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In the year since the Supreme Court struck down state-level same-sex marriage bans, anti-gay extremists have continued to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality in the media. After more than 12 years of pushing lies and wildly inaccurate predictions about the consequences of marriage equality, it’s time for the media to stop letting anti-gay activists comment on LGBT rights without disclosing their proven track record of dishonest extremism.
It’s been a year since the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges decision which found state-level same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. In the decade leading up to the decision, anti-LGBT extremists and hate group leaders peddled specious talking points about the consequences of “redefining traditional marriage.” In media appearances, these figures predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a “slippery slope” to legalized bestiality, incest, and pedophilia; pushed the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men; and hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.
Several of these groups were so deceptive that in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), designated them anti-LGBT “hate groups” for “propagating known falsehoods” and pushing “demonizing propaganda.” One of these groups was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose officials have accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children into homosexuality and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for engaging in gay sex.
For years, major cable news networks have hosted FRC representatives to comment on LGBT equality without identifying FRC as a hate group. Despite the efforts of progressive Christians to stop outlets from letting FRC representatives conflate their extremism with mainstream Christianity, the group continues to have a significant media presence. Since last June’s Obergefell decision, mainstream media outlets have continued to call on FRC to discuss LGBT rights, including:
In the past year, the media have given other anti-LGBT hate groups similar passes. In September, mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters failed to identify Liberty Counsel, the anti-LGBT hate group representing Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, instead calling it merely a “Christian” or “conservative” organization. In April, major news outlets largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender-inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT hate group.
The few instances when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer did properly identify hate group leaders, anti-gay conservatives were predictably outraged. Right-wing anger at journalists who expose anti-LGBT extremism illustrates why it’s so vital to disclose when sources or commentators represent hate groups. The public has a right to know that the same groups with a track record of fearmongering about children’s safety to oppose marriage equality are now those peddling the anti-LGBT movement’s new favorite myth that LGBT nondiscrimination protections endanger the safety of women and children in bathrooms.
A year after Obergefell, it’s time for the media to stop letting the same extremists use media appearances to float new lies and recycle mythical talking points to oppose LGBT equality. Outlets seeking to provide balanced coverage of LGBT rights ought to find commentators who don’t have a decade-long track record of spreading hateful lies about LGBT people.
While reporting on the Supreme Court deadlock on President Obama’s executive action on immigration, media should make note of its negative impact on millions of workers and families, as Univision and NPR have done in their past reporting on the case.
On June 23, a 4-4 Supreme Court split affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's decision to block implementation of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). This exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” would have given temporary relief from deportation to close to 3.7 million people, bringing the undocumented parents of American citizens or permanent residents out of the shadows and making them eligible for work authorization. The decision also affects an expansion of President Obama’s 2012 executive action Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
According to immigration attorney and CNN opinion columnist David Leopold, who speculated about the outcome of the case back in April, the tie could lead to “three levels of profound chaos”:
A 4–4 split in U.S. v Texas, for example, would result in three levels of profound chaos ensuing. A 4–4 split on the Supreme Court would: provide a green light to Republican-controlled states — not the federal government — to determine the nation’s immigration enforcement policy — contradicting the Court’s major precedent in the process; open the door to a myriad of politically-charged lawsuits that states would be newly empowered to bring against sitting presidents; and raise questions about whether the injunction placed on the deportation deferral guidance, known as DAPA and DACA+, should continue to apply across country, ultimately leading to a patchwork of confusing immigration enforcement regimes in different states and regions of the U.S.
The impacts, however, are also deeply personal to immigrant families, particularly to the Latino community. A Univision segment on June 15’s Univision's Noticiero Univision Edición Nocturna highlighted the stories of some of those who benefited under the 2012 DACA executive action and explained that over 3.5 million people could be negatively impacted if the president’s 2014 executive action failed at the Supreme Court:
The American Immigration Council explained in April that a Supreme Court tie would be harmful to the economy, as individuals who would have benefited from the programs would no longer be able to contribute by earning “an additional $7.1 billion ... in income” or by generating additional tax revenue.
Most importantly, media should contextualize the case by reporting that the success of this executive action would have kept families together, protecting children whose parents are at risk of deportation from psychological harm, an issue exemplified in a June 22 NPR report:
KELLY MCEVERS (HOST): For many families, there is a lot riding on a case that's now before the Supreme Court. It's about President Obama's executive order known as Deferred Actions for Parents of Americans. It could shield millions of people who are here illegally from deportation. There's growing research that shows when a parent is arrested by immigration authorities, it can have a big impact on a child's mental and physical health. Adrian Florido of Code Switch brings us one family's story.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: The Diaz family lives in a squat, pink apartment building in Miami's Little Havana. Early one morning three years ago, Dad, Jose, was arrested just as he left for work. When Mom, Marcela, and her 8-year-old son, Bryan, went outside, they saw Jose's truck idling in the driveway, its door open. A white van with tinted windows was blocking its exit, and they realized Jose was inside. As the school bus pulled up, Bryan started crying.
WENDY CERVANTES: Inability to sleep at night, a lot of anxiousness, behavioral problems, low academic performance.
FLORIDO: This is Wendy Cervantes of the children's advocacy group First Focus.
CERVANTES: But it's also - obviously the mental health impact becomes even greater when a child actually witnesses a parent being arrested or loses a parent as a result of deportation or detention.
FLORIDO: Lili Farhang directs Oakland-based Human Impact Partners, which has tried to quantify the effects. Her group estimates that in 2012, for example, up to 100,000 kids had shown signs of withdrawal after a parent's detention or deportation. She says this is only a fraction of the children at risk.
LILI FARHANG: You have 4 million kids, you know, who can face having a parent be deported and you have to wonder what are the long-term effects for this population of children?
A report from NPR’s news program All Things Considered on the federal appeals court decision upholding federal rules on net neutrality gave false equivalence to critics’ claims that net neutrality would “stifle innovation,” even though numerous tech experts and telecom companies have said the opposite. Tech experts have said net neutrality not only promotes competition, but that it also has been the guiding principle behind internet innovation since its inception.
The U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, in a June 14 decision upheld regulations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) classifying the internet as an essential utility that “should be available to all Americans” like telephone services, “rather than a luxury that does not need close government supervision.” The ruling maintains FCC authority to curb potential abuses and to prevent internet providers from blocking or slowing down certain websites while favoring others.
In a report that same day, NPR All Things Considered co-host Kelly McEvers and NPR tech blogger Alina Selyukh engaged in a false equivalency, providing a platform for the views of net neutrality critics while leaving out certain facts. McEvers said, “Critics like Texas Senator Ted Cruz have called the rules Obamacare for the internet,” and Selyukh detailed the telecom industry’s argument that the FCC rules will “stifle innovation, and it will stop them from investing in these really important networks”:
KELLY MCEVERS (HOST): A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., sided with the Obama administration today on its so-called net neutrality rules. They require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. Critics like Texas Senator Ted Cruz have called the rules “Obamacare for the internet.” NPR's tech blogger, Alina Selyukh, has been following the story and she's with us now.
OK, so what were the arguments in court in this case?
ALINA SELYUKH: Well, as you can imagine, the telecom industry did not like this expansion of authority. Telecom, wireless, cable associations, and then AT&T, CenturyLink and a bunch of smaller broadband providers sued the FCC, arguing that it overstepped its authority. And one of the major arguments they make is that this approach is so outdated that it will stifle innovation and it will stop them from investing in these really important networks.
But neither McEvers nor Selyukh acknowledged that the prevailing opinion is that these arguments are false. Tech experts have called net neutrality the guiding principle that has made the internet successful, Google's director of communications has said the net neutrality rules would promote competition and help the economy, and the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that "there is unlikely to be any negative impact from such regulation on [internet service provider] investment." Furthermore, numerous telecom companies in 2014 told their investors they would continue to improve their networks even under the FCC regulations.
With Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan slated to release a new proposal to “reform” American anti-poverty programs on June 7, media should be aware of his long history of promoting “far-right” and “backward-looking” policies that would enact draconian cuts to vital programs for families in need and actually "exacerbate poverty, inequality, and wage stagnation."
Media figures criticized Fox News host Megyn Kelly for her “fluff” interview with Donald Trump during her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents.
NPR hosted a spokesperson from an extremist anti-LGBT legal group to react to the Obama administration’s recent guidance related to transgender students in public schools. NPR failed to identify the group, Alliance Defending Freedom, as anything other than a “faith-based legal group,” and allowed the spokesperson to spread anti-LGBT misinformation.
On May 12, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration planned to announce guidance directing all public schools to provide transgender students with access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, that are consistent with a student’s gender identity. On May 13, NPR’s national Morning Edition hosted attorney Matt Sharp from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to provide “reaction” to the guidance.
NPR described ADF as a “faith-based legal group” and as the legal powerhouse leading the national fight against transgender student rights. But host David Greene did not mention ADF’s well-documented history of anti-LGBT extremism.
ADF is a nonprofit with a $43-million-a-year budget that bills itself as working for the "right of people to freely live out their faith.” Much of ADF's "religious freedom" work, however, has consisted of anti-LGBT activism, including labeling the hate crime that led to the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard a hoax aimed at advancing the "homosexual agenda"; working internationally to criminalize gay sex; and creating its own “Day of Truth” to combat the “Day of Silence” -- a day meant to honor LGBT victims of bullying, harassment, and violence.
On Morning Edition, NPR allowed ADF attorney Sharp to spread misinformation about transgender people typical of anti-LGBT extremists. During the segment, Sharp repeatedly misgendered transgender girls, saying the directive allows “boys” into girls’ restrooms. Letting Sharp misgender transgender people isn’t just wrong -- it also helps spread the harmful anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” myth that legal protections for transgender people will cause men to sneak into women’s bathrooms and commit sexual assault. When media outlets have previously failed to debunk the rallying cry of “no men in women’s bathrooms,” anti-LGBT extremists were successful in defeating nondiscrimination ordinances.
NPR also allowed ADF to spread misinformation about the legal basis of the Obama administration’s directive, letting Sharp say that Title IX has “never been interpreted to include gender identity.” In fact, the Fourth Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission have all ruled that Title IX’s protections on the basis of sex include gender identity.
NPR’s ombudsman has previously acknowledged that the media organization needs to “do a better job” of identifying anti-LGBT extremists. The NPR segment did feature Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, but only in a pre-recorded 15-second clip. ADF spokesperson Matt Sharp spoke largely uninterrupted for over 4 minutes. From NPR:
DAVID GREENE (Host): A letter is going out later today from the Obama administration to every school district in the country. It says schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This move was quickly welcomed by Mara Keisling -- she’s the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. She says she hopes that parents can set their biases aside as the new rules are implemented.
MARA KEISLING: There’s all sorts of kinds of kids that other people’s parents don’t feel comfortable with. And that’s not how we decide who gets to learn safely in schools. All children get to learn safely in schools.
GREENE: And let’s hear another voice now. It’s Matt Sharp, he’s an attorney with the faith-based legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has opposed similar policies in public schools across the country. Mr. Sharp, good morning.
MATT SHARP: Thank you for having me.
GREENE: Well thanks for coming on the program, we appreciate it. Let me just ask you, I mean, the administration, this letter going out this morning, the real foundation of it is this federal law called Title IX that prohibits sex discrimination in schools. And the administration is saying this protects transgender people based on their gender identity. Tell me your reaction to that reading of the law.
SHARP: Well, it’s completely wrong. For over 40 years now, Congress and courts that have looked at Title IX have all consistently said Title IX was meant to combat sex discrimination. It’s never been interpreted to include gender identity, and so the idea was always to ensure equal opportunities for men and women. Importantly, Title IX was specifically written to protect student privacy. It allows schools to have separate restrooms and locker rooms and dormitories on the basis of sex. So what the Obama administration is doing here is essentially rewriting the law, ignoring Congress, ignoring the normal process they’re supposed to go through to force their agenda on schools across the country.
GREENE: Well what would you tell a family with a transgender child who identifies as a girl or a boy and believes that their girl or boy is going to school and deserves those protections under Title IX and believes very much in what the Obama administration is doing and wants their child to be protected and not discriminated against?
SHARP: Well their child should absolutely be protected against bullying, harassment or anything else. And we’ve seen schools across the country do a great job of protecting every student under their care. But part of protection is also protecting the right of privacy. And so we’re hearing from lots of students across the country and parents saying this violates our right to privacy when we’re forced to share locker rooms, showers, and restrooms with someone of the opposite sex. And so that’s actually what motivated I think over 130 parents and students in Chicago to actually sue the federal government because they came in and forced the school to open up their restrooms and locker rooms to the opposite sex.
GREENE: Can you understand though, that the families and parents of a transgender child who believes this is a delicate situation but that the rights of their child might be more important than sort of another child to sort of get used to a situation that he or she might find a little sensitive in a bathroom.
SHARP: Well, but it’s not about one student’s rights being more important than another. It’s about protecting every student’s rights to privacy. And so what we’ve seen schools do is offer accommodations to any student, including transgender students, that are not comfortable with communal restrooms, allowing them to use single-stall restrooms or what’s ever available, so that they’ve got a choice. But they also have a duty to protect every other student’s constitutional right to privacy, when the courts across the country have recognized is implicated when you have got restrooms and locker rooms, and why Title IX was drafted the way it is. So schools have to protect that. And what they’re trying to do is make sure that every student has a place where they can use the restroom, change and shower, and feel comfortable, without having to break down our traditions of having separate restrooms on the basis of biological sex.
GREENE: Let me just ask you, you’re representing 51 families in a school district in Illinois, which allows students to use bathrooms according to gender identity. And these families are fighting that policy. Can you tell me the story of just maybe one family and exactly, on a personal level, what they’re objecting to?
SHARP: Absolutely. And so we’ve got several families there that the Obama administration came in and forced the district 211 to allow a biological boy to the female’s restrooms. So these girls are telling stories about how when they’re in the locker room changing for PE, they’re now uncomfortable knowing that a boy can walk in at any time under the school’s new policy. They talk about how one girl in particular does not change out of her gym clothes but rather wears them all day long, wears them after going to gym after getting them dirty and nasty through PE class, and then just puts her clothes on top of it, because she’s so nervous about the possibility of having to change and shower and whatnot in front of this boy. And we hear stories like that across the country of these girls speaking out and saying, “Look, we don’t want this student to be bullied or harassed or anything. But we also just want our privacy protected. And we just want to know that when we go into these lockers and shower rooms, that we’re not going to be forced to share it with someone of the opposite biological sex.” That’s all these girls are asking for.
GREENE: Matt Sharp is an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal advocacy group.
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Fusion: "The Republican Party, 162, Has Died"
Hispanic media and Latino journalists reacted to the news that Donald Trump is the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee by noting that Trump's anti-immigrant vitriol has made it extremely challenging for the businessman to get the Latino vote he needs in the general election.
The American Family Association Has Been Designated An Anti-LGBT “Hate Group” By The SPLC
Major news outlets have largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT "hate group," often only referring to the group as a "Christian" or "conservative" organization.
NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday hosted an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to discuss two recently passed anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi. NPR did not disclose ADF’s history of extreme anti-LGBT legal work or push back against the group's mischaracterization of protections for transgender people.
On the April 10 edition of NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, host Rachel Martin invited ADF attorney Matt Sharp to discuss the passage of state anti-LGBT legislation, including a North Carolina law that repealed the city of Charlotte's nondiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBT people.
Martin described ADF as “an organization that backs religious freedom laws,” but didn't mention the group's history of anti-LGBT extremism, including promoting the criminalization of homosexuality and describing the anti-gay murder of Matthew Shepard as a hoax.
During the segment, Sharp falsely claimed that the North Carolina law was passed to repeal ordinances that would allow “men to use the same restrooms as girls and women.” In reality, Charlotte's ordinance did not allow “men” to use women’s bathrooms but rather allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Martin failed to push back against this mischaracterization, responding only that in women’s bathrooms around the world “there is no exposure to anyone’s biological anatomy” because of bathroom stalls:
RACHEL MARTIN (HOST): Can you explain what has been happening in North Carolina that you believe made this bill necessary?
MATT SHARP: The primary motivation was the city of Charlotte passing an ordinance that would have allowed, in all businesses and public schools and other facilities, men to use the same restrooms as girls and women. That's violating their right to privacy. And so the North Carolina legislature and governor, seeing this and the impact this was going to have, took steps to reverse this and to make sure that across the state no individual would ever have to give up their right to privacy and be forced to share the same facilities as someone of the opposite sex.
MARTIN: And I'm sorry to get into things that are so intimate, but it's an intimate law about very private issues. When you're going into a woman's bathroom, everywhere around the world, you go into stalls. So there is no exposure to anyone's biological anatomy.
Sharp continued to provide misinformation, falsely claiming that Mississippi's new "religious freedom" law, which has been called the “most sweeping anti-LGBT” legislation in the U.S., is "in no way ... meant to allow the LGBT community to be denied goods and services." In fact, the bill does allow the denial of goods and services, as well as allowing medical professionals to refuse necessary treatment for LGBT people and employers to establish sex-specific standards regarding dress and bathroom use. The bill also allows state employees to refuse to provide services involved in “authorizing or licensing legal marriages.”
This isn't the first time NPR has given an uncritical platform to an anti-LGBT extremist. In December, NPR's Diane Rehm admitted that her program had erred in failing to properly identify an anti-gay hate group fellow from the Family Research Council, saying, “We have to do a better job of being more careful about identification.”
NPR’s Peter Overby highlighted new analysis from Public Citizen pointing out that presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle “have raised a combined total of around $1 billion,” but that out of 1,000 debate questions and 21 debates so far in this campaign, only 15 questions related to political money have been asked and none addressed “candidates' views of the system or ways they would change it.”
Despite polls showing Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the post-Citizens United campaign finance landscape, most news outlets still provide little coverage of the current impact of money in politics and possibilities for campaign finance reform. A lack of questions on campaign finance reflect a larger trend of debate moderators not asking about substantive issues or policies, such as the impact of -- or plans to combat -- climate change.
In an April 8 article, Overby quotes Public Citizen’s Congress Watch director Lisa Gilbert saying, “There's a disconnect between voters and the media, who are not paying attention to something that's front-and-center for most Americans as never before. They're unwilling to press the candidates on solutions":
The politicians who would be president have a lot to say about money, at least when they're soliciting it.
They and their sidekick superPACs have raised a combined total of around $1 billion, according to NPR calculations from data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
But when it's time for a TV debate, the candidates aren't so eager to expound on their fundraising, the big donors they court for superPACs, or the legal rulings that give the wealthy more avenues for giving.
A new analysis by the liberal advocacy group Public Citizen finds that Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump accounted for 92 percent of all commentary about political money and special interests in the 21 presidential primary debates through March 24.
The analysis, called The Elephant in the Room, also found that Sanders, Clinton and Trump were also the only candidates to talk about repairing a campaign finance system that has unexpectedly become a flashpoint for voter anger in this election cycle.
Public Citizen criticizes the debate questioners. In the 21 debates, they asked about political money in 15 of more than 1,000 questions. The analysis found no questions on candidates' views of the system or ways they would change it.
Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, said she was surprised that the candidates and questioners made only 13 mentions of Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that has come to represent the surge in big-dollar politics.
"There's a disconnect between voters and the media, who are not paying attention to something that's front-and-center for most Americans as never before," she said. "They're unwilling to press the candidates on solutions."
Republican lawyer Miguel Estrada dismissed the claims from discredited right-wing organization Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) that Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland's judicial record indicates a "bias against Second Amendment rights."
In a March 27 NPR story that refuted activists' criticisms of Garland's judicial record, Estrada -- who was nominated by President George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia -- explained that "the evidence that is being cited for the accusation that Judge Garland has some bias against Second Amendment rights is from thin to non-existent."
The "evidence" dismissed by Estrada as "thin to non-existent" originated from the Judicial Crisis Network, which has been making this false charge against Garland since March 11, before he was nominated by President Obama, claiming that Garland's vote to rehear a 2007 case on handgun restrictions indicates he "has a very liberal view on gun rights."
However, Garland was joined in his vote by the very conservative Judge A. Raymond Randolph, and legal scholars have explained that reading anti-gun bias in this vote by Garland is a "dangerous" assumption.
As Estrada explained to NPR, voting to rehear a case does not indicate a judge's view of the merits of the case, but rather "the rules say that the full court may wish to rehear the case itself when the case raises a question, and I quote, 'of exceptional importance.'"
[C]onservative activists see Garland's record as tilting distinctly to the left. The Judicial Crisis Network has already spent $4 million on TV and radio advertisements in 10 states insisting that he "would be the tie-breaking vote for Obama's big government liberalism."
Proving some of these assertions, however, can be difficult.
"The evidence that is being cited for the accusation that Judge Garland has some bias against Second Amendment rights is from thin to non-existent," says Miguel Estrada, a conservative Republican lawyer whose own nomination to the D.C. Circuit was stalled by Democrats during the George W. Bush administration.
Estrada notes that the charge that Garland is hostile to gun rights stems from a case challenging the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. In 2007, a three-judge panel -- not including Garland -- ruled for the first time that there is a constitutional right to own guns for self-defense. Afterward, Garland was one of four judges, including a conservative Reagan appointee, who voted for the full court to rehear the case.
Estrada explains that "the rules say that the full court may wish to rehear the case itself when the case raises a question, and I quote, 'of exceptional importance.' "
The gun rights case certainly was of exceptional importance, he said, since no court of appeals had ever before ruled that there was an individual right to own a gun. Ultimately, Estrada notes, the Supreme Court, too, thought the case was of exceptional importance, since it agreed to review the lower court decision and, in a landmark opinion, sustained it.
On March 16, President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Before the nomination, Media Matters explained how right-wing media would respond: by following their deceptive conservative playbook against the nominee, regardless of who it was. And that's exactly what they did. Right-wing media resurrected the same tired tactics they've used before to oppose Obama's judicial nominees -- distorting the nominee's record to push alarmist rhetoric, purposefully taking past statements out of context, and lobbing attacks based on the nominee's race, gender, or religion. In the last week, we've already seen many of these plays put into action, with conservative media predictably propping up dishonest talking points and false claims dedicated to obstruction.
The discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) -- known as the Judicial Confirmation Network during the Bush administration, but now committed to opposing Obama judicial nominations -- has led the way in fearmongering around "one more liberal justice," attempting to re-cast Garland's record as that of an anti-gun, job-killing judicial extremist.
JCN began its misinformation campaign well before Garland's March 16 nomination, pushing myths about the records of several potential nominees at the National Review's Bench Memos legal blog, in press statements and attack ads, and in media appearances by JCN chief counsel Carrie Severino. On March 11, Severino authored a post on the Bench Memos blog attempting to smear Garland as "very liberal on gun rights" by grossly distorting actions he took on two cases pulled from his nearly two decades of judicial service, one of which did not even concern the Second Amendment. Severino cited Garland's 2007 vote to rehear a case on D.C.'s handgun ban and his 2000 ruling in a case related to the national background check system for gun purchases to draw this baseless conclusion. But she failed to note crucial context -- voting to rehear a case in what's called an en banc review does not indicate how a judge might theoretically rule, and in both cases, Garland either acted in agreement with colleagues or other courts across the ideological spectrum. Veteran Supreme Court reporters and numerous legal experts quickly and summarily debunked these misleading claims, but other right-wing outlets have further distorted them, and JCN has pushed the myths in subsequent attack ads and media appearances.
Following Garland's formal nomination, JCN released a series of "topline points" outlining its opposition, further misrepresenting Garland's guns record to falsely suggest he had "voted to uphold" D.C.'s handgun ban and "demonstrated a remarkable level of hostility to the Second Amendment," as well as contending Garland was "the sole dissenter in a 2002 case striking down an illegal, job-killing EPA regulation." Like its earlier attacks on Garland's supposedly "very liberal" guns record, JCN's newer claims about Garland's ruling in the 2002 EPA case also grossly distorted the facts.
Some mainstream outlets have uncritically echoed JCN's debunked "topline points" and attack ads on Garland's record, and these reports -- in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and on National Public Radio -- lend an air of undeserved legitimacy to the group's misinformation campaign against Garland.
National Review's Supreme Court coverage to date has continued its tradition of injecting context-free talking points into mainstream reporting on the nominee. Its legal blog, Bench Memos, has served as a testing ground for new smears against Garland, hosting several misinformation-filled posts from JCN's Severino that eventually made their way into mainstream reporting and broadcast coverage. In giving space for JCN and other right-wing legal pundits like contributor Ed Whelan to distort Garland's record, Bench Memos quickly made it clear that a lack of evidence is no reason to avoid making sweeping claims about the nominee.
Before Garland was nominated, National Review featured posts from both Severino and Whelan that attempted to smear several potential nominees. On March 7, Whelan questioned the intelligence of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson absent any evidence to suggest the accomplished federal judge was anything but qualified. That same day, Severino attempted to smear Judge Jane Kelly for fulfilling her constitutional duty of providing legal representation for an unsavory client while working as a public defender. In subsequent posts, Severino attacked Judges Sri Srinivasan and Paul Watford in a series aimed to undermine their reputations as "moderates" by misrepresenting a handful of their past decisions as "extremist."
Attacks on Garland, too, began before the March 16 nomination announcement; Severino's March 11 post on Bench Memos first floated what have since become widespread and false conservative talking points on Garland's record on guns. In the post, Severino claimed that Garland's vote to rehear a 2007 case related to the D.C. handgun ban and his joining of a ruling in a 2000 case related to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun purchases together indicated "a very liberal approach" to the Second Amendment and a desire to overturn the 2008 Heller Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment. These attacks, which legal experts quickly and repeatedly debunked, continue to pervade media coverage of opposition to Garland's nomination.
Fox News figures have predictably latched onto conservative talking points to oppose Garland, broadcasting already debunked claims about Garland's record.
On March 16, Bret Baier, host of Fox's Special Report With Bret Baier, claimed in an interview with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest that Garland "opposed Justice Scalia's take on the Second Amendment in the Heller case," misrepresenting both Garland's 2007 vote to rehear the D.C. handgun case and the case's relationship to a Supreme Court decision issued the following year. On Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly further distorted JCN's talking point, incorrectly stating that Garland had "voted to keep the guns away" from private citizens in D.C., another claim about the Supreme Court nominee that PolitiFact labeled false.
As Media Matters warned, the National Rifle Association (NRA) quickly began pushing these right-wing media claims to justify its involvement in obstruction efforts and to fearmonger about Garland.
Immediately following Garland's nomination on March 16, the NRA declared him "bad on guns." In a series of tweets reacting to the nomination, the NRA linked to the debunked March 11 Severino post on Bench Memos to claim that Garland would "vote to reverse" the Heller decision, and a Washington Times article pushing the same discredited claims with quotes from Severino, a spokesperson from the opposition research group America Rising Squared, and the extremist group Gun Owners of America.
Later that day, the NRA formally announced its opposition to Garland's nomination. The move predictably mirrored the NRA's efforts to distort Sonia Sotomayor's record and to launch an unprecedented and largely ineffective ploy to threaten senators' records over their votes to confirm Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in 2009. Days later, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action explained the group's opposition in an op-ed in The Washington Post, regurgitating JCN's dishonest claims about Garland's 2007 en banc vote in the Parker case to fearmonger about the moderate judge.
The NRA's opposition to Garland helped elevate JCN's long-debunked talking points on Garland all the way to Senate Republicans leading the obstruction efforts. In a March 20 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explicitly cited the NRA's opposition to Garland as a sticking point for ongoing Senate obstruction, explaining that he "can't imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association."