Editors of the National Rifle Association's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, attacked a national plan to honor Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager whose 2013 shooting death made national headlines, and draw attention to all victims of gun violence, calling it "pointless."
June 2 will mark the country's first National Gun Violence Awareness Day. A national campaign organized by the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund has asked Americans to wear the color orange to honor victims of gun violence. The "Wear Orange" campaign organizers say they hope to turn the color "into a symbol for the value of human life everywhere."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Groups such as Amnesty International USA, MomsRising and Sandy Hook Promise; mayors from Chicago to Miami and Chapel Hill; and members of Congress representing states from Illinois to New York and California will be wearing or promoting orange on Tuesday. Media entities such as HBO and Essence Magazine are involved, with MTV and Motown Records planning to turn their logos orange." (Media Matters is also a partner organization.)
In a May 30 post in its digital magazine, America's 1st Freedom, the National Rifle Association attacked the campaign as "pointless" and said "participating is an easy way of scoring points for being 'socially conscious.'" The magazine also criticized celebrities Julianne Moore, Russell Simmons, and Michael Stipe for participating in National Gun Violence Awareness Day, writing, "It's a shame that quite a few presumably well-meaning celebrities are caught up in a thinly veiled anti-gun stunt orchestrated by Bloomberg and friends." (Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is the founder of Everytown for Gun Safety.)
A segment on the arrest of a pregnant California woman on CNN's New Day demonstrated a stark contrast with Fox News about how to discuss police brutality.
California resident Michelle Cooks was arrested for resisting arrest in an elementary school parking lot on January 26. At the time, Cooks was eight months pregnant. The incident was captured on the police officer's body camera after the police had been called by a school employee, who was white, because of an argument with Cooks about her driving in the parking lot. The video shows the officer telling the woman that he did not "see any crime" having been committed, but that he would ask Cooks for her name and her side of the story. According to the Huffington Post:
The officer then asked Cooks for her name and she refused to give it to him.
"I actually do have the right to ask you for your name," the officer said.
"Let me make sure," Cooks said, as she proceeded to take out her phone to call her boyfriend.
The officer agreed to give Cooks two minutes to verify what he told her, but apparently changed his mind, as he only waited about 20 seconds. He and a fellow officer then wrestled Cooks to the ground.
"Please," Cooks screamed on the video. "I'm pregnant. Please, stop this."
Cooks was then handcuffed and placed into the back of a police cruiser.
During a segment on the May 29 edition of CNN's New Day, host Chris Cuomo discussed the arrest with former NYPD detective Harry Houck who defended the officers' actions, saying Cooks should have submitted. Cuomo pointed out that California law doesn't require individuals to give their name to police, unless an officer suspects a crime was committed -- which the video shows was not the case. Cuomo challenged Houck, saying "you are putting it on her when he is the one who did the wrong thing." Watch:
Cuomo's discussion provides a stark contrast to the way Fox News personalities discuss police brutality and citizen's rights. When discussing the death of unarmed Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, Sean Hannity said that a "simple solution" to avoid death by police was to not "run at 8:30 in the morning when you see a cop." After the death of Eric Garner, who was killed by a police chokehold for selling cigarettes on the street, Fox invited former NYPD officer Bo Dietl who said he used the same chokeholds during arrests he made in New York City.
Fox News gave likely 2016 presidential hopeful and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) a platform to double down on his assertion that ultrasounds -- mandatory in his state for women seeking abortions -- are just a "cool" thing.
This week Walker defended his state's legislation forcing women seeking abortions to first undergo ultrasounds that are likely to be transvaginal, dismissing the procedure as "just a cool thing out there" during an appearance on The Dana Show with Dana Loesch.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto defended Walker with the same excuse during a May 28 interview on Fox Business' Cavuto, asserting that "I knew what you meant by that, but obviously that was not the reception" the statement received. Walker replied that backlash was simply a "typical example" of how progressives and the media "take out of context comments out there" -- but then the governor immediately doubled down on his original comments. Walker reiterated that "I think ultrasounds are cool" (emphasis added):
WALKER: This is a typical example of the left -- not just leftist organizations, but some even in the left in the media -- take out of context comments out there. You're right, I talked about, my kids are 19 and 20, Tonette and I have the first ultrasound picture that was taken of both. And that's something that we treasure. That was each of our children. In fact, Matthew had the side of his head turned so you could see his hand and his mouth, what appeared to be sucking on his thumb.
CAVUTO: That's so cool. Mine had an iPhone. It was the weirdest thing. But seriously, they said 'stay out governor, this is none of your business.
WALKER: Well they're pushing back on it, saying I said it was cool. Well, I think ultrasounds are cool. And they tried to mischaracterize our law, says, simply put, if someone is going to go in for abortion, we require the provider, whoever is doing that procedure, has to provide access to an ultrasound, a traditional ultrasound, not the kind they planned out there, because we believe as someone who's pro-life, I believe that if someone has access to seeing that information, if they can look at it, not forced to, but if they can look at it if they so choose, if that's available, chances are they're going to pick life. They'll pick the life of that unborn child. I think that's a great thing. And if they don't, under the law, they don't have to. But the reality is, I think those on the left are afraid of people actually having information. They say they're pro-choice, but they don't want an informed choice.
Although there have been several major campaign finance stories this year, so far the media has paid significant attention only to one: the retired postal worker from Florida who landed his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn to raise awareness about the need for reform -- and the coverage has barely noted his motivations.
On April 15, Doug Hughes landed his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn "to save our democracy," as he wrote in The Washington Post, because "91 percent of Americans see the corrosive influence of money in our political system as a problem that demands attention." Hughes continued:
It is clear these issues will be among the most important in the 2016 election, when every candidate for any office needs to answer one simple question: Which approaches to reducing money's corrupting influence on our democracy do you support? Journalists, especially at the local level, need to ask tough questions, then report the truth and let people decide.
Sadly, most Americans don't know about [campaign finance reform] solutions or how to engage. That's why I chose civil disobedience, taking 535 stamped letters and my message to the seat of power where the problem is. Big money is a threat to our democracy just as security threats are.
Hughes is right -- according to Bloomberg, "spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals" in the run-up to the 2016 election "may approach $10 billion." Thanks to a series of Supreme Court decisions that have relaxed Watergate-era campaign finance reform laws, it's easier than ever for an elite few to exercise disproportionate influence in the democratic process.
Hughes' landing was marginally successful in getting some media coverage of campaign finance reform in the days following. A Media Matters analysis of the network evening news broadcasts and the Sunday political talk shows found 17 total segments dedicated to Hughes and the gyrocopter landing. But other than a discussion on the April 19 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, none of the Sunday shows or evening news broadcasts dedicated any substantive coverage to the message behind Hughes' protest. Understandably, most of these segments focused on the security issues raised by the fact that Hughes was able to fly undetected into the District of Columbia's no-fly zone, rather than his reasons for his flight in the first place.
From the May 27 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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The results of an 18-month survey of advertisements in the National Rifle Association's (NRA) magazine, America's 1st Freedom, squared neatly with the gun group's own tendency to use to fear as a marketing tool.
Media Matters reviewed advertisements that appeared in the NRA magazine from January 2014 through June 2015 and discovered that they appealed to a wide range of fears, including the threat of starvation due to food shortages, the dread of losing the ability to live independently because of declining health, the prospect of a terrorist attack, and the need to carry a collapsible assault weapon in a briefcase for self-protection.
NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre often uses fear to motivate people to support the NRA or purchase firearms.
In a February 2013 column for the magazine, LaPierre argued that Americans needed to buy guns to ensure their "survival" while warning of calamities including, "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. [and] Lone criminals." Prior to the 2014 elections, in a special election edition of America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre urged supporters to back the NRA's preferred candidates while raising the specter of several different terrorist attack scenarios, including an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would kill 9 out of 10 Americans. LaPierre has also warned conservative audiences about the threat of "home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
Advertisers in the NRA's magazine often played on the same fears, urging readers to buy their products to protect against one calamity or another. Similar to other conservative media websites, some of the products advertised in America's 1st Freedom were of extremely dubious value, including an "anti-aging" supplement that had not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and expensive jewelry made from low-cost materials. Some products in the magazine were simply bizarre or retrograde, including an accent lamp that celebrates the Confederacy and a watch that allows users to "Tell Time Like a Man."
"The Light Of The South," an accent lamp featuring the likeness of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and several pieces of Confederacy iconography, was advertised in the NRA magazine for $135 under the tagline, "Southern Pride Shines On." The lamp featured several variations of the Confederate flag as well as two CSA (Confederate States of America) emblems and the dates commemorating the beginning and end of the Confederacy.
Right-wing media figures blamed violence in Baltimore on the Department of Justice's (DOJ) recommended limits on the use of force implemented by the Cleveland Police Department, suggesting the Obama administration is causing increased violence by investigating local police departments and "cracking down on the police."
From the May 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the May 26 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the May 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the May 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the May 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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In reporting on the recent Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia that killed eight people and injured up to 200 others, broadcast evening news programs and the Sunday morning political talk shows have largely ignored an outdated federal law that could deny financial compensation to victims and their families.
After the horrific Amtrak passenger train crash on May 12, much of the media coverage has focused on the technical causes of the accident and whether increased infrastructure spending might prevent future tragedies.
But a Media Matters analysis of evening news broadcasts and Sunday shows' coverage of the derailment indicates that the major networks have largely ignored how the victims of this crash might be denied financial compensation from Amtrak that will adequately cover their medical expenses going forward. Because of a 1997 federal law that limits the amount of money the victims can recover for their injuries to $200 million, many of the victims -- and the families of those who died -- may get stuck trying to pay for the costs associated with the crash out of their own pockets.
Only the May 17 edition of ABC News' This Week briefly mentioned the outdated law, in a segment with ABC's Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams. As Abrams explained, the $200 million cap is not per victim, but the total amount that can be paid out per incident, regardless of the number of fatalities or extent of survivor injuries:
Gun Owners of America -- a far-right gun group whose leader has been linked to white supremacists and has suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government -- will host Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to address the group's "activists."
GOA is headed by Larry Pratt, a conspiracy theorist who frequently espouses extreme views on gun regulation. The group is considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association touts itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."
According to an e-mail sent to GOA supporters, Cruz will speak at a "Tele-Town Hall" meeting on May 27. GOA "is surveying and interviewing all of the candidates," but Cruz is the first to agree to address the group:
Cruz, who has received campaign contributions from GOA, previously praised the group as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
Although media sometimes ignore GOA's extremism, the group and its leader ascribe to a hard-right ideology. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign after it came to light that he had spoken at a militia conference alongside leaders of the white supremacist movement. GOA also donated "tens of thousands of dollars" to white supremacy group CAUSE in the 90s.
On the issue of gun violence, Pratt has flirted with the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting were carried out by the government. Pratt has also suggested that politicians who support gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot and recently claimed that rioters in Baltimore should have been shot on sight. Among Pratt's lowlights:
A local reporter's five-year investigation into rape kit backlogs in Ohio helped inspire state-level reforms and identify hundreds of serial rapists, evidencing how good reporting can bring about positive change to states' handling of sexual assault -- a stark contrast to conservative media's dismissal of sexual assault that may actually discourage victims from coming forward.
Reporter Rachel Dissell discovered a decades-long backlog of untested rape kits while researching sexual assaults for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. As she told NPR's Fresh Air, the Cleveland police possessed at least 4,000 untested kits, which contain DNA evidence that could be used to identify and prosecute perpetrators. While many factors contribute to why the kits were left untested, Dissell explained that often times the perceived credibility of the victim played a role: "A lot of the victims whose cases didn't go forward and whose kits weren't tested were minorities. They were drug addicts. They had mental health issues -- all kinds of things like that that just really made them the most vulnerable and the least likely to be believed."
Dissell and The Plain Dealer's reporting helped inspire a groundbreaking Ohio law mandating that old and new rape kits be tested, leading to the reopening of nearly 2,000 rape investigations and the identification of over 200 serial rapists or potential serial rapists.
The positive impact of such reporting shines a light on conservative media's comparatively dangerous coverage of sexual assault, which actively reinforces the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to discredit research showing that one-in-five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men.
Glenn Beck's TheBlazeTV argued that the sexual assault epidemic is "completely untrue" by acting out sexual positions and labelling each skit "RAPE!", while George Will asserted that victim has become a "coveted status." Pundits from Rush Limbaugh to The Weekly Standard's Harvey Mansfield have blamed women for the epidemic, while other conservative talking heads stoke fears about a supposed increase in false reports of sexual assault. Others have explicitly blamed victims for their sexual assault, describing sexual assault survivors as "bad girls...who like to be naughty" and lecturing women about the burden of personal responsibility, saying, "It is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
Such disparaging coverage not only stigmatizes victims, it can actually discourage victims from reporting the crimes and their attackers in the first place. And sexual assault is already a vastly underreported crime -- estimates show that sexual assault goes unreported nearly 70 percent of the time.
In her interview with Fresh Air, Dissell described how discrediting sexual assault victims helps their rapists go unpunished: "They knew if they chose the most vulnerable women - the least likely to be believed - that they would never get caught. And I just don't know how that happened. How did we let them outsmart us for all that time?"