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 host Mike Huckabee joined 79 other conservatives in signing a letter blasting "sexual radicals" for their efforts to scuttle a planned conference of the World Congress of Families (WCF), a group notorious for stoking homophobia and promoting harsh anti-gay laws internationally.
On August 30, the Rockford, IL-based WCF plans to hold a "Life, Family, and Freedom Conference" in Melbourne, Australia. Protests have led to three changes of venue for the conference, which prominent members of Australia's governing party are slated to attend. The WCF has responded to those protests with a letter signed by 80 social conservatives, including Huckabee. Accusing "sexual radicals" of waging a "smear campaign," the letter charges that opponents of the conference aim to "transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past":
Sexual radicals have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Melbourne conference, which misrepresents the international pro-family movement and the positions of the World Congress of Families.
Attacks on the Melbourne conference and the international pro-family movement generally are an attempt at intimidation - a weapon used to stigmatize family advocates, stifle dissent and foreclose a debate.
The goal of sexual radicals is to deconstruct marriage and marginalize the family, and thus to transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past. Like all social experiments that attempt to create a "new man," these are doomed to failure.
But a new Human Rights Campaign (HRC) report documents how the WCF has been involved in helping promote the enactment of harsh anti-gay laws internationally.
Founded after a 1995 meeting between Illinois anti-gay activist Allan Carlson and two Russian sociologists, the WCF is a self-proclaimed "alliance of orthodox believers, based on their commitment to Judeo-Christian values and the natural family." Partnering with 29 social conservative organizations - with a combined annual budget estimated at $216 million - the WCF convenes "pro-family" activists for regional and international conferences aimed at combatting reproductive freedom and LGBT equality. WCF partner organizations include a number of groups that have been labeled anti-gay "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
Mike Huckabee told a gathering of anti-gay activists that the United States is becoming like communist China and defended his recent claim that President Obama deserves to be impeached.
Huckabee was speaking at the third annual Family Leadership Summit, hosted by The Family Leader and sponsored by anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage and FRC Action. The event was held in Ames, Iowa, and was attended by potential 2016 Republican candidates including Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Rick Perry, and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Speaking on August 9 about his recent China trip, Huckabee noted the country's policies regarding trade, human rights, one child and forced abortions, and observed: "After we came back, I assessed that what was most disturbing was that China was becoming a lot more like the United States used to be, and America was becoming a whole lot more like China used to be." Huckabee added that America, like China whitewashing the Tiananmen Square massacre, has "completely rewritten our history" to remove God from textbooks. The Fox News host has made similar pronouncements on his show and elsewhere in the right-wing media.
During a media availability, Huckabee defended his recent declaration that President Obama has committed impeachable offenses. Huckabee began by claiming "I don't think we're going to have an impeachment, don't think we even should because there's no point and it's not gonna go through." However, Huckabee still argued President Obama is worthy of impeachment because of his alleged abuse of "the basic constitutional powers," citing Obamacare and the DREAM Act.
On June 15, the United States apprehended the individual suspected of leading the terrorist attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, transferred him to a U.S. naval ship, and ultimately arraigned him in federal court in Washington, D.C. on June 28. Since his capture, right-wing media have repeatedly complained that the suspect was not entitled to Miranda warnings or due process.
At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air.
The controversial conservative brothers founded the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its 501(c)(3) sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in 2004. David Koch has called AFP the group he feels "most closely attached to and most proud of" and chairs AFPF's board. (The Washington Post notes of the IRS code distinction: "A 501(c)(4) is allowed to do considerably more issue advocacy work than a 501(C)(3), however. Neither group has to disclose the identity of its donors or the amounts of money those contributors have given.")
Politico's Ken Vogel reported that AFP "intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group." The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP "may be America's third-biggest political party." In 2012, "More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds."
AFP and AFPF are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal noted, "It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors' identities -- plus the vast sums of money they move -- that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts."
AFP states that it "mobilizes citizens to effectively make their voices heard in public policy issue campaigns" and "educates citizens about where their elected officials stand on our issues." AFP campaigns have included false attacks about health care reform, clean energy, economic issues, and elected Democrats like President Obama.
Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers' affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.
The Koch/Fox News events are aimed at rallying attendees to support conservative causes and fight progressive initiatives. For example, an invitation for a May event featuring Tucker Carlson stated the rally will "send a message to the Left that we know the truth and support free market solutions." Information for a November 2013 rally with Monica Crowley said participants will "learn how you can fight back against government restrictions, taxes, and out-of-control spending." And an October 2012 event with John Stossel was a "Hands Off My Health Care Rally" which sought "to fully repeal Obama's deeply flawed health care bill."
Media Matters previously documented how numerous Fox News personalities campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
From the June 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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On June 19, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) held its second March for Marriage - an event that proved to be largely a repeat of last year's march, with dismal attendance, bussed-in supporters, and examples of anti-gay animus on display.
An estimated 2,000 attendees convened at the U.S. Capitol for a rally culminating in a march to the U.S. Supreme Court. As he did for last year's event, anti-equality State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-NY) bussed in a large group of mostly Spanish-speaking evangelicals from the New York area, after promising rally-goers an expense-free trip to Washington to "visit the monuments." Equality Matters approached several attendees to ask about their reasons for attending the rally and their means of getting there, only to be told that they spoke little English.
Throughout the rally, speakers like Fox News host and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stressed that the rally was pro-marriage, not anti-anybody. But as others monitoring the event documented, anti-gay animus was clearly on display.
One rally-goer held a sign declaring that people who "embrace homosexuality" do so because they "hate God and love to be sinful," instructing gay people to "repent":
"Repent or perish," another sign ominously warned:
Another attendee's sign denounced "sodomy & abortion" as "wrong":
In an interview with Equality Matters, one attendee predicted "violence" if marriage equality came to pass nationwide. Pressed on whom he thought would perpetrate violence, the man noted that many people are "angry" about same-sex marriage and stated that he didn't want "what homosexuals do" recognized as equal to his marriage:
On June 19, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) will hold its second March for Marriage in Washington, DC. Though the march has nabbed some high-profile speakers, journalists covering the event should know that it's likely to be a largely astroturfed affair.
Earlier this year, NOM announced its plan to organize a second March for Marriage to demonstrate that there's still "deep and wide support" for opposing same-sex marriage, despite polls showing a growing majority of Americans in favor of marriage equality.
The march is slated to feature high-profile speakers like Fox News host Mike Huckabee and 2012 GOP presidential runner-up Rick Santorum. In local press appearances, NOM employees have touted the event as a show of grassroots support for traditional marriage. In reality, the media should know that NOM's marriage march will feature some of the country's most extreme anti-gay voice. Here's what reporters can expect from this year's March for Marriage:
Look no further than last year's march. Even as the Supreme Court took up challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8, NOM struggled to muster enthusiasm for the event. While NOM's Thomas Peters declared that 15,000 people had turned out for the march and NOM president Brian Brown estimated there were "more than 10,000" attendees, the Washington Blade estimated a turnout of only 2,000.
Many of the attendees at the 2013 march were bussed in from New York City - free of charge - by anti-equality State Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-NY). Diaz claimed to have sent 32 busloads of primarily Latino New Yorkers to the rally; other attendees included Chinese Christians from Chicago and French activists flying their country's flag at a rally purportedly focused on the anti-equality fight in the United States.
This year's march is unlikely to be much different. Diaz has promised to dispatch 100 buses from the Bronx, posting a Spanish-language YouTube video promising rally-goers an all-expenses-paid trip. In the video, Diaz urges New York Latinos to "[a]sk for your bus! Fill the bus! And let's go to Washington! Let's go on a trip! Visit the monuments in Washington and testify that Jesus heals and saves and is the king we await."
An anti-gay pundit who used his recent appearance before a House subcommittee to champion "ex-gay" therapy is a repeated Fox News guest who has used his position at the right-wing Liberty Counsel to wage ridiculous attacks on progressives and LGBT equality.
On June 10, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver testified before a congressional hearing on religious liberty called by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ). During his testimony, Staver condemned laws in California and New Jersey banning the thoroughly discredited practice of "conversion therapy" for gay people. Staver asserted that laws banning the practice constituted "religious discrimination," accusing "homosexual activists" of trying to squelch the truth about how gay people "can successfully reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions."
In an exchange with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) during that same hearing, Staver grasped at straws as he attempted to defend anti-gay business discrimination:
Fox News anchor Mike Huckabee urged fans to bombard Houston city officials with opposition to a proposed non-discrimination ordinance, baselessly asserting that the measure would "be unsafe for women and children."
On April 21, Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) unveiled a non-discrimination proposal, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The ordinance would apply to city employers, housing, city contractors, and private employers with more than 50 employees. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, fewer than seven percent of private employers in the city employed more than 50 people in 2011. Additionally, the measure exempts religious organizations.
The modest scope of the proposal didn't stop Huckabee from waging an apoplectic attack on it in the form of a May 10 Facebook post. Calling on Houston-area residents to "support your own Biblical beliefs," he instructed them to contact Parker and city council members in opposition to the proposed ordinance and announced a May 13 rally "on the steps of city hall."
The former Arkansas governor and host of Fox's Huckabee wrote that he was opposing the ordinance to uphold "God's definition of human sexuality" and "common moral decency," warning that the measure would make Houston unsafe for women and children:
The right-wing media's smear campaign against the Obama administration over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, appears to be paying dividends in the form of donations.
A Media Matters review of fundraising emails and websites found that conservatives have routinely invoked Benghazi to ask followers for money. The fundraising solicitations accuse the Obama administration of "lies," "cover-ups," a "dereliction of duty," and crimes worse than Watergate.
The fundraising is only likely to intensify with the recent creation of a House select committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to investigate the attacks. The Republican leadership convened the committee despite numerous previous inquiries into Benghazi. The Department of Defense wrote in March that it had already participated in "approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings, and interviews" about the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy said on MSNBC today that fellow Republicans should not fundraise off of the Benghazi attacks, stating: "Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans."
Like their counterparts in the media, the main Republican Party campaign apparatuses are actively fundraising off of Benghazi. The Republican National Committee has a donation page asking Republicans to demand "the truth about Benghazi" by contributing money. The National Republican Senatorial Committee asks Republicans to "donate today" because of Benghazi. And the National Republican Congressional Committee has a fundraising page stating: "You're now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let's go after Obama & Hillary Clinton. Help us fight them now." The page features an image of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the text, "Benghazi Was A Coverup. Demand Answers."
Here are five recent examples of conservative pundits raising money off their Benghazi witch hunt.
Fox News contributor Ben Carson is slated to be the keynote speaker at the first Gala dinner of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), becoming the latest Fox figure to appear before an extreme anti-gay group.
In a May 6 email to supporters, NOM President Brian Brown wrote that "it's 1972 for marriage," referring to the year before the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to an abortion and the growing expectation that the Court will take up marriage equality once again by 2015. To protest the frightening possibility that same-sex couples nationwide will soon enjoy civil equality, NOM will hold its second annual March for Marriage in Washington on June 19. Brown's email touted Carson's appearance - previously flagged by GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper - at NOM's gala that same evening (emphasis original):
It was a crisp winter day in 1973 when the United States Supreme Court issued their horrific decision in Roe v Wade. How much would you sacrifice to go back in time to a few months before that fateful decision, to the Fall of 1972, and mobilize the American people BEFORE the Supreme Court issued that infamous decree?
Just about anything, right? Well, when it comes to marriage, we have that chance!
You see, it's 1972 for marriage. Within the next 12 months, it is very likely that the United States Supreme Court will take up the marriage issue again. Many people have bought in to the lie that the courts redefining marriage is somehow "inevitable." Well, I refuse to believe that, because it's simply not true!
That's why the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is organizing its second annual March for Marriage this summer on June 19th in Washington, DC -- bringing together thousands of marriage activists from all across the country to make sure the elites in our nation's capital hear loud and clear: Marriage matters because every kid deserves a mom and a dad!
One incredibly courageous leader who is standing up for marriage is Doctor Ben Carson, who will be the keynote speaker at NOM's first ever Gala dinner on the evening of the March for Marriage. He said in a speech earlier this year that the "P.C. police" have "tried to shut him up" because he's willing to state his belief publicly that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Speaking before the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition on April 8, Fox News host Mike Huckabee emphatically declared that's he's "not a hater" and "not homophobic." It's an assertion that flies in the face of Huckabee's decades-long anti-gay record.
Talking Points Memo reported on April 9 that Huckabee used his keynote address to deny that his opposition to marriage equality is rooted in homophobia, explaining that he's simply "on the right side of the Bible."
That claim contradicts Huckabee's previous justifications for his anti-equality stance. Speaking to The New Yorker in 2011, he cited "the ick factor" as one of the reasons he didn't think same-sex couples should be allowed to get married.
Huckabee has staked out extreme anti-gay positions on other topics, as well. As an unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate in 1992, he called for AIDS patients to be quarantined. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Huckabee refused to "recant or retract" that position.
On his radio program, Huckabee has fear-mongered about non-discrimination laws by baselessly asserting that they'll open the door to sexual assault in restrooms and locker rooms and thanked a caller who suggested it's "not okay to be gay."
Moreover, Huckabee has repeatedly shown a willingness to associate with extreme anti-gay organizations. On his Fox News show Huckabee, he hosted anti-gay hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC), which depicts gay men as sexual predators who want to recruit children to their "lifestyle" and "destroy ... our nation." But Huckabee effusively praised the FRC, calling it "one of the most respected family organizations in America."
Huckabee also spearheaded Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in 2012, after Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy's anti-gay views and donations to groups like the FRC generated protests from LGBT equality supporters.
Additionally, Huckabee gave the keynote address at the inaugural convention of Trail Life USA, an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America that bans participation by openly gay youth and was founded by an anti-gay activist who promotes discredited "ex-gay" therapy programs.
In his Iowa speech, Huckabee professed no interest in "what people do personally in their individual lives." But his career has been marked by attempts to marginalize and promote discrimination against LGBT people.
When a mass shooting occurs, conservative media rush to blame mental health, video games, a lack of armed people present, and even liberal values -- anything but the fact that the shooter was able to get a gun.
But the single proximate factor in all mass shootings, and in all gun violence really, is that it is easy for dangerous people to access high-powered firearms. Lack of access to firearms typically makes it difficult for would-be mass murderers to carry out their plans. For instance, experts say mass stabbings are extremely rare in the United States. To the contrary, 69 percent of all homicides are committed with a gun. Of 37 public mass killings since 2006, 33 involved firearms, while the Boston Marathon bombings, an incident involving a car, and two cases of arson accounted for the other four incidents.
Furthermore, academic research has linked the easy availability of firearms to homicide. According to numerous studies, "where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide." Compared to other high income nations which typically more strongly regulate the availability of firearms, the United States' gun homicide rate is 19.5 times higher, leading to an overall homicide rate that is 6.9 times higher. Research has also shown, "across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded."
Following the April 2 shooting at Fort Hood that left three victims dead and 16 others wounded, conservative media have refused to acknowledge the role of easy access to firearms in shootings and have instead claimed mass shootings are caused by video games, mental health problems, the "culture war," and by a deficiency in the number of firearms carried by the general public.
From the April 4 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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