A Chicago Sun-Times editorial board member made the inflammatory and false suggestion that sex workers cannot be victims of rape.
In a September 12 column, the Sun-Times' Mary Mitchell wrote about criminal charges against an Illinois man who is accused of raping a sex worker at gunpoint, claiming that the case "is making a mockery of rape victims" and arguing that "it's tough to see this unidentified prostitute as a victim."
Mitchell contended that the case is "actually more like theft of services" rather than sexual assault to push the false suggestion that sex workers cannot be raped.
Furthermore, sex workers have a dramatically higher-than-average chance (45 to 75 percent) of experiencing sexual violence at some point during their careers, and the homicide rate for female prostitutes "constitutes a higher occupational mortality rate than any other group of women ever studied," according to a 2012 report from anti-human trafficking group Fondation Scelles.
In her column, Mitchell also engaged in victim blaming, writing that "when you agree to meet a strange man in a strange place for the purpose of having strange sex for money, you are putting yourself at risk for harm." Mitchell even asserted that she is "grateful" that the man charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault in the case "isn't being accused of snatching an innocent woman off the street," absurdly implying the victim had a hand in bringing on her own assault. From Mitchell's column (emphasis added):
A recent case involving a prostitute and a john is making a mockery of rape victims.
Authorities say Roy Akins went to Backpage.com and agreed to pay a prostitute $180 for sex.
When the unidentified woman showed up at his Austin home for the transaction, Akins allegedly took her to the bedroom and, instead of handing over the cash, pulled a gun.
I don't have one iota of sympathy for Akins' plight. But I'm grateful he isn't being accused of snatching an innocent woman off the street.
But when you agree to meet a strange man in a strange place for the purpose of having strange sex for money, you are putting yourself at risk for harm.
It's tough to see this unidentified prostitute as a victim. And because this incident is being charged as a criminal sexual assault -- when it's actually more like theft of services -- it minimizes the act of rape.
Earlier this month, we saw what a rape victim looks like. Melissa Schuster, 26, of Willowbrook, was stabbed 17 times and suffered a fractured nose, broken bones and eye injuries when she was raped by a man who broke into her home after demanding cash.
As Jezebel's Stassa Edwards accurately noted, Mitchell's assertion that "real rape victims ... are women who have been beaten, bruised and assaulted despite doing 'nothing to bring about this terrible, terrible ordeal'" implies that sex workers are less than human, and consequently suggests -- incomprehensibly -- that "being raped at gunpoint is hardly a crime."
Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney resigned from the paper over what he calls a "breach" in the wall that exists "between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published."
McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the Sun-Times, posted an October 22 resignation letter on his personal blog explaining that he co-reported a story examining litigation involving the former company of Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for Illinois governor. The piece, he wrote, was backed by "our editors and supported by sworn testimony and interviews."
However, according to McKinney, prior to publication in early October, "the Rauner campaign used multiple tactics to block it," including "sending to my boss an opposition-research hit piece-rife with errors-about my wife, Ann Liston. The campaign falsely claimed she was working with a PAC to defeat Rauner and demanded a disclaimer be attached to our story that would have been untrue. It was a last-ditch act of intimidation." Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk later defended McKinney, calling the allegation "inaccurate and defamatory."
McKinney states that he resigned, however, because he felt the paper didn't have "the backs of reporters like me." He explained that the Sun Times subsequently penalized him and didn't allow him "to do my job the way I had been doing it for almost two decades. Was all this retaliation for breaking an important news story that had the blessing of the paper's editor and publisher, the company's lawyer and our NBC5 partners?"
His former employer also, in his view, "unequivocally embraced the very campaign that had unleashed what Sun-Times management had declared a defamatory attack on me" by endorsing Rauner's gubernatorial candidacy. The endorsement was notable because the Republican "used to be an investor in the Sun-Times' ownership group ... The paper's endorsement of Rauner was its first since it announced in 2012 that it would no longer make endorsements."
The Washington Free Beacon was a landing site for the Rauner campaign's attacks against McKinney and his wife. The conservative site, which has financial ties to partisan operatives, wrote an October 19 article with the headline, "The Chicago Way: Democratic Super PAC in Bed with Local Newspaper--Literally."
The Beacon's attacks were amplified by partisan figures like Fox News contributor and former Rep. Allen West, who wrote on his website: "Yep, that kinda smells, but then again it's Democrat business as usual ... Never forget that Chicago is the home of Saul Alinsky, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Rodham-Clinton, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, Tony Rezko, Jesse Jackson Sr and Jr, Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, David Plouffe, Bill Ayres, Bernadette Dorn - need I say more?"
As Midwestern states assess the damage wrought by record flooding in recent weeks, scientists tell Media Matters that the media has missed an important part of the story: the impact of climate change. A Media Matters analysis finds that less than 3 percent of television and print coverage of the flooding mentioned climate change, which has increased the frequency of large rain storms and exacerbated flood risks.
Seven out of eight scientists interviewed by Media Matters agreed that climate change is pertinent to coverage of recent flooding in the Midwest. Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told Media Matters it is "not only appropriate, but advisable" for the press to note that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and that climate models "suggest this trend will continue," which will contribute to more flooding. Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia added that this is the "new normal," and that the media is "missing an important piece of information" by ignoring this trend.
Indeed, climate change has been almost entirely absent from national and local reporting on the floods. Only one of 74 television segments mentioned climate change, on CBS News. ABC, NBC and CNN never mentioned the connection.
Meanwhile, USA TODAY was the only national print outlet to report on Midwest floods in the context of climate change. USA TODAY also created a video, featured above, explaining the connection as part of a year-long series on the impacts of climate change.
The Midwest has experienced near record flooding this spring, resulting in four deaths, extensive property damage, and disruptions of agriculture and transportation. Evidence suggests that manmade climate change has increased the frequency of heavy downpours, and will continue to increase flooding risks. But in their ample coverage of Midwestern flooding, major media outlets rarely mentioned climate change.
In at least 40 instances since the beginning of 2011, conservative media outlets wrongly told consumers that the light bulb efficiency standards scheduled to take effect in 2012 will require them to use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).
Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
Several media figures have echoed the sexist notion that Sen. Joe Biden will have to soften his tone and manner in a debate against Gov. Sarah Palin, in contrast with the tougher tone he could take if the Republican vice-presidential nominee were male.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Sen. John McCain spoke out against "land swaps, worthless land for valuable land" in connection with the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and that "McCain is still a watchdog when it comes to federal spending, but he is a supporter of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, said his spokesman, Tucker Bounds." But the article did not note that McCain has himself reportedly facilitated land-swap deals that benefited wealthy developers who were major McCain donors.
Several media figures have falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama contradicted previous statements when he said during a March 18 speech on race: "Did I ever hear him [Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor] make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in the church? Yes." In fact, Obama previously asserted he had not been present for particular statements Wright made that were repeated by various media outlets and that spurred the recent controversy. He did not claim to have never heard Wright make "remarks that could be considered controversial."
The Chicago Sun-Times uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's assertion that Sen. Barack Obama is "the most liberal Democrat in the United States Senate." However, the Sun-Times made no mention of the fact that the National Journal, which ranked Obama "the most liberal senator in 2007," said that McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score."
Media Matters for America has identified numerous media outlets or figures who reported that the National Journal has rated Sen. Barack Obama "the most liberal senator in 2007," but did not report that the same National Journal feature stated that Sen. John McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score. He missed more than half of the votes in both the economic and foreign-policy categories."
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jennifer Hunter listed several "criticisms" that have been leveled against Sen. Barack Obama since he launched his presidential campaign, including "Obama's relationship with indicted Wilmette businessman Tony Rezko, who had helped launch his political career; the veracity of characters in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father; and some of his personal investments, which relied to some extent on federal-government funding." However, Hunter did not discuss key facts that call into question the legitimacy of these "criticisms" of Obama.