Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett wrote a column accurately depicting the college sexual assault epidemic and the fears victims face in reporting these crimes, a stark contrast to his colleagues and fellow conservative media figures who have dismissed, mocked, and stigmatized victims.
In a September 25 column for Fox News' website, Jarrett highlighted the high rate of assault on college campuses, and praised student activists for raising awareness of the often insufficient resources and efforts by colleges to address the problem (emphasis added):
Nearly 20 % of female college students have been sexually assaulted, according to a White House task force.
I suspect the true number is significantly higher. Many young women are reluctant to report it. They keep it secret for fear of embarrassment, shame, retribution, and the trauma of reliving the nightmare during legal or disciplinary proceedings. I get it. There are repercussions. Victims are especially afraid of being stigmatized or ostracized within the tight, insular social circles on campus.
Awareness is on the rise driven, in part, by student activism. Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, angry over how the school adjudicated her claim of rape, has taken to carrying a mattress around campus. Dubbed "Mattress girl" by fellow students and the media, her visually indelible protest has galvanized a growing demand for honesty and transparency. And why not? Schools should be required to publish accurate information about the frequency of assaults. It can be done without breaching individual students' privacy.
Jarrett's column unfortunately stands out among recent commentary about sexual assault in conservative media, where the fact that one in five women are assaulted at college is regularly dismissed. The Daily Caller has called the statistic "bizarre and wholly false," while the Washington Examiner called it "ridiculous."
Moreover, the trust and respect Jarrett treats the victims of these assaults with is unusual. Instead, their stories are often questioned or critiqued, with media figures suggesting that a large number of victims are lying about their assault, or are partly culpable.
The same day that Jarrett's column was published, some of his Fox News colleagues suggested that intoxicated women who are assaulted at college fraternity parties are responsible for their own assaults. Several co-hosts of Fox's Outnumbered defended a Forbes contributor who was fired after claiming that drunk women were "the gravest threat to fraternities" because the fraternity would be liable if a woman was sexually assaulted at a party.
This past summer, Washington Post columnist George Will came under fire for claiming that college efforts to curb sexual assaults were making "victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege." In his column, Will disputed the story of a college rape on Swarthmore's campus, implying he didn't believe the survivor's story qualified as an actual incident of assault. The survivor, Lisa Sendrow, told Media Matters about the violence she had experienced, how Will's dismissal of her story was triggering and damaging to her, and that she was diagnosed with PTSD and received violent threats after her story was first reported.
Earlier this year, a Weekly Standard contributor blamed feminism for sexual assault, because victims abandoned "feminine modesty" which had provided women "protection" from rape. National Review Online writers claimed rape was "instinctive" among some young men, that assaults involve "a large degree of voluntary behavior" from women, and that women are "being taught to believe they were raped." A New York Post columnist dismissed rape as "regrettable sex."
And Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto went so far as to claim intoxicated sexual assault victims are just as guilty as their attackers.
While Jarrett's column is sadly something of an outlier among conservative commentary on the issue, survivors now have one more voice in the media supporting their efforts to combat this epidemic.
From the September 16 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon criticized some conservative media outlets and national press for their coverage of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Bailon singled out Fox News for focusing on looting and "chaos" while ignoring the "deeper story" in Ferguson, and also cited The Washington Post and the New York Post for running thinly sourced negative stories about Brown.
Bailon, editor of the largest local paper covering the aftermath of the August 9 police shooting that left Brown dead and sparked a national debate on police tactics, spoke to Media Matters at the American Society of News Editors conference in Chicago this week.
While the editor and former ASNE president praised much of the national press coverage, he cited Fox News for criticism.
"I think the national media has done a good job of capturing the story," Bailon said. But he later said of Fox News: "I do think sometimes ... it looks like the whole community was in flames, and it was really a few block area. Significant, but it wasn't like St. Louis was on fire or out of control and there was mass chaos everywhere ... it wasn't like an all-consuming entire metropolitan area was hit by that, yet it commanded a huge presence of what was there."
He added, "I think Fox took a different angle, their view was more of the view of the chaos, was really focusing on the looting and less of what was going on in the community pre-dating the looting. The looting was very dramatic...but there was the deeper story there. Some stayed on in town longer, I think there was a different viewpoint on them and less on the undercurrent. [Fox] didn't look at it as deeply and as long as others, CNN did make an investment, MSNBC was there a lot."
He also cited a Washington Post report that Brown had marijuana in his system and another from the New York Post that the officer who shot Brown suffered a fractured eye socket as facts his paper has yet to report because they cannot be verified.
"There's been a couple of stories that I think the sourcing wasn't quite as good on," he said. "I don't know whether these are wrong but we haven't been able to verify it. There's been talk that Michael Brown had marijuana in his system. Well that hasn't been officially reviewed, we don't know that yet. We haven't reported that. The New York Post picked up some information about [police officer Darren Wilson] having an orbital fracture of his face ... inflicted by Michael Brown. We have not found that to be true. In fact, it has been debunked by many."
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.
Right-wing media have launched a campaign of mockery, victim-blaming, and denial to dismiss the sexual assault epidemic, particularly on college campuses, and the Obama administration's efforts to curtail the growing problem.
Despite being exposed as a self-promoting smear peddler after having his work repeatedly debunked, discredited author and conspiracy theorist Ed Klein has been repeatedly given a platform by many in the right-wing media. Here are the top five reasons the media should not trust Klein's shoddy work.
Right-wing media ignored immigration experts and blamed President Obama's immigration polices for the recent influx of unaccompanied children apprehended illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In reality, experts cite increased violence in Central America as the driving factor.
Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist George Will derided efforts on college campuses to combat the sexual assault epidemic as a ploy to "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege."
In a June 7 syndicated op-ed which appeared in The Washington Post and the New York Post, Will dismissed "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, aka 'sexual assault,'" arguing that the definition of sexual assault was too broad because it could include "nonconsensual touching" and disputing the evidence that shows 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault on campuses in the U.S., implying that individuals were pretending to be victims because colleges have made victimhood a "coveted status" (emphasis added):
Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating.
They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous ("micro-aggressions," often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.
Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of "sexual assault" victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today's prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.
The administration's crucial and contradictory statistics are validated the usual way, by official repetition; Joe Biden has been heard from. The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12% of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12% reporting rate is correct, the 20% assault rate is preposterous.
Education Department lawyers disregard pesky arithmetic and elementary due process. Threatening to withdraw federal funding, the department mandates adoption of a minimal "preponderance of the evidence" standard when adjudicating sexual assault charges between males and the female "survivors" -- note the language of prejudgment.Combine this with capacious definitions of sexual assault that can include not only forcible sexual penetration but also nonconsensual touching. Then add the doctrine that the consent of a female who has been drinking might not protect a male from being found guilty of rape. Then comes costly litigation against institutions that have denied due process to males they accuse of what society considers serious felonies.
Will also criticized colleges and universities for attempting "to create victim-free campuses -- by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimization."
Despite Will's dismissal of the statistics, a report on sexual violence by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that "in a study of undergraduate women, 19% experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college." Moreover, the dangerous stigmatization of sexual assault victims has kept many from reporting these crimes -- particularly because victims who do report can become the targets of vicious attacks. According to the FBI, people falsely report sexual assault only 3 percent of the time.
The New York Post took quotations out of context to push the sexist smear that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's wife Chirlane McCray was a "bad mom," after McCray admitted that she initially found balancing children and her career to be challenging.
A May 18 Post article featuring the headline, "NYC's first lady: I was a bad mom" claimed that McCray admitted in a New York magazine profile that she "was unable to embrace motherhood and initially neglected Chiara," her daughter. The paper went on to claim that McCray's disclosure was "bound to horrify most moms":
In a startlingly frank confession, Mayor Bill de Blasio's wife says she was unable to embrace motherhood and initially neglected Chiara, who last year dropped the bombshell that she was in treatment for abusing booze and pot.
"I was 40 years old. I had a life. Especially with Chiara -- will we feel guilt forevermore? Of course, yes," McCray told New York magazine for its cover story this week.
"But the truth is, I could not spend every day with her. I didn't want to do that. I looked for all kinds of reasons not to do it."
The disclosure -- bound to horrify most moms -- shatters the carefully crafted image of de Blasio's close-knit family, which helped vault him into office.
The Post ran the article as its May 19 cover story:
But the full context of the New York magazine profile makes clear that while McCray initially found "as with so many women" that juggling new-motherhood with her career was a challenge, she became fully "committed" and was "a devoted and relaxed parent" -- a far cry from having "neglected" her child (emphasis added):
Conservative media can't seem to agree whether or not Hillary Clinton's 2012 concussion was faked or was so serious she now has permanent brain damage, but whichever it is they seem ready to ignore all medical evidence in order to politicize her health.
In late December 2012, shortly before she was scheduled to testify before Congress regarding the attacks in Benghazi, Clinton sustained a concussion after she fainted due to dehydration from the flu, and was subsequently hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot in her head. The State Department postponed her testimony, and she ultimately appeared before Congress in January after her doctors confirmed she would make a full recovery.
Karl Rove reportedly dismissed this medical evidence last week when he claimed Clinton might have brain damage from the episode. Rove doubled down on his remarks today on Fox. Rove insisted that while he did not use the phrase "brain damage," he did believe she had "a serious health episode" and "she's hidden a lot" of information about the extent of her injuries. Wildly speculating about her health was reasonable, according to Rove, because she might someday run for president.
But back in December 2012, conservative media weren't worried that Clinton's health might impede a presidential run; instead, right-wing media immediately accused Clinton of faking her concussion to avoid testifying on Benghazi, taking a potentially life-threatening incident, which the former Secretary of State thankfully recovered from, and making it a political cudgel.
Fox contributor John Bolton accused Clinton of faking a "diplomatic illness." Monica Crowley dismissed the illness, calling it a "virus with apparently impeccable timing." Fox's The Five took the attacks a step further by mocking the Secretary's health, accusing Clinton of running "a duck and cover" and joking, "How can she get a concussion when she has been ducking everything [related to Benghazi]?" On Special Report Charles Krauthammer quipped she was "suffering from acute Benghazi allergy," a joke Sean Hannity liked so much he laughed about it later on his own show. When this mockery came under fire, host Greg Gutfeld attempted to defend Fox's actions by dismissing their remarks as mere "skepticism" and accusing journalists of "ginning up fake hatred, or outrage, towards skeptics." It wasn't just Fox, though; The Los Angeles Times, for instance, posted an online poll giving credence to the concussion conspiracy theories, asking readers "did she fake it?"
As The Wire noted, some of these conspiracy theorists quickly flipped when conservatives realized mocking a serious health condition, including the blood clot, was not a winning strategy. The New York Post, which had initially featured the headline "Hillary Clinton's head fake," followed up with a sober report on her condition noting that "Cynics in the media and in Congress sneered that Clinton was faking the concussion to avoid testimony about the attack" -- without acknowledging their own previous coverage. The Daily Caller similarly reported in February that "whispers" suggested Clinton's health was so bad she "may not even be capable of making it to Iowa and New Hampshire," after having wondered two months before why "we're supposed to just take her word for it" that she collapsed and hit her head. Fox, however, seems to be sticking with concussion trutherism; just this month, host Eric Bolling claimed Clinton purposefully "hit her head" so someone else could "take the bullet" on Benghazi.
So she either lied about a serious injury in order to avoid testimony (which she still gave), or she's now lying about being healthy in order to run for president (which she isn't currently doing). Either way, Rove's comments continue conservative media's stubborn insistence to politicize her health in whichever direction suits them at the moment, regardless of medical evidence.
The New York Post continued its history of dismissing the epidemic of sexual assault by blaming assault victims' "bad judgment" for their "regrettable sex."
New York Post columnist Naomi Schaeffer Riley penned a May 6 op-ed denouncing national efforts to curb sexual assault on college campuses. Riley denied the existence of the widespread sexual assault epidemic, instead dismissing them as "sexual encounters fueled by bad judgment and free-flowing alcohol" (emphasis added):
The White House task force says at least one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their college careers.
Looking back, we can conclude that one of two things occurred.
In one scenario, the task force has its numbers right -- in which case our campuses have been overrun by thugs. What was needed was a good dose of law and order -- more likely to be doled out by, let's face it, conservatives.
Sexual assault is a serious crime. If campuses are really seeing these rates of violence, then nothing less than an overwhelming police presence is called for.
Not the keystone campus cops, either, but gun-wielding officers protecting women as they walk to classes, parties and club meetings, even escorting them home from dates. Maybe Ray Kelly would be up to the job; then again, even New York's worst neighborhoods don't report these rates of violence against women.
In the second (more likely) scenario, there's been no epidemic of assault but instead a preponderance of sexual encounters fueled by bad judgment and free-flowing alcohol.
Riley also disputed the fact that 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault on campus. But a report on sexual violence by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that "in a study of undergraduate women, 19% experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college."
The New York Post's unwillingness to acknowledge the epidemic of sexual assault both on and off college campuses is well-documented. Last year the Post's editorial board called a homeless shelter criticized for reports of sexual assaults "too generous" and columnist Arthur Herman labeled military sexual assault reports a "bogus epidemic."
The New York Post responded to a new report debunking the paper's conspiracy theory that the Census Bureau manipulated unemployment data for political reasons by doubling down on its unsubstantiated conspiracy campaign.
In November 2013, the New York Post cited an anonymous Census Bureau employee to claim that the government dishonestly manipulated unemployment figures while President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012. The conspiracy theory quickly became a right-wing talking point, despite the fact that the Post failed to provide evidence that the September 2012 unemployment rate was either unusual or manipulated and attributed the supposed data manipulation to a Census worker who was not even employed by the Bureau at the time in question.
On May 1, the Commerce Department inspector general (IG) issued its investigative report on the claims, finding "no evidence" to support them. The report thoroughly debunked the Post's accusations, noting that it had "exhaustively investigated these allegations and found them to be unsubstantiated."
The Post responded to the debunking by doubling down, standing by its original claim that "Census 'faked' 2012 election jobs report" in an effort to help re-elect President Obama. In a May 1 article, John Crudele called for a "special independent prosecutor" and disputed the IG findings with his own "investigation":
Now it's my turn to speak. My own investigation over the past six months has found the following facts:
- In the course of my own investigation several whistleblowers have come forward to allege that Census workers regularly fabricate or fudge economic data. In addition to the Philadelphia Census office, whistleblowers who work in the Chicago and Denver regions have alleged that data was regularly falsified and higher-ups told them to shut up about it.That casts a shadow on three of the six regions in the newly aligned Census organization. I don't know if workers in the other three regions will make similar claims because I have spoken to any yet.
- One of those whistleblowers has told me -- and has also told the Oversight Committee and the IG -- that supervisors in Philadelphia were particularly concerned about the unemployment data during the last Presidential election. And this source has said Buckmon wasn't the only one messing with data.The IG's report said "we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office." And it concluded that moving the national unemployment rate would simply be too hard to do.The word "systemic" is loaded. As I mentioned, Buckmon's actions alone could have affected the results for half a million households. If two or three others were also falsifying data that would have changed the results for 2 million households. Would that have constituted a problem with the "system?"
- One of those whistleblowers has told me -- and has also told the Oversight Committee and the IG -- that supervisors in Philadelphia were particularly concerned about the unemployment data during the last Presidential election. And this source has said Buckmon wasn't the only one messing with data.The IG's report said "we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office." And it concluded that moving the national unemployment rate would simply be too hard to do.
Yet again, the Post's conspiracy theory relies on anonymously sourced whistleblowers and unsubstantiated speculation. In contrast, the IG report identified the specific evidence that informed its finding:
OIG thoroughly investigated these allegations, and found no evidence that management in the Philadelphia Regional Office instructed staff to falsify data at any time for any reason. Further, we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office. Addressing allegations raised in the media, we found no evidence that the national unemployment rate was manipulated by staff in the Philadelphia Regional Office in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election. To accomplish this, our analysis concluded that it would have taken 78 Census Bureau Field Representatives working together, in a coordinated way, to report each and every unemployed person included in their sample as "employed" or "not in labor force" during September 2012, an effort which likely would have been detected by the Census Bureau's quality assurance procedures. Moreover, our analysis shows that the drop in the unemployment rate at that time is consistent with other indicators, including payroll estimates by Moody's Analytics and Automatic Data Processing (ADP).
The New York Post reached new lows publishing "an open letter to Chelsea Clinton's fetus" -- rather than simply reporting on Clinton's recently announced pregnancy or offering the couple well-wishes, the Post took the opportunity to attack the new baby and soon-to-be grandparents Bill and Hillary Clinton under the guise of "news."
The April 22 letter told the baby that "what makes you so special" is "you're going to live your whole life in make-believe." The Post labeled the child a "campaign asset" and "stage prop" for "Lady Pantsuit" and non-"maternal" Hillary Clinton:
Welcome to advanced gestation! Since you're new around here, I thought you'd like to know a little bit about what makes you so special. The reason is, you're going to live your whole life in make-believe!
In two years or so, when most babies are just learning to crawl, you will be hitting the road! Grandma Hillary is going to need you to smile and coo whenever there are Sunshine Men around. So play nice and don't projectile vomit. Grandma is not what grown-ups call "maternal," and was busy turning $1000 into $100,000 in the magical cow trading market when your mommy was a baby, so she will have to make believe she is really "helping out" with you. No crying if she gets the diaper on the wrong end!
The best part of your make-believe Clinton-Mezvinsky life is that people will pretend you're good at things and give you gifts like high-paying consultancy gigs when you just got out of college, jobs reporting for NBC News when you have as much camera-awareness as a smoked flounder, and the leadership of the free world because you "deserve it."
Right-wing media attacked a decision to shutter the New York Police Department's (NYPD) ineffective Demographics Unit surveillance program that that profiled local Muslims and subjected them to increased police scrutiny.
Libel and slander cases are increasingly viewed as long-shot legal propositions that aren't worth the effort required to see the cases to completion only to suffer defeat. But three high-profile libel suits against media organizations are bucking that trend and making their way through the legal system. Two of them have already cleared steep judicial hurdles, opening the way for the discovery phase and possible jury trials. All involve well-know conservative media defendants: National Review, the New York Post and Glenn Beck's The Blaze.
As Media Matters has documented for years, newsroom standards for conservative journalists leave much to be desired and outlets routinely trample over established norms of responsible behavior. But has the recklessness reached such heights, and have the attacks become so slanderous, that courts will rule against the offending media outlets? And if so, how high could the penalties run?
"Damages for every case come down to whatever the jury wants them to be," former New York Times general counsel George Freeman tells Media Matters.
Responding to speculation that a pricey courtroom loss could drive National Review out of business, publisher Jack Fowler assured readers in January that the magazine has libel insurance to cover damages, although he conceded "our insurance does not cover all the costs related to the suit." But even if the three outlets avoid a big jury loss, simply paying the legal fees becomes tantamount. "The costs can be absolutely staggering," says Robert Drechsel, professor at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in media law.
Not surprisingly, the three headline-making suits revolve around hot-button issues for the right-wing media: last year's Boston Marathon terror bombing case, which led to the suits against the New York Post and Beck, and the political jousting over climate change, which pits National Review versus Penn State meteorology professor Michael Mann.
"All three are plausible libels suits," says Drechsel.