In an attempt to smear unrelated civil rights law by linking it to the tragic Navy Yard shootings, right-wing activist Hans von Spakovsky argued that background checks for arrests without convictions could stop gun violence.
Never one to miss an opportunity to shoehorn an attack on civil rights law into a different subject, widely discredited National Review contributor von Spakovsky used the disturbing mass murder committed by a veteran of color to criticize employment law that guards against unnecessary racial discrimination in hiring practices. From his recent op-ed in The Washington Times that claimed "Obama policy would have exempted the Navy Yard shooter from scrutiny":
But what if The Experts had actually turned up these criminal arrests for gun-related violence [in a background check] and refused to hire Alexis? If the company had done so, it might have violated the hiring policy the Obama administration is trying to force on private employers. It could have been accused of discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency controlled by Obama appointees.
In April 2012, the EEOC issued enforcement guidance severely restricting the use of criminal background checks by employers when hiring new employees. The EEOC claims that because blacks and Hispanics are arrested and convicted at higher rates than whites, the use of a criminal-background check will have a "disparate impact" on minorities and, therefore, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Unfortunately, the terrible tragedy in the Navy Yard graphically illustrates why the Obama administration's push to force employers to stop using criminal background checks is not only legally wrong, but dangerous.
Rather, the EEOC is utilizing long-standing anti-discrimination law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits those employment or hiring policies that have an unjustified discriminatory effect on persons of color. Therefore, criminal background checks per se are perfectly acceptable if they are pertinent to the job at hand.
Recently, however, blanket employment screening has become so commonplace that it flags offenses that are not only minor, but also unnecessary for the occupation in question. Because the databases that background checks rely on have an alarmingly high number of false positives based on "incomplete or inaccurate information," and because communities of color disproportionately suffer from encounters with the criminal justice system, multiple reports indicate that this new trend is making the unemployment rate for persons of color worse.
National Review Online is attacking the Department of Justice's decision to hold the state of Louisiana accountable for apparently failing to comply with the terms of several longstanding court orders, incorrectly framing these enforcement efforts as an attempt to force minority students to attend failing schools.
This is not the first time that the NRO has advanced these outlandish claims against the DOJ and the Obama administration, but they continue to be dishonest. From a September 24 column on NRO's The Corner:
The Department of Justice's fight against school vouchers for poor children in Louisiana has not been popular, and the Obama administration knows it. So last night, in a particularly cynical move, the DOJ filed an additional motion, amending its suit in phrasing but not spirit.
This political maneuvering threatens the future of thousands of minority children who may soon be banished to failing schools.
The DOJ is making two main demands: First, it wants information about how the voucher program would affect the racial composition of public schools; and second, it wants parents to get pre-clearance from federal courts before they're allowed to transfer their own children to a school of their choice.
And if the DOJ succeeds, that would have repercussions not only within Louisiana, which has emerged as a national school-choice leader, but also across the United States; education reformers would have to assess how offering academic options to parents and their children might affect "desegregation."
The DOJ filed its suit because Louisiana is under numerous federal court orders that require the state to assess the impact of new educational policies on decades-long efforts to desegregate Louisiana public schools, not because it believes, as NRO puts it, "Minority kids mustn't leave for better schools." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ignored this legal obligation and went ahead with a voucher program before providing any information to the court regarding its effects, even after the DOJ warned the voucher program appeared to have "impeded the desegregation process."
CNBC's Joe Kernen reacted to news from the Indian central bank by forwarding a number of racial stereotypes against Indian-Americans.
On September 20, India's central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to address concerns over inflation.
Reacting to the news and its effect on exchange rates on the September 20 edition of CNBC's Squawk Box, co-hosts Joe Kernen, Becky Quick, and Andrew Ross Sorkin turned the discussion to the rupee. After Quick noted that she still had rupees left from a recent trip to India, Kernen repeatedly stated the name "Gandhi" -- whose likeness appears on the rupee -- in a stereotypical Indian accent and later asked, "Are they good at 7-11?"
After Quick told Kernen his comments were insulting, Kernen apologized, saying, "I'm sorry, I take it back. I apologize, before I have to."
Here's a full transcript of the exchange:
QUICK: I think I have rupees in my wallet right now.
KERNEN: From your trip?
QUICK: No, I think I honestly do from the last time I was in India.
QUICK: Yeah, I think I might. Hold on.
KERNEN: You got a rupee in your wallet?
QUICK: I think I do.
SORKIN: That sounds a little, um.
KERNEN: You've got to be kidding. There is the rupee chart, just in case you were wondering where the rupee is. The dollar had been soaring, look what happened when we said we were going to keep pumping.
QUICK: I do.
KERNEN: Becky's got a rupee.
SORKIN: A rupee!
QUICK: Here's a fifty and a ten.
SORKIN: How much are those worth, do we know?
QUICK: I don't remember.
SORKIN: Look at Gandhi.
KERNEN: Well, ones worth ten and one's worth fifty, what do you mean?
SORKIN: Gandhi's on the rupee. Look at that.
KERNEN: Gandhi. Gandhi. Now. No, I can't make any jokes about that, I mean do they take -
KERNEN: No I can't do it. I was going to say something.
QUICK: Please don't.
KERNEN: I really can't?
QUICK: No, you can't.
KERNEN: Are they good at 7-11?
KERNEN: Alright, alright, I won't. Let's look at the - people say that all the time. Right? Oh, you're nervous.
SORKIN: They do. They do say that all the time.
KERNEN: They do. They say it all the time.
QUICK: It's insulting.
SORKIN: I've heard that.
KERNEN: It is. Alright, I'm sorry, I take it back. I apologize, before I have to.
UPDATE: In a statement to Mail Online shortly after Media Matters reported on his initial comments, Kernen apologized:
In a comment to Mail Online, Kernen said: 'Last Friday, I made an inappropriate and insensitive remark on Squawk Box. I apologize for any offense it caused.'
From the September 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
In an interview with libertarian media outlet Reason.com, columnist George Will spoke out in defense of right-wing "judicial activism," highlighting civil rights precedent as particularly problematic.
While other right-wing media outlets - most notably National Review Online - twist themselves into knots pretending efforts to roll back decades of progressive law that emanated from the New Deal, civil rights era, and Great Society are paradoxically a form of restraint, Will has taken the opposite approach. As noted in a recent interview with Reason.com, Will has "increasingly kind words for what used to be derided by conservatives as 'judicial activism.'"
Will's admission as to what the current right-wing legal movement is supporting in its quest to overturn critical progressive precedent has been criticized as hypocritical from both the right and the left.
In the Reason.com interview, Will continued his unapologetic defense of judicial activism on behalf of right-wing goals, by arguing "someone has to say what the Constitution means." Will subsequently listed federal programs that he thought were suspect, including the interstate highway program, federal funding for state education, and affirmative action. Linking all three programs as unnecessary examples of government overreach, Will also explained that the time for state action against systematic racism was over because "routine daily insulting of African-Americans by white Americans is now completely unacceptable. That's an astonishing improvement."
In addition to repeating this right-wing media claim that the problems of structural racism are a thing of the past and the fight for civil rights is over and "won," Will recycled debunked right-wing media claims that affirmative action "is really not helping people, it's really hurting a lot of people," dismissing it as only a way to "make elite universities feel virtuous." In fact, this was not one of the many "substantial" benefits that conservative former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor relied on to uphold the continued constitutionality of affirmative action in Grutter v. Bollinger.
Will's refusal to honestly describe this race-conscious program to ensure equal opportunity in education, however, illustrates that whatever term right-wing media use to describe the current conservative legal assault on half a century of civil rights precedent, the end goal is the same.
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
Rush Limbaugh characterized the debate over the racially charged name of the National Football League's Washington Redskins as a "manufactured controversy," wondering whether anyone is truly offended by the name. Limbaugh is apparently unaware that American Indian tribes, members of Congress, the U.S. judicial system, and others have all raised concerns that the team name is racially disparaging.
On the September 12 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh complained that the Redskins name was under attack and questioned whether anyone was actually offended by the team name. Rush asked, "Who is bothered by this?" He then argued that the franchise's consistent ability to sell out games was evidence that objections to the name are a "manufactured controversy, manufactured by the left."
To answer Limbaugh's question, a whole lot of people are offended -- and have been for a long time. Native Americans have been protesting the team name for at least the past twenty years. Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo told NPR, "The name is one of the last vestiges of racism that is held right out in the open in America." The Oneida Indian Nation -- an American Indian tribe in upstate New York -- has launched a radio ad campaign against the name, decrying it as a "racial slur."
Ten members of Congress have publicly requested that the team's owner, Dan Snyder, change the name. In a letter to Snyder this year, the legislators wrote, "Native Americans throughout the country consider the 'R-word' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African Americans or the 'W-word' among Latinos."
The name has even been recognized as derogatory by administrative bodies of the U.S. government. The Washington Post reported on a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board which found the name to be "disparaging" to Native Americans:
It is also a team with the most patently offensive name in pro sports. A 1999 ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board even found as much, revoking the Redskins' trademark because it "may disparage Native Americans and bring them into contempt or disrepute." The decision was overturned on the grounds that the lawsuit had not been pursued in a timely enough manner.
One prominent sports writer, Sports Illustrated's Peter King, will no longer repeat the name of the team because it "offends too many people," and he noted that, among many others, the American Indian Movement considers the name a slur.
The list goes on. But those who expect Limbaugh to acknowledge the sincerity of their concerns shouldn't hold their breath. The radio host isn't known for his grasp of racial controversy.
From the September 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
Loading the player reg...
In a column on National Review Online's (NRO) The Corner, Fox News contributor and NRO columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky laid out what they considered "The Latest Evidence Of Voter Fraud." The evidence they offered, however, amounted to one county in Mississippi that was recently ordered to remove ineligible voters from its registration rolls, and a report released by the conservative Voter Integrity Project showing a statistically insignificant number of alleged voter fraud cases, neither of which showed any conclusive evidence or prosecution of voter fraud.
In a September 9 column, Fund and von Spakovsky wrote, "Obama-administration officials and their liberal camp-followers who routinely claim there is no reason to worry about election integrity because vote fraud is nonexistent suffered some embarrassing setbacks last week."
The first piece of evidence they offered was a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) -- a far right legal advocacy group whose senior fellow and policy expert once accused the NAACP's president of "treason" for denouncing voter ID laws, and who said it was racist to oppose those same laws -- against Walthall County, Mississippi in which the county was instructed to purge its voter rolls of felons, the deceased, and duplicate registrations. Fund and von Spakovsky made no claims of actual voter fraud in regards to that case, however, writing only that:
This is the first time in the 20 years that the NVRA has been in force that a conservative group has sued to enforce Section 8, while liberal advocacy groups have filed many cases to try to stop election officials from cleaning up their registration lists, a practice which they foolishly label "voter suppression."
An inflated voter registration roll by itself is not evidence of voter fraud, which the Brennan Center for Justice defined as "when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system." Instead, voter roll purges have repeatedly been used as a tool to disenfranchise minorities and students -- traditionally Democratic voting blocs.
The second piece of evidence Fund and von Spakovsky presented was a report released by the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina (VIP-NC), a group with a history of false claims regarding voter fraud. VIP-NC released a report they obtained from the North Carolina Board of Elections which shows 475 cases in which the state had a "reasonable suspicion" that voter fraud occurred. Those cases were turned over to the appropriate district attorneys and Fund, von Spakovsky, and VIP-NC acknowledged that prosecutors chose not to bring charges in those cases. However, Fund and von Spakovsky attributed the lack of convictions to political fear, writing, "As VIP also points out, the report raises the important question of why local district attorneys in North Carolina have been 'so negligent in prosecuting' these referrals."
Fund and von Spakovsky used the VIP-NC report to advocate for strict voter ID laws and portrayed North Carolina as a hotbed of voter fraud (emphasis added):
The report shows that there were 475 cases of election fraud that the Board "believed merited a referral" to prosecutors between 2008 and 2012. The fraud included double voting, impersonation and registration fraud, and illegal voting by noncitizens and felons. Not all of this fraud would have been stopped by voter ID, but there are certainly people willing to engage in fraud and we need to take a comprehensive approach to protect the security of the voting and election process.
In fact, the strict voter ID laws they advocate might have prevented only one of the 475 alleged voter fraud cases referenced -- the single allegation of voter impersonation. According to the report, the majority of the 475 cases occurred during the 2008 general election, when over four million people voted. Yet conservatives in the state have used similar claims of voter fraud to pass what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a "greatest hits of voter suppression."
According to Mother Jones, North Carolina's law "prohibits same-day registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, eliminates one week of early voting, prevents counties from extending voting hours due to long lines (often caused by cuts in early voting) or other extraordinary circumstances, scratches college ID cards and other forms of identification from the very short list of acceptable state-issued photo IDs, and outlaws certain types of voter registration drives." From Mother Jones:
The bill's new provisions make it so that, with very few exceptions, a voter needs a valid in-state DMV-issued driver's license or non-driver's ID card, a US Military ID card, a veteran's ID card or a US passport. According to an April 2013 analysis (pdf) of state Board of Elections data by Democracy North Carolina, 34 percent of the state's registered black voters, the overwhelming majority of whom vote Democrat, do not have state-issued photo ID. The same study found that 55 percent of North Carolina Democrats don't have state-issued photo ID. Only 21 percent of Republicans have the same problem.
Instead of protecting elections from fraudulent voting, strict voter ID laws are instead being used to disenfranchise minorities and low-income individuals in an effort to help Republicans win elections.
Fund and von Spakovsky both have a history of spreading misinformation about voter fraud, culminating in a book they co-authored that is rife with falsehoods. NRO's continued advocacy of strict voter ID laws is not surprising given its sordid history regarding civil rights.
From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
A Wall Street Journal editorial is mischaracterizing the Department of Justice's attempts to bring Louisiana into compliance with long-standing school desegregation orders as motivated by pro-union biases.
The editorial follows a long line of conservative media attacks against the DOJ's decision to file a lawsuit against Louisiana, asking a federal court to block the state's controversial voucher program. Despite the fact that Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal began issuing vouchers before seeking the required judicial approval, he insists that the DOJ's suit is nothing more than a scheme to advance the interests of teachers unions, a baseless charge the WSJ editorial board continues to repeat.
After accusing Education Secretary Arne Duncan of "plead[ing] ignorance" for refusing to comment on the DOJ lawsuit (neither Duncan nor the Department of Education are parties to the suit), in a September 6 editorial the WSJ went on to suggest that the "real motive" for the suit is a pro-teachers union agenda on the part of the DOJ:
[Jindal] got to the heart of the matter by noting that the real motive for this lawsuit is union politics. The teachers unions have been trying to block the voucher plan by any means possible, but so far they've failed. Bringing in the feds for a desegregation gambit is merely the latest attempt.
Jindal maintains that vouchers represent the next stage of the civil rights struggle by offering minority students at failing schools a "choice," but the DOJ argues that vouchers actually "impeded the desegregation process." More importantly, right-wing media have largely ignored the existence of numerous long-standing court orders that require Louisiana to obtain permission from a federal judge before making any changes to the education system that might negatively impact desegregation efforts.
Instead, right-wing media are accusing the Obama administration of "inhumane" treatment of students of color and comparing Attorney General Eric Holder to infamous former Alabama Gov. George Wallace who sought to illegally maintain segregation in schools. For its part, the WSJ claims that "studies" show that "voucher recipients increase integration by letting minority children escape geographic school boundaries."
From the September 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
A new study from The New Republic determined that the Drudge Report's use of race-baiting headlines has soared in the last five years, a fact that lends context to the recent flood of conservative media amplifying random, interracial crimes and baselessly assigning them a racial motive.
Matt Drudge's conservative website Drudge Report is infamous for its obsessive coverage of alleged black-on-white crime and race-baiting headlines. But it's only getting worse, according to a new analysis by The New Republic. The magazine analyzed Drudge's use of race-related terms in headlines after 2008 -- the year President Obama established himself as a national figure with his first presidential campaign -- with Drudge headlines before 2008, and the results are striking. According to the analysis, since 2008, Drudge headlines:
Notably, the analysis highlighted that Drudge often altered headlines to inject a racial component when the original source contained none. This method of race-baiting has spilled over into the broader media. Recently, conservative outlets have seized upon local crime stories and baselessly assigned them racial motives when no such evidence existed. This spate of reckless race-baiting has been repeatedly accompanied by inapt comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an attempt to highlight a supposed double standard among civil rights leaders and media figures.
When a video of three teenage students beating up another student on a Florida school bus surfaced in early August, local media reported that the attack was in retaliation for the victim notifying school officials that the three teens tried to sell him drugs. But because the perpetrators happened to be black and the victim white, conservative media broke into a chorus of race-baiting, complaining that civil rights leaders hadn't spoken about the assault. Fox News bragged about its insertion of race into the crime, highlighting that it was the only network to bring race "to the forefront" on the story.
When three teens -- two black, one white -- allegedly shot and killed an Australian college student last month because they were "bored," law enforcement officials emphasized there was no evidence "to indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
Undeterred by facts, right-wing media again repeatedly manufactured a racial motive. Fox argued that the murder was "likely motivated by race" and even criticized other media outlets for "ignoring the race issue" in the crime. Drudge featured photographs of the two black suspects, neglecting to include the photo of their alleged white accomplice.
A National Review Online editorial compared Attorney General Eric Holder to a notorious Jim Crow official for blocking a Louisiana school voucher program and accused the Obama administration of dehumanizing children of color, failing to mention the Department of Justice is acting pursuant to long-standing desegregation orders.
Continuing a right-wing media campaign against the DOJ's current attempts to ensure Louisiana remains in compliance with valid court orders still in effect to prevent the re-segregation of its public schools, the NRO followed the lead of Fox News and completely ignored the law in order to champion a Republican school voucher plan.
The NRO also accused the Obama administration of "inhumane" treatment of public school students of color, comparing the attorney general to George Wallace, the infamous Alabama governor who attempted to illegally maintain school segregation.
Finally, the editorial assumed its readership was unaware of Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and the well-known switch on race relations between the two parties because of federal civil rights law, ahistorically concluding "[w]ould that [Wallace's] fellow Democrats should have a similar change of heart and give up their half-century stand in the schoolhouse door." For a publication with an ugly and well-documented history of past and present racism, such smears are wildly audacious.
From the September 4 editorial:
It was 50 years ago this June that George Wallace, the Democratic governor of Alabama, made his infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door" to prevent two black students from enrolling at an all-white school. His slogan was "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"
These many years later, Democrats still are standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent black students from enjoying the educational benefits available to their white peers, this time in Louisiana instead of Alabama. Playing the Wallace role this time is Eric Holder, whose Justice Department is petitioning a U.S. district court to abolish a Louisiana school-choice program that helps students, most of them black, to exit failing government schools.
The Obama administration is a serial offender on this issue, and its cynicism is startling.
Setting aside the naked political cronyism that is in fact at the heart of this dispute, consider the DOJ's case on its merits: The government is arguing that the choices of actual black students and their families must be constrained in the service of preserving certain statistical measures of how black certain schools are. Put another way, this case really turns on the question: Are black children human beings?