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  • At The VP Debate, Mike Pence Should Be Asked About Anti-LGBT "Religious Freedom" Laws

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Before he was chosen as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was arguably best known for the controversy over the “religious freedom” bill he signed into law in 2015. The continuing nationwide debate over “religious freedom” bills and Pence’s repeated refusal to stake out his position on anti-LGBT discrimination makes the vice presidential debate the perfect opportunity to find out where Pence really stands on so-called “religious freedom” laws.

    In March 2015, Pence signed Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) into law, a move The New York Times called the “most consequential - and controversial” decision Pence made as governor. The law -- which was criticized by religious leaders, members of the business community, legal scholars, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis -- provided a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.

    The furious backlash to the law put Pence in the center of a nationwide media firestorm, which included a disastrous interview on ABC’s This Week where Pence repeatedly refused to answer a question about whether the RFRA legalized discrimination against LGBT people. At a town hall this past February, Pence again refused to answer whether anti-LGBT discrimination should be legal. 

    The Indiana RFRA is just one component of Pence’s longheld opposition to LGBT equality. Previously, Pence has:

    • said that gay couples signaled a “societal collapse” as part of a 2006 speech advocating for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman;
    • pledged to oppose allowing gay people to serve in the military under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” because “the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion”; and
    • called the 2009 expansion of federal hate crime legislation to include crimes based on sexual orientation a “radical social agenda.”

    Where Pence now stands on so-called “religious freedom” legislation and anti-LGBT discrimination is also a question of importance for Republicans. After the fierce criticism of the RFRA, Pence signed a “fix” to the law aimed at preventing businesses from using the measure to to justify discriminating against LGBT people. That decision drew ire from Christian conservatives who felt betrayed by the move. A Politico article in July noted that evangelicals are “still peeved” over his backtracking on the RFRA, with right-wing Iowa radio host Steve Deace calling it “the worst we’ve ever been stabbed in the back by a Republican.”

    The Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has already made it clear that he supports nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community. The October 4 vice presidential debate gives CBS News' Elaine Quijano the chance to ask Pence -- running as part of a presidential ticket that’s attempted to appeal to LGBT voters -- for a definitive answer on whether he supports “religious freedom” legislation that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people. 

  • CBS News Report: Hispanic Leaders Advising Trump “Disgusted” After His Immigration Speech

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CBS News reported that several Hispanic advisers to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign felt “disgusted” by Trump’s hardline immigration speech in Arizona, noting that “some of these individuals resign[ed]” and that “they felt all of their work that they’ve done to this point was all for naught and that the campaign was sincerely not listening.”

    Faced with dismal polling numbers among Latino voters, Trump and his campaign suggested that there could be a “softening” on Trump’s immigration position. The campaign convened a National Hispanic Advisory Council that met with Trump on August 20, and on the August 24 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, Trump said, “there certainly could be a softening” of his immigration policy.

    After Trump delivered the highly anticipated speech in which he solidified his extreme, hardline stance on immigration, media widely concluded that he had offered a “repackaged version of [his] standard stump lines” and that the term "pivot" should "be put in a lock box" when talking about Trump. MSNBC’s Ari Melber wrote that former Trump adviser Jacob Monty referred to Trump’s campaign as “a media play,” and Politico reported that other Trump surrogates -- including Alfonso Aguilar and Pastor Ramiro Pena -- were also reconsidering their support following the speech. According to Pena, "The 'National Hispanic Advisory Council' seems to be simply for optics and I do not have the time or energy for a scam."

    On September 1, CBS News live stream contributor Leslie Sanchez reported that “several individuals” from Trump’s council of Hispanic advisers described the August 31 speech as “horrible” “dishonest” and “tone-deaf.” Sanchez reported that the advisers felt “disgusted” about Trump’s tone and his indication that Mexico would pay for the wall when “hours prior he had been on stage with [Enrique] Peña Nieto, the Mexican president saying ‘we didn’t get into the dynamics of who would pay for the wall’.” Sanchez added that, “As one reported to me, he said “it’s as if they went with the hardliners who were always in Trump’s ear and ignored everything we just said.”

    From the September 1 CBS News Live Stream:

  • 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.

  • Fox Overlooks Trump’s Middle East Business Ventures While Hyping His Clinton Foundation Criticism

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    While pushing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s criticisms of the Clinton Foundation for accepting charitable donations from Middle Eastern countries, Fox News personalities failed to note Trump’s business ties in the Middle East and his campaign manager Paul Manafort’s previous work with dictatorial regimes.

  • Media Call Out Trump’s Glaring Teleprompter Hypocrisy

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media outlets highlighted presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s hypocritical use of a teleprompter during a campaign speech, noting that he “has previously derided [teleprompters] for being a tool of entrenched politicians” and “routinely mocks his rivals for using" them.

  • How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies


    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.

  • What Media Should Know About The Anti-Choice Group Protest ABQ

    Meet The Group That Has A History Of Targeting Abortion Providers, Has Connections To Violent Anti-Choice Groups, And Is Now Feeding Misinformation To A Congressional Panel 

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following in the footsteps of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Protest ABQ is the latest anti-choice group feeding misinformation to Republicans on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. Protest ABQ is a radical anti-abortion group with connections to Operation Rescue, an extremist group with a history of ties to anti-choice violence. Here is what the media should know about these groups, their efforts to mobilize violence against abortion providers, and their connections to Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.

  • Myths And Facts On The Nomination Of Judge Merrick Garland To The Supreme Court


    Since the lead-up to President Obama's March 16 nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the judge has faced misleading and false attacks, as well as a concerted push for continued obstruction of any Supreme Court nominee chosen by Obama. Here are the facts about the nominee, previous lines of right-wing attack, and information on the nomination and confirmation processes going forward.

  • Media Critics: Networks Should Hang Up On Trump Phone Interviews

    "Trump Has Become His Own Executive Producer"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    News outlets that allow Donald Trump to eschew on-camera interviews in favor of phone call-ins are being criticized by television news veterans and media critics who say the format gives Trump an upper hand and can diminish the interview.

    Networks have faced criticism over letting Trump call in to shows for months. In September, Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone explained that thanks to the phone format, Trump "can better control the conversation when he's not facing his interviewer on camera. It's easier for him to speak over the host to change the subject, or to refer to notes."

    The issue returned to the spotlight this week after Trump had been scheduled to do a series of interviews on major morning news shows via satellite, but switched to phone call-ins after he reportedly "didn't like the look of the live shot."

    Several networks allowed Trump to call in, but CBS This Morning declined, citing the show's policy against phone interviews.

    Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has also barred Trump from calling in to his program, but that has not stopped other Fox shows from allowing Trump to stay off camera and on the phone. According to a count by BuzzFeed, television news outlets have interviewed Trump by phone "an unprecedented 69 times in the last 69 days."

    This week, Media Matters launched a petition calling on news networks to stop conducting phone interviews with Trump.

    Observers contend that a call-in interview lacks the balance of a face-to-face exchange because the audience and the interviewer are not allowed to see Trump's expressions and reactions. They say it is also more difficult to follow-up and put the subject on the spot to answer questions more directly.   

    "It's definitely better because you can control it, you can ask follow-up questions," David Zurawik, media critic with The Baltimore Suntold Media Matters. "On a phone it really shifts control away from the interviewer, I don't think anyone can dispute that. I was really glad CBS said no, but I think the cable channels are addicted to the ratings."

    David Folkenflik, media reporter for National Public Radio, agreed.

    "It is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump because he is such an unpredictable and explosive figure," he said, adding, "The first order is you want to get somebody in person, so the interviewer and person are together. The anchors and the producers control the setting. You want to do it in person, or on camera remote. When things get really dicey is when you can't do that. Television is a visual media, you want to see their facial expressions, it is worth having that. Trump is so expressive." 

    Folkenflik and others said many outlets are willing to have Trump on by phone because he gets ratings, but say that is not an excuse.

    "They know when Trump comes on ratings spike up. I don't think programmers are too desperate to put John Kasich on a cell phone for an interview," he said. "They let his rallies and other events be on the air for long stretches of time with minimal interruptions because they just don't know what the guy is going to say. There are other candidates -- there are other candidates in the other party and they are not getting anything like that."

    Marvin Kalb, a long-time former NBC News Washington correspondent and one-time Meet the Press host, praised CBS for declining to let Trump call in and said others should do the same.

    "Hooray for CBS," Kalb said. "The way in which this has emerged, Trump has become his own executive producer in American television. The networks appear obediently to go along with his call."

    "It is television and you want to see things," he added. "In his case, he is asking for something that is very special, he is changing the rules of the game, you want to ask yourself why? From the network point of view, it ought to be news value."

    In an interview with Media Matters last month about the media's general failure to properly scrutinize Trump, former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt called foul on the phone interviews, saying, "Broadcasting and cable maybe aren't being as tough as they should be. I have questioned having him on by telephone, it's deferring to him in a way, letting him set ground rules that they don't for others. You do not see his demeanor and it is not the same as having him sit across from an interrogator."

    Frank Sesno, a former CNN White House correspondent and current director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said this week that the limited access is a negative.  

    "When Trump is on the phone he can talk over the interviewer, he can do it in his pajamas," Sesno said. "He can get so much free airtime that it starts to challenge us as journalists as to what our role is in providing free media for the candidate."

  • Media Incorrectly Equate Biden's 1992 Comments "Bemoaning Politicization" Of Hypothetical SCOTUS Nomination To GOP's Ongoing And "Unprecedented" Obstruction

    ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA

    Media outlets have dubiously likened Vice President Joe Biden's 1992 speech suggesting the Senate Judiciary Committee might not hold confirmation hearings for a hypothetical Supreme Court vacancy following a resignation during an ongoing presidential campaign to the unprecedented determination by Senate Republicans that they will not consider anyone President Obama nominates after Justice Antonin Scalia's death.

  • "Nuclear Bombshell": Right-Wing Media Hype Old, Disputed Claim That Clinton's Emails Mentioned Classified Information

    Politico And Explain Emails Referenced "Innocuous" Accounts Of U.S. Drone Program "Not Obtained Through A Classified Product" - A Revelation From Last Summer

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Right-wing media are hyping a letter from the intelligence community's inspector general claiming some of Hillary Clinton's emails from her time as secretary of state contained information classified above "top secret." However, the development that Clinton's emails reportedly mention widely-known public information about the country's drone operation was already covered by the media in 2015.

  • At GOP Poverty Summit, Morning Joe Hosts Miss Opportunity To Meaningfully Question GOP Candidates

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    MSNBC's Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski squandered the opportunity to ask GOP presidential candidates and House Speaker Paul Ryan any questions related to their plans to eliminate poverty and raise wages during a series of interviews at a GOP anti-poverty summit. Instead of discussing topics relevant to the anti-poverty forum, the co-hosts questioned the GOP candidates and Speaker about election polling, campaign strategy, and Donald Trump, among other unrelated issues.

  • A Comprehensive Guide To Myths And Facts About Hillary Clinton, Benghazi, and Those Emails

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    On October 22, Hillary Clinton will testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi regarding the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi and her use of a personal email address while secretary of state. In their relentless drive to find a scandal that doesn't exist, media have spent the last three years pushing numerous myths surrounding Clinton's alleged role in the attacks and her legal use of her personal email account.