The third anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) found the U.S. military intact and stronger than ever. Despite the utter failure of their previous doomsday predictions to materialize, the same voices of opposition to DADT are now making similar prophecies about potential moves to lift the military's discriminatory ban on transgender people.
Challenges remain for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members. Three years removed from the repeal of DADT, they still face harassment, discrimination and difficulties obtaining veterans' benefits. One obstacle to equality looms particularly heavy post-DADT: the prohibition on transgender service.
The Pentagon currently prohibits transgender people from serving in the armed forces, a ban that forces over 15,000 men and women currently serving to lie about their identities and deters countless others from enlisting. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has indicated the military may review this policy, which, according to the Palm Center, a research institute focused on sexuality and the military, is without sound medical reasoning and could be lifted without harming readiness.
Unsurprisingly, conservative pundits have railed against proposals to lift the transgender ban.
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Center (FRC) and one of Fox News' favorite social commentators, wrote in a March FRC newsletter that lifting the ban on transgender service members would be a "fatal blow to unit cohesion and readiness" that "could compromise our troops' safety." Perkins tied the issue to military sexual assault rates.
Elaine Donnelly, the president of the anti-gay Center for Military Readiness (who once said that human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were a result of allowing women in the military) echoed Perkins, calling the idea of transgender military service an experiment that puts "an extra burden on men and women in the military that they certainly don't need or they don't deserve" and suggesting it would lead to an increase in sexual assaults.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson ranted against the mere disclosure of the estimate that 15,000 transgender people are currently serving, and said that President Obama has "turned our military into some sort of weird social experiment." Meanwhile, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh mocks the idea that transgender people should be allowed in the military with repeated uses of the term "tranny" and his token phrase "add-a-dick-to-me babe."
If the rhetoric sounds familiar, it should. Conservative media used the same attacks in their attempts to preserve DADT or replace it with a discriminatory policy even more extreme.
Three years ago, Perkins argued that repealing DADT would increase military sexual assault rates, undermine morale, and damage recruitment. Donnelly warned that after repealing DADT, "lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower" and gay service members might spread HIV through the ranks.
Erickson predicted the military bureaucracy would "go to war with Obama on the battlefield of public opinion" after DADT, while Limbaugh called the repeal "special treatment" for the gay community and intimated that it would lead to problems with "predation" and sexual harassment:
LIMBAUGH: Now, here's a question. It's an open-ended question. Will straight soldiers, heterosexuals, be able to claim sexual harassment by gays in the military? Or will such claims now be considered hate crimes? How is this gonna play out? Well, you know, because in our culture there are certain templates. It's like women never lie about rape, yet we got this ABC weather babe, you know, women never lie. Children never lie, yet we know that they do. This notion that there is predation in the homosexual community, oh, that never happens. Well, yeah, just like it never happens in the heterosexual. Of course it does. There are predators everywhere out there. Hate crimes are, if you're thinking about it, well, it's even worse than the crime that you commit. So anyway, it's a lot of stuff to shake out, so to speak.
These fears, predictably, proved unfounded. According to a Palm Center report published a year after the repeal of DADT:
Based on the substantial evidence we gathered in our research, we conclude that, during the one-year period following implementation of the policy change, DADT repeal has had no negative impact on overall military readiness or its component parts: unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale. While repeal produced a few downsides for some military members--mostly those who personally opposed the policy change--we identified important upsides as well, and in no case did negative consequences outweigh advantages. On balance, DADT repeal appears to have slightly enhanced the military's ability to do its job by clearing away unnecessary obstacles to the development of trust and bonding.
Such hateful attacks on transgender service members should disqualify these discredited pundits from commenting on the issue, but with the debate over lifting the transgender service ban heating up, it remains to be seen if media will finally stop offering them opportunities to comment.
From the September 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) responded to guest radio host Erick Erickson's recent remarks that people who work in fast food have "failed at life," calling the statement "degrading" and "out of touch" with hard working Americans.
On the September 4 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson called minimum wage workers failures stating:
If you're a 30 -something year- old person and you're making minimum wage, you've probably failed at life. It's not that life dealt you a bad hand. Life does not deal you cards. It's that you failed at life.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released a statement on Erickson's "degrading remarks" about fast food workers.
Fast food workers often work 2 to 3 jobs just to put food on the table and to take care of their families. Erick Erickson is clearly out of touch if he thinks this is something to attack. He ought to interview these workers on his radio show - maybe then he will learn what real work is.
Over the last year, the Progressive Caucus has been privileged to stand side by side with Americans from all across the country as they organize and rally for fair wages. We have met thousands of hard working men and women, many of whom work far more than 40 hours per week. Contrary to Erickson's remarks, not one of them has failed at life.
From the September 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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International incidents are a prime opportunity to daydream about foreign leaders who'd make better presidents than Barack Obama, at least inside the conservative media bubble. David Cameron has now joined Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu on the right's list of foreigners they'd rather have in the Oval Office than the man the nation elected.
On August 28, President Obama delivered remarks on the U.S. military's approach to the rising terror threat from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and recent developments in Ukraine. Right-wing media figures responded with disdain, accusing the president of failing to view the Islamic State as a threat and even suggesting it's understandable to think Obama sympathizes with terrorists. Yet when Cameron delivered similar remarks on the Islamic State's threat to the United Kingdom the next day, the right's response was much different -- Fox News contributor Erick Erickson tweeted:
Can we borrow David Cameron? He fights.-- Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 29, 2014
Cameron joins a select group of foreign leaders whom the right-wing media have determined to be better suited for the U.S. presidency than the man chosen by American voters.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson responded to President Obama's press conference addressing the Islamic State by asserting that he understands why "so many" believe Obama "is a closet Muslim jihadist sympathizer."
On August 28, Obama held a press conference to deliver remarks on the Islamic State and recent developments in Ukraine. During his statement, Obama explained that U.S. airstrikes have allowed Kurdish forces to push back the extremists, but added that more needed to be done with allies to root out the "cancer" that is the Islamic State:
As I've said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I'm confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners. For our part, I've directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I'll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy. And I've been consulting with members of Congress, and I'll continue to do so in the days ahead.
Despite Obama's strong condemnation of the Islamic State, Erickson said on his radio show that "I don't believe Barack Obama is a closet Muslim jihadi sympathizer. But I now - today, after this press conference -- totally understand why so many of you think he is." Erickson repeated the incendiary comment on Twitter:
Erickson's inflammatory remark is the latest in a long line of extreme rhetoric from the Fox contributor. In 2012, Erickson called Obama a "composite Kenyan" on his blog RedState. He also has a history of sexist and homophobic comments: Erickson labeled Texas state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis "Abortion Barbie" and claimed that gay people need to "overcome" the "struggle" of homosexuality.
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson continued his pattern of championing anti-LGBT discrimination, warning that gay rights and Christianity are incompatible and asserting that a society that affirms LGBT equality "is a society bent on suicide."
In an August 7 Townhall.com column titled "Tolerate or Be Stamped Out," Erickson lamented the growing marginalization of anti-LGBT attitudes, charging that pro-equality activists are determined to purge Christians from American society:
In fact, enormous energy is being expended by the left in America to make Christianity and Christians unacceptable. A New York Times writer wants to stamp out those views "ruthlessly." He describes those with orthodox Christian views on marriage as unworthy of civility. Anonymous groups expose the home addresses of mostly Christians and subject them to harassment. This is not happening to orthodox Jews or Muslims, but to Christians.
It raises a serious question Americans must confront -- are gay rights and Christianity compatible? The answer appears to be no. As gay rights activists use the tactics of Bull Connor to push for what they declare civil rights, they are targeting churches, religiously affiliated groups and Christian businesses for harassment and lawsuits.
Across the country, the left has decided our sexual preference is something we are born with, but our gender is something we get to decide. Anyone who thinks otherwise is threatened and harassed. Several thousand-year-old pillars of society are being shoved aside in the name of tolerance. Those who speak up for sanity, tradition and faith are treated scornfully.
This will not end well for any of us. Despite surveys designed to show the contrary, children tend to do best with mothers and fathers. A society that willfully undermines perpetuating itself is a society bent on suicide. One thing is for sure -- a faith that survived its followers being used as torches to light the streets of Rome will survive a modern age hell bent on ruthlessly stamping it out. [emphasis added]
Erickson's latest apoplectic screed is par for the course from the Fox News commentator. Last month, he endorsed a Georgia congressional candidate's view that "the homosexual movement ... is destroying America." Previously, Erickson has written that gay people are on the "road to hell" and warned businesses that serve gay couples that they are "aiding and abetting" sin. Moreover, Erickson is a prominent supporter of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group working internationally to help criminalize homosexuality.
Conservative pundit Erick Erickson, who once called a Supreme Court justice a "goat fucking child molester" and has been criticized by coworkers for sexist and incendiary remarks, is trying to become a Republican kingmaker. Many Republicans are happily promoting his endorsements, paying his site for advertising, and attending his events.
On August 7-9, Republicans such as Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, and RNC chair Reince Priebus will attend Erickson's 2014 RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas. Previous speakers at the annual event have included Sen. Tim Scott, Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Erickson is a Fox News contributor and the editor-in-chief of RedState.com, where he, according to his biography, writes "candidly about and challenge the Republican establishment as well as rally conservatives to push their agenda at both the federal and state level." He believes that "conservatives must unite to clean up the Republican Party. If they don't, voters will keep rejecting Republican pseudo-socialists in favor of authentic socialists." His philosophy has led to fights with establishment Republican pundits like Karl Rove and GOP apparatuses like the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
That Erickson would want the Republican Party to tack even further to the right isn't surprising. This is the same pundit that cites Jesus to deny the threat of climate change, endorses homophobia, and believes Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" and death panels are real.
But his commentary goes beyond extreme conservative positions and into the realm of remarks that even his own colleagues find "boorish and obnoxious."
House Republicans pulled a bill which would increase funding for security at the southern border after conservative media and their allies voiced opposition to it.
The bill, pushed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was tabled after he and House Republican leadership faced "a rebellion among their most conservative ranks," according to the New York Times, who also reported that the failure to pass the bill "ensures that no legislation to address what both Democrats and Republicans call an urgent humanitarian crisis will reach President Obama's desk before the August break." After the measure failed, Republicans met to discuss whether they would bring up another bill before Congress goes into recess or to scrap the legislation entirely. Roll Call reported that "chaos reigned" as it became unclear what Republican leaders would decide to do.
Conservative media darling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was reportedly whipping votes in order to stop the bill the night before its introduction, according to a Washington Post report. Cruz appeared on Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren that same night and attacked what he described as "President Obama's amnesty."
Weekly Standard founder and ABC News contributor Bill Kristol wrote a July 31 blog post demanding that the House "kill the bill." He described the bill as "dubious legislation" and argued that passing it would "take the focus off what President Obama has done about immigration."
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt agreed with Kristol, writing that the House should "kill the fake border security bill and go home until the House leadership gets serious about passing a real border security bill."
The Drudge Report highlighted opposition to the bill at the top of the site with the headline "Hill Phones Melt As Boehner Pushes Border."
The Drudge headline linked to Breitbart.com, which has repeatedly opposed immigration reform efforts. The story by Matthew Boyle noted that "The American people have overloaded the Congressional phone lines yet again on Thursday, pressuring their members of Congress to vote against the House and Senate immigration bills."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued at his site, RedState, that the bill was flawed because it failed to repeal the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which conservatives incorrectly blame for generating the surge in child migrants from Central America.
Erickson added, "The House GOP should be starting with closing DACA, not telling conservatives they first have to fund the President and then they'll get table scraps" and directed his readers to RedState's "action center" where they could call Congress and demand that "the House GOP must close DACA."
Daily Caller columnist Mickey Kaus promoted a campaign from the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which urged readers to call the U.S. Capitol switchboard in order to speak to their member of Congress and demand "No New Laws" on immigration. Kaus also linked to a list of members and their direct office phone numbers.
Laura Ingraham, a talk radio host and Fox News/ABC News contributor, who has been an anti-immigration reform crusader for years, wrote on Twitter that Boehner had made a "supreme accomplishment" by pushing a bill that "manages to enrage both the political left and conservatives." She later celebrated its defeat.
There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson endorsed a congressional candidate's assertion that "the homosexual movement" is "destroying America."
On July 22, Georgia Republican Jody Hice won the Republican primary to succeed Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) in the state's 10th congressional district. In the wake of Hice's victory, BuzzFeed's Andrew Kacynski highlighted 11 examples of Hice's history of inflammatory commentary on LGBT issues.
The passages Erickson endorsed included Hice's claim that "the homosexual movement is ... destroying America by aggressively seeking to destroy traditional families, religion, and marriages for the purpose of removing all societal moral boundaries":
The item Erickson thought most conservatives would "maybe" agree with concerned Hice's suggestion that gay people can change their sexual orientation:
Conservative figures have resorted to linking the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, to the July 17 crash of Flight MH17, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner reportedly shot down by pro-Russia rebels as it flew over Ukraine, killing nearly 300 people.
This form of exploitation has become commonplace among right-wing talking heads, who have repeatedly attempted to link Benghazi to a variety of unrelated events such as the Chris Christie bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, Monday Night Football, openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam, the weather, and even the still-missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.
These media figures often invoke Benghazi to attack President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or to deflect scrutiny away from conservatives, and the deadly plane crash in Ukraine presented another opportunity.
Radio host Rush Limbaugh took aim at Obama's response to the plane crash by linking it to the administration's response to the Benghazi attacks. Criticizing Obama for not taking a harsher stance toward Russia and the pro-Russia rebels who reportedly shot down the plane, Limbaugh alleged on his July 21 show, "If we're not going to take action against Benghazi ... we're not going to take action here."
Right-wing media personalities took victory laps following the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Court ruled that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide health coverage for employees that includes contraception if the employer has a religious objection.