Justice & Civil Liberties

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  • NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Ironically Rails Against “Elites”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre railed against “elites” in a new NRA video, complaining that powerful people in politics, Hollywood, and the media “run our country.”

    In a July 5 video titled “We Don’t Need You,” released as part of the NRA’s “national campaign,” LaPierre complained that there is “no longer any difference between our politicians and the elite media who report on them, and the Hollywood elites who bankroll them both.”

    According to LaPierre, these groups of elite figures “work together, in some newsrooms and boardrooms and Washington back rooms and star-studded champagne fundraisers, to decide for the rest of us what's news and what's not, what's true and what's not, who gets protected, who goes to prison, who gets our money, and who gets our vote.”

    LaPierre added: “These elites threaten our very survival, and to them we say: We don't trust you, we don't fear you, and we don't need you. Take your hands off our future.”

    But if being elite means wielding outsized influence, LaPierre and the NRA are perfect definitions of the word.

    LaPierre gets more than $1 million each year in pay and other compensation from the NRA and is registered as a federal lobbyist for the organization. The NRA also wields outsized influence over Congress due to the longstanding, but false, belief that the organization has the ability to use elections to remove politicians from office who refuse to go along with its agenda. (Actual analyses of federal election outcomes and of NRA election spending have proved that the conventional wisdom is wrong, but the attitude persists in some respects, impacting congressional behavior.)

    While LaPierre put forward a populist message in the NRA video, it is the NRA that blocks broadly popular legislation and congressional action. The organization is widely credited as the reason Congress cannot pass legislation to expand background checks, a proposal favored by between 88 and 93 percent of voters. The NRA is also key in blocking legislation to prevent individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms, a proposal favored by 86 percent of Americans. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has cited the NRA’s opposition to Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland -- pointing to its distortion of Garland’s judicial record -- as justification for obstructing his nomination, even though strong majorities of voters want Garland to receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • After Chelsea Manning’s Alleged Suicide Attempt, The Federalist Says "Transgenderism” Is A “Sickness”

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Right-wing news outlet The Federalist seized on the alleged suicide attempt of imprisoned soldier Chelsea Manning to argue that the high rates of attempted suicide in the transgender community are not the result of discrimination, as mainstream medical organizations report. Instead, Federalist author Daniel Payne wrote that “transgenderism is a deleterious psychological affliction” and that a “sane society” should “steer transgender people away from their delusions.”

    On July 6, the Associated Press reported that Chelsea Manning -- the soldier and transgender woman imprisoned for sending classified information to WikiLeaks -- was “briefly hospitalized” this week. CNN and TMZ both reported that the hospitalization was the result of a suicide attempt, citing unnamed defense officials.

    In a July 7 article responding to these reports, Federalist senior contributor Daniel Payne argued that “the transgender suicide rate isn’t due to discrimination.” Payne dismissed a peer-reviewed article in the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as the consensus of research showing that those who are are harassed, bullied, victimized, discriminated against or rejected by family and friends are more likely to attempt suicide. Instead, Payne falsely maintained that “successful suicide” correlates to “the mental illness, y’all” and pushes for a “sane society” to “steer transgender people away from their delusions”: 

    Chelsea Manning—who became a male-to-female transgender after going to prison as Bradley Manning for giving reams of classified information to WikiLeaks—allegedly attempted suicide earlier this week. Manning was taken to a prison hospital after an apparent attempted hanging.

    This is not a surprise: “transgender” individuals have an alarmingly high suicide rate, somewhere north of 40 percent by some reliable estimates. A variety of explanations are often given for this astronomical figure, chief among them that transgender people are driven to kill themselves in such large numbers because they suffer from discrimination, bigotry and hatred.

    Zack Ford of ThinkProgress blames the high suicide rate on “rejection, discrimination, violence, harassment, and the negative life circumstances that result from such treatment.” Last month the New England Journal of Medicine attributed to “substantial discrimination” a great many negative psychological conditions among transgender individuals, including a higher suicide rate.

    [...]

    It’s the Mental Illness, Ya’ll

    Why? Because discrimination is almost certainly a nondeterminate factor in general suicide rates. Mental illness, on the other hand, is very clearly a motivating factor in a great many suicides: the rate of successful suicide is extremely correlative with conditions of mental illness. Since transgenderism is a deleterious psychological affliction, it is wholly unsurprising to find higher rates of suicide among that class of people.

    A sane society would be advocating for robust, ameliorative psychological therapy to steer transgender people away from their delusions. Instead, we indulge this sickness on an industrial scale, building television shows around the phenomenon and promoting it even unto the point of gross caricature.

  • The Daily Beast Highlights Former Fox Employees’ Allegations Of Ailes' Pattern Of Sexual Harassment

    “He’s A Disgusting Pig Who’s Been Getting Away With This Shit For 20 Years”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Daily Beast highlighted allegations from several former Fox employees who described experiences of sexual harassment by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in light of a recent lawsuit by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson.

    On July 6, Carlson, former host of Fox News’ The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, alleging that he had retaliated against her for refusing to have “a sexual relationship with him” by “ostracizing, marginalizing, and shunning her,” and ultimately “terminating her employment.” CNN reported that 10 other women have contacted Carlson’s lawyer “because they say they also have stories to share about treatment by Roger Ailes.”

    A July 7 article in The Daily Beast reported that “several women who formerly worked at [Fox] told The Daily Beast of similar encounters with” Ailes. The five women spoke “on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by Ailes and Fox News”:

    [Gretchen Carlson’s attorney Nancy Erika] Smith, for her part, said Carlson’s lawsuit has opened the floodgates of female ex-Fox News employees who say that Ailes harassed them as well.

    [...]

    Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by Ailes and Fox News, several women who formerly worked at the network told The Daily Beast of similar encounters with the defendant.

    “One time he asked me if I was wearing underwear, and was he going to see anything ‘good,’” said a former Fox News employee, who said she has spoken with other women at the network who said they were targets of Ailes’ sexually charged remarks. “It’s happened to me and lots of other women… He’s a disgusting pig who’s been getting away with this shit for 20 years.”

    A second ex-employee, who also said Ailes verbally harassed her with inappropriate comments during one-on-one meetings, said the powerful and famously combative executive has so far escaped the consequences of his alleged behavior, because “when it comes to this issue, there’s already a conspiracy of silence. The problem is you don’t want to come forward because you don’t want to be personally and professionally destroyed. You don’t want to bring down Roger Ailes’s wrath on your head.”

    [...]

    A third former Fox News employee told The Daily Beast: “When I met Ailes he wouldn’t stop staring at my legs, and at one point he asked if I was single. I was taken aback and said yes. And he was like, ‘Oh, OK, so you’re not gonna get pregnant any time soon.’ And then he asked my age.

    “And I think he could tell I was offended by the questions. And he said, ‘I know I’m not supposed to ask this—HR keeps telling me I can’t ask that because you can sue me because it’s illegal, but I don’t care. I’m [over 70] years old, if you wanna sue me, sue me.’”

    [...]

    Still, interviews on Wednesday with former Fox News employees suggested that Ailes has presided over a corporate culture that values and even demands female pulchritude—or at least Ailes’s blonde ideal of same—over other professional qualities. According to a former staffer, executive assistant-turned-Fox News vice president of programming Suzanne Scott enforces with the wardrobe and makeup departments an aesthetic that features skimpy dresses, high-heeled open-toed shoes, and big hair for the channel’s on-air women.

    [...]

    “A lot of the stuff in her [Carlson’s] suit rings very true to me,” said this person, who worked for almost a decade at the network and, like other Fox insiders quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The stuff about showing of the legs—that was not even a secret—that was open company policy.

    Meanwhile, a fifth former Fox News employee told The Daily Beast that Carlson’s allegations seem credible because Ailes runs Fox News “like his personal fiefdom” and has fostered a culture that is not only sexist but menacing, something akin to a sexual North Korea.

  • Gretchen Carlson Isn’t Alone: A History Of Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Roger Ailes And Fox News

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- alleging he “retaliated against” her because she would not have a “sexual relationship with him” -- is only the latest in a long line of sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits against the network’s executives and on-air personalities.

  • Hispanic Media Silent On Dangerous Bills Targeting Undocumented Immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Major Hispanic media news shows were silent on the Senate’s anticipated vote on two Republican-sponsored bills that could present a threat to undocumented immigrants. The proposed measures -- Kate’s Law and the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act -- echo anti-immigrant talking points previously spewed by conservative media, which paint undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and sanctuary cities as places that foster violent crime.

    The July 5 editions of some of the most highly viewed Hispanic media news shows -- Univision’s Noticiero Univision, Univision’s Noticiero Univision: Edición Nocturna, and Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo -- failed to report on the Senate’s vote on these bills, scheduled for July 6. Both bills, which failed to pass in the Senate, presented serious threats to undocumented immigrants and could in fact undermine crime deterrence capacities in some cities. 

    Senate Bill 2193, dubbed Kate’s Law by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, proposed a mandatory minimum prison sentence on undocumented immigrants attempting to re-enter the country. The Fox News host devoted plenty of airtime to fearmongering about undocumented immigrants and repeatedly lobbied to advance the bill through the legislative process. From the June 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

    Similarly, conservative news outlets hyped the need to pass Sen. Pat Toomey’s Senate Bill 3100, the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, which would have cut federal funding to “sanctuary cities,” or cities that do not necessarily report undocumented immigrants to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency if they have not committed a serious crime.

    But both bills would have had negative consequences for human rights and the federal budget. The Daily Beast said Kate’s Law “might do more harm than good” by potentially undoing previous successes in criminal justice reform and increasing America’s overlarge prison population. The Atlantic reported last year that the impact of Kate’s Law would be “dramatic,” and “cost the U.S. Bureau of Prisons an estimated $2 billion per year,” similarly noting that it would be counterintuitive to attempts to reform mass incarceration.

    Additionally, the basis for the failed Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act was that “sanctuary cities” threaten public safety, yet the American Immigration Lawyers Association and California’s attorney general have both argued that defunding “sanctuary cities” would not hurt public safety and that these types of cities might actually deter crime.

  • CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield Shows The Media How To Report On Sexual Assault

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following public outrage over the lenient sentencing of convicted rapist and former Stanford University student Brock Turner, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield dedicated five consecutive days of coverage to the case. In those five days, Banfield featured the words of the woman Turner attacked and brought on guests to discuss the severity of sexual violence, demonstrating how the media should report on sexual assault and rape.

  • Right-Wing Media Run With Another Baseless Comparison With Clinton Emails

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media spuriously likened Hillary Clinton’s email use to the case of Bryan Nishimura -- who was criminally charged with mishandling classified information -- after FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton. Media figures seized on Nishimura’s 2015 charges to erroneously characterize Comey’s announcement as a double standard, but, as with the debunked comparisons of Clinton’s email use to David Petraeus’ and John Deutch’s cases, legal experts note that unlike Clinton, Nishimura knowingly mishandled classified information.

  • The NRA Does Leg Work For Terrorists, Casing An Oklahoma Mall For The "Perfect" Attack

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association is promising that there will be an Islamic terrorist attack involving a mass shooting at a shopping mall, going so far as to release a video in which the NRA used a camera phone to case a real mall in Oklahoma. The video identifies where exits are “few and far between” and where there is “lots of open area,” “high ground” and “places to channelize people.”

    Footage of the NRA casing a mall appears in a video released by the NRA News’ commentator series. The video opens with a re-enactment of a would-be terrorist planning his attack, then switches to the NRA’s camera phone footage of an Oklahoma mall, before returning to a video re-enactment of a planned mass shooting at a shopping mall. NRA News contributor and former Navy SEAL Dom Raso narrates the video, attempting to connect the NRA’s re-enactments with its footage of the mall, as well as news footage from the 2013 terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

    The video begins by depicting a bearded man of apparent Middle Eastern descent watching a news program about a “generational problem in our Muslim community” while he plans a terrorist attack. Raso narrates, “Right now there is someone in America who wakes up in the morning and starts working, just like you. Think of the week before a huge job interview or a big presentation. Think about how much work you put into make it perfect. He is doing the same thing, except it isn’t for weeks. In some cases, it’s generations of dreaming, planning, working. … He is a radical Islamic terrorist.”

    Raso then posits that the attack will occur at a mall, arguing, “He wants to be remembered for killing more innocent people than the terrorists before him. That’s exactly why he is looking for gun-free zones in states and cities where politicians have reduced our Second Amendment freedoms.” News coverage of the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack, depicting real security camera footage from the shooting, is played as Raso narrates. (In fact, the NRA’s claims about gun-free zones have been debunked: There is no evidence that mass shooters pick targets based on whether civilians can carry guns or that civilians with guns have stopped public mass shootings.)

    The NRA video then switches to footage of a real mall, apparently shot on a camera phone by a member of the NRA’s video team. While video footage and freeze frames of shoppers at the mall are shown, Raso says, “As he walks through nearby shopping malls, he’s looking at the exits. He wants them to be few and far between -- hard to find in a panic, and easy to block. He wants lots of open area, high ground, and places to channelize people.”

    The NRA video blurs out some faces and store signs, but not others, making the mall identifiable through its distinct characteristics. The shopping center the NRA cased appears to be Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City, OK, less than a mile from the offices of Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s ad firm. The location of the mall also undercuts Raso’s argument that a terrorist would only target “gun-free zones in states and cities where politicians have reduced our Second Amendment freedoms,” given that Oklahoma has some of the loosest gun laws in the country.

    After the Oklahoma mall footage, the video returns to a re-enactment of a mass shooting breaking out at a mall. Raso narrates the viewer’s impending death amid sounds of screams, saying, “You still have no idea where the shots are coming from, but you see an exit sign. Tunnel visions sets in, your heartbeat increases, and now you feel a shortening of breath. You think you’ve escaped, but then you realize the shots and screams are getting louder. You’re surrounded. He’s planned this in advance. He’s covering the exits. He is going to kill you.”

    With the re-enactment over, Raso acknowledges, “The people who want to restrict your right to bear arms will call this fearmongering.”

    The video closes with Raso stating that the prospect of a mall terror attack means we should be asking, “What are we and our leadership doing to prevent it?” But while the NRA’s answer to combating terrorism apparently involves pushing against legislation to reduce gun violence, the terror group Al Qaeda infamously released a video urging terrorists who wish to carry out an attack on American soil to exploit the United States’ lax gun laws.

     

    Here is the NRA’s full transcript of its video:

    Right now, there is someone in America who wakes up in the morning and starts working, just like you.

    Think of the week before a huge job interview, or a big presentation. Think about how much work you put in to make it perfect. He is doing the same thing … except it isn't for weeks. In some cases, it's generations of dreaming, planning and working: 50, 60, 70 hours a week in anticipation of the moment he's been waiting for his entire life.

    His job is to disrupt freedom by killing you, your family and our fellow Americans.

    He knows he gets one shot, and it has to be perfect. He wants maximum chaos and maximum fear; he needs the news media to replay his work for years to come.

    He is a radical Islamic terrorist.

    I spent 12 years of my life hunting down people like him, and I know exactly how they think.

    And I know they are looking at shopping malls. Because they've already done it.

    September 21, 2013. Nairobi, Kenya. A group of heavily armed gunmen executed a pre-planned attack on Westgate Shopping Mall during a busy Saturday. Sixty-three innocent people were brutally murdered. Close to 200 more were injured.

    That terrorist I mentioned earlier? His goal is to outdo the Westgate massacre. He wants to be remembered for killing more innocent people than the terrorists before him.

    That's exactly why he's looking for gun-free zones in states and cities where politicians have reduced our Second Amendment freedoms. He wants to produce mass chaos, mass panic; he wants to immediately assume control over everyone in the building. So of course he is only going to consider malls that prohibit his targets from carrying firearms.

    As he walks through nearby shopping malls, he's looking at the exits. He wants them to be few and far between—hard to find in a panic, and easy to block.

    He wants lots of open area, high ground, and places to channelize people. Most important, he wants an unsuspecting and an unprepared crowd. In order for his plan to work, he is counting on everyone in that mall being completely and utterly unprepared.

    Think about this.

    You're at the mall with your kids on a busy Saturday, picking up clothes for your family's summer vacation. As you wait in a long line to checkout, you and your kids laugh and smile. You'll be at the beach in a few weeks.

    Out of nowhere, you hear shots fired. A few seconds later, screams. Your mind tells you what's happening, but you still try and convince yourself it isn't real. The shots get louder, and the screams multiply.

    People begin to realize what's happening. Panic spreads and chaos erupts. Kids get separated from their parents. The elderly are pushed to the ground. The teenager behind the checkout counter is frozen in fear.

    You still have no idea where the shots are coming from, but you see an exit sign. Tunnel vision sets in, your heartbeat increases, and now you feel a shortening of breath. You think you've escaped, but then you realize the shots and screams are getting louder. You're surrounded. He's planned this in advance … he's covering the exits … he is going to kill you.

    The people who want to restrict your right to bear arms will call this fear-mongering. They'll say it almost certainly will never to happen to you.

    Maybe it won't. But it will happen to someone. And what if that someone is you? And what if it is your family?

    Both as a society and as individuals, what are we doing to prepare for it? More importantly, what are we and our leadership doing to prevent it?

    Deal with reality as it is, not as we wish it was … or face the consequences.

  • Why The Clinton Email Case Is Substantially Different From David Petraeus' Crimes

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In response to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the FBI is not recommending criminal charges in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state, right-wing media fell back on the already debunked claim that former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus was charged in a similar case. Other media outlets pointed out the many differences between the Petraeus case -- which involved the general intentionally sharing classified information with his biographer -- from the Clinton case, noting that it is “flatly wrong” to compare the two.

  • NRA Filmed Its Rule-Breaking Pro-Trump Ad At Alexandria National Cemetery

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A controversial National Rifle Association ad filmed at a military cemetery in violation of government policy was shot at Alexandria National Cemetery.

    On June 30, the NRA Political Victory Fund launched a $2 million ad buy in swing states. The ad features veteran Mark Geist -- a survivor of the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks -- as he walks in and stands in front of a national cemetery.

    Because of the distinctive fencing and foliage, Media Matters can identify the cemetery as Alexandria National Cemetery. A Friday visit to the cemetery confirmed it as the location for the ad.

    The cemetery is located in Old Town, Alexandria, which is also the headquarters for NRA News and the site of an office of Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s ad firm.

    It is a violation of government policy to film a political ad at a national cemetery. In recent years, several political ads have been pulled because they were filmed in national cemeteries.

    Facing questions over where it filmed the ad, the NRA previously declined to tell ABC News where it was filmed, other than to say it was not filmed at Arlington National Cemetery.

    In the ad, Geist says, “A lot of people say they’re not going to vote this November because their candidate didn’t win. Well I know some other people who won’t be voting this year either.” The ad then shows footage of Alexandria National Cemetery.

     

     

    The ad goes on to use the 2012 Benghazi terror attacks to criticize Clinton and ends with a graphic that says “Trump 2016.”

    The area where Geist is shown walking and pausing at a gravesite is largely filled with Civil War era graves. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Alexandria National Cemetery is one of the original 14 national cemeteries established in 1862. The first burials made in the cemetery were soldiers who died during training or from disease in the numerous hospitals around Alexandria. By 1864, the cemetery was nearly filled to capacity, which eventually led to the planning, development and construction of Arlington National Cemetery.”

    Geist uploaded a photo to his Instagram page in May with the caption, “Alexandria National Cemetery visiting fallenpatriots from the civil war.#13hours #benghazi #markozgeist#neverhillary.”

    The ad has been criticized by veterans groups. VoteVets.org has called for the ad to be taken down, while a national spokesperson for Veterans of Foreign Wars said, "Don’t use our dead to score political points." 

  • Five People Who Debunked Right-Wing Media Myths About Texas' Anti-Choice Law 

    Cable News Set The Record Straight On Abortion Safety And The Harmful Impact Of The Texas Anti-Choice Law That The Supreme Court Struck Down

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that Texas’ extreme anti-choice law HB 2 was unconstitutional because it imposed an “undue burden on abortion access.” Right-wing media have long insisted HB 2 was meant to protect women’s health. Here are five times cable news debunked this misinformation within the first day of media coverage of the decision.