Right-wing media are misrepresenting an Illinois bill to falsely accuse President Obama of hypocrisy.
On July 19, in remarks on Trayvon Martin, Obama called for a review of Stand Your Ground laws, which made it legal for people to defend themselves with lethal force if they believe their lives or safety are in danger, even if they can retreat. Conservative media figures responded by distorting a 2004 bill Obama supported while serving as a state senator in Illinois to accuse him of hypocrisy.
During an appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom, guest and conservative radio host David Webb, pointing to Obama's remarks, accused the president of "political hypocrisy," claiming, "In 2004, it was President Obama who co-sponsored a bill in Illinois that strengthened the Stand Your Ground law."
John Fund, a Fox News contributor and National Review columnist, wrote that Obama "co-sponsored a bill that strengthened his state's 1961 Stand Your Ground law" despite spending "part of his surprise appearance at last Friday's White House press briefing urging that the Stand Your Ground laws that exist in 31 states be reexamined."
Likewise, conservative blogger Jim Hoft wrote: "On Friday Barack Obama called for a review of the controversial Stand Your Ground laws that were at the heart of the killing of Trayvon Martin. But back in 2004 Illinois state Senator Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation expanding the state's Stand Your Ground laws."
"Stand your ground" is substantively different than what Obama backed in Illinois. He backed a tweak to the "castle doctrine," which reads like this.A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate such other's trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with her real property (other than a dwelling) or personal property, lawfully in his possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his immediate family or household or of a person whose property he has a legal duty to protect.
"Stand your ground" takes the concept of the castle doctrine and turns it into a traveling force field of sorts. Here's Florida's language:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
It should also be noted that Florida enacted the first Stand Your Ground law in 2005, a year after the Illinois bill in question had passed.
Right-wing media marked the Supreme Court's devastating Shelby County v. Holder decision by ignoring, trivializing, and downright misrepresenting its dire consequences for one of the most effective civil rights laws of all time, as well as for millions of American voters.
Tossing aside history, legal precedent, and congressional intent, the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 in Shelby County, a sharply split 5-4 opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts. In a twisted reading of this crown jewel of civil rights law, the conservative majority invalidated the provision within the VRA that prevents states and local jurisdictions from enacting racially discriminatory election practices, reasoning that this vital protection against voter suppression is instead an impermissible restriction on the highly dubious "equal sovereignty" of southern states.
Rather than acknowledge the documented voter suppression that the VRA has effectively and consistently kept at bay from the voting rights struggles of the civil rights era through the 2012 elections, right-wing media are echoing the Supreme Court's blow to the VRA, misrepresenting Shelby County as something other than an attack on the American right to vote.
Fox News host Jon Scott, in a Happening Now segment leading off Fox's coverage of the decision, chose to trivialize and confuse the radical decision as "the president took another shot you might say, a bit of a smackdown" by the Supreme Court. The consequences stretch much further than that.
Contrary to this horserace description, the VRA has never been a political manifestation of the executive. The VRA is rather Congress' chosen bipartisan method to effectuate the right to vote in the Fifteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, repeatedly updated and reauthorized because of incessant and ongoing voter suppression, and upheld as constitutional four separate times by the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, later in the day, Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano continued in the vein of his colleague by astonishingly asserting "nobody is seriously claiming today...that there is systematic efforts on the part of the government in the south to keep people of color from voting."
Instead, right-wing media figures like Rush Limbaugh chose to tout the decision as a victory against people who allegedly discriminate against whites, such as the "civil rights community" that wants "perpetual discrimination."
Fox News contributor and National Review columnist John Fund fabricated a link between voter suppression and IRS employees inappropriately singling out tea party and conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status, claiming that such scrutiny by the IRS is the "real" form of voter suppression.
Fund still claims that voter suppression as commonly understood - attempts to prevent certain members of the public from voting - did not take place during the 2012 elections, despite widespread reports of such efforts fueled by restrictive voter ID laws.
On the May 21 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fund stated that "there was a lot of ridiculous charges about voter suppression in the last election even though black turnout was higher than white turnout." Fund again denied the existence of voter suppression in a May 23 editorial in the National Review Online, stating that allegations of voter suppression"proved to be twaddle."
In fact, research shows that there were widespread attempts to suppress the vote in the 2012 elections. Supporters of voter ID laws, the most common voter suppression measures, claimed that they would combat "voter fraud." However, such fraud is virtually non-existent.
Acknowledging that concern for voter fraud is a pretext, some state officials admitted that voting restrictions were enacted to influence the outcome of the election. For example, Florida officials acknowledged that efforts to curb access to early voting were intended to decrease Democratic votes:
Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal.
"In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn't have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn't the impact that they had this election cycle," Bertsch said, referring to the fact that Democrats picked up seven legislative seats in Florida in 2012 despite the early voting limitations.
Another GOP consultant, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that influential consultants to the Republican Party of Florida were intent on beating back Democratic turnout in early voting after 2008.
In 2008 Democrats, especially African-Americans, turned out in unprecedented numbers for President Barack Obama, many of them casting ballots during 14 early voting days. In Palm Beach County, 61.2 percent of all early voting ballots were cast by Democrats that year, compared with 18.7 percent by Republicans.
The latest print copy of The Weekly Standard contains an unsigned editorial condemning the press for not covering the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is accused of murder after performing illegal later-term abortions at his Philadelphia clinic. Bill Kristol's magazine insists there's "no conceivable professional justification for the Gosnell blackout." And yet the Weekly Standard's editorial represents the first time the magazine has mentioned the Gosnell trial, which began March 18, in its pages, according to a Nexis search.
It's a pattern we have seen play out again and again in the last week: Indignant conservatives demanding to know why the disturbing Gosnell trial isn't receiving more coverage from the allegedly liberal media, while failing to acknowledge the trial has often been ignored by the conservative press, too.
The lingering question is, why? Why did a Philadelphia trial that conservatives now insist deserves ongoing, front-page national press coverage manage to interest so few right-leaning journalists for so long? Why did the conservative press get caught in the embarrassing position where members complained about a Gosnell "media blackout" when conservative outlets had apparently participated in the blackout? (Note that as of today, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and still have not covered the trial as a news story and Murdoch's Wall Street Journal has published just a single report.)
I think the simple answer is that the Gosnell story did not involve President Obama, therefore it didn't sustain the attention of the far-right press, which seems fully committed to producing content that only revolves around attacking the president or ginning up phony outrage about his every action.
For four years, the GOP press has confirmed its obsession with documenting how Obama is destroying the Constitution and that he his agenda represents payback against white Europeans who settled the country, that he attempted to "assault" liberty with his second inaugural address, the First Family's vacations cost too much, Bob Woodward was threatened by White House "thugs", inviting school children to White House events is offensive and exploitative, Friends of Hamas donated money to Obama's Secretary of Defense, or whatever other nonsense is being shoveled that given week.
Infected with Obama Derangement Syndrome, conservative journalists often seem incapable of surveying the larger landscape and deciding what's actually newsworthy and important to their cause. They seem incapable of viewing the world through anything but an Obama-hating soda straw. And when looking through that straw in recent weeks, they couldn't see the Gosnell trial because the president was nowhere in sight.
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
Fox News is using its lack of knowledge about the Voting Rights Act and basic civil rights law to smear the nomination of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor.
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) and Section 5, a provision within the law that requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting practices to submit election changes for federal review, has been a source of difficulty for Fox News. On the March 14 edition of America Live, Fox News host Megyn Kelly and frequent guest Jay Sekulow attacked Perez by incorrectly describing the role of race in race-conscious civil rights law, such as the VRA. In the lengthy segment about the Voting Section - a Department of Justice (DOJ) section under Perez's supervision - Kelly misrepresented a recent Inspector General report and allowed Sekulow to question Perez's competence even as he mangled civil rights law by insisting the Voting Rights Act is "colorblind."
Before and after every major election, John Fund can be found on Fox News and elsewhere in the conservative media hyping allegations of voter fraud that he insists are tainting our democracy and require legislative remedy, usually in the form of strict voter ID laws. And, sure enough, he's taken to National Review Online to wave around a Hamilton County, Ohio, investigation into 19 cases of possible voter fraud in the 2012 election. Unfortunately for Fund, those 19 cases represent a minuscule percentage of the hundreds of thousands of votes cast, and just two of the cases involve voters casting more than one in-person ballot, a type of fraud that strict voter ID laws are supposed to prevent.
Critics of voter ID and other laws cracking down on voter fraud claim they're unnecessary because fraud is nonexistent. For instance, Brennan Center attorneys Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt claimed last year: "A person casting two votes risks jail time and a fine for minimal gain. Proven voter fraud, statistically, happens about as often as death by lightning strike."
Well, lightning is suddenly all over Cincinnati, Ohio. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is investigating 19 possible cases of alleged voter fraud that occurred when Ohio was a focal point of the 2012 presidential election. A total of 19 voters and nine witnesses are part of the probe.
Note that Fund's example of someone arguing that voter fraud is "nonexistent" is Waldman and Levitt arguing that it's exceedingly rare, which is obviously not the same as "nonexistent." So already he's refuting an argument no one is making.
But what about the Hamilton County investigation that has Fund so excited? A whole 19 cases of possible voter fraud! Fund doesn't bother to mention that there were 421,997 ballots cast in Hamilton County in 2012*. So even if every single one of those 19 cases involved the fraudulent casting of a ballot, they would represent just 0.0045 percent of the total. That's pretty rare -- which is exactly the point Waldman and Levitt made.
A Fox News graphic compared so-called "right-to-work" laws to states with "Forced-Unionism." But workers in states that have not passed right-to-work laws are not forced into unions.
On the December 10 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor John Fund claimed that right-to-work laws similar to the one recently passed in Michigan have benefitted workers and state economies, despite evidence showing that these laws do not increase employment and lead to lower wages. During the segment, Fox News aired a graphic contrasting states who have passed right-to-work laws with "forced-unionism" states:
But workers in states without right-to-work laws are not forced into unions. In a 2011 post for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, economist Dean Baker pointed out that workers always have a choice whether to work for a union, whether or not their state has passed right-to-work laws:
Fox News is promoting another legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act that originated in a right-wing think-tank and was hyped by conservative blogs. The State of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit based on a problematic theory that alleges tax credits within federally-run health insurance marketplaces called "exchanges" are unauthorized, which was developed by Michael Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and National Review Online contributing editor and Case Western Reserve University School of Law professor Jonathan H. Adler. But Fox News has not only failed to report the extensive debunking of this tax credit theory, it has also mischaracterized this challenge to tax credits offered in exchanges as a "serious" constitutional one, although the new constitutional arguments are even more far-fetched than the original statutory claims.
From the November 21 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:
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Right-wing media have attacked early voting, claiming it leads to fraud, pushes uninformed voters to cast ballots too early, and is unconstitutional and untraditional. In fact, early voting increases the integrity of the voting process, and the vast majority of early votes are cast in the final two weeks before the election by decided voters. Early voting dates back to the founding of the country.
Media figures are creating false balance in their coverage of the presidential debate by claiming both candidates lied. But the statements from President Obama they are pointing to are true.
John Fund of National Review and Jonathan Karl of ABC News both used factual statements made by President Obama as examples to claim that he "stretched the truth" during the October 3 presidential debate. Fund cited Obama's comments about the power of an advisory board created by the health care reform law, while Karl pointed to Obama's statement that he has proposed a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. In fact, both statements by President Obama during the debate were true, and have been supported by independent fact-checkers.
As a guest on CBS' Face the Nation Fund claimed "both candidates, I think, told things that stretched the truth." Fund specifically criticized Obama for saying in the debate that the Independent Payments Advisory Board instituted by the health reform law "wasn't going to make any decisions on treatment." According to Fund, that board "has unilateral power, unless Congress overrides it with a supermajority, to basically tell all doctors and hospitals this is how much money you have to treat people. That is incredible power. That is effectively the power to ration health care. So I think the President was stretching the truth in a big part of Obamacare."
During the debate, President Obama disputed Mitt Romney's statement that the health reform law "put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they're going to receive." Obama described the advisory board as "a group of health care experts, doctors, et cetera" who work "to figure out, how can we reduce the cost of care in the system overall? ... [W]hat this board does is basically identifies best practices and says, let's use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do."
Obama's description is accurate. The health reform law forbids the board from submitting "any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits," and multiple fact-checkers have made clear the board "wouldn't make any health care decisions for individual Americans" and "cannot by law make recommendations about what treatments people get." Instead, according to Politifact, "it would make broad policy decisions that affect Medicare's overall cost."
John Fund, on a brief hiatus from lying about voter fraud, writes at National Review Online today that there's a vicious double-standard at play in the media's disparate treatment of Mother Jones' video of Mitt Romney denigrating half the country as incorrigible welfare parasites, and James O'Keefe's series of "sting" videos. "The [Mother Jones] tape was played over and over with no caveats, hand-wringing, or speculation that it might have been doctored," writes Fund, who goes on to complain that O'Keefe routinely faces accusations of video doctoring. This complaint is echoed by O'Keefe himself, who has been busily clucking his tongue about the "double standard amongst professional journalists."
That's utter nonsense. If the media did have any reasons to doubt the video's authenticity, they were quickly put to bed by the Romney campaign itself.
Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald has a good explanation here for why the Romney video does absolutely nothing to vindicate James O'Keefe and his M.O. of crafting elaborate hoaxes to trick private citizens and low-level government employees into saying foolish things. I'd add to it that O'Keefe is an incompetent liar who has been caught doctoring his videos. Many, many, many times. A good run-down of the many deceptions in his various video "stings" was put together by, ahem, Mother Jones. O'Keefe has not earned the presumption of trust. In fact, he's worked doggedly to forfeit it.
The same can't be said of David Corn, whose byline tops the Romney video stories. Yes, he writes from a progressive standpoint and works for a liberal publication. He also has decades of professional experience and a reputation for solid journalism. To put Corn and O'Keefe on the same plane is a huge disservice to the former and an unearned plaudit for the latter.
Fox News is now mischaracterizing a court ruling requiring the state of Ohio to allow in-person early voting during the last three days before the election as unfair to members of the military.
On Friday a federal court adopted an injunction preventing Ohio election officials from implementing new restrictions on in-person early voting. The ruling came in response to an Obama campaign lawsuit that sought to overturn a 2011 statute that halted early voting access in the three days leading up to the election except for members of the military and their families. The Obama campaign sought to restore access to the polls for all Ohio residents during that period.
The court agreed, finding that allowing both military and non-military citizens to equally participate in early voting "places all Ohio voters on equal standing." Indeed, the ruling has no impact on military voters and their families, but simply provides all other Ohioans with the same access to the polls they were scheduled to enjoy.
But during the September 3 edition of America Live, Fox News host Megyn Kelly and Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund portrayed the ruling as an insult to the military and an "obstacle" to their access to the polls.
FUND: So what Ohio said is for the last three days before the election we will let military voters vote, but everyone else will have to vote before the three day period. The district judge said, "That's unfair," and said, "You'll have to extend early voting right up until Election Day." It now goes to a federal appeals court. And I think it's pretty clear that the military vote can have a separate designation and can be treated separately because they are different from every average voter.
KELLY: Yeah, they are special. And this was an interesting case we talked about it prior to the ruling because it pitted the Obama administration against military families and voters.
FUND: The National Guard [Association], the Marine Corps Association, all of them said, "This is outrageous what you are trying to do."
KELLY: They said, "There is a justification for treating us differently. And it's not -- you don't get to say that everybody is the same as the military."
FUND: We have enough obstacles in the way of our military now we don't need to create others.
Fund -- who also lambasted early voting in general as "out of control" -- is the latest right-wing figure to invoke the canard that allowing civilians equal access to the polls somehow constitutes an "obstacle" for members of the military who wish to vote.