Conservative media viciously attacked Texas State Senator Wendy Davis after she announced her candidacy for governor, linking Davis to infanticide and calling an image of her with kids "sick" and "disgusting."
As the government shutdown loomed and then became a reality, right-wing media figures have called for maintained Republican commitment to keeping the government closed until Democrats agree to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Hawking shady products - gold coins sold at a 30-percent markup, "survival seeds," and financial newsletters only designed to enrich their authors -- has long been the core strategy of funding the conservative media enterprise.
But the deleterious effect of the latest conservative media scam threatens to be far greater than a tube of seeds that will yield no fruit.
The conservative media, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), have conned their base into believing that shutting down the government -- unless Barack Obama agrees to stop the implementation of Obamacare -- is a strategically and politically salient idea for the GOP and the conservative movement. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) earlier this summer dubbed it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard."
Fueled by television ads starring Cruz and paid for by the Senate Conservative Fund -- a PAC initially founded by Heritage President Jim DeMint to shift the Senate GOP Conference rightward -- this movement was buoyed by an active campaign from the conservative media that began months ago. In July, Rush Limbaugh called the effort to block funding the government a "crucial thing" and the "one last chance to stop" Obamacare.
Sean Hannity called for a government shutdown months ago, telling his audience:
"I think they ought to just put their foot down, stand on principal and stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here. Fund the rest of the government, but just defund Obamacare. And then if the Democrats want to shut down the government, then let them shut it down."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson has used his blog, RedState.com, to call for the "scalps" of Republican politicians who do not "fight" to defund Obamacare with a government shutdown.
This has set off an internal GOP war, with some on the right expressing doubt that a government shutdown is a viable or effective strategy. This was on display Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation when Tom Coburn (R-OK) implied that his colleagues in the Senate pushing for a government shutdown weren't living in the "real world."
"Tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is, and we do not have the political power to do this," Coburn told host Bob Schieffer. "We're not about to shut the government down over the fact that we cannot, only controlling one house of Congress, tell the president that we're not going to fund any portion of this. Because we can't do that."
Karl Rove also took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to warn that defunding the government over Obamacare "would strengthen the president while alienating independents," ultimately leading the GOP towards electoral defeat.
Coburn, Rove, and others calling for restraint now are simply trying to slay a monster of their own creation. In early 2009, with momentum carrying the Obama administration forward, the Tea Party and its champions fought to create this toxic environment in which forcing a government shut down over Obamacare seemed like a viable option.
August town hall meetings degenerated into chaos as grassroots conservatives screamed at their members about a government takeover of healthcare. Obamacare was not simply a new health insurance system; the conservative base believed it was an all-out effort by Democrats to kill their grandmothers and children with disabilities. It needed to be defeated at all costs.
Tea Party members in Congress and the conservative media continued to use this rhetoric with their base long after their lies had been debunked and long after the bill's passage.
They cheered as this rhetoric enabled the GOP to win 63 seats in the House of Representatives, six in the Senate, and 675 state legislative seats -- allowing them to control the redistricting process.
They pushed their state governments to reject the law's Medicaid provisions and exchanges and looked the other way as conservative groups attempted to sabotage the implementation of the law by convincing young people it would be better to go without health insurance than sign up for Obamacare.
Admittedly, some groused when tea party extremists rejected candidates such as Mike Castle in Delaware in favor of sure losers like Christine O'Donnell, but they stood silent as tea party members in the House made the chamber ungovernable.
This week these strategies have finally come to a head. With the deadline for funding the government days away, the House has passed a bill sure to be rejected in the Senate and one the President won't sign. The Republican Caucus in the House is primarily made up of Tea Party members, whose districts, due to gerrymandering, are more subservient to the rhetoric of the conservative media than to the needs of the country.
Even those in the GOP and the conservative media lamenting this latest potential government shutdown bear responsibility for it. They have stood by and cheered since 2009 as the conservative base was spoon-fed lies about healthcare. Now that they recognize these lies have metastasized, not simply into false promises about gold coins or gardens that will feed your family after a financial apocalypse but into a political movement that will do long-term damage to the GOP, they are crying for its end.
However, the faulty calculation sold, and continuing to be sold, by many in the right-wing media is clear: if you can stop the federal government from murdering your grandmother and child, then a government shutdown and even electoral defeat is a small price to pay.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson used the "female reproductive system" as a metaphor to chide Washington, D.C. Republicans over defunding Obamacare.
In a September 17 post at his RedState blog, Erickson wrote that he "cannot use the word" he wanted to use to describe Washington Republicans who are supposedly "surrender[ing]" on the issue of defunding Obamacare. Accompanied by a photo of Code Pink protesters dressed as female reproductive parts, Erickson likened the GOP to the word he apparently couldn't use:
More Americans oppose Obamacare now than at any time. As rhetoric on defunding Obamacare has gone up, so has Republican popularity and opposition to Obamacare. A full quarter of the American public wants Congress to actually blow up Obamacare. When is the last time a full quarter of the whole population wanted Congress to do any one thing?
More than half want Obamacare either destroyed or substantially changed.
But the GOP, its allies in the press and pundit core, and its very leadership are such [insert euphemism of choice related to the female reproductive system] that they'd rather plan their surrender before making their retreat. [emphasis added]
Erickson has a history of sexist comparisons, including referring to the first night of the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 as the "Vagina Monologues." Recently, he claimed that people who defend female breadwinners are "anti-science" because males are "typically...the dominant role," and referred to Texas State Senator Wendy Davis as "Abortion Barbie."
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Repeating the right-wing trope that the mainstream media "leans to the left," Fox News contributor Erick Erickson criticized media outlets for describing animus towards LGBT people as "bias" and falsely suggested that most Americans oppose LGBT equality.
In a September 13 blog post for his RedState.com website, Erickson misleadingly claimedthat a majority of Americans oppose the affirmation of "alternative lifestyles" - and that media outlets should therefore avoid describing people who condemn homosexuality as harboring "bias":
Erin Burnett of CNN and formerly of CNBC is a wonderful person and a great reporter. But I'll never forget being on air the night of June 5, 2012.
John King and Erin Burnett were chatting as Erin promoted what was coming up on her show. A pastor was losing his church because he supported gay marriage. His congregation had left and there was too little money coming in. "It's a pretty powerful story of conviction and also the bias that is still very prevalent in certain places in this country," Burnett gravely stated. "Bias ... in certain places."
At the top of the seven o'clock hour, Burnett ran a David Mattingly story about Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minnesota. The real story happened seven years earlier. The pastor of the African-American church, way back then, supported gay marriage at the 2005 national meeting of the United Church of Christ over the desires of his congregation. Most of the congregation left his church. The week of June 5, 2012, would be perhaps, in David Mattingly's words, "the last service before the church closes its doors for good. What I saw was a far cry from the days when the seats were full."
It is not that Erin Burnett and David Mattingly's report clearly made the pastor who defied his congregation the hero and his congregants who demanded faithful adherence to their scripture the bigots. The media does this all the time. In a nation whose voters routinely tells pollsters they support gay marriage while routinely voting against gay marriage, most of the media is very much in favor of gay marriage. Stories about Christian pastors seem to focus on the bigoted and hateful few contrasted with a few open minded, tolerant Christians whose churches are dwindling as they embrace alternative lifestyles.
But we are a nation where a majority of states, through democratic processes, prohibit gay marriage. And the story was cast not as a preacher disobeying his congregation and dealing with the consequences, but as "bias ... in certain places" causing a church to close down. The presupposition of the story was against the congregation, not against the pastor who directly disobeyed the wishes of his congregation. [emphasis added]
Fox Sports fired football analyst Craig James after one appearance on the network, citing homophobic comments James made as a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas. Fox Sports' handling of James' remarks differs markedly from how its corporate sibling, Fox News, deals with anti-LGBT commentary from its employees.
During his unsuccessful bid for the Republican Party's Senate nomination in 2012, James called homosexuality "a choice" and stated that gays "are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions." A Fox Sports spokesman explained the network's decision to sever its ties with James, telling The Dallas Morning News, "We just asked ourselves how Craig's statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn't say those things here."
James' comments got him fired from Fox Sports, but they would have been wholly unremarkable if he was at Fox News, where rabidly anti-LGBT talking heads are regularly given a platform to spout their bigoted views with impunity.
A self-styled "bitter" culture warrior, one of Starnes' trademark specialties is delivering hateful commentary about LGBT people. Besides offering standard right-wing boilerplate language about how marriage equality will inevitably lead to bestiality, Starnes has also called the gay-inclusive, post-Don't Ask Don't Tell military a sign of "the end of days," mocked transgender women as "big burly men in dresses," and defended anti-LGBT discrimination by businesses. After NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay, Starnes tweeted, "The NBA is turning into GLEE."
Starnes has no use for LGBT allies, either. After President Barack Obama condemned Russia's draconian crackdown on gays, Starnes promoted a conspiracy theory that he has long been obsessed with - that perhaps Obama is secretly gay.
While The O'Reilly Factor host received widespread attention following his concession that the LGBT movement has the stronger marriage equality argument, O'Reilly continues to deliver a steady stream of anti-LGBT remarks. In 2012, he warned that pro-LGBT shows like "Glee" would encourage youthful "experimentation" with homosexuality and transgender identities. He has depicted gay rights supporters as protectors of child molesters, called students "fascist[s]" for protesting an anti-gay cleric, advised parents to shame boys who like the color pink, and denounced a new California law protecting transgender students as "anarchy and madness" and "the biggest con in the world."
Conservatives are using a comment from former President Bill Clinton's speech at the memorial celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to falsely suggest that background checks are required for all gun sales.
During his speech, Clinton stated, "A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon."
Clinton appeared to refer to two conservative legislative priorities: Their passage in several states of voter ID laws and other laws that make it harder for people to vote, especially low income and minority voters; and their effort to block earlier this year federal legislation to strengthen and expand the background check system to prevent felons and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing firearms.
Responding to Clinton's comment, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson facetiously wrote on his RedState.com blog that Clinton had "called for the elimination of background checks to purchase guns." Erickson claims that "purchases of firearms in every state must go through a firearms background check" and thus concludes that since one "does not even need photo identification in every state to vote... I take this statement to mean Bill Clinton wants background checks for gun purchases eliminated."
At TownHall.com, fellow Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich similarly wrote:
Clinton's words came in reference to voter identification laws being passed all over the country which require voters to show government issued photo identification in order to vote. Federal gun laws also require people purchasing firearms to show government issued photo identification. In addition, firearms purchasers are required to undergo a background check.
In fact, under federal law background checks are only required on those who seek to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer; no such check is needed for those who buy them from private sellers, including at gun shows and online.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson celebrated the extremist Alliance Defending Freedom's (ADF) "brave" - albeit unsuccessful - effort to allow a New Mexico photographer to discriminate against gay clients. Erickson called on readers of his RedState blog to join him in donating money to ADF, which is currently spearheading the effort to criminalize homosexuality in Belize.
In an August 22 post for RedState, Erickson lauded ADF's "lone and brave warriors" combatting the "[e]vil" campaign for LGBT equality:
A small band of gay rights activists will not stop on the one way street of tolerance. My friends, whether you want to believe or not, you will be made to care. New Mexico shows again that gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible. You will not be allowed to opt out.
There is one organization at the forefront of this. That is the Alliance Defending Freedom. They represented Mrs. Huguenin and are considering appealing to the United States Supreme Court. They need our financial help to keep this going. I've given them a financial contribution and I hope you will to [sic]. They are lone and brave warriors in this fight against the left. They need every penny they can get.
Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant, then seeks to silence good. We must fund the fight for Truth and Light.
National Review editor Rich Lowry criticized Senator Ted Cruz's effort to defund Obamacare as "a grass roots-pleasing slogan," adding to the conservative media divide over Republican plans to defund the health care law by threatening a government shutdown.
Republican politicians, including Cruz (TX) and Senator Mike Lee (UT), have threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform. That approach has earned criticism from other Republicans, such as Senator Richard Burr (NC), who called it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of."
Writing in Politico, Lowry argued against Cruz's strategy, dismissing it as "a grass roots-pleasing slogan" and unrealistic:
His push to defund Obamacare this fall is a grass roots-pleasing slogan in search of a realistic path to legislative fruition. Cruz never explains how a government shutdown fight would bring about the desired end. The strategy seems tantamount to believing that if Republican politicians clicked their wing tips together and wished it so, President Barack Obama would collapse in a heap and surrender on his party's most cherished accomplishment.
Lowry's criticism adds to an already wide split among right-wing media on GOP threats to shut down the government.
Erick Erickson doubled down on his sexist attack on Texas State Senator Wendy Davis as "Abortion Barbie," writing on RedState that the moniker "fits perfectly" and recommending it be used on the campaign trail. Erickson writes:
Abortion Barbie fits perfectly and I hope that moniker haunts [Wendy Davis] on the campaign trail. She is, after all, intent on building a national name for herself through abortion and pink shoes. I'm sure MSNBC will send her tampon earrings to go with the other accessories.
Let me quickly explain this to Erick. Applying the moniker "Barbie" to Wendy Davis in that context specifically demeans her based on physical attributes. Erickson also connotes the stereotype of "Barbie" representing a shallow and empty headedness. This is inherently sexist.
Anytime a female politician is singled out simply based on looks -- including certain attacks on Sarah Palin -- it's incredibly problematic.
Furthermore as the punch line of his joke, Erickson tosses in a shot at MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry wearing tampon earrings to protest women having their menstrual products taken from them as they entered the Texas State Capital. For Erickson the state aggressively attempting to control women's reproductive health is a joke.
In the world of Erickson his sexist remarks are fine because Davis "is ignorant of the horrors of Kermit Gosnell." Never mind that according to experts the Gosnell case has "nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States." Any excuse to make a sexist attack.
For Erickson, whose history includes both odd sexist remarks and a defense of indefensible remarks by Todd Akin, recommending a sexist messaging assault as an electoral strategy belies just how the conservative media views the recommendations of the Growth and Opportunity project - the report written by the Republican National Committee after the 2012 elections on how to improve their electoral standing. Its findings are clearly being ignored.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson called Texas State Senator and choice advocate Wendy Davis "Abortion Barbie" after The Weekly Standard attacked her for not responding to a question that linked legal abortion to the crimes of doctor Kermit Gosnell.
During an event at the National Press Club, The Weekly Standard asked Davis to respond to claims that there is no difference between some types of legal abortion and the crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. After retweeting a link to the post, Erickson tweeted that it's "a bit embarrassing that Abortion Barbie doesn't even have her facts straight on Kermit Gosnell considering abortion is her issue":
Erickson has a history of inflammatory comments, including directing liberals to a coat hanger sales site after a restrictive Texas abortion bill passed, later responding to criticism by offering his "Sincere Apologies to the Kid Killing caucus." Erickson defended Republican Missouri Rep. Todd Akin after he claimed it was "really rare" for victims of "legitimate rape" to become pregnant and called the opening of the 2012 Democratic National Convention the "First night of the Vagina Monologues."
While some Fox News hosts and contributors such as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have supported a right-wing Republican plan to defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown, other Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have criticized the idea as unworkable and "nuts."
Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT) threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform -- signed into law in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012. He proposed that Republicans refuse to vote for any continuing resolution -- a measure that continues funding the operations of the federal government until a budget and annual appropriations can be passed -- that includes funding for the continued implementation of health care reform.
Other Republicans are critical of this approach, with Senator Richard Burr (NC) calling it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted in a July 25 New York Times column that even Republican leaders now recognize that confrontations like this threat to shut down the government will "inflict substantial harm on the economy."
Despite this, some Fox News hosts and contributors have rallied in support of the right-wing Republican brinksmanship plan. On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Lee and expressed support for the effort. Two days later on his radio show, Hannity called the issue a "litmus test" for the conservatism of Republicans and threatened to primary any Republican who did not support the effort.
In a July 25 RedState post, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson similarly wrote that Republicans who did not support the defunding effort should be challenged in primary elections:
Why would Republicans keep funding a law that hurts so many people and is so unpopular? Why would they do that?
Republicans in Congress have a choice this fall with the latest continuing resolution. They can choose to not include funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Negotiate everything, but make that their line in the sand. If the Democrats choose to shut down the government over an unpopular law that hurts people, it is their choice. Republicans should not fund Obamacare.
Any Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried. The advertisements write themselves. Republicans, by voting to fund Obamacare, are putting people out of work, driving up healthcare costs, and hurting families. Republicans are not listening to voters who hate the law if they fund Obamacare.
Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also jumped on the government shutdown bandwagon, arguing on the July 30 edition of Hannity that using a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare was "common sense."
Other Fox News contributors have found the idea of government shutdown over health care reform to be "ludicrous" and "nuts." On the July 30 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg said that the idea "works fantastically well for fundraising when you want to go and run in 2016 for president" but is "ludicrous" as a winning legislative strategy.
Earlier this week Sean Hannity expressed his support for Utah Senator Mike Lee's plan to hold America hostage -- unless Obamacare is defunded, Lee has threatened to block appropriations bills, resulting in at least a partial shut down of the government.
Hannity followed up yesterday by suggesting this nihilistic vision for the legislative process should be a "litmus test." He further specified "either you Republicans get off your backside and stand as a bold contrast to Obamacare and make a courageous stand, or get out of the way and we'll primary you and we'll get rid of you."
Rush Limbaugh joined in, telling his audience "one last chance to stop" Obamacare is the upcoming continuing resolution budget fight, making the point that Republicans "denying Obama and the Democrats" the ability to fund the government is a "crucial thing."
Senator Lee's efforts spawned a full-fledged campaign by the conservative media. At Redstate.com, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson asked his readers to call targeted Republican senators and "ask that they sign the Mike Lee letter" which specifically states that its signers "will not support any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that funds further implementation or enforcement of Obamacare."
Erickson continued in his blog post: "It is important to get their signatures on that letter or we can presume they will fund Obamacare."
Conservative radio host Dana Loesch followed suit by launching a campaign targeting her home state senator Roy Blunt, demanding he too sign Lee's letter.
Fortunately for the country, some members of the Senate Republican Conference do not share the same self-flagellating desires of the conservative media.
After two successive election cycles of pushing extreme picks that cost the Republican Party at least half a dozen Senate seats and most likely control of the chamber, conservative media figures seem content to do it all over again.
At his RedState.com blog, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson warned fellow conservatives of "the Hatch Effect" stemming from the conservative Utah senator's primary challenge in 2012. Hatch, Erickson writes, "had been a conservative warrior for a long time, he sounded conservative, and we'd need him in the fight against amnesty."
Yet some in the conservative media, including RedState, who "fretted that Hatch might return to the ways of Ted Kennedy's best friend on the right were drowned out by a near unified conservative front."
Hatch, after winning reelection, committed a cardinal sin by voting for the immigration reform bill.
The lesson according to Erickson: "This year, some long time Republican Senators are going to get primary challengers. There will be large megaphones declaring just how conservative those Senators are. There will be people trotted out to remind you that for decades these have been the men we relied on to save us from big government."
He continued: "There are no indispensable men and unless conservatives are wil[l]ing to take the scalps of a few of their so called 'heroes' who've grown in office, the fight for freedom will continue to be undermined once these men have another six year term under their belt."
After the embarrassing failures of Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Joe Miller, and Ken Buck, the conservative media are still willing to drive the Republican Party over a cliff.