Right-wing media figures revived the specter of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell to portray him as the face of legal abortion in a dishonest attack on Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and pro-choice advocates.
In separate posts, Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer both invoked Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in May, 2013 for illegal procedures performed at his Philadelphia clinic.
In an NRO post, Goldberg highlighted Davis' successful filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill in the Texas state legislature by describing the effort as "going on against the backdrop of the sensational Kermit Gosnell case in Pennsylvania" and recounted details of Gosnell's crimes. Krauthammer pushed similar tactics in his op-ed, suggesting Republicans pursue a "strategy for seizing the high ground on abortion" by invoking Gosnell, and claiming his strategy would "[c]hallenge the other side on substance. And watch them lose":
Last year's Kermit Gosnell trial was a seminal moment. The country was shown a baby butcher at work and national sentiment was nearly unanimous. Abortion-rights advocates ran away from Gosnell. But they can't hide from the issue.
This tactic of trying to tie legal abortion to Gosnell is a familiar strategy among anti-choice media figures, despite the fact that Gosnell's crimes bear no resemblance to legal abortions.
The attempt to tarnish safe, legal abortions by invoking the crimes of a single doctor distorts the conversation about abortion by hiding the fact that the majority of abortions in America are safe and conducted early in the pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute reported that 88% of pregnancies occurred in the first trimester. Pro-choice group RH Reality Check reviewed responses to a congressional inquiry by 38 state attorneys general and found that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe."
Restricting access to abortion risks pushing women towards unsafe procedures. The American Journal of Public Health found that women are more likely to seek unsafe and unlawful operation with access barriers to legal abortion:
Several studies indicate that the factors causing women to delay abortions until the second trimester include cost and access barriers, late detection of pregnancy, and difficulty deciding whether to continue the pregnancy. In part because of their increased vulnerability to these barriers, low-income women and women of color are more likely than are other women to have second-trimester abortions.
Image via mirsasha under a Creative Commons License
Conservative media figures have sharply criticized the recent push by Democratic politicians to alleviate poverty and reduce economic inequality. However, most of this criticism is grounded in a number of myths about the causes, effects, and importance of growing economic inequality in the United States.
Right-wing media denied the effectiveness of anti-poverty policies in response to President Obama's recent push to reduce income inequality, instead hyping marriage as a preferable economic solution. But experts have rejected that notion, citing a systemic lack of economic opportunity as a more critical issue.
Less than 48 hours into the new year, Fox News' Jonah Goldberg resumed one of the network's favorite lines of attack: dismissing any action from President Obama and Democrats as merely an attempt to distract from Obamacare.
During a discussion of the 2014 midterm elections on the January 2 edition of Happening Now, Fox contributor Jonah Goldberg insisted that Obama and Democrats are focusing on "populist issues such as the minimum wage" in order "to get people talking about anything other than Obamacare."
In a post on National Review Online about a series of lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate, editor at large Jonah Goldberg misled about the mandate, how contraception actually works, and then asked why conservatives are considered the "aggressors in the culture war".
On November 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Even though the plaintiffs are for-profit, secular corporations, they want to claim an unprecedented exemption from a generally applicable law -- the ACA's contraception mandate -- because the individual owners of the companies claim their religious opposition to birth control is constitutionally more significant.
Goldberg viewed this opposition as evidence of Democrats "getting deeply involved in the reproductive choices of nearly every American," arguing that the "conventional narrative" that "conservatives are obsessed with social issues" is thus unfair. Goldberg also significantly underestimated the impact a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would have on well-established First Amendment and corporate precedent.
From Goldberg's December 5 post:
Maybe someone can explain to me how, exactly, conservatives are the aggressors in the culture war? In the conventional narrative of American politics, conservatives are obsessed with social issues. They want to impose their values on everyone else. They want the government involved in your bedroom. Those mean right-wingers want to make "health-care choices" for women.
Now consider last week's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider two cases stemming from Obamacare: Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius and Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. Democratic politicians and their fans on social media went ballistic almost instantly. That's hardly unusual these days. But what's revealing is that the talking points are all wrong.
Suddenly, the government is the hero for getting deeply involved in the reproductive choices of nearly every American, whether you want the government involved or not. The bad guy is now your boss who, according to an outraged Senator Patty Murray (D.,Wash.), would be free to keep you from everything from HIV treatment to vaccinating your children if Hobby Lobby has its way. Murray and the White House insist that every business should be compelled by law to protect its employees' "right" to "contraception" that is "free."
[B]irth-control pills really aren't the issue. Both companies suing the government under Obamacare have no objection to providing insurance plans that cover the cost of birth-control pills and other forms of contraception. What both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties object to is paying for abortifacients -- drugs that terminate a pregnancy rather than prevent one. (Hobby Lobby also opposes paying for IUDs, which prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.) The distinction is simple: Contraception prevents fertilization and pregnancy. Drugs such as Plan B may terminate a pregnancy, albeit at an extremely early stage.
The plaintiffs in these cases aren't saying the government should ban abortifacients or make it impossible for their employees to buy them. All they are asking is that the people using such drugs pay for them themselves rather than force employers and co-workers to share the cost. In other words, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood want such birth-control decisions to be left to individual women and their doctors. Leave the rest of us out of it.
To answer Goldberg's initial question: conservatives are generally thought of as "the aggressors in the culture war" because they have dedicated countless legislative hours to passing unconstitutional abortion laws, have attempted to confer personhood on fertilized eggs, and often voted to defund clinics like Planned Parenthood, eliminating access to crucial family-planning services. In 2012, Republicans in Virginia tried to pass a bill that would have forced women to have a transvaginal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion -- a requirement that would have violated the federal definition of rape. Most recently, congressional Republicans threatened to shut the government down due to their opposition to access to contraception.
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
Despite admitting that Republicans played a major role in forcing the government shutdown, the right-wing media have adopted GOP messaging portraying President Obama and Democrats as unwilling to resolve the crisis.
Conservative media are dismissing the Republican-led government shutdown as a "slimdown" and a "non-event" despite the severe consequences that have already occurred, and the devastating effects a protracted shutdown would have, including slower economic growth and eliminated funding for mothers and infants.
From the October 1 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News host Gregg Jarrett used the new round of Congressional hearings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi to push some of the network's favorite Benghazi lies.
This week, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led a new round of hearings into the Benghazi attacks. The committee heard testimony from Retired Admiral Mike Mullen and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who led the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) which issued an independent report in December about the attacks.
On the September 19 edition of Happening Now, host Gregg Jarrett and contributor Jonah Goldberg used the hearings to push some of Fox's favorite, long-debunked falsehoods about the attacks and the Obama administration's response.
Jarrett posited that US military forces could have arrived in time to rescue those under attack in Benghazi but had decided not to do so. Both he and Goldberg wondered why Mullen and Pickering had "dismissed" this idea, with Goldberg adding, "That's outrageous that no one was ready to have anybody come rescue any American on 9/11, which is sort of a famous terrorist holiday. And secondly, they didn't know how long this fight was going to take."
But the theory that U.S. forces could have made it in time for a rescue or intervention has been repeatedly debunked. The ARB determined that all "interagency response was timely and appropriate" but there was not sufficient time for "armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference," and the Pentagon has said that fighters could not have been sent to Benghazi because they lacked the refueling tankers that would have been needed to get them there. Additionally, the Pentagon said Special Operations Command Africa instructed a team of Special Forces not to leave for Benghazi because they would be needed to provide security in Tripoli. That second team would not have reached Benghazi before the attacks were concluded. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called out those who claimed more could have been done to rescue those in Benghazi for having a "cartoonish impression of the military."
Jarrett also pushed the myth that a stand down order was issued that night, saying, "The infamous stand down order, we still haven't gotten to the bottom of that, assuming that it even happened."
Yet the head of Special Forces in Tripoli has testified that no such stand down order was ever given, no evidence has ever emerged suggesting such orders were given, and reinforcements actually arrived from Tripoli in time for the second attack on the facility. Even the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee has acknowledged no such order was given.
Jarrett concluded by claiming that "we still don't really know" where President Obama was during the attacks, adding, "presumably he went to bed while Americans were being slaughtered."
This smear flies in the face of testimony from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has stated that Obama was "well-informed" during the attack and that Obama ordered military leaders to do "whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there."
Jarrett's lies are only a drop in the ocean of the Benghazi falsehoods Fox has pushed for the last year.
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.
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.
Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg perpetuated the right-wing smear that the White House "didn't respond" to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, an accusation that ignores multiple military leaders and congressional testimony.
On the July 23 edition of Fox's Happening Now, National Review Online editor and Fox contributor Jonah Goldberg discussed remarks that General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command during the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, had made days earlier at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum. When Ham was asked whether he initially believed terrorists were behind the Benghazi attacks, he had replied that he "started to gain [that] understanding within the hours after the initiation of the attack."
Co-host Patti Ann Browne asked Goldberg about Ham's statement, wondering "Why is it that this is being considered political when people try to complain about the spin being put out by the White House that it had to do with this video?" Goldberg replied, in part, by denying that the administration even responded to the attacks:
GOLDBERG: We basically know what the truth is. Is that the White House, or the administration, was ill prepared for an attack. We were attacked. It was a terrorist attack because spontaneous protesters don't bring RPGs and coordinate fire. And so it was a terrorist attack. The White House didn't respond to it. American -- brave Americans died and afterwards, the White House in the midst of a presidential campaign, particularly because Hillary Clinton wants to run in 2016, concocted essentially what they thought was a face-saving cover story about what happened -- partly out of politics, partly out of error. And the problem is most people now know this and what Carter Ham has just said basically confirms this. The problem is that you're never going to get the White House to admit it at this point.
Goldberg's accusation blatantly ignores military leaders' congressional testimony, which detailed the White House's response to the attacks. On February 7, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that upon learning of the unfolding attack in Benghazi, President Obama "at that point directed both myself and General Dempsey to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there." Following Obama's directive, Panetta ordered nearby anti-terrorism teams in Spain to deploy to Libya. A six-man security team from Tripoli also deployed to Benghazi. Unfortunately, the units from Spain arrived after attacks on the consulate had ceased.
Other forces present in Tripoli during the Benghazi attack were ordered by General Ham to stay in Tripoli to protect the U.S. embassy and care for Benghazi survivors at the airport. Additionally, as Ham made clear in the very remarks Goldberg referenced, he rerouted a drone from eastern Libya to Benghazi once commanders learned of the fighting.
What's more, despite Goldberg's insinuation otherwise, the day after the Benghazi attacks President Obama addressed the nation from the Rose Garden about the "acts of terror" that had taken place in Libya. He remarked, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is down for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done."
Fox News is falsely suggesting a new Weekly Standard article proves the CIA didn't link the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam YouTube video. In fact, CIA talking points obtained by the conservative magazine actually demonstrate the intelligence community believed there was a link between the attacks and reactions to the video.
Conservative writer Stephen Hayes' piece for The Weekly Standard reported that an initial September 14 draft of talking points by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated that members of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group were involved in the Benghazi attacks, but that point was later removed by administration officials. Hayes provided images of various versions of the CIA's talking points, including a bullet in "Version 1" stating: "We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex."
In the final version of the document, that bullet read:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
In his piece, Hayes still criticized the Obama administration for mentioning the YouTube video since the word "video" did not appear in the talking points:
More troubling was the YouTube video. [Ambassador Susan] Rice would spend much time on the Sunday talk shows pointing to this video as the trigger of the chaos in Benghazi. "What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States." There is no mention of any "video" in any of the many drafts of the talking points.
However, as Media Matters noted, the CIA's reference to the Benghazi attack being "inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" proves that the intelligence community itself believed that a link existed between the attacks and the film. The "protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" were part of a series of global riots and protests in Muslim countries that were partly in response to increased awareness of the anti-Islam video. As prior media reports have noted, Ambassador Rice used the CIA's information during numerous television interviews on September 16.
In recent days, Fox News has used the Standard piece to suggest the intelligence community didn't believe the attacks and the anti-Islam videos were linked.
Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.