Tags ››› Slate
  • What Supreme Court Experts Want You To Know Before The Last Presidential Debate


    The Supreme Court will be one of the topics discussed at the final presidential debate of this election, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on October 19. Supreme Court reporters and legal experts have been explaining the significance of the court throughout the election season, because of the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and the implications for the ideological direction of the court stemming from the election of a new president.

  • Trump’s Anti-Establishment Campaign Was Conservative Media’s Dream Come True, But Now It’s Failing Him

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Journalists are pointing out that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “extraordinary display of personal animus” against Republicans leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), is a deliberate campaign strategy that was pushed by Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon -- and encouraged by conservative media for years -- but that it could cost Trump and the GOP the election.

  • Kellyanne Conway’s History Of Pushing A Right-Wing Media, Anti-Choice Lie About Abortion

    To Limit Abortion Access, Trump's Campaign Manager Has Long Promoted The Dangerous Lie That Democrats Support "Sex-Selective" Abortion

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, has a long history of alleging that the Democratic Party supports allowing so-called “sex-selective” abortions because it devalues "little baby girls." During the 2016 election cycle, Conway has frequently promoted this misleading and unsubstantiated right-wing media myth, which perpetuates harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes and is a cover for greater abortion restrictions.  

  • In Slate, Election Law Expert Explains That Hurricane Matthew Could Be A “Nightmare In The Making,” Spurring Trump Election Conspiracy Theories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an article for Slate, University of California law professor Richard Hasen explained that in addition to the devastating human tragedy brought on by Hurricane Matthew, the storm could also inflict “dire electoral implications” that could fuel Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claims of election rigging.

    Donald Trump has consistently pushed voter fraud conspiracy theories throughout this election, including invoking right-wing media’s voter fraud myth to support strict voter ID laws and suggesting that the election might be rigged, despite repeated debunkings by numerous media outlets.

    In an October 6 article, Hasen warned that Hurricane Matthew “may have dire electoral implications” since Florida is “key to Donald Trump’s chances of victory” and the storm “could have major impacts on voter registration and voting.” Hasen pointed to Hurricane Sandy as an empirical example of a natural disaster that caused “a number of negative effects on [an] election” including reduced turnout, polling location consolidation, and rumored voter fraud. Hasen called the potential scenario “a nightmare in the making” because “we already have Donald Trump telling voters that the election is rigged” so “any attempt to try to accommodate … voters will be second-guessed, challenged, and likely litigated”:

    If Hurricane Matthew is as devastating to Florida as forecasters have predicted, it could be a human tragedy costing people their lives, health, homes, and personal property. Beyond that initial tragedy, though, the storm also may have dire electoral implications, potentially affecting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and landing emergency election litigation from Florida once again before the (now-deadlocked) United States Supreme Court.

    Florida is seen as a state key to Donald Trump’s chances of victory over Hillary Clinton for the presidency, and this storm could have major impacts on voter registration and voting.

    Voter registration in Florida closes in just five days. According to Professor Dan Smith of the University of Florida, in the last five days of registration in 2012, 50,000 Florida voters signed up to vote. Many who might normally sign up to vote at the last minute are now following Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s order to flee the affected areas of the state, and they are not likely to register to vote on their way out or drop ballots in closed post offices or soon-to-be-flooded post office boxes. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has already called for voter registration deadlines to be extended, but the Republican governor has already turned down that request.


    We can also learn much of what post-storm voting could look like from the response to Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Eastern Seaboard in 2012, and caused great damage in New York and New Jersey just before Election Day. According to a study by Professor Robert M. Stein of Rice University, Sandy had a number of negative effects on the election in the impacted regions. Turnout went down. Polling places were consolidated. Jurisdictions differed in how they treated displaced voters. There was confusion and chaos in some affected areas.

    Perhaps most disturbingly, some New Jersey jurisdictions relaxed rules for voting on the fly, including allowing voting by fax and by email. These measures violated New Jersey law, and a Rutgers study found that they may even have led to some fraudulent voting.

    Just imagine if any of this happens in Florida after Matthew. We already have Donald Trump telling voters that the election is rigged. Any attempt to try to accommodate, or fail to accommodate, voters will be second-guessed, challenged, and likely litigated.


    With Trump’s uncertainty about whether he would concede a close election to Clinton, this is a nightmare in the making. Let’s hope, for the sake of Floridians and all of us, that this storm is not as bad as it appears it will be.

  • Media Outlets Correct Trump’s Characterization Of Bill Clinton’s Obamacare Comments


    Republican presidential running mates Donald Trump and Mike Pence took former President Bill Clinton’s comments about Obamacare out of context to claim he “absolutely trashed” Obamacare in recent remarks. Numerous media outlets noted that Clinton’s statements on improvements necessary to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are actually “referring to the same central challenge” that President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton want to address.

  • A Media Guide To The Hyde Amendment And Its Anti-Choice Legacy

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    September 25 marked the start of a week of action by reproductive rights advocates to raise awareness about the Hyde amendment, its anti-choice legacy, and recent efforts to catalyze support for its repeal.

    The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action, led by All* Above All’s coalition of reproductive rights activists, not only demarcates the 40th anniversary of the oppressive anti-choice measure’s adoption, but also comes at a significant time politically. Despite the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt -- which struck down medically unnecessary anti-choice restrictions on abortion access in Texas -- right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have continued to push misinformation about abortion and have doubled down on their support for the Hyde amendment.

    During this week of action -- and beyond -- here’s what the media needs to know about the Hyde amendment, its legacy, and the efforts of reproductive rights activists to eliminate the anti-choice funding restriction once and for all.

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    The Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal funding for abortion services. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this restriction -- commonly called the Hyde amendment after its first sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) -- was first passed as a budgetary rider “to the fiscal 1977 Medicaid appropriation.” Every year since, “the Hyde Amendment has been reenacted” to prevent the use of federal Medicaid funds from covering abortion services, except in case of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother.

    Because of its restrictions, the Hyde amendment has created a significant barrier for low-income patients attempting to access safe and legal abortion care. Considering the number of financial and logistical barriers women already face in trying to access abortion, the Hyde amendment adds an additional and unnecessary complication.

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    In January, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton decided to “publicly do battle against Hyde,” by making the repeal of the anti-choice restriction a top priority, Rebecca Traister wrote in New York magazine. Beyond being the first presidential nominee to publicly speak against the Hyde amendment, Clinton “dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion” by drawing attention to “the relationship between reproductive-health-care access and economic inequality,” Traister argued. 

    The Democratic Party also formally adopted repealing the Hyde amendment as a priority in its platform -- marking the first time a major political party has targeted the anti-choice restriction on this scale.

    Although Clinton and the Democratic Party are drawing much-needed attention to the problematic Hyde amendment, the renewed focus on its impact did not originate with them. Instead, as All* Above All co-chair Jessica González-Rojas explained to The Guardian, the credit belongs with “Women of color leaders” who “have been calling for the repeal of Hyde for decades when most mainstream reproductive rights groups did not prioritize this issue.”

    Similarly, ThinkProgress reported in early September, although Hillary Clinton’s commitment to repealing the Hyde amendment “ quickly shot the controversial idea into mainstream political conversations,” it has been the “end goal of dozens of resilient reproductive justice organizations that have been pushing to repeal the Hyde Amendment for decades.”

    Now, during this week of action, All* Above All has mobilized a grass-roots coalition involving “68 organizations in 38 states" working "to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” Reproductive rights advocates are not the only ones drawing attention to the Hyde amendment during the election, however.

    More recently, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing that he has a new “pro-life coalition,” led by known anti-choice extremist Marjorie Dannenfelser. As part of the announcement, Trump committed himself to making the Hyde amendment “permanent law” in order to prevent “taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.” Trump also promised to defund Planned Parenthood and ban abortion after 20 weeks on the faulty premise that a fetus can feel pain by that point in gestation.

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Right-wing media have a history of not only attacking Planned Parenthood, but also spreading misinformation about the Hyde amendment and federal funding for other reproductive health care services.

    For example, during the December 22 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Eric Bolling reacted to co-host Dana Perino’s statement that “defunding Planned Parenthood” is problematic politically by arguing that funding for abortion services should be “separate” from funding for “women’s services.” Although Bolling did not explicitly name the Hyde amendment, he pushed for Republicans to "defund the abortion part of Planned Parenthood” and set up a “Chinese wall” between abortions and Planned Parenthood’s other services.

    Right-wing media have also misled the public about how much of Planned Parenthood’s resources are strictly devoted to abortion, dismissing the many other types of health care the organization provides to both women and men. In July 2015, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros advocated for defunding Planned Parenthood because, as O’Reilly argued, he did not want “tax dollars going” to abortion providers. Tantaros supported this statement and repeated the myth that because Americans have ample alternatives to Planned Parenthood, “taxpayer dollars should not have to go” to abortion providers.

    Beyond the Hyde amendment, right-wing media have also spread misinformation about the nature of Title X family planning funds that are used by providers like Planned Parenthood to supply necessary reproductive health care such as contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings. Right-wing media have argued that Planned Parenthood is an inappropriate recipient of Title X funds, because the organization is incapable of providing wider reproductive health care. In reality, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are an essential resource for reproductive health care in many communities.

    As a result, in September 2016, the Obama administration proposed a rule that would stop anti-choice lawmakers from diverting federal family planning money -- distributed to states through Title X of the Public Health Service Act -- away from Planned Parenthood. As The New York Times explained, “The rule would make clear that state governments must apportion Title X funds based on a provider’s ability to perform family planning services effectively -- not on other factors like whether a provider also offers abortions.” In April, the Obama administration had “warned officials in all 50 states” that blocking Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding is likely “out of compliance with federal law,” according to The Washington Post.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media alleged that the proposed rule would ensure that there are “millions more in taxpayer dollars for the nation’s abortion market leader at the expense of women’s health.”

    Even when not discussing the Hyde amendment or abortion funding, right-wing media have frequently misrepresented the severity of anti-choice restrictions and downplayed the ways these requirements have made abortion and other reproductive health services less accessible.

    This is an issue that has spread beyond just right-wing media. In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed 14 months of evening cable news discussion about reproductive rights and found that media frequently ignore or underestimate the impact of economic barriers when talking about abortion access. In this study we found that only eight news segments even briefly mentioned the economic barriers women face to accessing abortion.

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    1. Low-Income Patients

    Low-income patients and their families are one of the primary groups affected by the Hyde amendment’s restriction on funding for abortion services.

    The Guttmacher Institute found in a July 2016 study that the “number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services. According to Guttmacher’s director of public policy, Heather Boonstra, for women between 15 and 33 who depend on Medicaid, 60 percent live in places (35 states and D.C.) “that do not cover abortion, except in limited circumstances.” As a result, approximately 7 million women are potentially impacted by Hyde’s restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

    In January, Slate’s Christina Cauterucci highlighted Clinton’s focus on repealing the Hyde amendment because of its disproportionate impact on low-income patients. According to Clinton, abortion is not accessible enough “'as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.'” Cauterucci concluded that if Clinton succeeded in making the repeal of Hyde a central issue in the campaign, it would be “a long-overdue step toward addressing the intersection between economic insecurity and reproductive health.”

    The National Women’s Law Center explained in 2015 that “because of the high cost of the procedure, low-income women are often forced to delay obtaining an abortion,” which increases the out-of-pocket costs. Thus the Hyde amendment exacerbates the substantial financial disadvantage low-income persons already face in obtaining abortion care.

    2. Women Of Color

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and Native Americans -- suffer a particularly disparate impact from the Hyde amendment’s ban on federal abortion coverage.

    According to a September 2016 research brief from Ibis Reproductive Health and All* Above All on the impact of out-of-pocket costs on abortion access, “Because low-income women and women of color are disproportionately covered by public health insurance programs, restrictions in coverage increase their socioeconomic disadvantage.”

    This assessment matched the findings of the National Women’s Law Center’s study, which noted that women of color were not only “more likely than White women to face financial barriers when seeking abortions” but also “more likely to experience unintended pregnancy, due to racial, ethnic, gender, and economic healthcare inequalities.”

    Black Women

    In 2015 the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given that “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, black women do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”


    Latinas’ access to reproductive care is significantly impacted not just by the Hyde amendment but also by the financial and logistical barriers created by anti-choice restrictions in states, like Texas, that have a high percentage of Latinos.

    According to a joint op-ed from the executive directors of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Voto Latino, “The first woman known to die of an unsafe illegal abortion after the Hyde Amendment was a Latina” named Rosie Jimenez, who “died from septic shock in October 1977” months after the Hyde amendment first went into effect. Since then, the op-ed explained, the Hyde amendment has continued to have “an especially devastating effect” on Latina communities, due to their high national rates of Medicaid enrollment.

    In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, NLIRH explained the material consequences of barriers created by state anti-choice restrictions, like Texas’ HB 2. NLIRH argued that due to the "significant geographic, transportation, infrastructure, and cost challenges" Latinas already face when seeking medical care, clinic closures caused by Texas’ anti-choice law would create "severe burdens in accessing reproductive healthcare."

    Native Americans

    Native Americans are disparately impacted not only by restrictions on federal funding for abortion, but also by a lack of public awareness about the unique barriers to reproductive health care faced by their communities.

    As Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center executive director Charon Asetoyer explained to Salon, despite the disparate impact anti-choice restrictions have on Native American communities, Native people are often a “silent population” in national conversations about reproductive rights. For example, she noted that although Native Americans are entitled to receive care through the federally funded Indian Health Service (IHS), “We are still struggling to aspire to the Hyde Amendment while others work to get rid of it.”

    Indeed, as a 2002 survey of Native American women’s reproductive health care access found, 85 percent of IHS offices “often refuse to provide Native American women even the limited access to abortion services to which they are legally entitled under the Hyde Amendment.”

    As a result, Asetoyer continued, many Native Americans who wish to access abortion services are forced to incur higher out-of-pocket costs in order to travel to the nearest abortion provider when “A lot of the time women in these situations don’t even have an automobile to drive to the nearest Planned Parenthood, let alone the money to pay for the procedure.”

    3. LGBT Persons

    In an op-ed for Advocate, National LGBTQ Task Force representative Candace Bond-Theriault affirmed that the LGBTQ and reproductive justice movements are “inseparable” because “many of the same people who propose policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people also [are] actively working to deny access to reproductive health care.”

    While the Hyde amendment makes abortion care inaccessible for many, Bond-Theriault highlighted how anti-choice restrictions additionally perpetuate structural inequalities wherein individuals are “stigmatized because of the personal bodily choices that [they] make.”

    Lambda Legal’s Camilla Taylor, Caroline Sacerdote, and Kara Ingelhart previously explained the pervasive and negative forms of stigma that both movements address, noting that, “People who have an abortion -- whether members of the LGBT community or not -- experience something familiar to all LGBT people: stigma.” They emphasized the importance of combating abortion stigma because, “As the LGBT community knows all too well, it is hard to fight against efforts to roll back your civil rights when you have to remain in the closet.”

    In an op-ed titled “Abortion Access and Trans Health Care Are Bound Together in Texas,” Texas Equal Access Fund president Nan Little Kirkpatrick wrote that “the Hyde amendment is discrimination in health care” faced by those attempting to “exercise their reproductive rights as granted by the Supreme Court.” She argued that the effort to take down structurally oppressive measures like the Hyde amendment “expressly highlights the ways that the movements for trans and reproductive justice intersect” because both involve “bodily autonomy.”

    4. Service Members And Veterans

    Because the Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal abortion funding, its impact is felt by anyone dependent on federally subsidized medical care, including service members or veterans.

    After the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte named the repeal of the Hyde amendment one of the next major goals for pro-choice advocates. According to Marcotte, “The effects of the Hyde Amendment have been devastating” for both low-income families and service members because it means “no federal employees, service women, veterans or women on Medicaid have access to coverage for abortion.”

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    As Steph Herold, managing director of the Sea Change Program, wrote in an op-ed for Rewire, All* Above All “is playing a pivotal role by introducing pro-active abortion access legislation and encouraging elected officials to come out against the Hyde Amendment.”

    The organization represents a coalition of reproductive justice advocates and women of color whose goals are to catalyze action to “restore public insurance coverage so that every woman, however much she makes, can get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.”

    From September 25 to October 1, All* Above All is leading a week of action, which includes “130 activities hosted by 68 organizations in 38 states to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action also includes “a multi-city ad campaign amplifying the voices of Catholics [for choice] across the county” as well as a “celebration of local victories” to earn recognition for the need to repeal oppressive anti-choice restrictions like the Hyde amendment.

    In addition, All* Above All has mobilized support for the EACH Woman Act, proposed legislation that would repeal the Hyde amendment and guarantee “coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured.” According to All* Above All, the bill now has over 120 co-sponsors who have committed themselves to affirming that people have the right to make the best reproductive health care decision for themselves and their families.

    To mark 40 years of the Hyde amendment’s dangerous anti-choice legacy, NARAL Pro-Choice America shared the stories of several individuals “from diverse backgrounds and experiences [who] came together to support repeal of Hyde.” Although their stories represent a variety of experiences in trying to gain access to necessary abortion care, the common refrain and message to the media was clear. As one of the individuals, Mary Tobin, wrote: “If equality is truly a pillar that our country represents and embraces, then the repeal of the Hyde Amendment is crucial to upholding our country’s identity.”

  • Online Polls Are “Garbage,” But Fox News Still Cites Them

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hyped online post-debate polls to claim that Trump won the debate, saying that “every poll” showed that he “did better” than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But online polls involve “a self-selecting group of respondents,” and journalists and polling experts generally view them as unreliable -- “garbage” even.

  • Conservative Media Push Myth That Planned Parenthood Isn't Essential For Zika Response

    The Daily Signal: Planned Parenthood Is Inessential Because Its Clinics “Are Limited In The Services They Can Provide In The Fight Against Zika”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 6, Congress again failed to approve a federal response to the Zika virus after Republicans included a legislative “poison pill” designed to exclude Planned Parenthood from funding -- echoing the false right-wing media argument that the reproductive health organization is not an essential health care provider.

    The bogus assertion that Planned Parenthood is inessential has been a right-wing media staple, frequently adopted by anti-choice legislators attempting to defund the organization. In particular, since the release of deceptively edited videos from the discredited Center for Medical Progress, anti-choice legislators have repeated the inaccurate right-wing media talking point that federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) or community health centers can effectively fill the gap left by denying Planned Parenthood access to funding and resources.

    After the failed Zika vote, The Daily Signal justified the anti-Planned Parenthood rider, arguing that Democrats were needlessly obstructing funding because, “In reality, clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood … are limited in the services they can provide in the fight against Zika” while many community health centers are “ready [and able] to ramp up efforts against Zika.”

    To support this position, The Daily Signal cited evidence from a number of anti-abortion organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and the Charlotte Lozier Institute. It also included numerous comments from Casey Mattox, a lawyer for the right-wing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- which not only openly opposes abortion but also has a history of smearing the LGBT community and working to criminalize homosexuality.

    According to Mattox, only FQHCs are “equipped” to handle Zika response because they have “medical professionals on staff … to diagnose and treat illness” while “Planned Parenthood does not.” In reality, Planned Parenthood health centers offer a “wide range of services” including “general health care” that is covered by Medicaid or other state safety net programs. To underscore Mattox’s argument, The Daily Signal included an ADF graphic claiming to compare the seeming differences between Planned Parenthood and FQHCs.

    However, as Emma Grey Ellis noted in an August 2 article for Wired, to “actually combat Zika, you need to gain control of its vectors.” Given the sexually transmitted nature of the Zika virus and its impact on pregnant persons, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) determined that “full access to the most complete range of reproductive options,” which includes contraception and abortion, is essential to address its spread.

    In an August statement to ABC News, ACOG president and CEO Dr. Hal Lawrence explained the significant role Planned Parenthood plays in Zika response. According to Lawrence, Planned Parenthood has long “provided ongoing well-woman services and contraceptives to millions … and has been oftentimes the best access for some underprivileged women to get access to contraception.”

    Lawrence’s argument is further supported by previous research from the Guttmacher Institute, which found that in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” accessible for those seeking contraception. Guttmacher noted that Planned Parenthood is not only a leading provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services, but also that it can typically see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers" can.

    Planned Parenthood has played an essential role in educating the public about the the virus, including discussing how it spreads and methods of prevention. As Alex Harris reported for the Miami Herald, Planned Parenthood has launched a campaign “to spread the word about Zika prevention.” Harris continued that Planned Parenthood staff have been going “door-to-door in areas where large groups of reproductive-age women live … [who] may not have been reached by state or federal Zika education efforts.”

    Furthermore, as Florida’s last attempt to defund Planned Parenthood demonstrated, classification as a FQHC doesn’t necessarily qualify a health care provider to respond to reproductive health issues like the Zika virus.

    When Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that barred Planned Parenthood from accessing state Medicaid funds -- a measure that has since been temporarily blocked by a federal judge -- the list of replacement FQHCs provided by supporters was called “laughable” by Slate’s Christina Cauterucci because it was "filled with dozens of elementary and middle schools, several dental practices, and at least one optometry center.” This disparity is partly explained by the caption to ADF’s own graphic, which explains, “While every FQHC provides these services, not every FQHC delivery site offers every service listed.” In other words, although some providers may have staff and resources to address a reproductive health issue like Zika, not every FQHC will be adapted to that purpose.

    Experts have confirmed that even when FQHCs and community clinics do provide reproductive health services, they are not well-positioned to fill the gap when Planned Parenthood is forced out of communities. As Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, wrote in an article for the Health Affairs Blog, the "claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do."

    While anti-choice lawmakers recycle right-wing media misinformation to score political points by attacking Planned Parenthood, the director of the Centers for Disease Control has issued an ominous warning to Congress: “Basically, we are out of money [to respond to Zika] and we need Congress to act. The cupboard is bare.”

  • Right-Wing Media Again Promote Anti-Planned Parenthood Smear Campaign As Journalism

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) deceptively edited videos in July 2015, right-wing media -- and, in particular, Fox News -- have consistently promoted the organization’s smear campaign against Planned Parenthood as both credible and an act of journalism. During a discussion of a proposed California law that would criminalize undercover recording stings on the September 1 edition of The Kelly File, Fox’s Shannon Bream and TheBlaze’s Dana Loesch again promoted CMP’s work as journalism, despite the number of media figures and judges who have rejected this premise.

  • How The Media's Obsession With “Optics” Is Ruining Campaign Journalism

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Joining a long list of concerned media voices, The New York Times' editorial page this week linked up with the Beltway chorus to express alarm over the Clinton Foundation and the “question” it presents for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

    Surveying the well-trampled ground of supposed conflicts of interest and insinuations that Clinton sold State Department access to donors, the Times announced a pressing “need for major changes at the foundation now, before the November election.”

    As part of its declaration, the newspaper dutifully noted, “‘Pay-to-play’ charges by Donald Trump have not been proved.” But the Times, like so many other lecturing voices, was quite clear in claiming that the Clintons have to address concerns about optics even if that means shutting down their landmark global charity. That’s how important it now is for the do-good foundation to be spotless and pure: Optics trump humanitarianism.

    Or, there’s no proof anybody did anything wrong, therefore drastic actions must be taken to fix the problem.

    The meandering foundation story has become a case study for the Beltway media’s double standard: holding Clinton to a higher mark that’s based on optics, not on facts. Unable to prove misconduct or anything close to it (just ask the AP), the press relies on the comfy confines of “optics” and the “appearance” of conflict to allow them to attack Clinton and the foundation. 

    For Clinton, it’s a can’t-win proposition. If the press says the story looks bad, even if there’s nothing to suggest it actually is bad, she gets tagged with an optics problem. And because journalists are the only ones handing out the grades, they get to decide how bad it looks.

    But the journalism malpractice doesn’t end there. It extends to the fact that the press doesn’t apply the same visual test to Republican nominee Donald Trump, whose far-flung business dealings would represent an actual, even historic, conflict of interest were he to be elected president.

    Also, note that high-profile Republicans have run foundations in the past, accepted big donations, and never been hounded by the press regarding supposed optics violations.

    What’s so strange about the current “appearance” phenomenon is that the narrative often runs right alongside media concessions about the lack of evidence proving Clinton wrongdoing.

    “Let’s be clear, this is all innuendo at this point. No pay for play has been proven. No smoking gun has been found,” announced NBC’s Chuck Todd. “But like many of these Clinton scandals, it looks bad.”

    A recent NPR report also perfectly summed up the media’s working equation:

    There's no question the optics are bad for Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. But no proof has emerged that any official favors -- regulations, government contracts, international deals -- were curried in exchange for donations or pledges.

    On and on the parade marches: “Even if they’ve done nothing illegal, the foundation will always look too much like a conflict of interest for comfort” (Boston Globe). “At the very least, there is an appearance of a conflict of interest for the foundation” (CNN’s Anderson Cooper).

    Perhaps the strangest presentation came from a Times news report that claimed “the potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest” was causing problems for Clinton. Think about that for a minute. Not only is Clinton being graded on perceived conflicts of interest, but also on potential perceived ones.

    The media’s emphasis on optics when relating the foundation story represents a giant tell in terms of how soggy the supposed scandal really is. As Matthew Yglesias noted at Vox:

    It’s natural to assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But the smoke emanating from the Clinton Foundation is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is the result of a reasonably well-funded dedicated partisan opposition research campaign, and of editorial decisions by the managers of major news organizations to dedicate resources to running down every possible Clinton email lead in the universe.

    It also seems like journalists aren’t even sure what they’re trying to accuse the Clintons of doing. Optics violations can be confusing like that.

    From Slate: [emphasis added]

    But you don’t need to believe the Clintons are guilty of intentionally engaging in quid pro quo (though it’s not crazy to think they may have) to know that there is something wrong with a dynamic where it is nearly impossible to prove that they did, or even that they didn’t.

    It’s not possible to prove any Clinton Foundation wrongdoing, therefore the Clinton Foundation must be “shut down.” In fact, the charitable outpost should’ve been closed “yesterday.”

    Slate continued:

    Even if Hillary were somehow able to completely separate the donations -- to say nothing of her and her husband’s speaking fees, which have often come from many of the same corporations who fund their family foundation -- from her official decision-making, she simply has no way of preventing the appearance of pay for play. And the mere perception of access matters, both in the financial marketplace and the political one.

    That is, frankly, a bizarre and impossible standard: Clinton must eliminate even the “perception” of special access. I mean, people realize every member of Congress accepts money from donors, right? Therefore, every donor who gives money instantly creates the possibility of purchased access. When is Slate going to cross-check schedules for every member of Congress to see how many donors they meet with and then demand each member eliminate even the “perception” of access?

    Meanwhile, all of this optics policing unfolds while Clinton’s Republican opponent serves as an executive on more than 500 companies. So why the relative media silence about Trump’s boulder-sized conflicts of interest? Where are the litany of editorials demanding he take preventive action to fix the optics?

    I’ve seen some good coverage in the business press about Trump’s massive conflicts (“Donald Trump's 500 Businesses Would Pose 'Unprecedented Ethical Dilemma'”), but little attention from the Beltway media, especially as compared to their relentless obsession with alleged Clinton conflicts.

    Lastly, the media’s ceaseless hand-wringing over the Clinton Foundation represents a brand new way of covering charities run by famous political figures. The media allegation that wealthy donors give to the Clintons simply to cash in favors at a later date represents a cynical narrative that simply did not exist in previous Beltway foundation coverage.

    Note that Colin Powell founded a charity, America’s Promise. Then he became secretary of state under President George W. Bush.

    What happened to the charity? From Yglesias at Vox:  

    Well, Powell’s wife, Alma Powell, took it over. And it kept raking in donations from corporate America. Ken Lay, the chair of Enron, was a big donor. He also backed a literacy-related charity that was founded by the then-president’s mother. The US Department of State, at the time Powell was secretary, went to bat for Enron in a dispute the company was having with the Indian government.

    Did donors send big checks to Powell’s family foundation in order to gain access to him, to his son Michael, who was then commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, or to other Bush administration officials? We don’t know, in part because the press never turned the issue into an “optics” obsession.

    The press also didn’t seem relentlessly interested in finding out whether big donors were sending checks to the American Red Cross in 1996 while Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) ran for president. At the time, Dole’s wife, Elizabeth, ran the charity.

    Today, “optics” has become the go-to campaign theme for journalists who can’t find evidence of Clinton malfeasance. That’s not what campaign reporting is supposed to be, but the misleading craft is thriving. And in this election cycle, the flimsy, malleable standard only seems to apply to her.

    And the examples listed above are just a small sample of media figures obsessing about optics recently. Some others:


    The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.

    Washington Post's Chris Cillizza:

    It just plain looks bad. Really bad.


    To be clear: I have no evidence -- none -- that Clinton broke any law or did anything intentionally shady. But, man oh man, does this latest news about the Clinton Foundation cloud her campaign's attempts to paint the charity group and her State Department as totally separate and unconnected entities.

    LA Times:

    There is not an ounce of proof suggesting criminality or racketeering, no indication that Secretary Clinton performed special favors for foundation donors.


    Nevertheless, there are plenty of Clinton allies who are troubled by her ties to the foundation because it simply looks bad.


    Appearances are important, even if intentions are pure.

    USA Today:

    No, it is not “the most corrupt enterprise in political history,” as Donald Trump is calling it, nor is there enough evidence of potential criminality to warrant appointment of the special prosecutor Trump is seeking. But the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity.

    The Atlantic:

    Even if every one of the meetings that Secretary Clinton had with foundation donors was a meeting she would have had anyway, the impression that one can pay to play means that there’s no tidy way to wall the two off.


    If she didn’t do anything wrong, why won’t she defend herself? By avoiding taking responsibility, Clinton only exacerbates the perception she is dishonest and untrustworthy, the primary hurdle on her path to the White House. Optics matter when the issue is transparency.

    Tampa Bay Times:

    We can all readily agree that the optics of Clinton granting audiences to deep-pocketed swells who had sent tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation are not good.

    WSJ's James Taranto:

    The Clinton Foundation and the appearance of corruption.


    And the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a “compelling government interest”—which can justify restrictions of the fundamental right to free speech—in avoiding even the appearance of corruption. The “quid” and the “quo” are enough, even if the “pro” can’t be proved.

    Media Matters researcher Tyler Cherry contributed research to this post. 
  • How A Right-Wing Media Myth About Planned Parenthood Could Hurt Florida’s Fight Against Zika

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    At the end of July, the first outbreak of the Zika virus occurred in Miami, FL -- confirming many experts’ fears that it was only a matter of time before the mosquito-borne virus began to impact the United States. But efforts to fight the spread of the virus have been stymied by anti-choice lawmakers’ reliance on the right-wing media talking point that Planned Parenthood isn’t an essential service provider.

    Since last winter, the Zika virus has spread among a number of Latin American countries, predominantly affecting pregnant persons. Experts have classified the virus as a “public health threat” due to the suspected link between Zika and the neurological disorder microcephaly, which severely stunts the development of a fetus during pregnancy. This link prompted concerns about the accessibility of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for pregnant persons affected by Zika in Latin America.

    Rather than prepare for an outbreak of Zika in the United States by making these essential reproductive health services more accessible, however, anti-choice lawmakers instead invoked a right-wing media myth to attack Planned Parenthood and block its efforts to help combat a potential outbreak.

    Since the release of deceptively edited videos from the discredited Center for Medical Progress, anti-choice legislators have repeated misinformation about Planned Parenthood and the essential services it provides as part of an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. To justify these attacks, legislators have relied on the right-wing media talking point that community health clinics can effectively fill the gap left by denying Planned Parenthood access to funding and resources.

    Prior to the Zika outbreak, anti-choice lawmakers in Florida had already attempted to block access to abortion and other reproductive health services offered by Planned Parenthood.

    In March, Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that not only emulated provisions of Texas’ unconstitutional HB 2, but also barred Planned Parenthood from accessing state Medicaid funds. Although parts of the law have been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, if enforced in full the bill would functionally defund the reproductive care provider. The Guardian’s Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reported that supporters of the Florida bill echoed right-wing media’s false claim that community health clinics could fill in by “insist[ing] that plentiful alternatives exist for reproductive and sexual healthcare” even without Planned Parenthood.

    However, as Slate’s Christina Cauterucci explained, the list of replacement providers in the state was “laughable” because it was filled with “dozens of elementary and middle schools, several dental practices, and at least one optometry center.” She continued:

    Nevertheless, proponents of HB 1411 have used this list to pooh-pooh concerns for women’s health, claiming that there are 29 public health clinics for every Planned Parenthood in the state; therefore, the argument goes, no poor women will miss Planned Parenthood when it’s gone. The Guardian reports that in 2010, according to Guttmacher Institute data, there were just five public health clinics that offered family planning services for every Florida Planned Parenthood.

    Indeed, experts have confirmed that the idea of community clinics filling in for Planned Parenthood is “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.” According to earlier research from the Guttmacher Institute, in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” accessible for those seeking contraception. Guttmacher noted that Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services and typically can see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers" can.

    Access to contraception and abortion care are essential to address the spread of Zika in the United States. As Emma Grey Ellis wrote in an August 2 article for Wired, “To actually combat Zika, you need to gain control of its vectors.” She continued that although enabling people “to delay pregnancy to avoid passing Zika to their children is an obvious, vital step,” there were a number of “political stumbling blocks” preventing access to reproductive health services.

    These “stumbling blocks” have included opposition from public officials. During an August 6 interview with Politico, former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he believed those impacted by Zika should not have the option to abort the pregnancy.Gov. Scott has urged pregnant people to “contact your OB-GYN for guidance to and receive a Zika prevention kit.”

    However, according to Mother Jones, “Planned Parenthood hasn't received any Zika kits from the Florida Department of Health, nor has it received any guidance from the department about how to serve pregnant women during a possible outbreak.” The outlet noted that this failure is problematic given the significant role Planned Parenthood plays in caring for low-income and uninsured patients, who are “more likely to get pregnant by accident.”

    Furthermore, even when pregnancies are intentional, the threat posed by Zika is still substantial. In an article for The Atlantic, journalist Liz Tracy reported on her fraught experience being pregnant in Miami during the Zika outbreak. She wrote that the threat of Zika transformed “nine-and-a-half months into a horror movie with a monster that is almost impossible to locate and hard to avoid.” As Tracy explained, thanks to the numerous barriers to abortion access, “if a Zika infection terribly damaged the fetus, and we decided on having an abortion, those restrictive laws would pose an overwhelming emotional, practical, and financial challenge.”

    Tracy also quoted another pregnant woman saying that with the lack of testing, kits, and care in Florida, “It just feels like too little too late” to contain Zika in the state. She added, “It’s crazy how much they could have done in advance and nothing was done.”

  • Media Slam The Republican Leaders Disavowing Trump’s Feud With Khans But Not Rescinding Their Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”

  • Four Times Media Highlighted The Importance Of Repealing The Hyde Amendment

    The Hyde Amendment Has Long Stymied Abortion Access -- And Media Are Taking Note That It’s Time For A Change

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During its national convention, the Democratic Party adopted a platform explicitly calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment -- a long-standing budgetary rider blocking the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Here are four times media highlighted the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment and removing economic barriers to abortion access.