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  • VIDEO: Stop Calling Donald Trump “Controversial”

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    News networks frequently use the word “controversial” to describe Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican comments, and it’s setting a dangerous precedent for the way the media talks about bigotry in American politics.

    Trump’s candidacy has brought religious and racial bigotry to the forefront of Republican presidential politics. He’s repeatedly demonized Muslims and Mexicans on the campaign trail, scapegoating them as security threats to justify calling for mass deportations, government surveillance, and travel bans.

    That has put news networks in the uncomfortable position of trying to remain “impartial” while covering Trump’s increasingly deplorable rhetoric. Instead of plainly labeling his campaign as “bigoted,” networks have used neutral-sounding terms like “controversial” to avoid making editorial judgments about Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican positions.

    But calling Trump’s comments “controversial” is lazy and dangerous. It treats racial and religious intolerance as just a quirk of Republican politics. It normalizes that intolerance, turning it into an unremarkable and routine partisan disagreement. It lets Trump’s defenders spin his comments as just evidence of his “tough” stance on immigration or border security. And it makes it easier for Trump to reinvent himself as a serious “presidential” candidate as he prepares for the general election.

    Failing to call out Trump’s bigotry also makes it harder for news networks to accurately tell the story of Trump’s rise in Republican politics. As PBS’s Tavis Smiley explained on Democracy Now in January:

    Trump is still, to my mind at least, an unrepentant, irascible religious and racial arsonist. And so, when we talk about how Donald Trump is rising in the poll, you can’t do that absent the kind of campaign he’s running, the issues that he’s raising. And for us to just say, "Donald Trump is rising in the polls," and not connect that to the base message that he’s putting out there, I think, just misses the point.

    Religious and racial bigotry deserves to be treated differently than other campaign trail stories, especially by journalists. News networks that shy away from making editorial judgments about Trump’s extremism are setting a dangerous precedent -- one that could last long beyond this election cycle.

  • A Comprehensive Guide To Megyn Kelly’s History Of Right-Wing Media Misinformation

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Megyn Kelly, the host of Fox’s The Kelly File, is often billed as a “straight news” anchor known for occasionally "bucking ... the conservative party line" on Fox. Here’s a look back at some of her most egregious misinformation campaigns and out-of-touch comments regarding race, LGBT issues, gender, reproductive rights, Islam, immigration, climate change, and Hillary Clinton.

  • Anti-LGBT "Bathroom Predator" Myth Makes Its Way To ABC's This Week

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos hosted Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for the extreme anti-LGBT group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who hyped the debunked “bathroom predator” myth to defend a discriminatory law recently passed in North Carolina.

    ADF is an multimillion dollar anti-gay Christian legal organization known for its work defending discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, which allow discrimination against LGBT individuals and others based on religious beliefs. In addition, ADF actively works to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that effectively criminalize homosexuality.

    This Week hosted Waggoner on April 10 to discuss mounting boycotts against North Carolina for its passage of the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in March, which bans transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity and excludes LGBT residents from legal protection from discrimination. The law relied heavily on the “bathroom predator” myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender nondiscrimination laws to sneak into women’s restrooms. Experts in multiple states -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault -- have categorically debunked that myth. Waggoner pushed this myth on This Week, characterizing the North Carolina bill as having “a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms”:

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): Kristen, I saw you shaking your head. I want to give you a chance to respond. But there's also a provision in the North Carolina bill that strips the ability of people to sue under the state discrimination law. And opponents of the law said if you're fired because of your race or gender or religion, you no longer have a basic remedy.

    KRISTEN WAGGONER: Well, that's absolutely not true. That's not the case. And first of all, if we want to talk about what these laws actually do, North Carolina specifically, there are two components to the North Carolina law. The first is a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms. It's for the safety and security, for privacy of not only our women and children but our men. We don't want to have to undress in front of someone who is of the opposite biological sex.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you brought that up. How is that going to be enforced. You have to go back to -- you can only use the restroom that is the restroom that’s on your birth certificate. How is the state going to enforce that?

    WAGGONER: The same way that they’re enforcing it and have enforced it the last 200 years. You simply respond to complaints that are received.  But what we have seen, when these types of laws have been passed in other states that allow men to access the women's restroom, those laws are misused. And they violate the safety and security of people. We should have a reasonable expectation of privacy to go into a locker room and not have to undress in front of someone of the opposite biological sex. It's common sense.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the answer to that, John?

    JOHN CORVINO:  The idea that this is about safety and security, it's kind of like when somebody says that they ate all the ice cream in order to make room in the freezer. I mean it's just obvious that that's not the real reason. This is about discrimination, particularly against transgender people. And one of the reasons that's really sad is that our nation's history of protecting religious liberty has traditionally been about protecting marginalized groups, protecting people of minority faiths against the majority who try to marginalize them. Instead, we have a perversion of the notion of religious liberty to further marginalize people who are already vulnerable.  There are absolutely no cases of transgender people trying to use these laws in order to commit assault or to threaten people's safety in bathrooms. Whereas there are many cases of transgender people suffering bullying and assault and violence because they can't have a safe and comfortable bathroom to use.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Kristen?

    WAGGONER: That is absolutely not true. There are multiple cases of those who may not be transgender but those men who are using these laws to gain access to women and children in restrooms. These cases are documented --

    CORVINO: How are they using these laws? How are they, if a man goes into a restroom to assault somebody, that's against the law. That has nothing to do with prohibiting transgender people, who just want a safe and comfortable place to use the bathroom, from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

    WAGGONER: Then they can use the bathroom in a private facility, just as everyone can. These laws are gender neutral in terms of, they're not discriminating on the basis of how one identifies.  They're simply saying that you go to a restroom or a private facility and you have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. But I want to get to the real victims--

    STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we could, but I’m afraid we are out of time. We're going to have to come back to this issue. Thank you both very much for your time.

  • Conservative Media Push Conspiracy That Obama "Censored" "Islamic Terrorism" From French President's Remarks

    White House Updated The Video To Include All Remarks And Explained Technical Glitch Led To The Audio Being Dropped

    ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA

    Conservative outlets quickly hatched a conspiracy theory that the White House "censored" French President Francois Hollande from using the phrase "Islamist terrorism" during a bilateral meeting with President Obama in Washington, D.C. The White House explained the issue was simply a technical glitch that was fixed immediately.