National Review editor Rich Lowry declared that the civil rights dream of the 1960s has been "won," and thus assertions of ongoing discrimination are "imagined slights and manufactured controversies," a claim that dismisses the current reality of economic inequality and voting rights struggles.
August 28 marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington, an event dedicated to calling for civil and economic rights for African-Americans. It was there in 1963 that Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, and the events helped bring about enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. For the anniversary celebration, tens of thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear President Obama and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) - a speaker at the 1963 march - give remarks.
In a Politico op-ed the next day, National Review editor Rich Lowry used the anniversary celebration as a vehicle to criticize today's civil rights movement as "an intellectually exhausted disgrace" with leaders who are a "degeneration" to the original effort. This is because, according to Lowry, Dr. King's dream "was a glorious triumph" and the fight for equal rights "is won," while today's movement "subsists largely on imagined slights and manufactured controversies unrelated to the welfare of real people."
As evidence of these "manufactured controversies," Lowry mocked the notion that recent voter ID laws are discriminatory and declared: "What the contemporary civil rights establishment can't bring itself to acknowledge is that cultural breakdown has more to do with the struggles of blacks than any officially sanctioned discrimination." He also ignored the continuing problem of economic inequality between whites and African-Americans.
Lowry's dismissal of the discriminatory nature of voter ID laws is illustrative of falsehoods he's pushed in the past. At least 11 percent of American citizens do not possess a government issued photo ID, and the percentage of African-Americans without a photo ID is even higher - one study estimated the number at 25 percent. Even if a state purports to issue an ID for "free," there are costs associated with obtaining one that amount to a poll tax. As the Brennan Center for Justice determined, voter ID laws "create more burdens for minority citizens."
Laura Ingraham defended her use of a "blow up" sound effect on her radio show to cut off audio clips, claiming it was "fun" and "teasing," after receiving heavy criticism for using the sound effect to silence a recording of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis' speech at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
On her August 26 radio broadcast, Ingraham used an effect that sounded like gunshot to cut off a recording of the speech given by civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. Lewis' skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965, and many civil rights activists -- including Martin Luther King, Jr. -- were literally silenced by assassins' bullets during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and '70s.
Ingraham came under heavy criticism for using this sound effect to cut off Lewis, with Salon's Joan Walsh describing the move as "unusually vicious" and MSNBC's Steve Benen writing that it "was one of the more offensive things I've heard in a while."
In response, Ingraham claimed the sound was not of a gunshot but instead a "blow up effect," and claimed criticism of her using the sound effect on Lewis was an attempt "to crush free speech":
My producers and I have used this blow up effect to interrupt windbags for 10 years of political and cultural persuasions. The cannon or "blow up" sound is meant to convey the gaseous thoughts of a speaker combusting, but of course the bilious Joan Walsh of Salon.com knows that. (My producers have even blown me up when we play long clips from TV appearances!)
This is absurd and venomous and the predictably pathetic work of people who mean to crush free speech as they advance a failing, progressive agenda. If Joan Walsh or other left-wing loons give voice to their moronic, dishonest analysis, they might self-combust on my show, too. Boom.
On her August 29 radio show, Ingraham appeared to double-down on these remarks, claiming that the "modern-day left" was shutting down debate by accusing conservatives of racism and fixating on "being politically correct." She went on to argue that Americans should have a respectful debate but still be able to "tease each other" and "have some fun."
As an example, she claimed that she occasionally gets "blown up on the show because I go on too long" and asked her producers to "please blow me up" when they played long clips of her:
See, I have this crazy idea that we should actually continue conversations. That the people should be able to debate, have a vigorous discourse, respectful, doesn't mean you can't tease each other. We've got to have some fun. Right? We can't be so politically correct that we can't tease one another. My staff teases me! Mike, you can't blow me up though, right? Well, sometimes I get blown up on the show because I go on too long. Especially if we play long clips from me on O'Reilly, please blow me up. But you have to be able to have a conversation without living in fear that the other side is going to call you a racist. But this is what the modern-day left does. They don't want a conversation. They want to dominate.
Ingraham concluded by accusing Democrats of "conflating the issues of race and the issues of civil rights." At the time Ingraham employed the sound effect against Rep. Lewis on August 26, his speech had been playing for less than fourteen seconds.
Fox News personalities criticized speeches given by civil rights leaders at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, attacking the speakers for not addressing issues they deemed more important and complaining about "grievance-mongering."
From the August 28 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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From wildly offensive treatment of civil rights history to routine mendacity on voter ID, Fox chose to mark the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington by smearing the ongoing struggle for voting rights.
Over the past week leading up to President Barack Obama's commemoration of the anniversary on August 28, Fox News has been at the forefront of right-wing media attempts to discredit links between the progressive community and the civil rights legacy of the March on Washington. Voting rights, in particular, have attracted a significant amount of misinformation and ignorance, some of it quite shocking.
On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers, a Battle of Normandy veteran and the NAACP's first field secretary for the state of Mississippi, was assassinated in his driveway. Shot in the back, his murder was the culmination of an extensive white supremacist terror campaign against the voting rights and desegregation advocacy of the NAACP, a cause that President John F. Kennedy championed the very night of Evers' death as both a moral and constitutional issue to ensure "American citizens of any color [can] register and  vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal."
Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, was invited to speak at the original March on Washington that took place two months later, an invitation that she was finally able to accept this past weekend at the 50th anniversary events. She warned about ongoing "efforts to turn back the clock" on the civil rights movement.
Congressman John Lewis, another veteran of the voting rights struggles, was more explicit. Also the victim of brutal violence due to his efforts to protect the right to vote, Lewis referenced the infamous Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision and told the crowd, "I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama, for the right to vote. I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us...We must say to the Congress, fix the Voting Rights Act."
On the August 26 edition of her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham chose to follow up a recording of Lewis' call to Congress to both fix the Voting Rights Act and pass immigration reform with a gunshot sound effect. As Joan Walsh of Salon observed, even "[a]fter the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, after the gunning down of so many civil rights workers over the years, Ingraham thought it was funny, or clever, or provocative, to 'symbolically' cut off Lewis' speech with the sound of a gun."
Capitalizing on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Rush Limbaugh claimed he has been told he sounds more like Martin Luther King Jr. than President Barack Obama does. These comments fly in the face of Limbaugh's extensive history of racially divisive comments.
After repeatedly attempting to inject race into the story of a recent killing, Fox News falsely accused President Obama of injecting race into the Trayvon Martin case.
On the August 26 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling reacted to reports that the killing of a World War II veteran was not motivated by race by saying: "Let's not make it about race. Let's not make the kid shot in Oklahoma about race either, but also let's not make the Trayvon Martin case about race either because it wasn't about race as well. But President Obama and Eric Holder decided to make that one about race." Bolling later claimed that "us on the right" were only discussing recent murders "in the context of Trayvon Martin" because "President Obama clearly put a race spin on" the case.
Bolling is downplaying Fox's campaign to make race a factor in the Oklahoma death of Australian baseball player Christopher Lane. On Fox News' On The Record, District Attorney Jason Hicks explained that there was no evidence to indicate that the killing of Lane "was related to either his race or to his nationality." Hicks repeated his findings in an appearance on Fox News Sunday. But Fox commentators have repeatedly ignored the evidence.
Fox News downplayed Colin Powell's objections to strict voter ID laws and ignored the fact that Texas not only has a long history of illegal racial discrimination in its election practices, a federal court already found its voter ID measures to be impermissible voter suppression.
On the August 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News host Martha MacCullum and correspondent Mike Emanuel reported on the Department of Justice's new legal challenge to the voter ID law Texas immediately enacted after the Supreme Court struck down a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in Shelby County v. Holder:
Fox News failed to mention, however, that Texas is being accused of illegally suppressing the vote through a voter ID law that has already been found to be racially discriminatory by a federal court.
Writing for a three-judge panel in 2012, a circuit judge dismissed Texas' evidence that its voter ID law was not impermissibly discriminatory as "unpersuasive, invalid, or both." As explained by the Constitutional Accountability Center's Doug Kendall:
[I]n Texas v. Holder, a three-judge court unanimously blocked Texas' new voter identification statute, the most stringent in the nation, finding that the statute would inevitably disenfranchise low-income Texas citizens, who are disproportionately African American and Hispanic. The court explained that, unlike Indiana, whose voter identification law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, Texas had gone to great lengths to suppress the vote in poor and minority communities, strictly limiting the types of photo identifications available - a license to carry a concealed firearm is a valid ID under the law, but not a student or Medicare ID card - and making it costly to obtain a so-called "free" election ID for use at the polls. For those without one of the five permitted photo identifications, the court found that the law was tantamount to a poll tax, "imposing an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot." The "very point" of the Voting Rights Act, the court explained, was to deny "states an end-run around the Fifteenth Amendment's prohibition on racial discrimination in voting."
Conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham attacked the speakers at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, at one point using the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965. Ingraham used the speech's anniversary to race-bait about black-on-white crime statistics and hosted Pat Buchanan to bemoan the idea that minorities face any higher level of adversity in America 50 years later.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC over the weekend to commemorate and recreate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington, an event originally dedicated to calling for civil and economic rights for African Americans. CBS News reported that the 50th anniversary event -- part of a week-long build-up to Wednesday's anniversary -- "was sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Martin Luther King III and the NAACP, featured a roster of speakers, including King, Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. They spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 50 years ago this month King delivered his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech."
On her August 26 radio broadcast, Ingraham criticized the event and its speakers, saying the goal "was to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda," and scoffing at the topics speakers supposedly discussed: "From gay marriage, to immigration -- amnesty, was thrown in for good measure. We talked about the Voting Rights Act."
Ingraham ran through a list of African-American crime rates before hosting Pat Buchanan, a prominent racist with white nationalist ties. Buchanan dismissed the idea that minorities suffer any disadvantages in contemporary America, calling the idea "absurd" because "black folks excel and are hugely popular figures in everything from sports to entertainment to athletics to politics. Everywhere you go ... So the progress has been enormous."
At one point during her broadcast, Ingraham began playing a clip of Lewis' speech from the 50th anniversary rally, before interrupting the playback of his comments with the sound of a loud gunshot.
From the August 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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On August 12, a federal court judge ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was improperly performing the common police tactic of "stop and frisk" by unconstitutionally targeting persons of color without reasonable suspicion. The New York City Council agreed, and passed legislation over a mayor's veto on August 23 to safeguard against future unconstitutional applications of this long-standing enforcement tactic. Right-wing media responded by ignoring the constitutional violations and instead defended the NYPD's actions for "establishing a sense of order."
Fox News and right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh have not hesitated to inject harmful and unnecessary racial overtones into their coverage of an Australian teen shot and killed at random in Oklahoma. Fox and Rush are feeding into a well-worn script of biased media coverage of violent crimes that academic research has shown favors white people and disparages black people with seriously ill effects on racial comity and equal justice in America.
On August 16, three teens -- one white, two black -- shot and killed Christopher Lane, an Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.
Conservative media figures pounced on the story with a racial lens. On his radio show, Limbaugh called the murder, "Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse," and speculated that the teenagers "got bored and said, 'Let's go shoot a white guy!'"
Over at Fox News, guest Pat Buchanan appeared on the set of On the Record With Greta Van Susteren to predict that the shooting was "racial" while running through a list of dubious statistics on interracial crime that he used to claim that "racial hate crimes [are] 40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community, and nobody talks about it."
On the morning side, Fox & Friends wondered why civil rights activists Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson hadn't responded to the murder, while Fox News' White House correspondent Ed Henry asked Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest if the White House had any reaction to Lane's murder "apparently by three African-American young men."
Unfortunately, Fox News' coverage of this tragedy fits a long pattern of racially-biased media coverage of crime stories -- a pattern that has demonstrably harmful effects. Professor of media & public affairs at George Washington University Robert Entman highlighted a few of the subtle media trends recorded in various studies. They include:
1. Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to appear as lawbreakers in the news - particularly when the news is focusing on violent crime. [...]
2. [W]hites are overrepresented as victims of violence and as law-enforcers, while blacks are underrepresented in these sympathetic roles.
3. [B]lacks in criminal roles tend to outnumber blacks in socially positive roles in newscasts and daily newspapers. [...]
4. [D]epictions of black suspects...tend to be more symbolically threatening than those of whites accused of similar crimes...In the ubiquitous "perp walks," blacks were twice as likely as whites to be shown under some form of physical restraint by police - although all were accused of scary and generally violent crimes.
7. [B]lack victims are less likely to be covered than white victims in newspaper coverage of crime.
The New York Post's editorial board failed to note a recent District Court decision finding the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional in an editorial defending the program.
The August 23 Post editorial attacked members of the New York City Council who voted to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto of two pieces of legislation that provide more oversight of the stop-and-frisk program. The Post denounced the "attacks by our city's political class on a successful police policy" and applauded mayoral candidate Christine Quinn for noting "that racial profiling is already against the law."
Yet, in its zeal to defend the stop-and-frisk program, the Post forgot to mention a recent decision by District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin which found the New York Police Department's implementation of stop-and-frisk unconstitutional and ordered an independent monitor to oversee the NYPD going forward. Judge Scheindlin found that the "City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling" without reasonable suspicion in their stop-and-frisk policy and went on to explain:
I also conclude that the City's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting "the right people" is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution. One NYPD official has even suggested that it is permissible to stop racially defined groups just to instill fear in them that they are subject to being stopped at any time for any reason -- in the hope that this fear will deter them from carrying guns in the streets. The goal of deterring crime is laudable, but this method of doing so is unconstitutional.
In addition to being found unconstitutional in its current practice, the program is highly ineffective. The NYPD has touted stop-and-frisk's success in recovering guns, but according to the NYCLU, while the number of stops has increased dramatically almost every year in the last decade, the number of guns recovered has barely gone up. In each year since 2003, fewer than 0.5 percent of stops produced a gun. The program's ability to deter crime is also highly suspect as many cities without the program or that utilize a less constitutionally questionable version have had lower violent crimes rates than New York.
The Post has been notoriously supportive of stop-and-frisk and against the constitutional safeguards in this bill, but even the more ardent supporters of stop-and-frisk have begun to change their opinion after evaluating the facts surrounding the program.
In response to a new ad that cites the death of Trayvon Martin to encourage states to end Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, Fox's Hannity claimed the laws actually benefit black Americans more than any other race. The falsehood, first pushed by the conservative blog The Daily Caller, ignores the fact that homicides with black victims are disproportionately found to be justified in SYG states, as well as SYG's impact on states' homicide rates.
Bill O'Reilly decried the "corroding culture" and "derelict parenting" in America today and claimed that President Obama has "never addressed" the issue. In fact, the president has discussed the issue several times -- including during the administration's push for gun control legislation and as recently as last month following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On August 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly discussed the recent murder of Australian college student Christopher Lane and connected it to the "corroding culture" and "the corruption of certain groups in this country." When O'Reilly Factor guest Kate Obenshain wondered why President Obama is not "jumping in right now to say 'we have a serious problem among our young people.'" O'Reilly responded saying, "He doesn't believe we have a serious problem among our young people." Fox contributor Kirsten Powers challenged O'Reilly's assertion, but he continued, "Five years in office. He's never addressed it one time -- the culture, the coarse culture, the derelict parenting -- he's never made it a centerpiece. We've had healthy gardens. We've had 'let's do some exercise.' We've had a whole bunch of other outreach programs. Nothing about this."
But as recently as July 19, President Obama spoke at length about issues young African Americans face while giving remarks on race and the death of Trayvon Martin. The president said, "We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," before continuing:
OBAMA: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And during the administration's recent push for new gun control legislation, Obama addressed a crowd in Chicago to stress the need for stronger families to help reduce crime and violence. According to an NBC Chicago transcript of the speech, Obama said, "There's no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."