CNN host S.E. Cupp baselessly suggested that Hillary Clinton's support for a ban on assault weapons is bad politics by promoting the myth that the 1994 Republican takeover of the House of Representatives was fueled by the passage of an assault weapons ban that year.
In fact, political scientists say tax increases and a fight over healthcare reform better explain the Republican takeover. But conservative pundits often incorporate the 1994 assault weapons ban into the media myth that it is politically unwise for politicians to support gun reform and that the National Rifle Association has the ability to use the gun issue to determine election outcomes.
During a June 17 town hall forum on CNN, Clinton expressed support for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as expanded background checks on gun sales. On the gun debate, Clinton added, "we need a more thoughtful conversation, we cannot let a minority of people ... hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people."
Appearing on CNN's The Situation Room after the town hall discussion, Cupp suggested political danger in Clinton's position, stating, "Democrats really suffered, and Hillary Clinton knows this, Democrats really suffered the last time they enacted an assault weapon ban. There were a lot of Democrats who were thrown out of office the last time that passed."
In a January 17, 2013, US News article headlined "Gun Control Laws Weren't Primary Reason Dems Lost in 1994" political scientists and 1994 election experts Philip Klinkner and Gary Jacobson are quoted arguing that assault weapons ban legislation was only one of several controversial votes leading up to the midterm elections but that a "mythology" was formed around the gun vote. Klinkner and Jacobson instead pinned the electoral success of the Republican Party on the failure of health care reform and tax increases:
While the '94 election proved Americans wanted Democrats out of congressional power (more than 50 Democratic seats were lost), it's less clear if the weapons ban, or any one issue, was the primary reason for their loss.
"This is a mythology that has developed," says Philip Klinkner, who edited a book about the '94 elections. "That narrative stretches things way too far."
The truth, political scientists say, is that it can be attributed to a combination of factors, and the "assault weapons" ban was just one of several controversial votes that led to the loss.
With Democrats in charge of the House, Senate and White House, the 103rd Congress tackled a long, progressive wish list. The White House pressured legislators to take on healthcare reform (unsuccessfully), pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and raise taxes through a deficit reduction act, which was fraught with political land mines for congressional Democrats. None of the policies helped earn legislators points back home among their more conservative constituents.
"The vote for gun control mattered, but the vote for the tax increase and healthcare were more important," says Gary Jacobson, who has done a statistical analysis of what votes affected the outcome of the 1994 election.
According to Jacobson's analysis, the 1994 election results were largely due to a political realignment, with voters no longer splitting their tickets and instead voting for Republican congressional challengers in districts in which President Clinton had lost in 1992. Jacobson concluded, "Republicans won the House in 1994 because an unusually large number of districts voted locally as they had been voting nationally."
The Wall Street Journal is celebrating a recent Supreme Court ruling that will allow an anti-choice activist group to challenge the constitutionality of an Ohio law that bans false statements in election campaigns, a state statute that is opposed by free speech advocates across the political spectrum. But the WSJ went on to erroneously argue that the false statement at issue in the case -- that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) funds abortions -- is actually true, because contraceptives are actually "abortifacients."
On June 16, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the group, Susan B. Anthony List, had standing to sue over the Ohio statute. Susan B. Anthony List, which is "dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion," ran into trouble when it tried to take out a billboard calling Ohio congressman Steve Driehaus' vote for the ACA a vote for "taxpayer funded abortion." Driehaus filed a complaint against Susan B. Anthony under the Ohio statute, but ultimately withdrew it after he lost his election. Nonetheless, the organization challenged the constitutionality of the false statement law, claiming that it violated their First Amendment rights.
The Court's decision did not address the merits of Susan B. Anthony's claim. But that didn't stop some right-wing media outlets from calling the ruling "a big win ... for the pro-life movement." The Wall Street Journal evidently agreed with this analysis and added that the decision is "a rebuke to politicians who don't want to be criticized" in a June 16 editorial. The WSJ went on to argue that the billboard at issue had been "vindicated" because the ACA forces "religious groups to finance abortifacents."
From the editorial:
Monday's decision concerned whether Susan B. Anthony was able to sue. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had said it could not because Mr. Driehaus withdrew his complaint after he lost. But Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the Court that this decision improperly minimized the burden on groups whose speech is chilled for fear that they could be sanctioned or sued. Lower courts will now revisit the constitutional challenge.
As it happens, Susan B. Anthony's billboard claim has been vindicated by the Obama Administration's rule forcing religious groups to finance abortifacients in their health-care policies for employees. In a democracy, voters rather than a priesthood of regulators are obliged to sort out the truth or falsity of political claims. Congrats to Susan B. Anthony, and perhaps the Sixth Circuit will seek out some remedial First Amendment education.
Noir -- a weekly program aired by the National Rifle Association as part of its efforts to reach a younger audience -- has run two segments that fetishize an assault weapon as an attractive woman.
Over the past year the NRA has launched a number of initiatives to engage with women, minorities, and younger Americans. Noir, a Sunday web series hosted by popular gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir, is packaged for a Millennial audience, although the show has been widely mocked by critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging.
A segment during the June 15 edition of Noir opened with a black-and-white scene of a stylishly-dressed woman standing in an alley. Doing voice-over work, Noir appeared to describe the woman, ranging from her clothing ("Her Jimmy Choo's can't be comfortable, but you'd never know it"), to her intellect ("Chess, yeah it's a men's game, but when she plays, men pay"), to her actions ("Flirts more than you can handle too. She's the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink").
In the final shot, the woman is seen holding a Heckler & Koch MR556 assault weapon and Noir reveals he was talking about the firearm the whole time:
NOIR: Why is she alone on this dark street? On this cold night? You care, but she doesn't. Her Jimmy Choo's can't be comfortable, but you'd never know it. Unaffected elegance. Too cool elegance. Not for you elegance, you say. There's got to be something wrong with her; that attitude, high maintenance, hiding something. She's taller than you can handle. Flirts more than you can handle too. She's the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink. And Chess, yeah it's a men's game, but when she plays, men pay. Say you don't like her, until she looks your way. She's not easy and she's not flawless. But she's never wasted her time thinking about it. She is the HK MR556.
From the June 13 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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A new Delaware law that would restore the rights of stockholders to bring class action lawsuits without fear of having to pay legal costs if they don't win every single part of their legal claim is being slammed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). But even right-wing media outlet Forbes isn't sold on their arguments.
In May, the Delaware Supreme Court surprisingly ruled in ATP Tour v. Deutscher Tennis Bund that corporations were allowed to unilaterally add bylaws forcing the loser in shareholder litigation to pay all the associated legal fees. These sorts of "loser pays" provisions are atypical in the U.S. but have been promoted by conservative organizations like the Chamber and the ILR under the guise of ending "frivolous lawsuits." Ultimately, though, such provisions have the effect of deterring or outright blocking many meritorious class action lawsuits brought by victims of corporate malfeasance.
In response to the state supreme court's holding in ATP Tour, Delaware legislators have proposed SB 236, a bill that would reinstate the normal prohibition on "loser pays" bylaws. The ILR is already registering its vocal opposition to the bill, arguing that it will leave corporations vulnerable to "abusive litigation."
Usually, right-wing media can be counted on to recycle the Chamber and ILR's pro-business talking points, in particular The Wall Street Journal editorial board. This time, however, even Forbes' Daniel Fisher questioned ILR's arguments. According to Fisher, who has supported anti-consumer provisions like forced arbitration clauses in the past, "opponents of SB 236 may be pushing too far" by promoting a loser pays system:
The bill's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Bryan Townsend, said he will set the bill aside for a while amid vocal opposition by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, according to the Wilmington News Journal.
The bill seems to restore the status quo by affirming the limited liability nature of corporations, where shareholders can only lose money to the extent of their investment. But the ILR said the proposed law -- passed, it noted, on "an extraordinarily expedited basis" -- would reverse a decision that "gives corporations a way to protect their shareholders" against the costs of "abusive litigation."
By pushing to retain the option implied by the ATP Tour decision, opponents of SB 236 may be pushing too far. Delaware courts have granted them ample tools to deal with shareholder litigation and chipping away at limited liability might be a cure that is worse than the disease.
Fisher's skepticism of ILR's issues with the bill are well-founded. According to Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice, the Delaware Supreme Court's decision not only runs afoul of the basic concepts of contract law by allowing corporations to unilaterally change the rules of the game on their investors, it makes it "far easier for corporations to insulate themselves from accountability if they cheat shareholders or break the law. By contrast, the vast majority of courts in the U.S. disapprove of this kind of loser-pays provision."
It's not just states like Delaware that are threatening the viability of investor class action lawsuits, one of the best ways for defrauded stakeholders to get legal relief from the corporation who harmed them. Any day now, the Supreme Court will issue its decision in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund, a case that could make it nearly impossible for investors who have been the victims of corporate fraud to join together as a class and sue. Watch Bland explain in two minutes how Halliburton could be yet another in a long line of pro-business decisions from the conservative majority at the Court:
CNN is adopting flawed right-wing media logic that seeks to downplay the numbers of school shootings in the last 18 months.
Following an incident at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon where a 15-year-old student armed with an AR-15 assault weapon and a handgun killed a fellow student before taking his own life, gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety circulated a graphic that identified the locations of 74 school shootings since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
How Everytown reached the 74 school shooting figure is no mystery. On its website, the gun safety group clearly explains its methodology: "Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings."
The right-wing media has sought to debunk this statistic in order to downplay the prevalence of school shootings. Criticism of Everytown's graphic began on June 10 with a lengthy series of tweets from conservative journalist Charles C. Johnson that purported to debunk many of the 74 shootings as "fake shooting[s]."
Shootings that Johnson believed had been mischaracterized as school shootings included incidents where, in his own words, "A gunman ran onto campus, was chased by police, shot student accidentally," "Honors student shoots self in front of class," and, "Northwest High School principal shot by her ex-husband on campus":
Another fake shooting listed by everytown. A gunman ran onto campus, was chased by police, shot student accidentally. http://t.co/Q5M4iS3hhF-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
Another fake school shooting listed by everytown. Honors student shoots self in front of class. http://t.co/8BHLTASxyT-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
Another fake school shooting listed by Everytown. Northwest High School principal shot by her ex-husband on campus. http://t.co/RwwVbPmbL5-- Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) June 10, 2014
According to Johnson, "It's not a school shooting when someone goes and shoots a specific person on campus. It's a shooting that happens to take place at school."
Media outlets are starting to report on the reintroduction of "post-abortion syndrome" (PAS) and similar junk science that claims a causal link between abortion and mental illness, which is being used in a coordinated attempt to defend restrictive state abortion laws in court. Witnesses claiming abortion leads to mental trauma are being organized by the discredited psychotherapist Vincent Rue, whose theories about PAS were debunked by reporters and experts years ago.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent celebrated the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), claiming that the only Jewish Republican serving in Congress practiced the politics of Nazi chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
On June 10, Cantor was defeated in a primary election by tea party Republican candidate David Brat. Cantor is the only current Republican Jewish member of the House of Representatives (there are none in the Senate) and has been active in Holocaust education programs, including serving on the United States Holocaust Museum Council.
In a June 11 column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent -- who is also a spokesperson for the Outdoor Channel -- described Cantor as representative of "Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alinsky smoke-and-mirrors politics":
I say we the people have had way more than enough compromise, backpedaling, Joseph Goebbels and Saul Alinsky smoke-and-mirrors politics for one generation, and I say it's about time we go Eric Cantor on the whole gang of deceivers and liars infesting our government right now. There's only so much decent people can take.
National Rifle Association board member John Cushman alleged that the number of shooting victims in New York City is up over the past month because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio "wanted them up."
Cushman appeared on NRA News program Cam & Company on June 10 to discuss a recent New York Post article that reported the number of shooting victims in New York City is up 43 percent compared to the same time period last year.
Overall the Post reports that shootings are up in New York City 13 percent this year. A Reuters article further noted that in New York City, "the murder rate is on track to hit a 50-year low, a statistical paradox that experts said reflects quick medical response." While any increase in shootings is a serious issue that should be addressed, the uptick will not threaten New York City's status as "the safest big city in America." In 2013 PolitiFact found New York City to be the safest among the 25 most populous cities in the United States.
New York City has some of the most rigorous gun laws nationwide, which were championed by former mayor and prominent gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg and continue to receive support from de Blasio. In 2013 the number of shootings and gun homicides in New York City reached "historic lows."
During Cam & Company host Cam Edwards and John Cushman both blamed the increase in shootings on what Edwards termed "New York City's gun laws that make it prohibitive in a lot of cases, and outright impossible in some cases, for law abiding folks to own a firearm for self-defense." (Actually Supreme Court decisions in 2008 and 2010 held law-abiding people have a right to keep a gun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.)
Cushman charged that the number of reported shooting victims went up because de Blasio "wanted them up." Referencing de Blasio and Bloomberg, he added, "They are all out for some reason to disarm everybody with this screwboy notion that if we take guns away from everybody, we will cut crime."
From the June 11 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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From the June 10 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous ("micro-aggressions," often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.
Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of "sexual assault" victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today's prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.
This tasteless rhetoric wholly reflects conservative media's standard messaging on sexual assault survivors, which has only increased in absurdity since the White House in January created a task force to combat the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. As one of the millions of women who have experienced assault firsthand, Will's statement sent chills down my spine and ignited a desire to raise my voice in the public sphere along with all the other women who refuse to sit still while sexual violence is downplayed.
I won't be going into detail about my rape and multiple instances of sexual assault throughout my life. It's vital to discuss how rhetoric like Will's has been used for years to silence those of us who weren't allowed to choose all of our sexual partners -- and the severity of the consequences of the widespread assault that right-wing media are mocking.
According to a White House report, nearly 22 million women and 1.6 million men have been raped. To put it another way: every 2 minutes (probably less time than it will take for you to read this post) an American is sexually assaulted. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) states that two-thirds of rapes were committed by people that the victim knew, and 97% of rapists won't ever see the inside of a jail cell (increasing the chance that they'll do it again).
But according to conservative media figures, these experiences are fraudulent and over-hyped "victim hoaxes." They claim that even speaking about how many women are assaulted is a "war on men." We all remember Todd Akin's repulsive "legitimate rape" comments, and are acutely aware of how many times we've been informed that we brought sexual assault upon ourselves -- by our behavior, our dress, or the situations we put ourselves in. Media and political figures' consistent rejection of the reality of sexual violence highlights the importance of countering this denial and these lies with every resource that we can muster.
The deep ramifications of sexual assault would disturb anyone who has sympathy for those who are involuntarily forced to undergo mental or physical pain. Because of trauma, many rape survivors can be left feeling unable to handle the normal challenges of everyday life, due to fear, anxiety, and depression. If certain symptoms last long enough, it's called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. I can speak to this not just because I have PTSD, but because I've been a patient in a trauma unit for a total of almost two months, where every day I heard the stories of the other patients, a vast majority of whom were women that had undergone either short or long-term sexual abuse.
When people think of PTSD, usually they see it in relation to the military. But PTSD can be created in a number of other situations, often including a person being forced to endure abuse because they are physically or emotionally restrained, or because they're not old enough to change their living situation. Regardless, all people with PTSD have one thing in common: a "fight, flight or freeze" response to situations that catch them off-guard or remind them of prior abuse. Many factors can trigger this response, be it loud noises, bright lights, or even hearing language that is similar to what their abuser used. Some survivors can't stand being in a room with a door that's left open, or they see things on TV that cause flashbacks where they go back to a time and place that they never wanted to see again. Some people won't set foot in a shower because just being in that environment brings back a flood of memories, and often those with PTSD can't sleep well because the nightmares won't end.
The effects of PTSD and response to triggers vary from person to person. For many, a blanket of depression interferes with being able to go to work, socialize with friends, or even leave the house. It can be difficult for trauma survivors to remain calm in a crowded and noisy room that can quickly become incredibly overwhelming. Many people remain in a constant state of guilt, apologizing for everything, regardless of if they actually did anything wrong. And some simply shut down. They disassociate from reality, and fall into a state that can be likened to an out-of-body experience. And of course, intentional self-harm by those with PTSD is commonplace, because it makes them feel something when they can't feel anything else, or because they genuinely believe that they deserve that pain. It can act as a "pressure-valve" when tensions are high, and for some, it's how they communicate when they can't cry out, or perhaps they did cry out, but nobody listened.
Right-wing media outlets like Fox News and National Review Online have pushed the myth of "post-abortion syndrome," the idea that choosing to have an abortion causes subsequent mental illness. The concept of "post-abortion syndrome" was developed by discredited psychotherapist and anti-abortion activist Vincent Rue, and is at the center of numerous current legal challenges to statewide abortion restrictions.
Both Wisconsin and Alabama have passed highly restrictive abortion laws, known as TRAP laws, that target abortion providers under the pretext of protecting women's health. These laws require abortion providers to obtain unusual admitting privileges at local hospitals, even though such privileges are difficult to obtain and keep. Providers are now challenging these laws in federal court, arguing that the regulations are unnecessary because abortion procedures are exceedingly safe. Moreover, the admitting privileges requirement is so burdensome that it will force clinics in each state to close down, and will increase wait times at the remaining clinics.
State officials in Wisconsin and Alabama defending these laws in court are relying on expert witnesses who have been coached by Rue to testify that "depression could be a complication of abortion," but media in the states where Rue has offered his "expertise" are starting to report on his unreliable theories. As explained by Isthmus, an alternative weekly newspaper in Madison, WI, "post-abortion syndrome" has not been recognized by either the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association. Not only that, but Rue's expert testimony has been thrown out twice by federal appellate judges because of his "limited clinical and research experience. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey the judge also wrote that Rue's 'admitted personal opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, suggests a possible personal bias.'"
Yet faulty hypotheses like Rue's have been repeatedly championed by conservative media in support of the closure of dozens of clinics across the country. Fox News shows like Hannity and The Five have explicitly linked abortion with mental illness and depression, and have questioned the mental health of women who choose to terminate their pregnancies. National Review Online has similarly argued that there is a "substantial body of academic research which has linked abortion to a variety of mental-health problems, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, substance abuse, and suicide."
But there is no evidence of a causal link between abortion and subsequent mental health problems. In 2008, the American Psychological Association "formed the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion to examine the scientific research addressing mental health factors associated with abortion, including the psychological responses following abortion." According to its analysis, there is "no evidence that having a single abortion causes mental health problems":
The Task Force concluded that there is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women. The research consistently found that the backgrounds and circumstances of the women who seek abortions vary. The Task Force found some studies that indicate that some women do experience sadness, grief and feelings of loss following an abortion and some experience "clinically significant disorders, including depression and anxiety." The evidence regarding the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more uncertain.
Following reports of an active shooter at a high school near Portland, Oregon, the hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered offered baseless predictions that mental health was to blame for the shooting, false characterizations of past school shootings, attacks on "anti-gun nuts," and calls for more guns in schools.
Many details about the shooting are still unknown or unconfirmed, although it has been confirmed that the incident has ended and the shooter and at least one victim are dead. Though Outnumbered co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle explained to viewers that the network was "awaiting breaking news details about the circumstances of exactly what happened," the lack of information didn't stop Guilfoyle and her co-hosts from speculating wildly.
Although no biographical details of the shooter were known at the time, Fox News psychiatrist Keith Ablow said on the June 10 edition of Outnumbered, "I predict again that we'll find that yet another person who used a gun was compromised by one or more psychological or psychiatric illnesses that could have been detected." Ablow also attacked "anti-gun nuts" who he said would blame the shooting on firearms.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, a contributor for Fox and ABC News, used a sound bite from a Taco Bell commercial to mock the plight of hundreds of migrant children fleeing violence in Central America who are being held in a makeshift shelter in southern Arizona.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children who will make the dangerous trip from Central America over the next year fleeing violence will require care. In Nogales, Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security made available a warehouse to house thousands of children, but according to local media outlets, it has not been without problems. CBS Houston reported that some of the children have complained to the consul of Honduras that the food provided by the shelter is making them sick.
On the June 10 edition of her radio show, Ingraham responded to this news by dismissing the children's plight, saying, "I bet there are a lot of American kids who would like free food before they go to bed at night." She followed her comments with a sound clip from a Taco Bell advertising campaign of the 1990s, in which a chihuahua says repeatedly, "Yo quiero Taco Bell."
Ingraham is no stranger to controversial sound effects. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream Speech", the radio host used the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965.
She also repeatedly engages in smearing and denigrating immigrants.