country," citing right-wing legal challenges to insurance coverage of birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a lawsuit that was filed by the previous administration, not the current one.
In a recent column, Parker complained that Obama's decision to speak out against attacks on religious freedom overseas during the National Prayer Breakfast was done "without a hint of irony," because Obama failed to mention the "eroding protections of religious liberty" in the United States. Parker pointed to several high-profile cases as evidence of the Obama administration's supposed "challenge [to] religious liberty in this country." Parker overlooked the fact that the right-wing legal arguments that form the basis of these cases are a radical departure from settled corporate law precedent and the "well-established" religious accommodation practice for objectors toward neutral laws like the ACA's "contraception mandate." Parker also went on to claim that a separate Supreme Court decision in 2012 that ruled in favor of a church's discriminatory hiring practices was further evidence of the Obama administration's attack on religious liberty:
President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast -- and one is reluctant to criticize.
But pry my jaw from the floorboards.
Without a hint of irony, the president lamented eroding protections of religious liberty around the world.
Just not, apparently, in America.
Nary a mention of the legal challenges to religious liberty now in play between this administration and the Catholic Church and other religious groups, as well as private businesses that contest the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.
Missing was any mention of Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor -- whose cases have recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court and that reveal the Obama administration's willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country.
The more germane question to cases such as Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters is whether the government can accomplish its goal of making free contraception available without burdening religious objectors. Can't women in Colorado get contraception without forcing the Little Sisters, a group of nuns who care for the elderly, to violate their core beliefs? Their charitable work could not long survive under penalties the government would impose on them for noncompliance.
For now, the Little Sisters have been granted a reprieve, thanks to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Arguments in the Hobby Lobby case are scheduled for March, with a decision expected in June. Meanwhile, another case settled in 2012 reveals much about this administration's willingness to challenge religious freedom. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the question boiled down to whether the government can decide whom a church hires as minister. Since when?
National Rifle Association board member R. Lee Ermey, best known for his drill sergeant role in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, criticized "neutered" boys who commit suicide because of bullying for not standing up to their tormenters.
Ermey made the comment during a February 7 appearance on an NRA News show to preview his upcoming show on The Sportsman Channel Saving Private K-9. Claiming that "we've neutered all the young boys in this country," Ermey said, "We've got little kids committing suicide because somebody bullied them in the school yard. Well, you know what, I was bullied when I was a kid, but I tried diplomatically to get out of the situation. If that didn't work, then I would resort to force, I would pop the guy in the snot locker, drop him down on the deck, and he would think twice before he came and bullied me again."
More than six months after two Colorado state senators were recalled over their support for stronger gun safety legislation, Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain continues to push false information to defend supporters of the recall.
Controversy in Colorado has erupted over the February 3 testimony of primary recall organizer Victor Head before the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. In calling for the repeal of a 2013 law that created a requirement for background checks on most gun sales, Head testified that he gathered recall petition signatures by telling people that the background check law would prohibit firearms loans between immediate family members for longer than 72 hours without a background check.
In fact, Colorado's background check law allows "a bona fide gift or loan" without a background check "between immediate family members, which are limited to spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles" with no time limit. State Democratic Sen. Angela Giron -- one of the two senators targeted by Head for recall -- was responsible for authoring this family exemption.
In a February 7 article (subscription required), the Chieftain attested to the accuracy of Head's testimony in an article that stated, "But Head, a Republican who is running for Pueblo County clerk, was right when he told petition signers the new gun law blocked family members from loaning guns to each other indefinitely without a background check."
Again positing that Head was "right," the Chieftain article went on to inaccurately state: "It may seem like a technicality, but indefinite loans without a check -- like a brother to a brother -- are not allowed."
On February 5, President Obama announced the nomination of state judge Darrin Gayles to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The previous nominee for that slot, state judge William Thomas, was unexpectedly blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a decision right-wing media defended.
If confirmed, Gayles will be the first black, openly gay male judge on the federal bench. But Gayles is not the first black, openly gay judge to be nominated to the Florida seat -- that would have been Thomas. Despite his initial support, Republican Senator Marco Rubio ultimately refused to support Thomas' nomination, a decision that was fatal to the nomination because nominees to the federal bench need the support of both of their home-state senators to advance.
In the wake of criticism about Rubio's flip-flop, right wing media defended the Senator's decision, claiming his belated "careful review of [Thomas'] record raised red flags" and rejecting as baseless any claims that Rubio's decision may have been "because he was a black homosexual."
But the nature of Rubio's subsequent change of heart regarding Thomas' nomination was strange. Though Rubio insisted he withdrew his support due to concerns about Thomas' "fitness" to serve, members of the Florida legal community were quick to point out the judge's extensive qualifications and his fairness in the courtroom. Indeed, although the "red flags" were purportedly supposed to involve improper sentencing in two criminal cases, the actual prosecutors involved rejected those arguments. As explained by Miranda Blue of People for the American Way:
Rubio's office provided two examples of instances in which they believed that Thomas didn't impose "appropriate criminal sentences." In both cases, Thomas imposed the highest sentence sought by the prosecution; in both cases, prosecutors praised his handling of the trials. Rubio's staff also claimed that in one of those cases, a grisly murder trial, Thomas "broke down in tears" when sentencing the defendant to death; news reports make clear that the judge's tears came when he was describing the brutal crime. As [MSNBC's] Chris Hayes put it, none of these complaints "pass the smell test."
Because of this history, national news organizations are already reporting on this nomination of Gayles to the federal bench. Rubio's office has also quickly responded to media inquiries, telling NPR "I do not anticipate having an objection to moving forward on any of these nominations pending the outcome of the customary background check conducted on every nominee." Such high-profile media scrutiny is certainly welcome in the wake of the confusing and contested reasons for the failure of the last openly gay black man to be seated to this court.
While representing the Outdoor Channel at a gun show, National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent cited President Obama's expression of sympathy to deceased Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's parents as evidence the president is "an avowed racist."
During an interview with PennLive.com, Nugent said "the best Americans are so heartbroken right now" in part because we have "a president who's an avowed racist who claimed because Trayvon Martin was black, even though he was a gangster and an attacker and a doper, that he could have been his son."
In March 2012 -- less than a month after an unarmed Martin was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman -- Obama expressed sympathy towards Martin's parents by stating, "[M]y main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."