Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson launched his latest personal attack on Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, whom he proudly labeled "Abortion Barbie," by absurdly suggesting that a 1996 lawsuit in which Davis made a routine legal claim in a defamation lawsuit disqualified her to hold public office.
In a post on his conservative website RedState, Erickson highlighted a 1996 lawsuit in which Davis sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for defamation. Erickson seized on language from the suit, in which Davis claimed the editorial had caused "damages to her mental health," a required element of her alternate Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) claim, to argue Democrats would regret supporting her campaign for governor:
Back in 1996, Wendy Davis lost an election for the Fort Worth, TX City Council. After the election, she sued the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the local newspaper, for defamation. In short, Davis did not like being criticized by the media (something she won't have to worry about this go round), so she sued for those criticisms claiming they defamed her.
The Texas Court of Appeals and then the Texas Supreme Court both threw out her case. But it is worth noting that Davis, in making her case, claimed that the nasty newspaper, by virtue of criticizing her, damaged her "mental health."
More worrisome regarding her mental stability, Davis sued the newspaper months after losing her city council and claimed that she "ha[d] suffered and [was] continuing to suffer damages to her mental health."
Think about that. The best candidate the Texas Democrats could find to run is a lady who admits in open court that a newspaper editorial caused her mental health to be damaged.
As explained by the Digital Media Law Project of Harvard University's Berman Center for Internet & Society, "Plaintiffs who file defamation lawsuits often add an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim as an alternative theory of liability." Within these IIED claims, a plaintiff must prove the emotional distress, or "damages to her mental health." In other words, Erickson wants his subscribers to "think about" the routine legal boilerplate of Wendy Davis' lawyers from 1996.
Erickson's suggestion that Davis is unfit for public office because of a defamation lawsuit is only the latest in his string of absurd or vicious personal attacks against her. In August, Erickson labeled Davis "Abortion Barbie" after she declined to comment on the case of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell:
Following Republican Ken Cuccinelli's defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race, conservative media blamed the Republican Party establishment for not supporting Cuccinelli's right-wing agenda.
Right-wing media figures celebrated the House Republicans' plan to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act by a year, ignoring the consequences that the move would have on the uninsured.
A recent incident in which 7,500 songbirds died after flying over a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant has been ignored by the same conservative media outlets that often exaggerate the danger posed to birds by wind turbines, including hyping an incident in which a single bird was killed in Scotland.
The birds killed by the LNG facility, which may have included some endangered species, were headed south for the winter when a routine "flare" release at the Canaport LNG facility in Canada, used to burn off excess natural gas, drew them in. Though company officials apologized for the episode and said they are modifying equipment to reduce flaring, one manager at the plant admitted "At the moment there's not a whole lot I can do to resolve it in the short term." The dead reportedly included "a large number of red-eyed vireos" (see photo above).
Three months prior, another migrating bird, the white-throated needletail, died after flying into a wind turbine off Scotland. The needletail is not endangered or threatened, but it is sighted only rarely in the United Kingdom.
Can you guess how conservative media covered these two cases?
Searches of Nexis, Google and an internal video database indicate that the thousands of birds that died after flying into a Canadian gas flare have not been mentioned by any U.S. conservative outlet to date (or any major U.S. outlet other than the environmental sites Treehugger and National Geographic).
Conversely, the single bird that flew into a wind turbine became a big story in the conservative media bubble. Right-wing outlets used the episode to smear green energy, sometimes betraying sheer glee, as when National Review Online blogger Greg Pollowitz wrote "Your [sic] laughing as you read this, aren't you?" or Rush Limbaugh remarked "[a] bunch of environmentalist whackos watched a precious windmill kill a rare bird."
Conservative media's fixation on a single bird death -- albeit regrettable -- while completely ignoring thousands more seems to let slip that feigning an interest in conservation is simply a convenient way for these outlets to attack wind power, which they have depicted as an agent of "mass slaughter " or an "open-ended aviary holocaust," while overlooking far more elementary, existential threats to wildlife, including climate change. Lest we forget, conservative media figures have regularly mocked those who are concerned about the impact that humans are having on animals -- one Fox News contributor declared "lots of species may be about to leave the planet, and I don't care" -- and attacked conservation efforts for endangered species from lizards to polar bears.
Media outlets have pounced on a quote from one member of a science advisory panel to once again claim a White House "war on coal," but they are missing crucial context about President Barack Obama's expected plan, which sets aside money for the development of so-called "clean coal" technology in addition to proposing necessary regulations on the pollution that coal-fired power plants currently emit.
Tuesday, The New York Times published a quote from Harvard University professor Daniel P. Schrag, a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, in anticipation of the Obama administration's announcement of measures to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change:
"Everybody is waiting for action," he said. "The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they're having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what's needed."
The Washington Post singled out the remarks in a post titled "Obama science adviser calls for 'war on coal." However, Schrag is not Obama's primary science adviser -- he is simply one of 18 advisors in a group that includes current and former executives from Microsoft, Google and tech conglomerate Honeywell, Inc. Additionally, as the Post noted, "he is not closely involved in setting regulatory policy for the White House."
Right-wing outlets immediately began publicizing the remarks, suggesting they are a sign of President Obama's true motives, with The Washington Free Beacon claiming the quote shows that the president's plan "is explicitly aimed at attacking the coal industry." Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin followed up by asking "Is Obama waging a 'war on coal?' and responding that "[t]o a large extent, the answer is yes."
However, Schrag's remark is not representative of President Obama's record as The Columbia Journalism Review and others have previously pointed out. Schrag responded to an email inquiry from Media Matters that he believes "there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants" (emphasis added):
The quote was slightly out of context. I was asked about the question of a war on coal, and I explain that shutting down conventional coal plants is a critical step in moving towards a low-carbon economy. But the phrase "war on coal" is really inappropriate and I shouldn't have used it - simply because it is not the coal that is the problem, but the emissions from coal, and what they do to our health, the health of our children, and of course the climate. So there is nothing wrong with coal if technology is used to remove CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants. But conventional coal, that is harming our children and changing the climate system should have no place in our society.
Right-wing media are dishonestly arguing that senators have not had enough time to read the approximately 1,200-page immigration reform bill the weekend before a scheduled vote on it. In fact, the majority of the bill has been online since May, a fact even Karl Rove acknowledged on Fox News to push back against conservative criticism.
The bulk of the bill's 1,200 pages are available online and have been since May 21. On June 21, the Senate added enforcement provisions submitted by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) to the main text of the bill, which total 119 pages.
Those opposed to the legislation, such as The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol jumped on the Corker-Hoeven addition to make the misleading claim that the Senate only had the weekend to review the entire bill before voting on it. As highlighted by Breitbart.com, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward also implied that the Senate was rushing to pass immigration reform, saying on the June 23 edition of Fox News Sunday: "It's proven time and time again, when you pass complicated legislation and no one has really read the bill, the outcome is absurd." Other conservative outlets, like Red State, picked up the misleading narrative, with The Drudge Report showing a picture of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) drinking from a water bottle with the headline, "Senate to vote on bill before reading it":
Conservatives in media are hyping the argument of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that a ban on assault weapons would be similar to the government deciding which books people are allowed to read, even though Cruz's argument is based on a misunderstanding of constitutional law and courts have held that assault weapon bans are constitutional.
During a March 14 meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a party line vote advanced an assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to the floor of the Senate, Cruz drew an equivalence between banning assault weapons and an act of Congress "to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books" or a law stating that the Fourth Amendment "could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights":
CRUZ: It seems to me that all of us should be begin as our foundational document with the Constitution. And the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights provides that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The term "the right of the people," when the framers included it in the Bill of Rights they used it as a term of art. That same phrase "the right of the people" is found in the First Amendment, the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for readdress of grievances, it's also found in the Fourth Amendment, "the right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures." And the question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment. Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books, and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights. Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment's protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?
Cruz's comments were promoted by Fox Nation, The Blaze, Red State, Breitbart.com, PJ Media, The Daily Caller and The Gateway Pundit. Breitbart.com wrote that Cruz "destroys" Feinstein's argument for an assault weapons ban. Red State ran a headline that Feinstein was struck by a "Ted Cruz Missile." The Daily Caller titled its article on Cruz's comments, "Ted Cruz offends Dianne Feinstein by bringing up the Constitution."
The praised heaped upon Cruz by conservative media outlets ignores that the junior Texas senator's constitutional argument is flawed because it fails to acknowledge longstanding and widely accepted limitations on all of the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
In a May 18 post, on his blog, RedState, CNN's Erick Erickson praised Breitbart.com for its May 17 "vetting" of Obama, using the post to call Obama a "Composite Kenyan." From his May 18 RedState post:
The Breitbart Crew has done the world a very valuable service in finding a 1991 biography of Barack Obama from his literary agent claiming he was "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii."
The point is not that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. The point is that Barack Obama has repeatedly been perfectly okay embellishing and having others embellish his qualifications and biography to make himself someone unique instead of just another Chicago politician. The pattern goes back to his job as a "financial reporter". A former colleague of his and Obama fan, way back in 2005, claims Barack Obama really embellished his resume describing his financial related reporting.
[T]he largest point, however, is that the media is yet again caught flat footed, claiming the story is no big deal, irrelevant, or that somehow the Breitbart Crew is in the wrong and peddling Birtherism.
They are not peddling Birtherism. The Breitbart Crew are kind of like illegal immigrants -- doing reporting Columbia journalism grads won't do. In 2008, the New York Times ran a big story on John McCain having an affair with a lobbyist. It got picked up all over the place. Reporters were on the trail. There was no *there* there.
Right-wing media have responded to a Washington Post story detailing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's alleged bullying of a high school classmate by dismissing Romney's reported bullying as "foolish games" and possibly just an attempt to enforce his school's dress code. However, bullying has destructive consequences for victims, including heightened risks of depression and suicide.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day, rallying across the country to raise awareness about pressing environmental challenges. Organized by a Democratic senator and a Republican congressman, Earth Day 1970 "achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats," according to Earth Day Network, and provided momentum for the passage of landmark legislation to protect our air, water, and endangered species.
But in today's political climate, even Earth Day has become the target of partisan attacks from the right.
This past Sunday, as millions of Americans celebrated Earth Day, conservative media figures spent the day downplaying the impact of human activity on the environment, advocating for more fossil fuel development, and taking credit for misleading the public about the threat of climate change. Others attempted to spread fear about the holiday by noting that it falls on Vladimir Lenin's birthday, and by linking it to a convicted murderer who falsely claimed to be behind the first Earth Day.
And one right-wing blogger recalled how he tried to delay his son's birth because he "really didn't want a child born on Earth Day."
It was not long ago that Earth Day -- and the values of conservation and environmental responsibility it represents -- enjoyed bipartisan support. The Times-Picayune reported on Sunday on the shift that has taken place over the last 40 years:
Right-wing media are claiming that a Republican "war on women" is "phony" and "invented" by the left to distract attention from issues such as the economy and gas prices. But Republicans throughout the country have indeed pushed a plethora of legislation during the past few years that would result in limiting women's reproductive rights, access to health care access, and access to equal pay; moreover, right-wing media themselves launched a bullying campaign against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke after she testified in favor of expanded contraception coverage.
Conservative media figures have been attacking President Obama's economic record by citing the fact that approximately 88 million Americans are not considered part of the labor force. In fact, only a small fraction of those "not in the labor force" actually want to work, and economists say the long-term decline in labor force participation is due to changing demographics -- a trend that is likely to continue over the next decade.
Following on the heels of the trumped-up outcry over the Obama administration's regulations allowing women to have access to insurance coverage for contraception, conservative media figures are lauding a federal judge's decision allowing pharmacies to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B emergency contraception as well as a host of other important prescription drugs.
In 2007, in response to complaints from groups such as Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy issued regulations to deal with pharmacies that refused to dispense lawfully prescribed medications such as Plan B and certain AIDS drugs. Pharmacies had also been accused of destroying or confiscating such prescriptions.
While preserving the right of individual pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions that conflicted with their religious or moral views, the Board of Pharmacy determined that licensed drug stores had a responsibility to fill the prescriptions that patients and doctors had decided were appropriate or necessary. Thus, if a drug store employs a pharmacist who refuse to dispense certain prescription drugs, it must have another pharmacist available who will do so.
The decision to strike down the regulations could endanger women's health. As Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest said in a statement:
"We respectfully and firmly disagree with the court's decision today," said Lisa M. Stone, Executive Director of Legal Voice, which co-represented seven individuals who intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of patients. "This ruling adds another brick in the ever-growing wall between women and their health care. What's more, it ignores well-established legal principles long ago articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court."
Women's health care, contraceptive access and abortion rights are being debated across the United States, and the court's decision is yet another instance of a vocal minority injecting their beliefs between women and health care. Even as so many important discussions take place around health care, insurance, and access to health care, this ruling represents yet another interference in the doctor-patient relationship. A refusal to fill someone's prescription for personal reasons can have serious and damaging personal and public health consequences.
"This decision not only affects two pharmacists and one pharmacy, it is a blow to access to health care for all patients. When a pharmacist can refuse to serve a patient because he or she does not like the drug or the patient, where will it stop? The overarching priority in this state should be patient access to health care," said Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.
But right-wing media personalities are celebrating the decision. National Review Online's Ed Whelan and Red State's Leon Wolf both celebrated the decision, with Wolf calling it a "blow against regulatory fascism." The ruling was also mentioned by Fox News' Gretchen Carlson. All three media personalities suggested the decision might call into question the constitutionality of the Obama administration's regulations giving women access to insurance coverage for birth control.
Not only are these media figures celebrating a judicial ruling that could be harmful for women's health, a closer look at the ruling in question shows that it is also likely headed for reversal on appeal and actually demonstrates how little merit there is to the argument that the Obama administration's contraception ruling is unconstitutional.
An examination of the legal issues in the case is below the fold.
Last week, the Virginia Legislature moved closer to passing a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. Media reports and experts noted that because the mandate would apply to very early pregnancies as well, a traditional ultrasound would not always be adequate to obtain the detailed images specified by the law; instead, as CBS News reported:
One issue that has come under the microscope with relation to the ultrasound bill is its requirement that some women undergo a transvaginal ultrasound probe, which is considered more physically invasive than other procedures.
While the bill does not explicitly mandate the use of transvaginal ultrasounds, many women would inevitably be required to undergo them; in the early stages of pregnancy, that procedure is often the only form of ultrasound that can detect a fetus' heartbeat.
As Slate's Dahlia Lithwick reported, a proposed amendment to the bill that would have required the patient to consent to penetration with an ultrasound wand failed. Lithwick concluded:
Since a proposed amendment to the bill -- a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound -- failed on 64-34 vote, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.
Right-wing media have responded by defending the Virginia bill. On the February 17 edition of her radio show, CNN contributor Dana Loesch defended the procedure as being no different than consensual sex, saying:
LOESCH: That's the big thing that progressives are trying to say, that it's rape and so on and so forth. And, in fact, this big battle that I've totally won with Keith Olbermann by the way, like, not only won once but twice and three times is -- there were individuals saying, "Well, what about the Virginia rape? The rapes that -- the forced rapes of women who are pregnant?" What?
Wait a minute, they had no problem having similar to a transvaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy.
Here's the thing. People know how anatomy and physiology work, yes? We know, again, how offspring is created? Right? We do.
(h/t Little Green Footballs)