A local reporter's five-year investigation into rape kit backlogs in Ohio helped inspire state-level reforms and identify hundreds of serial rapists, evidencing how good reporting can bring about positive change to states' handling of sexual assault -- a stark contrast to conservative media's dismissal of sexual assault that may actually discourage victims from coming forward.
Reporter Rachel Dissell discovered a decades-long backlog of untested rape kits while researching sexual assaults for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. As she told NPR's Fresh Air, the Cleveland police possessed at least 4,000 untested kits, which contain DNA evidence that could be used to identify and prosecute perpetrators. While many factors contribute to why the kits were left untested, Dissell explained that often times the perceived credibility of the victim played a role: "A lot of the victims whose cases didn't go forward and whose kits weren't tested were minorities. They were drug addicts. They had mental health issues -- all kinds of things like that that just really made them the most vulnerable and the least likely to be believed."
Dissell and The Plain Dealer's reporting helped inspire a groundbreaking Ohio law mandating that old and new rape kits be tested, leading to the reopening of nearly 2,000 rape investigations and the identification of over 200 serial rapists or potential serial rapists.
The positive impact of such reporting shines a light on conservative media's comparatively dangerous coverage of sexual assault, which actively reinforces the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to discredit research showing that one-in-five women experiences a completed or attempted sexually assault at college, mocking those who do come forward and dismissing efforts to address the crime as proof of a "war" on men.
Glenn Beck's TheBlazeTV argued that the sexual assault epidemic is "completely untrue" by acting out sexual positions and labelling each skit "RAPE!", while George Will asserted that victim has become a "coveted status." Pundits from Rush Limbaugh to The Weekly Standard's Harvey Mansfield have blamed women for the epidemic, while other conservative talking heads stoke fears about a supposed increase in false reports of sexual assault. Others have explicitly blamed victims for their sexual assault, describing sexual assault survivors as "bad girls...who like to be naughty" and lecturing women about the burden of personal responsibility, saying, "It is the truth that if you are the victim of violent crime or the victim of an attempted violent crime, it is not the patriarchy that puts the burden on you to defend yourself, it is not rigid gender roles, it is -- it's a fact of life."
Such disparaging coverage not only stigmatizes victims, it can actually discourage victims from reporting the crimes and their attackers in the first place. And sexual assault is already a vastly underreported crime -- estimates show that sexual assault goes unreported nearly 70 percent of the time.
In her interview with Fresh Air, Dissell described how discrediting sexual assault victims helps their rapists go unpunished: "They knew if they chose the most vulnerable women - the least likely to be believed - that they would never get caught. And I just don't know how that happened. How did we let them outsmart us for all that time?"
Conservative media figures responded to riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray -- an unarmed man who died of severe, unexplained spinal cord injuries while in police custody -- by recommending that participants in the riots be shot, and blaming the outbreak of violence on Democratic leadership, President Obama, public schools, welfare, and single-parent families.
Right-wing media has a long history of serving as Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) biggest cheerleaders, dating back to Cruz's 2012 Senate victory which he credited to Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck, showcasing the influence of conservative media in shaping election outcomes.
Following Cruz's announced bid for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, Media Matters looks back at some of right-wing media's most effusive praise of Cruz.
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Hannity featured the senator in an hour-long special on the March 23 of edition his Fox News show. Hannity highlighted Cruz's campaign announcement speech, and allowed Cruz to promote his platform.
Hannity has fantasized about a Cruz campaign for years before the official campaign launch. During Cruz's February 26 speech at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity jumped on the main stage to proclaim that with Cruz, "we can fundamentally transform America" in 2016.
After Cruz announced the launch of his campaign, Rush Limbaugh praised Cruz, suggesting that he "might be the smartest man in Congress."
In July 2014, Rush predicted that if Ted Cruz continued his rise in "dominant influence," he would lead a nascent Republican "revival" that is "just awaiting leadership."
In September 2013, Limbaugh lashed out at Fox News' Brit Hume for alleging that Cruz was influenced by Limbaugh and other conservative media in his repeated efforts to defund Obama's health care law. Limbaugh defended Cruz, asserting that "Ted Cruz isn't afraid of anybody," and went on to praise the Republican senator, saying "Ted Cruz is fighting for freedom in the greatest tradition of American freedom fighters." Limbaugh added that in his efforts to defund the health care law, "Ted Cruz is attempting to  marshal the support of the American people ... in the greatest traditions of the American founding and the existence of the country."
Beck praised Ted Cruz after the launch of his campaign, championing Cruz's "long, long, impressive resume," saying "you can't pigeonhole him as stupid," adding "I can't wait to see him in a debate."
On his radio show in December 2013, Beck likened Cruz to Ronald Reagan saying, he "may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99 percent of the politicians I have ever met."
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Laura Ingraham applauded him for "stand[ing] firm for the constitution," and claimed Cruz will be tough competition for Republicans because he represents "more of a traditionalist point of view" and a more "Reagan-esque" form of conservatism.
Levin railed against Fox News for "trashing" Ted Cruz after the senator launched his campaign, likening Cruz to Reagan, and asserting that like Cruz, Reagan would have been "trashed all over" Fox News.
In August 2013, Levin declared Cruz "one of the bright lights of the Republican Party" for "exciting the base" after he "demonstrated that he can beat the establishment as he did" during his 2012 Senate campaign. Levin defended Cruz from a "vicious, vile, poisonous attack by the establishment including Bush staffers."
In June 2014, Hugh Hewitt proclaimed that Cruz "may be the smartest senator," telling Joe Scarborough on his radio program, "he's just not gonna back down and we need some of that in our party." Hewitt went on to compare Cruz to Reagan, saying he has "the same demeanor" as Reagan, "the same kind of charisma, easy affability and smart, smart, smart."
Discredited journalist Ed Klein is pushing a dubious conspiracy theory that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked the Hillary Clinton email story to the media, an anonymously sourced allegation that's giving Klein renewed attention in the pages and on the airwaves of the right-wing press.
Earlier this month, a flawed New York Times report sensationalized the fact that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton used a personal email address to conduct State Department business.
Klein is now positing that Jarrett "leaked" the story to the press, as he writes in a March 16 column in the New York Post. Klein cites anonymous "members of Bill Clinton's camp" and a nameless "source close to the White House" to come to the conclusion that the Obama administration is deliberately trying to "sabotage" the possible presidential ambitions of Obama's former secretary of state.
His conspiracy theory was given a platform across the full spectrum of conservative media, which called it "explosive" and "reveal[ing]." Fox News featured several segments on Klein's theory and even hosted him on the set of Fox & Friends earlier this month to hype his "bombshell claim."
Conservative media continue to afford Klein credibility despite a resume riddled with lies and discredited writing.
A few of his greatest hits:
In a 2010 entry in The Huffington Post, Klein detailed President Obama's "humiliation" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, claiming that sources told him of Obama leaving during a meeting with Netenyahu to have dinner with Michelle and their two daughters. One phone call would have revealed that to be impossible, since Michelle, Sasha and Malia were all in New York City at the time."
Klein's latest claims come fresh off the heels of his 2014 book, Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas. Blood Feud was roundly ridiculed for its sourcing problems and unlikely anecdotes, even by Fox figures like Megyn Kelly and Brian Kilmeade.
Conservative commentator Dana Loesch's new book Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the Plot to Disarm America includes spurious quotes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers, despite the fact that it purports to teach readers about "the history of the Second Amendment."
Loesch, who hosts a radio show on The Blaze, is currently on a media tour promoting her book and has made appearances on Fox News programs The Kelly File, Fox & Friends, Hannity and America's Newsroom.
In her book, Loesch also attempts to demonstrate that the Founding Father's view of the Second Amendment matches her own, but in doing so she misquotes, and often takes out of context, the Founder's true words.
In a section titled, "In Their Own Words," Loesch writes, "Just to make sure everyone reading this book is well armed -- pun intended -- with the facts about the Founders and their intentions, the Buckeye Firearms Association compiled a list of quotes attributed to various Founders that demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt what our Constitution's drafters intended when they drafted and approved the Second Amendment."
Loesch added, "Do the new-century equivalent of sticking them onto your fridge: Post them to Facebook or Twitter."
However, many of the quotes listed are not accurate.
"A free people ought to be armed." - George Washington
"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies."
The version appearing in Loesch's book crops language from Washington's quote that made it clear he was talking about the creation of a national defense strategy. According to the full text of Washington's first State of the Union address, he was discussing what it meant to "be prepared for war" and "[t]he proper establishment of the troops."
Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama for sending the U.S. military to help address the public health crisis posed by Ebola in Africa, ignoring experts who explain the critical need for assistance to contain the outbreak and the military's unique capability to support in those efforts.
Right-wing media are using President Obama's plan to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as another opportunity to attack him. Conservatives are calling the president a "hypocrite" because he's sending "more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS"; labeling the plan "arrogant" because of problems with HealthCare.gov; and accusing him of trying to "change the subject" by "fighting a really bad flu bug."
The White House announced on September 16 that the United States would send 3,000 troops to Africa to help combat the Ebola threat. The U.S. military and broader uniformed services effort will "entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support."
President Obama said in a speech that "[m]ore than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died -- and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that ... In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before. It's spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It's spreading faster and exponentially. Today, thousands of people in West Africa are infected. That number could rapidly grow to tens of thousands. And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic."
Conservatives responded to the plan by mocking the president and his policies:
Several media outlets ignored the opening of the country's largest advanced biofuel plant -- which produces a fuel with a far lesser climate impact than gasoline that can help reduce our dependence on oil -- even though they previously claimed that such a biofuel "does not exist."
The New York Times brazenly claimed in 2012 that cellulosic ethanol, a type of fuel made from agricultural waste such as corn stalks, "does not exist" -- and many other news outlets also adopted this misleading framing. Industry journal Platts published a blog titled: "Puzzling over the US mandate for a fuel that doesn't exist yet," later clarifying that the fuel simply did not exist "in the US at commercial volumes" at the time. The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that "Congress subsidized a product that didn't exist" and "is punishing oil companies for not buying the product that doesn't exist." FoxNews.com called the fuel "merely hypothetical." National Review Online contributing editor Deroy Murdock stated "EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire leprechauns."
However, since a new facility started producing cellulosic ethanol on a commercial-scale on September 3, these outlets have remained silent.* Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels opened the biggest cellulosic ethanol facility in the country for production, which will "convert 570 million pounds of crop waste into 25 million gallons of ethanol each year." The Iowa facility is being heralded as "a major step in the shift from the fossil fuel age to a biofuels revolution."
Cellulosic ethanol and other "advanced biofuels" are included in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires oil companies to mix fuel made from renewable sources into their product. This standard was part of a bill that passed during the Bush Administration with bipartisan support -- a fact that several right-wing news outlets failed to mention in their coverage.
A lifecycle analysis from Argonne National Laboratory estimated that the type of fuel produced at the new Poet-DSM facility emits up to 96 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional gasoline. The Poet-DSM facility is the first of three cellulosic ethanol plants scheduled to start production this year, which will together produce an estimated 17 million gallons per year. Jeremy Martin, an expert from the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the plant opening "an important milestone on the road to clean transportation." Martin added: "With efficient vehicles and clean fuels like cellulosic biofuel we can cut our projected oil use in half in 20 years."
*Based on a search of publicly available content from September 1 - September 7.
Photo at top of cellulosic biofuel crop from Flickr user KBS with a Creative Commons license.
In his continued crusade against the Common Core education standards, Glenn Beck encouraged people across the country to boycott tests associated with Common Core, later declaring, "The day we're all willing to peacefully go to jail like Martin Luther King, we will win."
In a live broadcast to nearly 700 theaters nationwide, Beck and his fellow anti-Common Core "warriors" joined forces Tuesday night to "make Common Core history" (emphasis original) in a two-hour live movie titled We Will Not Conform. Those "warriors" included conservative commentator and notorious Common Core misinformer Michelle Malkin, hosts Dana Loesch and Pat Gray from Beck's The Blaze, "self-proclaimed historian" David Barton, Townhall columnist Terrence Moore, Jay Spencer of Liberty University (a sponsor of the event), and representatives from state-based groups waging war on Common Core.
The participants also included Matt Kibbe and Ellen Wheeler from FreedomWorks, a group which "started out as the Koch-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy" and came under scrutiny last year "due to bizarre internal feuding and questions about its finances." Former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey told Media Matters at the time that "the group wasted money by paying Glenn Beck $1 million ... to fundraise for the organization."
This live event is just the latest salvo in Beck's campaign against the state-based education standards, which were originally adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Beck and co-author Kyle Olson released a book in May called Conform, which, in addition to baselessly attacking teachers and public schools for 222 pages, argued that Common Core helps progressives remove parents from their children's lives. The day before the event, Beck compared Common Core to slavery.
In a rush to sensationalize growing violence in Iraq at the hands of religious extremists, media have circulated dubiously sourced maps which purport to illustrate plans for a future Islamic caliphate that extends from Spain to the southern and easternmost reaches of India.
A Sunni Islamist militant group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) has torn through Iraq in recent weeks, violently capturing several cities and straining the Iraqi government's ability to respond. On June 29, according to the Wall Street Journal, ISIS "announced itself as a new Islamist 'caliphate' ... unilaterally declaring statehood and demanding allegiance from other Islamist groups."
In the wake of this news, media outlets from Fox News to ABC have issued reports on the militant group's future plans based on maps culled from Twitter to declare that ISIS is strategizing to take over swath of territory larger than the Roman Empire within the next five years -- a goal that would include, among other feats, conquering Spain, Portugal, Greece, and most or all of India. The maps resemble the geographic dominance of the historic caliphates that ended with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
On June 3 ABC News published a map -- also cited by Breitbart.com -- which was "purportedly published" by ISIS and "widely shared on Twitter." According to ABC, the "terrifying" map was "published at the same time that ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate."
But ABC News didn't actually trace the image to ISIS, and instead relied on a tweet of the image from American Third Position (A3P). ABC didn't disclose that A3P is a white nationalist political party in the United States.
As iO9 pointed out, "This is one of those 'garbage in, garbage out' stories, since ABC News' source was Twitter." The outlet cited to analysis from Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who explained, "It's an old image put out by fans of the group ... There is nothing official about it nor is there some alleged 5-year plan."
Fox News reported the same day that a "chilling new map reveals the ISIS plan for world domination," displaying an expanded, translated map the network claimed was "released by ISIS" to lay out "its five-year plan." Several days ago the Daily Mail similarly highlighted the map as a "chilling five-year plan," as did The Blaze, the website of notorious caliphate fear monger Glenn Beck.
While Fox attributed the map to ISIS, the Daily Mail described it as having been "widely shared by ISIS supporters on social networks."
Despite the serious tone of their reports, neither the Daily Mail nor Fox News cited any experts to discuss how realistic it would be for ISIS to conquer a swath of land that envelops half of Africa and India and includes territory protected by NATO (Spain, Portugal).
Right-wing media have launched a campaign of mockery, victim-blaming, and denial to dismiss the sexual assault epidemic, particularly on college campuses, and the Obama administration's efforts to curtail the growing problem.
From the June 25 edition of The Blaze's The Glenn Beck Program:
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Notorious misinformer Glenn Beck appeared on Fox News to push various myths about the Common Core education standards while promoting his upcoming live movie We Will Not Conform.
On June 12, Fox's Sean Hannity hosted Beck, a former Fox host and founder of The Blaze network, to discuss the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. "Political turbulence" surrounding the standards, however, has led a few states to opt out of Common Core, following months-long smear campaigns from right-wing media figures, including Beck and Fox. Beck even wrote an "angry and ignorant" book titled Conform, which spent 222 pages lobbing ridiculous attacks against the standards and public education in general.
On Hannity, Beck plugged his July 22 live movie, which will also feature fellow Common Core misinformer and conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. After Hannity explained that Beck was "going to show in this movie how to defeat Common Core," Beck claimed that Common Core opponents are "winning on this." He then propagated a series of myths about the standards, including that Common Core is about "control, manipulation, [and] propaganda" and that it takes away freedom from teachers, despite polls showing that teachers support it. Beck even likened Common Core to education in China because it "use[s] propaganda in the classroom" to "shape these minds to get them to be good little boys and girls for the state."
Given that he launched his campaign against Common Core by stating, "We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack," Beck's live movie promises to be yet another absurd ruse in his constant, fact-free crusade again Common Core.
Right-wing media's latest "Benghazi bombshell," scandalizing claims about the attackers' cell phone usage during the assault, follows a now-familiar pattern: recasting history to accuse the Obama administration of inappropriately referencing an anti-Islam YouTube video in connection with the Benghazi terror attacks.
Glenn Beck decried "thought police" for making it difficult to say "fag the new nigger," the title of a poster he featured on his web show.
During the June 9 edition of Beck's The Blaze TV program, Beck invited anonymous street artist Sabo to discuss his work. In May, Sabo produced a widely-condemned "Abortion Barbie" poster to attack Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, depicting "a mostly-naked Barbie doll with a plastic baby in her belly."
The segment spotlighted a number of Sabo's other controversial posters, including one that read "FAG THE NEW NIGGER":
Discussing the poster, Sabo and Beck lamented that they couldn't use homophobic and racist slurs because "we live in such a politically correct society":
SABO: You know, it bothers me you can't say the name.
BECK: It bothers me. It bothers me.
SABO: I mean, we are such a politically correct environment that you can't even say "fag the new nigger." Why is that? It's a word.
BECK: I know that. But you know what the reality is.
BECK: It astounds me that the people who, my whole life, have accused me and people like me of being a Nazi, of trying to stifle speech and everything else - I don't care what you're saying. It doesn't bother me. It's not going to make me cower in fear and run away crying. However, they have now stifled everyone's speech to the point to where we're now getting down to thought police.
Sabo went on to lament that "the whites in general have been beat down so much" and compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler.