Washington Times allowed anti-gay activist Elaine Donnelly to baselessly assert that "traditional military families" would have to foot the bill for same-sex couples because the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act would lead to "costly" benefits for same-sex couples, a claim contradicted by studies showing negligible cost or financial benefit from the ruling.
In a July 8 Washington Times op-ed, Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness -- a conservative group that has been highly critical of allowing gays to openly serve in the military -- responded to the Supreme Court striking down DOMA by claiming it will lead to a "complicated and costly"extension of benefits to same-sex spouses. While Donnelly conceded that the "Initial expenditures will involve a relatively small number of people," she went on to claim that the "impact on military families"would be "substantial":
There are no estimates of long-term costs for extending spouse and dependent benefits to a new class of beneficiaries, with or without marriage, but if the drain on funds cannot be sustained, benefits intended for families will be cut for everyone. Once again, Mr. Obama has used the armed forces to deliver on political promises to his homosexual base, and traditional military families are about to pay the bill.
Lessons can be learned about "bait and switch" tactics and the law of unintended consequences. When administration officials promise the moon to secure passage of any far-reaching bill, such as with irreversible immigration reform, lawmakers should not surrender power to executive branch officials and federal judges who cannot be trusted. When it comes to political advantage paid for with taxpayer money, Mr. Obama's generosity knows no bounds.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) criticized The Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto's "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault," following Taranto's claim that efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military constitutes a "war on men."
In a June 17 WSJ column, Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that Sen. McCaskill's efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men." McCaskill has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who ignored her legal advisors to overturn the ruling of an Air Force jury that found an officer guilty of sexual assault. Taranto blamed the victim of the assault for "recklessness" and claimed that McCaskill's work was an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
McCaskill responded to Taranto on June 27 in an op-ed at the Daily Beast, writing that he has a "disregard for the severity of sexual assault" and highlighting his "bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault":
Mr. Taranto says that I'm involved in a crusade to "criminalize male sexuality." For decades, from my time as a courtroom prosecutor and throughout my career in public service, I have indeed done my best to criminalize violence. And I have never subscribed to Mr. Taranto's bizarre and deeply out of touch understanding of sexual assault as somehow being a two-way street between a victim and an assailant.
Mr. Taranto's arguments contribute to an environment that purposely places blame in all the wrong places, and has made the current culture and status quo an obstruction to sorely needed change.
My colleagues and I are fighting not to criminalize men, but to bring the cowards who commit sexual assault to justice. And our fight won't stop until we give the brave men and women of our military the resources and justice they deserve.
Fox News radio host Todd Starnes used a story about a soldier disobeying lawful orders to falsely claim that the military is persecuting Christian service members for their beliefs, continuing his misguided campaign against nonexistent "culture wars."
Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers was charged and found guilty of three Article 15 charges after he disobeyed lawful orders by making political statements while in uniform. Sommers was counseled on separate occasions for bumper stickers and tweets that attacked President Obama and reading political literature while in uniform. Starnes used the case to claim that the military is prosecuting service members for their religious beliefs in an article titled, "Army Reprimands Soldier Under Fire for Religious Beliefs." Starnes then used his platform to allow Sommers' lawyer John Bennett Wells and Family Research Council's Jerry Boykin to push the same deceptive claim. Wells claimed that the timing of the prosecution seemed strange and suspicious, adding that "it looks like a graduated attempt to build a case against him on some really ridiculous charges." FRC's Boykin went further:
Boykin said the issue is whether the chain of command would be doing this if it were not for his outspoken Christian faith and his unwillingness to compromise on what he believes.
"It seems to me that the chain of command has failed to deter him from his beliefs and has resorted to this step now," he said.
From the June 20 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the June 18 edition of WSJ Live's Opinion Journal Live:
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The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that efforts to address the growing problem contributed to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."
In May, the Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military," which found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2010. The report also found that 62 percent of victims who reported their assault faced retaliation as a result. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel responded to the report by calling the assaults "a despicable crime" that is "a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people," and General Martin Dempsey affirmed that sexual assaults constitute a "crisis" in the military.
In an effort to address this longstanding problem, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has blocked the promotion of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who granted clemency to an officer found guilty of sexual assault, in an effort to obtain more information about why the officer was effectively pardoned. As The Washington Post reported, an Air Force jury found the officer guilty of sexually assaulting a female lieutenant in the back seat of a car, and sentenced him to 60 days behind bars, a loss of pay, and dismissal from the Air Force.
Helms' decision to effectively pardon the officer "ignored the recommendations of [her] legal advisers and overruled a jury's findings -- without publicly revealing why." The Post explained that McCaskill has not placed a permanent hold on the promotion, but is "blocking Helms's nomination until she receives more information about the general's decision."*
Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, dismissed these facts to claim that McCaskill's effort to address the growing problem of sexual assault in the military was a "war on men" and a "political campaign" that showed "signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also claimed that the female lieutenant who reported that she had been assaulted acted just as "recklessly" as the accused attacker, apparently by doing nothing more than getting into the same vehicle as him.
But McCaskill is not trying to re-litigate the case; she is trying to determine why Helms ignored her legal advisers and overturned a jury of five Air Force officers. As the Post explained, advocacy groups charge that "any decision to overrule a jury's verdict for no apparent reason has a powerful dampening effect," contributing to a culture in which the majority of sexual assaults in the military remain unreported.
The Department of Defense report on sexual assault found that while 26,000 service members said they were assaulted last year, only about 11 percent of those cases were reported. The findings listed several reasons why individuals did not report the assault to a military authority, including that they "did not want anyone to know," "felt uncomfortable making a report," and "thought they would not be believed." The report also noted that concerns about "negative scrutiny by others" keeps many victims from reporting their assaults.
Taranto's dismissal of the victim's accounts and his insistence that they were equally responsible for the reported assault is a form of victim-blaming -- the very type of stigmatization that the Department identified as encouraging victims to remain silent about their assault.
While speaking out against the growing epidemic of sexual assaults, Defense Secretary Hagel noted that the Department of Defense should "establish an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault is not tolerated, condoned or ignored." But Taranto's victim-blaming approach -- and insistence that efforts to address this growing problem are attacks on men and male sexuality -- is a perfect example of the rhetoric that contributes to the very culture and environment the DOD seeks to eliminate.
UPDATE: Taranto doubled down on his claim that the effort to reduce sexual assaults in the military is leading to a "war on men" on The Wall Street Journal's webshow Opinion Journal Live.
Right-wing media have repeatedly used dishonest and misleading charts from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to decry spending on nutrition assistance and other programs for needy Americans.
Fox News, Fox Nation, and The Weekly Standard have, over the course of many months, taken charts from Sessions' staff depicting spending on food stamps (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) and other spending on low-income Americans in grossly misleading ways with out-of-context numbers. On June 12, Fox & Friends First cited Sessions when airing a graphic showing spending on SNAP being more than five times greater than spending on veterans job training and education programs:
Similar charts appeared on Fox Nation and The Weekly Standard. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projection that is cited on the graph does not list any spending on veterans job training and education, so that number cannot be verified. But the White House projects that spending on this program will increase over the next five years, after it already grew dramatically after 2009 -- while spending on SNAP is projected to decrease over the same five-year period.
But it is ridiculous to compare a veterans education program -- which is limited to only military veterans and thus a very small segment of the population -- to SNAP, which is an income security program (indeed, it is listed as such in the CBO document) and is open to every American that meets eligibility requirements. And many veterans and their families are eligible for SNAP and active-duty service members and their families use the benefits. But if one was to look at income security spending for veterans, CBO projections show that more is actually spent on veterans -- a total of $801 billion on income security for veterans over 10 years, and a much larger amount than the veterans program highlighted by Sessions and the right-wing media.
During the segment, Fox Business' Diane Macedo noted that "the USDA also provides bonuses totaling about $50 million per year to states that meet high enrollment targets." These awards, which Sessions brought up on Fox News in June 2012, date back to the Bush administration, and have their origin in the 2002 farm bill.
From the June 10 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News contributor Allen West agreed with radio host Michael Savage's assertion that "Khmer Rouge feminists" are attempting a "coup" against the military by proposing to change the military chain of command in sexual assault cases. West also used the sexual assault issue to criticize liberals for wanting to "put women into combat arms units" "so they can meet some sort of socially engineering goal or egalitarian goal."
Savage, who hosts Cumulus Media Networks' Savage Nation, began the June 4 segment by playing audio of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) talking about changing the military chain of command in sexual assault cases. After saying Gillibrand "sounds like a college chick at a dorm," Savage told guest West: "When I watch these Khmer Rouge feminists try to take over the military, this looked like an attempted coup to me, Colonel West."
West replied: "Nah, you're absolutely right and that's a big concern that I have because when you start to get -- you know, I understand civilian oversight of the military. We all understand that as all officers who served in uniform. But when you start to have this interjection of, you know, political, you know, will against, you know, the military, good order and discipline, where you start to try to usurp the commanders' authority and I guess replace it with some type of political, legal officers, and things of that nature. Then the next thing you know, it goes from just dealing with this, you know, sexual assault thing to, you know, making decisions on the battlefield."
Savage and West went on to discuss whether sexual assaults in the military are actually a problem. When West said that "there may be a problem, without a doubt, with sexual assault," Savage interrupted by claiming that sexual assault claims can include men asking women out for "a beer." He then asked West, "how many of them are fraudulent claims? We don't know, do we?"
"No we don't," West answered. "And furthermore, Dr. Savage, we don't know how many of them are female against male, you know, sexual assaults, or same-sex sexual assaults. So we don't have those numbers either."
The Department of Defense recently released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military" and found that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault. The Army Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program has stated that "[s]exual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent."
Savage proceeded to launch into a screed about how military sexual assaults are "such trivial nonsense" and wondered why the U.S. Senate is having a hearing on "this rubbish."
West responded by claiming that it's because Democrats control the U.S. Senate, while Republicans control the "House Armed Services Committee, where you would have more poignant questions. You know, you have the hearings about Benghazi."
From the June 4 edition of Talk Radio Network's The Andrea Tantaros Show:
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Fox News spent nearly four hours on June 4 covering that day's House committee hearing on the IRS' inappropriate focus on conservative groups, largely ignoring the simultaneous Senate committee hearing into the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.
Fox News promised that it would "not leave" live coverage of the House hearings on the IRS controversy while paying only lip service to the simultaneous Senate hearings on the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.
On June 4, the House Ways and Means Committee held another round of hearings on the IRS' inappropriate criteria for scrutinizing conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. The same day, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings on the increasing problem of sexual assaults in the military, featuring testimony from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and top officers from each military branch.
Fox's America's Newsroom aired live footage of the House's IRS hearing before it began, then stayed live for witness testimony and congressional questioning. When cutting live coverage for commercial breaks, co-host Bill Hemmer assured viewers, "We have to take a commercial, we got to pay some bills here, but we will not leave this hearing."
By contrast, Fox only went live to the sexual assault hearing before it started, airing footage of representatives, staffers, and media figures waiting for the hearing to begin. Next to a splitscreen of the committee room, co-host Martha MacCallum and correspondent Jennifer Griffin discussed the military's growing problem for approximately three minutes before MacCallum cut away, explaining, "You can watch that hearing on our website at FoxNews.com. Click on the link on the homepage. We've got dueling hearings going on this morning."
The epidemic of sexual assaults in the military is a growing problem. A Department of Defense report estimated that 26,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in 2012 and that 62 percent of victims who reported the assault faced retaliation. During Tuesday's hearing, in testimony Fox did not air, Army Gen. Ray Odierno described the problem: "Sexual assault and harassment are like a cancer within the force -- a cancer that left untreated will destroy the fabric of our force."
America's Newsroom continued with live coverage of the House IRS hearings for the bulk of the two-hour program, never again mentioning the Senate hearings on military sexual assaults.
Fox News host Andrea Tantaros theorized on her radio show that President Barack Obama went "to the Jersey Shore" for Memorial Day because he "doesn't want to stand with actual veterans" since it might draw attention to "scandals" like Benghazi. But Tantaros' theory is nonsense. President Obama spent Memorial Day with veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and not at the Jersey Shore. The Five's post-Memorial Day program, which Tantaros co-hosted, even noted that Obama spent Memorial Day honoring veterans.
On her June 3 radio program, Tantaros said of Obama: "He doesn't want to stand with actual veterans, military veterans, to celebrate Memorial Day, two weekends ago. He goes to the Jersey Shore. What does the Jersey Shore have to do with Memorial Day, somebody tell me? Memorial Day is to honor the fallen, and don't you think the fallen in Benghazi would be a more appropriate tribute, but he doesn't want to talk about the scandals."
On Memorial Day, President Obama visited Arlington National Cemetery and placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He also delivered an address thanking members of the military, and asking the country "to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country. Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name." President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama also held a breakfast for Gold Star families of fallen service members.
Even if Tantaros can't be bothered to look up where the president spent Memorial Day, perhaps she could have remembered her own Fox News show reporting it accurately a week ago.
From the June 3 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mike Huckabee Show:
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New York Post columnist Arthur Herman called the reported increase in military sexual assaults a "bogus epidemic" because the survey on sexual assaults included all "unwanted sexual contact." But experts have found that any sexual harassment can degrade military readiness and the survey results are consistent with widely used survey methodology.
The Department of Defense released its "Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military" which determined that up to 26,000 service members may have been the victim of some form of sexual assault. In a March 31 column published by The New York Post, columnist Herman claimed the report highlighted a "bogus epidemic." After acknowledging that sexual assault and rape are serious crimes, Herman attacked the parameters of the report, saying "no real solution to any problem can be built around flawed data":
Yet that's precisely what's really going on here -- starting with that report. First off, it's far from comprehensive or authoritative. It's based entirely on a voluntary survey -- and it's wildly anti-scientific to extrapolate from a self-selected group. And only 22,792 service members opted to respond -- roughly 2.2 percent of a military that's 1 million strong.
Even more amazing, the survey never actually asked about sexual assault. Its questions centered on "unwanted sexual contact" -- which can include any number of behaviors, including trying to slap someone on the buttocks, which may be vulgar or inappropriate but hardly rape.
But the survey didn't measure rape, it measured sexual assault, a term that is given a broad definition by the military. For example, the Army Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program answers the question "What is sexual assault" by including, among other things, "unwanted and inappropriate sexual conduct or fondling":