Fox News and NBC ignored Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) record of opposing gender equality legislation during interviews with the Republican presidential candidate's wife, in which Kelley Paul attempted to dismiss accusations that he looks down on women.
Kelley Paul, the wife of 2016 hopeful Rand Paul, appeared on Fox News and NBC's Today for multiple interviews April 14 to discuss her husband's presidential bid and her new book.
The hosts of Fox & Friends turned the discussion to recent accusations that Rand Paul is sexist, after the candidate infamously lectured Today's Savannah Guthrie for asking about his foreign policy positions earlier this month, a testy exchange that came on the heels of Paul shushing CNBC's Kelly Evans during an interview in February.
"You know how it works," co-host Steve Doocy told Kelley Paul. "The mainstream media's just trying to disqualify him. They see that thing, they put it all together, they say, 'oh he's a sexist, he can't be president.'"
Paul defended her husband's treatment of women, saying his "entire professional career is working with female surgeons" and noting a longtime partner in his ophthalmology practice was a woman.
Later on The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson asked Paul,"What do you make of the fact that some people are saying that your husband may not be able to connect as well with women?" Paul again cited her husband's female work partner as evidence that he has no issues with women, describing the accusations of sexism as a "false narrative -- a construct sort-of created on the Democrat side."
Meanwhile, NBC's Hoda Kotb asked Paul on Today to discuss her husband's relationship with women and respond to his previous treatment of Guthrie which sparked widespread backlash. Paul again pointed to her husband's longtime female colleague.
The examination of Paul's professional record as a means of predicting how a Paul presidency would benefit women overlooked his more recent professional activities.His legislative history contains red flags for anyone hoping to characterize him as an advocate for women -- issues that weren't raised by Kotb, Carlson, or the Fox "friends."
Paul is on record opposing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which would provide protections and resources to victims of domestic violence. He wrote a letter in 2012 arguing that the issue should be addressed at the state level, not by the federal government.
It's also noteworthy that Fox's defense of Paul came on April 14, Equal Pay Day, because the senator has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act multiple times. As ThinkProgress noted, Paul compared the legislation "to the Soviet Politburo dictating wages and the prices of goods" and added that the wage landscape is better when "the marketplace decides what wages are."
Fox News has been at the forefront of defending Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law, falsely portraying the measure as harmless and whitewashing the anti-LGBT extremism that motivated the legislation.
On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) into law. The law -- which has been criticized by religious leaders, the business community, legal scholars, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis -- provides a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.
The law triggered a furious national backlash, with major companies, celebrities, and government leaders condemning the measure for potentially encouraging discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers. Pence and top Indiana Republicans eventually pledged to "clarify" the law by adding language that explicitly prohibits RFRA from being used as a defense for discrimination in court.
Throughout the controversy, a number of Fox News personalities whitewashed the law's discriminatory purpose and misleadingly compared Indiana's RFRA to other "religious freedom" laws -- a comparison that even a Fox News anchor acknowledged was inaccurate.
Media outlets have argued that Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) mirrors RFRAs passed in other states as well as the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton. In fact, Indiana's RFRA is broader than other versions of the law, and experts say it could allow private businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers on the basis of religion.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson defended Indiana's anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law, inaccurately equating it to existing federal legislation to claim the bill is harmless and necessary to protect Christians from discrimination.
On the March 25 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson and her guests discussed Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law that creates a broad license for individuals and business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a defense against charges of discrimination. Businesses, religious leaders, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis have all condemned the state's RFRA law for its potential to encourage discrimination against LGBT people in particular.
During the segment, Carlson and her guests falsely equated Indiana's RFRA with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act , which was originally passed in 1993 to prevent the government from passing laws that substantially burdening a person's free expression of religion, with a few exceptions. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA did not apply to the states, resulting in many states passing their own local RFRAs:
But Indiana's SB 101, is not, as Carlson and her guests assert, an exact replica of the federal RFRA. A February 27 letter by 30 legal scholars expressing their concern over the proposed Indiana RFRA explains the distinction between the SB 101 and the 1993 federal law:
The state RFRA bills do not, in fact, mirror the language of the federal RFRA.
The definition of "person" under the proposed RFRA differs substantially from that contained in the federal RFRA, affording standing to assert religious liberty rights to a much broader class of entities than that currently recognized by federal law.
Unlike the federal RFRA, Indiana's RFRA contains an extremely broad definition of "person" that includes organizations, corporations, or companies that are: "compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by an individual or the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes."
As Buzzfeed also reported:
The Indiana bill is broader than federal law. While the Indiana bill says that a "governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion," it also applies those rules to businesses and interactions between private parties "regardless of whether the state or any other government entity is party to the proceeding."
Carlson and her guests also downplayed the opposition against RFRA by noting that the federal bill was originally passed with bipartisan support. But the unforeseen consequences of RFRA have caused many democratic legislators who originally voted on RFRA to withdraw their support of the law. As the same legal scholars explain in their letter (emphasis added):
This parallel between support for the federal RFRA and the proposed state RFRA is misplaced. In fact, many members of the bipartisan coalition that supported the passage of the federal RFRA in 1993 now hold the view that the law has been interpreted and applied in ways they did not expect at the time they lent their endorsement to the law. As a result, the legislators who voted on RFRA have distanced themselves from their initial backing of the legislation.
As legal and religious scholar Dr. Jay Michaelson noted, these unintended consequences amount to a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people, because state RFRA laws could allow "individuals and businesses [to] exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws by proffering religious objections to them."
Portraying Indiana's RFRA as benign legislation identical to the "bipartisan" federal law isn't just inaccurate journalism. It is a part of Fox's larger role in promoting the narrative of Christian persecution to support the passage of a number of state RFRAs now being considered in states across the country. Expect to see Fox continue to misrepresent RFRA as a harmless law protecting "religious liberty" while ignoring the fact that these bills are actually the product of powerful anti-LGBT organizations lobbying to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News' Gretchen Carlson distorted President Obama's explanation that U.S. ground troops are not necessary to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in order to claim Obama believes it's not in our national interest to defeat the terrorist group.
In his February 11 request to Congress for an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, Obama stated that "our core objective is to destroy ISIL." He emphasized his opposition to engaging in "another prolonged ground war in the Middle East," which he said is "not in our national security interest." He explained further that a ground campaign is "not necessary for us to defeat ISIL." From a transcript of his remarks (emphasis added):
THE PRESIDENT: This resolution reflects our core objective to destroy ISIL. It supports the comprehensive strategy that we have been pursuing with our allies and partners: A systemic and sustained campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Support and training for local forces on the ground, including the moderate Syrian opposition. Preventing ISIL attacks, in the region and beyond, including by foreign terrorist fighters who try to threaten our countries. Regional and international support for an inclusive Iraqi government that unites the Iraqi people and strengthens Iraqi forces against ISIL. Humanitarian assistance for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Syria, who are suffering so terribly under ISIL's reign of horror.
The resolution we've submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases -- and, yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment. But they do not have a combat mission. They are focused on training Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces.
As I've said before, I'm convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That's not in our national security interest and it's not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL -- and that's what they're doing.
But Fox viewers heard a much different description of Obama's sentiment the next day on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. According to Carlson, "The president said we have no national security interest in this fight." After airing a short video depicting a portion of his remarks (but omitting Obama's statement about destroying ISIS), Carlson asked Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), "What did President Obama mean yesterday when he said that it's not in our interest to defeat ISIL? Huh?"
Playing word games with Obama's remarks is one of Fox News' favorite pastimes. The network often feigns outrage over distorted or selectively cropped comments, setting up easy attacks on their fictionalized version of the president.
Conservative media lashed out at President Obama for mentioning the Crusades and Inquisition at the National Prayer Breakfast after condemning the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) as a "death cult" that distorts Islam.
Right-wing media figures misleadingly attacked and dismissed the need for paid parental leave after President Obama's State of the Union speech advocated for expanding these programs to more Americans. In fact, economists have found that increasing paid leave would boost the economy, increase wages, and keep families out of poverty.
Fox News used the Sydney, Australia hostage situation to question whether Australia's strict gun laws should be loosened, but offered no commentary on Pennsylvania's relatively looser gun laws in their reports the same day when a man went on a shooting rampage, killing six. Americans are murdered with guns at a rate more than ten times greater than Australians.
On December 15, Fox News heavily reported on a hostage situation in a Sydney, Australia chocolate shop. A man, who according to authorities had "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," used a shotgun to hold café patrons hostage for 16 hours. After gunfire was heard police stormed the shop. The hostage-taker and two hostages were killed. One hostage was reportedly killed while trying to disarm the hostage-taker, while it is unclear if the other one was shot by the hostage taker or caught in the crossfire.
As Fox reported on developments out of Sydney, the conservative network also provided updates from Pennsylvania where Bradley William Stone allegedly went on a shooting rampage, killing his ex-wife and five of his former in-laws. One former in-law was wounded. Police are currently searching for Stone. (UPDATE: Stone has been found dead, reportedly of self-inflicted wounds.)
Tellingly, Fox News used the Sydney incident to raise questions about Australia's gun law system, while raising no such questions about looser gun laws in the United States during December 15 and December 16 mentions of the Pennsylvania spree killing on Fox programs Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends First, The Five, On the Record, America's News Headquarters, Special Report with Bret Baier, Shepard Smith Reporting, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, or America's Newsroom.
Conservative media outlets attacked President Obama's proposed plan for $263 million in funding for police training and body cameras following the police shooting of Michael Brown, accusing Obama of blaming police instead of focusing on issues affecting the black community. But research has shown that the use of body cameras has decreased civilian complaints and the use of force by police.
Media figures are touting the Keystone XL pipeline as an "environmentally safe" alternative to truck and rail transportation, uncritically citing a State Department report on the environmental impact of building Keystone XL. But experts and subsequent studies have determined that the report is based on faulty conclusions and grossly underestimates greenhouse gas emissions caused by Keystone.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan magazine for writing about politics and endorsing candidates on the same day Fox's Megyn Kelly teamed up with the magazine for a Facebook Q&A.
Cosmopolitan expanded its coverage to include politics in August, launching its "#CosmoVotes" campaign which focuses on candidate endorsements, coverage of "women-centric issues," and a "social media effort" to encourage readers to vote, particularly in the upcoming midterm elections.
On the November 3 edition of The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan's foray into politics, suggesting the magazine is "taking it a step too far," because "they basically say some kind of snarky words about any Republican candidate, calling them 'troubling,' 'an extremist who rails against the poor,' 'an anti-choice radical.'" Carlson noted that other women's magazines have covered the 2014 midterm elections highlighting both Republicans and Democrats, but questioned Cosmopolitan's decision to endorse certain candidates, saying, "A lot of people are probably wondering why fashion magazines are getting into politics and actually endorsing candidates but that is the world that we live in now":
From the October 30 edition of Fox News Channel's The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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The conservative media's meltdown over a Nebraska school district's effort to train teachers about gender diversity demonstrates how conservative misinformation threatens even basic efforts to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.
In late September, administrators from the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district in Nebraska began providing teachers with informational materials aimed at better equipping them to accommodate and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included handouts from the group Gender Spectrum, which works to help develop "a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens."
One of those handouts, "12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness," listed recommendations to help teachers make their classrooms more gender-inclusive, including asking teachers to stop gender-based bullying and avoid the use of gender-specific terms like "ladies and gentlemen." Instead, Gender Spectrum recommended teachers use terms like "readers," "campers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
The school district's distribution of Gender Spectrum's materials sparked controversy when the conservative group Nebraska Watchdog published a report on the handout on October 2. The report was picked up by National Review Online and The Daily Caller before eventually making the jump to Fox News. The network ran multiple segments falsely accusing LPS of "banning" terms like "boys and girls" as part of a "political agenda."
In an interview with Equality Matters, Gender Spectrum's Director of Education Joel Baum criticized the "disingenuous" reporting on his organization's training materials. "They're sharing information about work that's occurring in a school and not being accurate about ... the overall purpose of the work," he said. "[B]y taking various things out of context - like "purple penguins" - they completely trivialize something that's really, really important and misrepresent our work."
Fox's misleading coverage of Gender Spectrum's handouts eventually prompted LPS Superintendent Steve Joel to call a press conference to dispel the network's misinformation. Joel criticized conservative media outlets for peddling falsehoods about the educational materials, calling it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school was forced to waste time and resources responding to calls and questions about the handouts.