Some conservative media pundits suggested 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) may have disqualified himself from the presidency after his opposition to the National Security Agency's bulk phone collections program caused parts of the PATRIOT Act to lapse.
Media outlets are baselessly linking an increase in murders in Baltimore and other cities to "increased scrutiny" of police, without noting the legitimate reasons why such scrutiny of local police departments is needed.
Homicides have spiked in the last month in Baltimore, with 43 killings reported in May, the most in one month since 1971 and the highest monthly per capita rate on record, according to The Baltimore Sun. At the same time, arrests have plummeted, with a WBAL-TV investigation finding arrests have gone down 32 percent since the curfew was lifted, and the Sun reporting arrests in May this year were less than half the number in May last year.
Several right-wing media figures are attributing these numbers to increased scrutiny of police, and this narrative is seeping into mainstream coverage. On the June 1 edition of Fox & Friends, during an interview with author Kevin Jackson, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle argued that "police are more concerned about their own well-being. They don't want to be arrested or persecuted for just putting on the blue every morning." She added that "when you have individuals like [Baltimore City State's Attorney] Marilyn Mosby going aggressively against the police," this "undermines the ability of law enforcement to keep people in the community safe," linking the increase in homicides to Mosby's decision to charge six Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.
On the May 31 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, National Review Online contributor Heather Mac Donald similarly claimed the U.S. is "in the grips of a hysteria against cops," saying "cops have gotten the message that they should back off of policing." She faulted the "mainstream media, the university presidents talking about assaults on blacks and of course the president and former attorney general." Mac Donald, who has a history of deeply offensive commentary on race, was discussing her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which she argued that the "most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months."
The previous week, National Review editor Rich Lowry also advocated for increased incarceration in response to the spike in violence, and cited anonymous police officers who "say they feel that city authorities don't have their back, understandably enough when city leaders are loath to call rioters 'thugs.'"
And now the Associated Press is adopting the same language. In a May 31 report on Baltimore homicides, the AP stated that "Some attribute the drop [in arrests] to increased scrutiny of police following the April death of Freddie Gray from injuries received in police custody."
Aside from the obvious problem with this argument -- that there is no evidence these feelings attributed to the police have resulted in an increase in murders -- this coverage has also missed a significant reason why people have called for increased scrutiny of police officers since the deaths of men like Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray: the fact that police killings and police brutality disproportionately affect people of color.
On May 30, the Washington Post released a study on police killings, which found that two-thirds of unarmed victims of police shootings were minorities, and "blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred." Their figures represent far greater total than the FBI statistics on police killings, which are "widely considered to be misleading and inaccurate": FBI records show about 400 shootings per year, compared to 385 so far this year in the Post's data. Three of the 385 shootings the Post reported on resulted in the officer being charged, or less than one percent. And over the last several years, the Department of Justice has found that numerous local police departments have engaged in a "pattern or practice" of improper discrimination against residents of color, and have disproportionately targeted them for stops and arrests.
Faced with stark numbers like these, any media outlet should feel compelled to at least contextualize claims of a "hysteria against cops" with this evidence of disproportionate police violence against minorities.
From the June 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News continued its crusade against the Reagan-era affordable telephone service program for low-income Americans, which the network derisively refers to as "Obamaphones," with a misleading segment suggesting that the program has "runaway costs" and traps low-income Americans in poverty.
On May 28, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler published a proposal to amend and modernize the Lifeline program, which currently provides landline and cellular phone subsidies to qualifying low-income Americans. Wheeler's proposal would expand the user-funded program to include broadband internet services, which he called "essential communications services in the 21st Century."
On the May 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson and Fox Business host Charles Payne attacked the broadband proposal and claimed that the Lifeline telephone service system was "radically expanded" during the Obama administration leading to so-called "runaway costs" and fraud.
Payne, who tweeted prior to his appearance that the Lifeline program was tantamount to "further enslavement of the 'poor'," complained on-air that the subsidy was "yet another program that's going to make it really hard for people to get off the sofa" through "the transfer of wealth from the middle class to people of a little bit lower class." Finally, Payne insisted that the expansion of broadband access to low-income Americans delivers the message to "the people who are on the lower levels of the economic rung, we are actually saying to them 'you can't make it but we'll feather the nest a little bit more'":
PAYNE: I think the moral aspect of this is when we're trying to get people into society, you know, out of wherever they live and into the sort of economic spirit, the economic ladder if you will, it's tough. You take a pay cut.
PAYNE: You have all of these benefits and if you add them all up. All of them are at 150 percent above poverty, 130 percent above poverty. Obamacare subsidies, 400 percent above poverty! That keeps a lot of people insulated. So here's the thing. Are you really helping someone by making it more difficult for them to go into the workforce? Are you incentivizing them or disincentivizing them? It's pretty clear what's happening here.
Fox & Friends cried reverse racism when St. Louis University relocated what students and faculty considered a racially and culturally insensitive statue of Native Americans kneeling in front of a white missionary.
Following student and faculty complaints, St. Louis University relocated a statue depicting Native Americans being converted by Belgian missionary Fr. Pierre DeSmet, S.J. According to St. Louis Magazine, university officials pointed to concerns of cultural insensitivity and "white supremacy" in explaining the decision to move the statue inside the university's art museum:
Clayton Berry, SLU's assistant vice president for communications, tells SLM that the statue was moved to the university's art museum after staff voiced concerns.
"In more recent years, there have been some faculty and staff who have raised questions about whether the sculpture is culturally sensitive," Berry says. "Hearing that feedback, the decision was made to place the piece within the historical context of a collection that's on permanent display in our SLU Museum of Art."
University staff weren't alone in finding the statue of two Indian men submitting to a white man troubling. Two years before its removal, the student newspaper called it "the most controversial and misunderstood of all the artwork on the Saint Louis University campus." During Occupy SLU, the six-day student protest against racial inequality sparked by the Ferguson protests, Twitter user @EmmaculateJones shared photos of the statue, calling it a visual representation of "white supremacy on SLU campus."
However, Fox contributor Tucker Carlson called the relocation an "act of racism" on the May 29 edition of Fox & Friends, insisting to co-hosts that the statue's detractors were likely "wholly ignorant" of DeSmet's good works:
KILMEADE: It's a statue of Father Pierre Jean DeSmet ... And right there he is blessing American Indians back in his day. You know why? He was a Belgian Catholic priest who was able to convert countless members of American [[-]] Indians back in that day, and the American Indian community embraced him and his legacy. And among his good friends was actually Sitting Bull.
CARLSON: Despite those facts, of which I think the student body is likely wholly ignorant, the statue has beenremoved and shuttled off to a museum where it will be shown with the appropriate cultural context. Why? Because he was a white supremacist? No. Because he was white. His skin color is itself considered so offensive by the school that this statue can no longer be on display.
KILMEADE: Did anyone even Google this?
HASSELBECK: I mean, just do your homework! He was a friend to that community, reached out, and because of him a major treaty was signed. And after he died, only then did things get even more violent. He was the peacekeeper between the two groups.
Hillary Clinton returned to South Carolina this week to rally support for her 2016 White House bid, and despite speaking at length about the substance of her campaign platform, media chose to fixate on her southern accent.
While speaking to the South Carolina Democratic Women's Council, Clinton laid out her vision for America and highlighted her support for President Obama following their 2008 primary fight. In her remarks, Clinton placed a heavy emphasis on her support for gender pay equality and helping middle class families, while pushing for civility and coalition-building:
CLINTON: We will have disagreements. We will have debates, but I want you to know that I will be remembering what I think should be at the core of every political campaign, how we treat one another, and how we care for this if we have been given, the United States of America.
Media's takeaway from the event? Clinton's southern accent.
CNN's New Day host Alisyn Camerota declared Clinton's accent is "an interesting twist" to her campaign, while MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said that, "Hillary Clinton got her southern accent back after, like, 20 years." Vox.com dedicated a post to exploring the origins of the accent, writing that "there is a certain fascination worthy to be had of public figures who can turn their accents on and off."
Such superficial coverage of Clinton's event is unsurprising, given media's seeming preference for fluff over substance in coverage of the Clinton campaign and their repeated attempts to sensationalize Clinton's voice.
Right-wing media figures blamed violence in Baltimore on the Department of Justice's (DOJ) recommended limits on the use of force implemented by the Cleveland Police Department, suggesting the Obama administration is causing increased violence by investigating local police departments and "cracking down on the police."
From the May 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the May 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News attacked Planned Parenthood Action Fund for acknowledging that 2016 Republican hopeful Carly Fiorina's policy positions may threaten women's health, suggesting that her positions could not harm women because Fiorina is female.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck took issue with a Planned Parenthood Action Fund poll that asked "which GOP presidential contender is the worst for women's health" because it included a female candidate, Carly Fiorina. On the May 21 edition of the program, Hasselbeck wondered, "How is a female candidate a threat to women?" before suggesting even conducting such a poll on the election's impact on healthcare policy was inappropriate because Planned Parenthood receives government grants.
Hasselbeck steered clear of addressing Fiorina's actual policy stances, many of which would disproportionately harm women.
Fiorina has pushed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which greatly improves women's access to health care, claiming that it "does not solve problems -- it creates them." She supported a dangerous ban on abortions after 20-weeks so extreme even Republican congresswomen opposed it. Running for U.S. Senate in 2010, Fiorina said that she would "absolutely" repeal Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity.
She has opposed policies to address the gender pay gap, disputing the necessity of the Paycheck Fairness Act, and repeatedly objected to efforts to raise the minimum wage, which would greatly benefit the nearly two-thirds of minimum wage earners who are women and help close the gender pay gap.
Fox News failed to mention that 2,700 children will be booted off Arizona's welfare program in the wake of extreme restrictions pushed through by Republicans in the state.
Arizona legislators voted on May 18 to drastically restrict the state's welfare program, capping the lifetime limit for recipients to one year. As the AP reported, the new rule would be "the shortest window" of benefits in the nation, and "As a result, the Arizona Department of Economic Security will drop at least 1,600 families - including more than 2,700 children - from the state's federally funded welfare program on July 1, 2016."
Yet no mention of the thousands of children and families that stand to lose access to the program was made during a May 20 segment on the vote during Fox News' Fox & Friends. During an interview with Arizona state Senator Kelli Ward (R), co-host Steve Doocy instead focused on state budgetary problems, asking "why was this bill important?" Going on to suggest that the bill was produced to address the frustrations about "the way welfare works in the country," Doocy gave an uncritical platform for Sen. Ward to claim that the measures were simply "necessary" despite the consequences:
But the measure will not only hurt those who need such programs most, it may also increase costs to the state in the long run. As Liz Schott, a welfare policy analyst, explained to the AP: "Long-term welfare recipients are often the most vulnerable, suffering from mental and physical disabilities, poor job histories and little education ... But without welfare, they'll likely show up in other ways that will cost taxpayers, from emergency rooms to shelters to the criminal justice system."
Mic's Elizabeth Plank fired back against Fox News' absurd anti-feminist rhetoric on the May 19 edition of Flipping The Script. Plank highlighted the outrageous claims frequently perpetuated by conservative media figures in order to discourage men from being feminists. Pointing to Fox News host Doocy asking "when did it happen, where men and husbands became doormats" and a Fox guest who claimed that all "feminism has delivered is angry women and feminine men," Plank tackled the absurdity of such claims during an interview with Orange is the New Black's Matt McGorry.
Conservative media have actively adopted a "blame feminism" approach to many of the world's problems, including sexual assault and the lack of infrastructure funding. Fox News in particular has gone as far as to blame it for boys falling behind in school and men no longer wanting to marry.
From the May 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News falsely asserted that President Obama was disarming police officers by issuing an executive order limiting the transfer of certain military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. But the order merely limits local law enforcement's access to certain types of military equipment by prohibiting their acquisition from the federal government.
Right-wing media have a plan to solve the national crisis of poverty in America -- and it's all about "personal responsibility."
Roughly 45 million Americans live in poverty, 1 in 7 received food stamps just last year, and 20 percent of children under the age of 18 were impoverished in 2013. Politicians and media figures have offered many possible solutions to help low-income Americans break free from this systemic cycle of inequality, including expanding the social safety net and educational opportunities for all.
But over the years, conservative media have offered their own strategies. Watch as Media Matters looks back at the five easy steps they've proposed to help Americans living paycheck to paycheck find that "richness of spirit":