In the continuing campaign against effective civil rights law, right-wing media have recently stepped up their attacks against a federal statute that prohibits acts that have a discriminatory effect on housing patterns. Contrary to this misinformation campaign, "disparate impact" analysis (as this technique is known) is not unconstitutional under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and conservatives' rejection of this analysis abandons its bipartisan origins.
Disparate impact is the legal term for antidiscrimination law that prohibits actions that have a disproportionate effect on vulnerable groups. Despite its effectiveness - most recently, blocking discriminatory mortgage policies and voter suppression that targeted communities of color - conservative media have attacked disparate impact's legitimacy and dismissed it as a partisan technique only progressives support.
The National Review Online is a frequent critic, calling civil rights litigation based on disparate impact "not grounded...in sound constitutional theory" and part of a "partisan policy agenda." The Wall Street Journal has echoed claims about this "dubious legal theory," joining NRO in criticizing a recent withdrawal of a disparate impact Supreme Court case under the Fair Housing Act, Magner v. Gallagher. This week, WSJ columnist Mary Kissel recycled her conspiracy theory that the Obama administration's participation in convincing the parties to withdraw the case was "shady" because the administration "didn't want the High Court to rule on the legal theory[.]"
But these right-wing critics ignore that disparate impact has been legally accepted under numerous civil rights laws for decades, and in the housing context was part of a bipartisan effort to aggressively prevent the segregation of American society. They also ignore basic Supreme Court litigation strategy.
The constitutionality of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act has never been addressed by the Supreme Court. There has been no need to take up the issue, as all 11 Circuit Courts have recognized it as a legal method of fair housing enforcement. As explained in a recent ProPublica report, this unanimity is expected given that aggressive government attempts to reverse discriminatory effects in housing patterns were originally considered a core function of the bipartisan Fair Housing Act:
The plan, [Republican Secretary of Housing and Urban Development] George Romney wrote in a confidential memo to aides, was to use his power as secretary of Housing and Urban Development to remake America's housing patterns, which he described as a "high-income white noose" around the black inner city.
The 1968 Fair Housing Act, passed months earlier in the tumultuous aftermath of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, directed the government to "affirmatively further" fair housing. Romney believed those words gave him the authority to pressure predominantly white communities to build more affordable housing and end discriminatory zoning practices.
Furthermore, with regards to the Obama administration's alleged influence in the Magner dismissal, there is nothing unusual about Supreme Court litigators considering the Court's ideological composition in deciding whether to pursue a legal theory that breaks on ideological lines. The ability to calculate a majority is basic Supreme Court litigation strategy. Indeed, it would be surprising if the Department of Justice did not calculate the odds regarding how justices are likely to rule in its cases. This is especially true of civil rights cases, in which conservative and progressive justices have sharply diverging views on the law. As Reuters recently reported, this is why DOJ's opponents are currently rushing to the Court in their attempts to overturn decades of civil rights law:
[I]n recent years liberals have sought to avoid going to the Supreme Court in cases ranging from affirmative action to voting rights. Advocates for liberal concerns such as abortion rights and gay marriage have also kept a wary eye on the justices while devising strategy in lower courts. Some abortion-rights advocates, for example, have so far declined to challenge state restrictions on abortion based on the notion that a fetus can feel pain, even though they believe the restrictions unconstitutional.
Those on the other side have taken the opposite tack. Conservatives who have labored to get their cases to the court include Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, founded in 2005 to challenge race-based policies in education and voting. He recently helped lawyers bring an appeal by a white student who said she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of a policy favoring minorities.
"The timing is fortuitous," said Blum, who for two decades has worked with lawyers to challenge racial policies in education and voting districts. Citing the makeup of the Supreme Court, he said: "It's well-known that there are three members of a conservative bloc who have already expressed opinions on this and it's likely that the two new members of the conservative bloc will fall into that camp as well."
If the right-wing media do not like disparate impact theory because the modern conservative movement has abandoned it, or because the theory rejects the dissenting "colorblind" perspective on modern equal protection law, it should say so and leave it at that. By instead falsely asserting disparate impact laws are illegitimate and thereby calling for the reversal of decades of precedent - and bipartisan legislation - the right-wing media not only misinform their audience, they also disregard the words of Justice Antonin Scalia in one of the Court's most recent Civil Rights Act cases: "If [disparate impact litigation] was unintended, it is a problem for Congress, not one that federal courts can fix."
Right-wing media are abetting Mitt Romney's attempt in the third presidential debate to hide his opposition to the successful U.S. automobile industry rescue. In fact, Romney condemned the auto rescue, a rescue that experts say was necessary to save the industry.
Conservative media outlets pushed at least eleven misleading attacks on President Obama's energy policies that have become talking points used by Mitt Romney's campaign. The conservative media bubble has largely prevented voters from hearing the facts about clean energy programs, fossil fuel production and environmental regulation under the Obama administration.
Mitt Romney revealed his gender-conscious hiring policies as governor of Massachusetts -- based on "binders full of women" -- during the October 16 presidential debate, a comment that was immediately recognized as an endorsement of affirmative action by several commentators in the media. But The Wall Street Journal editorial page and other conservative media outlets that have harshly condemned such affirmative action policies have yet to fully address Romney's statement.
In Tuesday's debate, an audience member asked the presidential candidates, "[i]n what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?" In response, Romney described his past utilization of inclusive hiring practices, also known as affirmative action:
ROMNEY: Thank you. And -- important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the -- the chance to pull together a Cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men?
They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?
And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of -- of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
Mark Shields of PBS immediately recognized the significance of Romney's statements in post-debate analysis:
MARK SHIELDS: Can I tell you what the lead is -- OK -- what the lead is? Women in binders.
I mean, that is -- that will be the clip that will be seen around the world, Mitt Romney. And the interesting thing about that is, he told the story about the women in his Cabinet, was that was affirmative action. That is affirmative action.
He got all these men. And he said, no, no, can't we find some women? Go out and find some women. That's the definition of affirmative action.
MARK SHIELDS: And I will be interested to see The Wall Street Journal editorial page attack him on that tomorrow.
Like everyone else, I had several good laughs over the GOP candidate's "binders full of women" quote from last night's town-hall debate.
But then I realized that, creepy as that imagery is, the country would be better off if more powerful men took a cue from Romney on this one. He says that, as governor, he made "a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet." This is a pretty big statement, especially coming from a Republican candidate. We talk a lot about how diversity matters and how equal representation is important. But in most corners of society, especially the upper echelons of power, we haven't figured out the best way to walk that talk. Usually when advocates suggest that we need policies in place to ensure our elected officials and CEOs and college admission boards are making a concerted effort to go out and find women and people of color, all political hell breaks loose. Just look at conversation surrounding the Supreme Court's recent reconsideration of the University of Texas's affirmative action policies.
Watching Romney tout his appointment record at the town-hall debate last night, I couldn't help but feel a little bit proud of him. Seriously! With the binders anecdote, he was essentially describing affirmative action: He realized he needed more diversity in his cabinet, and so he sought out qualified women he may not have otherwise considered. This is laudable. Shocking, even! Especially when you consider that, also in the first year of his governorship, Romney tried to quietly roll back the state's affirmative action laws.
Contrary to Mark Shields' joking "prediction," The Wall Street Journal editorial board has not commented on Romney's support of affirmative action as of this posting, even though it recently called on the Supreme Court to "reclaim [its] constitutional and moral bearings" by rejecting a University of Texas Law School admissions policy which takes race into account in order to promote student body diversity.
The National Review Online also ignored the substance of Romney's debate comments and instead claimed the anecdote was unremarkable, in contrast to their past objection to affirmative action on the basis of both gender and race. National Review Online and The Wall Street Journal should note that Kerry Healey, Romney's Lieutenant Governor from 2003 to 2007 and a current surrogate for his campaign, further told Fox News that the "binders full of women" program amounted to a so-called quota system in which hiring targets were linked to the percentage of women in the Massachusetts population. From America Live:
MEGYN KELLY: He was claiming that he made a commitment to fill his cabinet positions in Massachusetts with more than just men, he said most of the applicants were men, and most of the guys, the candidates were men.
KERRY HEALEY: That's right. The back story here is that a women's organization, a bipartisan women's organization, the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus, came to both candidates in the race and said if you're elected will you pledge, will you promise to put as many women in your cabinet as there are percentage of women in Massachusetts, which is about 50 percent. Both candidates said yes. So when Governor Romney was elected he set out to fulfill that promise. One thing you can know about Governor Romney is that when he makes a promise while he's campaigning, he's going to fulfill that promise. And so...
MEGYN KELLY: How did the numbers work out?
KERRY HEALEY: 50 percent. And it was the highest in the nation.
The ceaseless, and entirely predictable, conservative whining about Tuesday's debate is now becoming insufferable. From the angry and misleading attacks on moderator Candy Crowley, to the creepy hit pieces on voters who dared asked questions at the debate, the pervasive culture of victimization triumphing over responsibility has been on display for everyone to see.
Rather than address the substance of the debate and provide helpful analysis for why voters thought Barack Obama bested Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, the right-wing press has been lashing out at any and every possible foe. And among the more juvenile complaints has been the objection that over the three debates so far, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were given more time to speak than Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Katrina Trinko at National Review Online did the deep investigative digging and reported Republicans had been shortchanged in all three debates. "If you want more time to get your message out in debates, it's good to be a Democrat," Trinko wrote.
This grievance makes no sense.
Trinko reported that on Tuesday "Obama spoke for 4 minutes and 18 seconds longer than Romney." And the first debate? "Obama spoke for 3 minutes, 14 seconds more than Romney."
Okay, so in the first and second debates Romney spoke for three or four minutes less than Obama. And what happened at the first debate? Romney, by every measurable standard, won the debate, and he won it in convincing fashion. So obviously, talking for three minutes less than Obama in the first debate didn't hurt Romney because virtually every pundit in America crowned him the winner.
But on Tuesday, when he again spoke slightly less often than Obama, Romney was deemed to be the debate loser. But only now is the debate clock suddenly of interest to conservatives? Romney spoke less in the first debate and won it. But when he spoke less at the second debate and lost, now it's a liberal media conspiracy the keep him quiet?
Right-wing bloggers are falsely claiming that Joe Biden is "lying" about having played football at the University of Delaware. Contrary to their claims, several newspapers have interviewed people who knew Biden while he played freshman football at Delaware.
More than 20 years of reporting debunks this claim. For instance, a 1987 Washington Post article retrieved from the Nexis database quoted Biden's father, Joe Biden Sr., saying that he made his son leave the team because of poor grades after his freshman season. A 1987 Los Angeles Times article reported that Biden's college roommate said the same thing (via Nexis):
"He probably never studied as hard as other people did," recalled Biden's roommate at the University of Delaware, Donald Brunner, now a senior vice president with J. P. Morgan. Brunner and Biden both played football as freshmen, but Biden then quit the team, Brunner said, under pressure from his father, who thought that he was devoting too much time to sports and not enough to books.
In 2008, The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, published an article about Biden's high school and college football days. One of Biden's teammates at Delaware, Jack Istnick, recounted a story from practice (article available for purchase here):
Every now and then, the freshman players would help the varsity practice.
One day, Biden and Jack Istnick were shagging punts for the varsity so it could work on its kick-coverage teams. This was done at full speed with full contact. The ball was kicked to Biden, who got "absolutely leveled," Istnick said, "mainly because I didn't block anyone."
"The [freshman] coach, Scottie Duncan, looked at me and looked at Joe lying on the ground and said to me, 'Don't you like him?' "
The Breitbart post uses an ellipsis-laden quote from a September 8 speech Biden made at Ohio University as evidence that he lied specifically about having played in a football game there in 1963:
"I came ... I was a football player ... I came here in 1963 ... and we beat you Bobcats, 29-12," Biden said.
However, a CBS News video of Biden's appearance, used by NRO, shows that Biden did not actually claim to have played in the game.
Fox News is promoting a report from a British tabloid to claim that new data shows "Global Warming [Is] Over." But the agency that released the data explained that the tabloid report is "misleading" because it is based on a short-term period that obscures the long-term upward trend in global temperatures.
A Wall Street Journal editorial asserted the recent federal court decision allowing South Carolina's voter ID law to go into effect in 2013 proved that claims of racial discrimination in voter ID laws are "specious." But the Journal - and other conservative media echoing this claim - fail to note that the court was required to hear the case because of uncontroverted evidence that the voter ID law was initially racially discriminatory. In fact, the South Carolina law was only approved because state election officials have sworn to implement it without racial discrimination.
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.
Affirmative action policies that will come before the Supreme Court in the upcoming Fisher v. University of Texas case have long been the target of right-wing misinformation that distort the benefits of diversity in higher education. Contrary to the conservative narrative in the media, these admissions processes serve important national interests by promoting equal opportunity and are based on long-standing law.
Right-wing media are reviving the "death panels" lie in reaction to Mitt Romney's criticism of a health-care advisory board during the first presidential debate. In fact, that board, established under the 2010 health care reform law, is forbidden from rationing health care, and Romney's own health care reform in Massachusetts includes a similar unelected board.
The National Review Online and a FoxNews.com op-ed are citing recent layoffs by Alpha Natural Resources, a coal producer, to claim that the Obama administration is waging a "war" on coal miners. But both are ignoring that competition with natural gas is a major reason for the company's layoffs.
Alpha Natural Resources recently laid off 400 coal miners (although about 270 of those workers will be reassigned to other jobs) and announced that it plans to eliminate 1,200 jobs by 2013. The National Review Online's Henry Payne and FoxNews.com guest contributor Phil Kerpen used this announcement to claim that Obama is waging a "war on [mining] workers" and "war on American jobs," respectively. Both quoted Alpha Natural Resources CEO Kevin Crutchfield on the effects of "a regulatory environment that's aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal." But they cropped the quote to exclude that Crutchfield acknowledged the role of natural gas competition, according to the Associated Press' account of Crutchfield's remarks:
Crutchfield called it "a difficult day," but said the shutdowns and layoffs are a necessary part of ensuring Alpha survives in what has become a difficult U.S. market, where coal companies face a dual challenge: Power plants are shifting to cheap, abundant natural gas, while companies like his face "a regulatory environment that's aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal."
Payne only dismissively mentioned the role of increased competition from natural gas in reduced coal-fired electricity generation and resultant layoffs and Kerpen ignored natural gas competition altogether. Payne also completely ignored natural gas in a recent column in the Weekly Standard. He quoted a 24/7 Wall Street post saying "future sales forecasts also are being affected by a series of regulatory actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has resulted in utilities announcing plans to shut down a number of generating stations that have traditionally used Central Appalachia coal." Not included was the prior sentence, which said "In addition to lack of demand from power generating plants due to fuel switching to natural gas and a mild winter, the company also blamed an 'onerous regulatory environment' for the closures."
In a post titled "UMW Is Dead, UAW Is Alive," Payne used the cropped quote from Crutchfield to suggest that it is wrong to attribute the layoffs to natural gas competition (and incorrectly suggest the laid off Alpha workers were part of a union):
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.
The National Review has attempted to distract from Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) and Rep. Todd Akin's (R-MO) support of the extreme "Sanctity of Human Life Act" -- legislation that equates abortion and contraception to murder -- by neglecting to mention its relevance to Akin's rape comments and falsely asserting potential bans on abortion aren't a concern. But it is the act's radical redefinition of a fertilized egg as a person that Akin was defending with his imaginary claim that "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy, and the fact that voters in conservative states have rejected similar "personhood" laws merely demonstrates how far outside the mainstream Ryan and Akin are.
In their move to distance conservative media from Akin's comments, the editors of the National Review called for Akin to withdraw his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. However, this calculated abandonment of Akin for announcing a right-wing view that the National Review acknowledges, but prefers kept under wraps, ignores the resurgent movement to criminalize all forms of abortion. By omitting the relevance of the Sanctity of Human Life Act to Akin's comments and the editorial's claim that "no state is going to ban abortion in the case of rape even if Roe v. Wade is overruled," the editorial is perpetuating frequent contributor Ramesh Ponnuru's attempts to gloss over Ryan and Akin's hostility to reproductive rights.
Indeed, the National Review's misdirection is even more apparent now that it appears the 2012 Republican platform will once again support a so-called "human life amendment" to the Constitution that would criminalize abortion in all circumstances. Furthermore, not only is the National Review's reassurance on state abortion bans irrelevant if reports on the GOP platform are accurate, it is wholly misrepresentative of recent state efforts to infringe on women's constitutional rights. In fact, conservative-leaning states have seen multiple attempts at "personhood" bills similar to Ryan and Akin's legislation. This fall, Colorado will likely again have a "personhood" ballot initiative presented to its voters, even though the unconstitutional measure just failed in Mississippi and was held "void on its face" in Oklahoma by the state Supreme Court.
Accordingly, it is unsurprising that Akin's apology for becoming "nationally notorious...for saying something stupid" was specifically only for the "words I said" in reference to rape and not for "the heart I hold," wherein presumably all abortion is criminalized pursuant to "personhood" legislation. A radical criminalization that, the National Review fails to mention, could also apply to in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, most forms of contraception, and even miscarriage.
Right-wing media are acting as de facto political advisers for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, offering the candidate an array of advice that includes replacing his staffers, finding "his inner pit bull," and talking more about his faith.