Justice & Civil Liberties

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  • NRA’s Allen West Is More Upset About Khizr Khan’s DNC Speech Than The Death Of Khan’s Son

    West: Khan Should Ask For God’s Forgiveness For His "Damn Politicized Stunt"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member and conservative pundit Allen West published an attack on Khizr Khan, a speaker at the Democratic National Convention whose son, a captain in the U.S. Army, was killed while serving in Iraq in 2004.

    West concluded a lengthy attack on Khan posted to his website, “I grieve for the loss of your son. However, I grieve even more that you used his sacrifice and loss as nothing more than a damn politicized stunt. May God forgive you for it.”

    During a July 28 speech at the Democratic convention, Khan, standing beside his wife Ghazala, spoke about their son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004 by a car bomb while protecting soldiers under his command.

    Khan’s remarks received widespread attention after he condemned the anti-Muslim rhetoric of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, asking whether Trump had ever read the U.S. Constitution and addressing the nominee, “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

    In a July 31 post to his website, West joined Trump and other members of conservative media who have attacked Khan since his convention speech. West is a retired Army Lt. Colonel whose service ended in controversy over his use of interrogation tactics in Iraq.

    In addition to writing that he grieved Khan’s speech more than the death of Khan’s son, West also wrote of Khan’s decision to make his speech: “I tend to believe that if alive, your son would consider that type of behavior abhorrent and deplorable” and suggested that the elder Khan “will be remembered as a political pawn.”

    West added that during his speech, Khan should have “taken the time to explain how humbled and thankful you are to live in America.” Khan actually did address his family’s decision to immigrate to the United States in his convention remarks, saying, “We were blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.”

    West also wished that during the convention speech Khan would have called the chief prophet and central figure of the Islam religion, the Prophet Muhammad, “a murderous warlord, psychopath, and, by modern day standards, a pedophile.”

    West was elected to a leadership position within the NRA during the group’s 2016 elections. He has also served as a Fox News contributor and the executive director of the think tank National Center for Policy Analysis.

    West’s diatribe against Khan was praised by fellow NRA board member Ted Nugent who wrote on his Facebook page, “DITTO Allen West from all humans with a brain, heart & soul! Allen West would make a great Commander in Chief!”:

  • The Right-Wing Figures Defending Trump’s Attacks On The Khan Family

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Several right-wing media figures are defending Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s criticisms of Khizr and Ghazala Khan -- the parents of a fallen U.S. Army captain -- following their Democratic National Convention speech in which they condemned Trump. After Donald Trump lashed out at the Khan family, right-wing media figures defended him by claiming Trump had been “set up” by the media, and that the Khan family had brought it upon themselves by appearing at the Democratic National Convention.

  • NRA Offers False Attack In Complaining That Clinton Has Armed Security

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association attacked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for being protected by the Secret Service with the fallacious claim that Clinton opposes private gun ownership.

    A video released by the NRA portrays Clinton as a hypocrite, alleging that a “Hillary Standard” exists because Clinton “has been surrounded by armed security for decades. But she thinks the Supreme Court was wrong to say the rest of us have a right to own firearms for self-defense.”

    The video features NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox complaining, “For the rest of her life, Hillary Clinton will never even think about dialing 911. For the past 30 years, she hasn’t taken a walk, a nap, or a bathroom break without a good guy with a gun there to protect her.”

    Throughout the video, the NRA includes stills of Clinton highlighting her armed security:

    The NRA claim that Clinton doesn’t think people should be able to own firearms for self-defense is a lie. Clinton did say that the landmark Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller -- which found an individual right for law-abiding people to have a firearm in the home for the purpose of self-defense -- was “wrongly decided,” but not for the reason the NRA claims.

    According to a spokesperson, Clinton believes Heller was “wrongly decided” because it “may open the door to overturning thoughtful, common sense safety measures in the future” such as a child access prevention provision that was struck down in the ruling, not because she opposes firearm ownership for lawful self-defense.

    Clinton routinely expresses support for law-abiding people to own firearms, but also supports further regulations to keep guns away from dangerous people, such as expanding background checks on gun sales. Some examples:

    • Clinton’s campaign policy position notes she “knows that gun ownership is part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities. But as a nation we can no longer allow guns to fall into the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the seriously mentally ill.”

    • While discussing the August 2015 on-air killing of two Virginia journalists: “We've got to do something. It's a very difficult political issue. But we are smart enough, compassionate enough to balance legitimate Second Amendment rights concerns with preventive measures and control measures, so whatever motivated this murderer ... we will not see more needless, senseless deaths.”

    • Speaking about the Umqua Community College mass shooting: “I feel like this is unfinished business in our country, and I am very determined that we are going to try to bring some sanity back, so that people's Second Amendment rights are protected -- but they are not absolute, the way the NRA wants them to be. There are common-sense ways to make sure people are not using guns to commit mass murders.”

    • Talking about “the right of people to own guns” in 2014: “We've got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith than anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime, and I don't believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people. I think you can say that and still support the right of people to own guns.”

    The NRA endorsed Donald Trump for president (during an event where no guns were allowed) and subsequently issued a series of videos and ads attacking Clinton. The NRA spent $2 million on a July ad attacking Clinton over the 2012 Benghazi, Libya terror attacks. The ad was filmed at Alexandria National Cemetery, in violation of government policy that does not allow political ads to be filmed at military cemeteries. A July 25 testimonial of NRA members who support Trump prominently featured a man who promoted a conspiracy theory about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

  • The Daily Beast: Fox’s Roger Ailes Scandal Makes Persisting Culture Of Sexism In News “Depressingly Clear”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove wrote that the ousting of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes amid a sexual harassment lawsuit -- and the numerous other allegations of sexual harassment that have surfaced since the lawsuit was filed -- has made it “depressingly clear” that a culture of sexual harassment in newsrooms still exists “across an industry that continues to be dominated by men on top.”

    Earlier this month, former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit that alleged Roger Ailes fired her from the network after she declined his sexual advances. Since Carlson’s lawsuit, an additional 25 women reportedly came forward to make similar claims, including Fox host Megyn Kelly. On July 19, Fox’s parent company 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would leave Fox News as a result of the allegations. According to a New York magazine report, Fox executives knew about, and covered up, Ailes’ sexual harassment for over 20 years.

    In a July 31 article, Grove highlighted that revelations about Ailes “make it depressing clear” that a culture of sexism and harassment “has apparently persisted well into the 21st century, not only at Fox News but across an industry that continues to be dominated by men on top.” Grove noted that “With the exception of NBC News president Deborah Turness … no woman has ever led an American broadcast or cable news division” and highlighted Betsy West, a professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, explaining that “When women are in positions of authority, that makes a huge difference.” From the article:

    Yet the revelations surrounding Roger Ailes—resulting in the Fox News founder’s shocking forced resignation—make it depressingly clear that the Age of Enlightenment is still a long way off.

    The allegations exposed by fired Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson’s sensational July 6 lawsuit against the network’s ex-chairman were only the beginning as multiple women have come forward in the past three weeks to tell their own stories of harassment and abuse.

    [...]

    At a moment when one of the major political parties has just nominated a woman to be president of the United States—and women are running S&P 500 companies like General Motors, Xerox, Occidental Petroleum, PepsiCo, and General Dynamics (with Sheryl Sandberg the No. 2 executive of the planet’s sixth largest company, Facebook)—the television news business is a sociocultural anachronism.

    With the exception of NBC News president Deborah Turness (whose authority was abruptly curtailed after less than two years, during the Brian Williams scandal, when former NBC News chief Andy Lack returned in April 2015 to take charge), no woman has ever led an American broadcast or cable news division.

    “When women are in positions of authority, that makes a huge difference,” says West, a professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism after three decades in broadcast news,  “but if you look at the statistics, about 70 percent of the news directors are men at the local-station level. And in network, there just aren’t that many uber-bosses who are women…Ultimately what will change this whole picture is when women are really represented at all levels.”

    It’s revealing that of the possible Ailes successors mentioned in recently published speculation, not one has been female—even though Rupert Murdoch (who owes the 76-year-old Ailes bigtime for creating a rich profit center for Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox) and  Rupert’s sons Lachlan and James (who by most accounts leveraged Carlson’s lawsuit into Ailes’s swift departure) could reap significant PR rewards, and possibly help fix a festering problem, by appointing a woman to run the place.  

  • Report: Fox Executives Knew, Covered Up Roger Ailes’ Predatory Sexual Harassment For Over 20 Years

    Former Fox Booker Laurie Luhn: Ailes Required “Luring Young Female Fox Employees Into One-On-One Situations”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that a former Fox News booking director claims to have been sexually harassed by Roger Ailes “for more than 20 years,” Fox executives helped cover it up, and a settlement document she signed with the network “precludes her from speaking to government authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the FBI. Not to mention the press.”

    Sherman wrote about the former booking director's experience working for Fox and being “psychologically tortured” by Ailes and the network. Laurie Luhn explained that during her time at Fox as a booking director, she was “required [] to do many things she is now horrified by, including luring young female Fox employees into one-on-one situations with Aies that Luhn knew could result in harassment.” Luhn also recounted her own sexual harassment from Ailes and how the network settled with her on the conditions of an “extensive nondisclosure” agreement which prevented Luhn from taking the network to court: :

    The morning after Fox News chief Roger Ailes resigned, the cable network’s former director of booking placed a call to the New York law firm hired by 21st Century Fox to investigate sexual-harassment allegations against Ailes. Laurie Luhn told the lawyers at Paul, Weiss that she had been harassed by Ailes for more than 20 years, that executives at Fox News had known about it and helped cover it up, and that it had ruined her life. “It was psychological torture,” she later told me.

    […]

    In late 2010 or early 2011, Luhn said, she wrote a letter to Fox lawyer Dianne Brandi saying she had been sexually harassed by Ailes for 20 years. Brandi did not acknowledge receipt of the letter, but, according to a source, she asked Ailes about the sexual-harassment allegations, which he vehemently denied. Ailes, according to the source, told Brandi to work out a settlement. Luhn hired an attorney to negotiate her exit from Fox. Through a spokesperson, Brandi declined to comment.

    On June 15, 2011, Luhn and Brandi signed a $3.15 million settlement agreement with extensive nondisclosure provisions. The settlement document, which Luhn showed me, bars her from going to court against Fox for the rest of her life. It also precludes her from speaking to government authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the FBI. Not to mention the press. Aware that speaking with New York on the record could pose legal risks, Luhn was insistent that she wanted to tell her story. “The truth shall set you free. Nothing else matters,” she told me. Her family friend also said this is what Luhn wanted.

  • Fox News Didn’t Show Democratic Convention Speeches That Cut Against Its Right-Wing Narrative

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fox News did not air several Democratic National Convention speeches from figures promoting issues that run counter to the narrative the network has pushed for years -- including racial justice, reproductive rights, gun safety reform, LGBT equality, and respect for Muslim-Americans.

    During the second day of the convention on July 26, members of the “Mothers of the Movement,” a group of women whose African-American children were killed due to gun violence or in officer-involved shootings, shared their experiences and their children’s memories. The women also urged people to support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who they said “isn’t afraid to say that black lives matter,” and pushed for criminal justice reform and gun safety reform. Fox News not only neglected to air the speeches, but the Mothers of the Movement appearance went completely unmentioned at the time. Fox News and right-wing media have repeatedly demonized the Black Lives Matter movement, likening it to “a hate group” and a “murder movement.” They have also dismissed calls for criminal justice reform, pushing the “black-on-black crime” canard as an excuse and calling concerns about systemic racism in American society “dumb.”

    The convention also featured speakers who advocated for protecting abortion rights, including Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards, who spoke on July 26, and NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue, who spoke on July 27. Both speeches were ignored by Fox. Protecting abortion rights runs counter to the stigma Fox casts on the medical procedure, with their hosts falsely framing abortion law restrictions as patient safety measures and calling a common abortion procedure “dismemberment abortion.” Conservative media have joined Fox figures to demonize Planned Parenthood, repeatedly pushing debunked myths that the organization profited off the selling of fetal tissue. This smear effort has been led by Fox News, which has hosted overwhelmingly anti-choice guests -- often extremists -- to push misinformation about abortion and about Planned Parenthood.

    The convention included remarks from relatives of victims of the Orlando and Sandy Hook massacres, both speaking on July 27 on behalf of gun safety reform. Fox covered neither speaker. Fox has consistently misinformed on the issue of gun safety, pushing the National Rifle Association-driven lie that gun safety measures would “take” guns away from lawful gun owners,and calling gun safety reforms “flat-out dangerous.” Right-wing media have also falsely claimed that shootings tend to occur in so-called “gun-free zones,” and have even asserted that restricting assault weapons such as those used in the Orlando and Sandy Hook mass shootings constitutes a “war on women.”

    On the final day of the convention, Sarah McBride delivered remarks as the first openly transgender person to ever speak at a party convention. McBride urged the passing of legislation to “combat violence against transgender women of color, and to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic once and for all.” Again, Fox was the only cable network to not carry the speech. Fox has long waged a war on LGBT rights, arguing marriage equality would be a slippery slope to marrying animals and portraying those opposed to the policy as victims. More recently, Fox has worked to demonize transgender Americans, calling equal access to bathrooms for transgender people a “violation … of everybody’s rights” and pushing the dangerous and long-debunked myth that safe, accessible bathrooms for all would result in grown men targeting girls in restrooms. Fox personalities have also called transgender Americans “confused” and “troubled” and “a very big threat to our culture.”

    Muslim-American Khizr Khan, whose son was a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq, also addressed the convention on July 28. Khan spoke about the honor he and his wife felt to attend the convention “as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country.” Khan condemned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims, challenging Trump to read the Constitution and concluding, “You have sacrificed nothing. And no one." Fox only aired two minutes of the 7-minute-long speech without audio as commercials -- including a Benghazi attack ad -- played over it. Fox figures have repeatedly questioned the patriotism and beliefs of Muslim-Americans, saying it is “ridiculous” to claim they “are assimilating”, claiming that Islam “was born of violence," and repeatedly ignoring Muslim-American voices to falsely assert that the community doesn’t speak out after terrorist attacks. Fox and right-wing media also gave cover to Trump’s Muslim ban proposal, calling it “rather prudent” and framing it as “the Constitution versus the Quran on every level.”

    Here are The Democratic Convention Speeches Fox Didn't Show

  • Fox News Cites Anti-Choice Group’s Poll To Push Myth That Americans Oppose Abortion Access

    Once Again, Fox’s Shannon Bream Pushed Dubious Polling To Argue That “Social Conservatives” Are “Turning The Tide” On American’s Abortion Beliefs

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the July 27 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, chief legal correspondent Shannon Bream reported that the Democratic Party’s positions on increasing abortion access and funding run contrary to the “personal convictions of average Americans.”

    To support this argument, Bream cited a recent poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus -- a self-identified “pro-life” group that has waged “a decades-long battle against abortion legislation.” Beyond failing to disclose the ideological affiliations of the group commissioning the poll, Bream also attempted to use the data to misleadingly suggest that Americans have a unified and consistently anti-choice position on abortion access.

    According to Bream, the Knights of Columbus poll shows that “78 percent” of Americans “say they support substantial restrictions on abortion, including 62 percent of those who self-identify as pro-choice.” However, as previous research has shown, polling on individuals’ support for abortion is complicated and highly contextual.

    For example, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explained, 39 percent of Americans do not self-identify as either “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” and this determination is often influenced heavily by the wording of individual poll questions. She noted that although many people had “strongly held” feelings about abortion, much of the phrasing in polls fails to capture “the personal factors and situations that influence how each individual thinks about the issue.” Kliff continued that in poll questions, “a simple wording change can significantly alter whether Americans say they support legal abortion.”

    When MSNBC’s Irin Carmon compared the questions asked in different polls she, too, found that a simple shift in phrasing or question style could substantially alter a poll’s findings:

    You could ask Americans if they want Roe v. Wade overturned, as the Pew Research Center did in 2013, and learn that 63 percent want to see it stand. Or you could ask Americans to choose between two vague statements, like the recent poll the Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted for the Knights of Columbus, a group that opposes abortion. Asked to pick between “it is possible to have laws which protect both the health and well-being of a woman and the life of the unborn; or two, it is necessary for laws to choose to protect one and not the other,” 77 percent said it was possible to do everything. The policy implications of the first statement are unclear.

    [...]

    Asking about what the law should be, whether generally or specifically, is when it gets really messy. According to one pollster, the most popular question of all – asking people if they think abortion should be legal in all, most or certain circumstances – is the most problematic.

    “I don’t even want to ask this dumb question anymore, because it doesn’t work,” says Tresa Undem. “It’s a bad polling measurement.” She conducted the Vox poll as well as a recent one for the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which supports abortion rights, and has written about the problem with polling on abortion.

    Why? When Undem looked only at the 34 percent of people who said they thought abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest and health risk, she found contradictory views.

    [...]

    But Undem says that internally conflicting views on abortion are par for the course. “On this topic, where people haven’t sorted through all their thoughts about it, you ask one question, the next you can get a reverse response.”

    Americans across the ideological spectrum also tend to share a variety of fundamentally incorrect perceptions about the frequency and safety of abortion procedures. As Kliff wrote in a February 29 article, Americans often significantly “overestimate the safety risks for women who have abortions" and underestimate the prevalence of procedure itself. Despite the fact that abortion is both common and incredibly safe, these misconceptions can negatively skew an individual’s perception of the procedure.

    The July 27 Special Report segment was far from the first time Bream has used selectively framed polling data to suggest Americans oppose abortion access and reproductive health care.

    In January 2016, Bream cited another poll from the Knights of Columbus to allege that “81 percent of Americans think abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy.” During the report, Bream did not note that the poll was commissioned by the anti-choice group.

    Beyond pushing selectively framed polling, Bream also has a history of presenting misleading reporting on a number of reproductive rights topics. For example, long after the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood were discredited, Bream gave CMP founder David Daleiden an unchallenged platform to continuing pushing misinformation.

    While Fox News and Bream used selectively framed polling to criticize the Democratic Party’s platform as “out of step with the majority of Americans,” they have ignored the fallacious positions on abortion and Planned Parenthood codified in the official Republican Party platform.

  • Houston Press: “Why The Dropped Charges Against The Anti-Abortion Activists Is Not A ‘Vindication’” Of Their Claims

    CMP’s Indictment For Actions Taken During Its Campaign Against Planned Parenthood Was Dismissed On A Technicality

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In January, a grand jury in Harris County, TX, indicted Center for Medical Progress (CMP) founder David Daleiden and associate Sandra Merritt on a felony count for “tampering with a governmental record” as well as on a separate misdemeanor charge for “illegally offer[ing] to purchase human organs.”

    Daleiden and Merritt were accused of using fake California driver’s licenses in order to gain access to a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Houston. They used the access to secretly film inside and later release a deceptively edited video alleging Planned Parenthood employees were involved in the illegal sale of donated fetal tissue. A judge dismissed the misdemeanor charge in June on a technicality regarding “language left out of the original indictment.” The judge wrote that the indictment “does not include both that Daleiden intended to buy, sell or acquire human organs in violation of the law, and that he isn’t subject to a legal exception that allows medical entities to recoup expenses for obtaining or transporting organs.”

    On July 26, prosecutors moved to drop the felony counts against Daleiden and Merritt, citing the “limits” to what evidence a grand jury can investigate after being granted an extension order.

    The Houston Press’ Meagan Flynn reports in an article headlined "Why The Dropped Charges Against The Anti-Abortion Activists Is Not A 'Vindication'" that the case was not dismissed because of arguments about Daleiden’s “First Amendment” rights, as he has proclaimed, but rather on narrow, and somewhat unusual, technical grounds. From the Houston Press (emphasis original):

    Almost immediately after prosecutors decided, abruptly, to drop charges against the anti-abortion activists who infiltrated a Planned Parenthood facility in Houston using fake IDs, conservatives pro-lifers were calling it a "vindication." Even though the charges were dropped because of technicalities.

    […]

    When a Harris County grand jury investigated the case, it cleared Planned Parenthood entirely and instead indicted Daleiden and Merritt in January for their shady tactics, prompting outrage from conservatives across the country. The Center For Medical Progress, the group the activists really worked for, said in a statement: "The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press."

    When the Harris County District Attorney's Office let them off the hook not because of the merits of the case, but because of technical procedural issues, supporters of Merritt and Daleiden considered it a validation of their defense. After the hearing, Daleiden told reporters, "I'm glad the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists have been vindicated today." (To be clear, all journalists learn in J-school 101 that using fake IDs to "go undercover" will land you jail time, not a Pulitzer, which we discussed with a law professor in January.)

    Melissa Hamilton, a visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law School, said that this case "isn't a vindication for anybody." And, she said, what's strange about this entire case is that the technicalities used to drop both Daleiden's solicitation of the sale of fetal tissue charge and the tampering with government records charges are rarely ever seen. "Cases are dropped all the time for procedural issues—but not these," she said.

     
  • Four Times Media Highlighted The Importance Of Repealing The Hyde Amendment

    The Hyde Amendment Has Long Stymied Abortion Access -- And Media Are Taking Note That It’s Time For A Change

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During its national convention, the Democratic Party adopted a platform explicitly calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- a long-standing budgetary rider blocking the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Here are four times media highlighted the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment and removing economic barriers to abortion access.