Conservative media are lashing out at a Columbia University student who protested her school's handling of her sexual assault allegation, distracting from yet another report confirming the widespread prevalence of the crime on college campuses.
In 2014, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz made headlines for her senior art thesis, a performance piece titled "Carry That Weight," in which she pledged to carry a mattress whenever she was on campus in protest of her college's handling of her own sexual assault complaint against a fellow student. On May 19, Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia, crossing the stage while carrying her mattress with the aide of four friends.
In a May 20 post for National Review Online, Ian Tuttle attacked Sulkowicz, accusing her of having lied about being assaulted. Pointing to a letter in which Sulkowicz expressed disappointment that her personal social media pages had been sorted through in order to find evidence to cast doubts on her claims, Tuttle wrote that all victims of sexual assault should "by definition" have to "submit one's own private life to scrutiny" if they want their accusations taken seriously and reported. Another post that same day by the Daily Caller's Jim Treacher similarly attacked Sulkowciz, promoting a "@FakeRape" Twitter campaign against her to make the debunked claim that false rape accusation are common.
Right-wing media's attacks on Sulkowicz come as growing evidence suggests that sexual assault is occurring at epidemic levels on college campuses.
A new study released May 20 in the Journal of Adolescent Health "surveyed 480 female freshmen at a university in upstate New York in 2010" and found that about one in five were the victims of sexual assault or attempted rape while in college, and the majority experienced it during their first three months on campus. As the Huffington Post reported, "The results confirm other research that has found about 20 percent of women are victimized by sexual assault in college. A Centers for Disease Control report last year showed 19.3 percent of women are victims of rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes." Quoting researcher Kate Carey, a professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University's School of Public Health, the article noted that this research is further evidence that "rape is a common experience among college-aged women" and there is an urgent need to address it. Carey explained that "if a similar number of young people were breaking their legs in their first year of school, 'we would expect that the community would do something to enhance the safety of the environment.'"
Conservative media have consistently worked 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. Their efforts to dismiss the epidemic of campus sexual assault further stigmatizes a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 68% of the time.
The Environmental Protection Agency is updating its air pollution safeguards for new wood-burning stoves and heaters, with the initial pollution reductions taking effect on May 15. Conservative media have frequently fear-mongered and misinformed about these standards, so here's a handy guide to rebutting the most egregious media myths that are sure to resurface in the days ahead.
Right-wing media accused First Lady Michelle Obama of "wasting an opportunity," "playing the race card," and reciting a "litany of victimization" after the first lady's commencement address at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Conservative media outlets rushed to scandalize Bill and Hillary Clinton using the newly released "Deflategate" NFL report finding it was "more probable than not" the New England Patriots conspired to tamper with footballs.
After Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced she was charging six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, the Daily Caller reported on how she's a "sexy," "smoldering civil servant."
Gray's death and treatment while in police custody has sparked national outrage and contributed to riots and peaceful demonstrations in Baltimore over the last week. Mosby, who is Baltimore's chief prosecutor, announced during a May 1 press conference she had filed the charges against the officers after a medical examiner's report ruled the death a homicide.
Daily Caller Sports Editor Christian Datoc reported on the press conference by calling Mosby a "smokeshow" with "'crazy girl' eyes":
Throughout the presser, the 35-year-old prosecutor managed to maintain a fiery, authoritative demeanor AND flashed some serious "crazy girl" eyes, a combination which -- if truth be told -- I found incredibly sexy.
I wouldn't mind being unrestrained in the back of Ms. Mosby's paddy wagon.
Datoc's post also featured tweets from individuals calling Mosby attractive, writing "it looks like we weren't the only ones smitten with this smoldering civil servant."
The Daily Caller has an extensive history of sexist commentary demeaning women. Recently, the Caller's founder and Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson dismissed controversy surrounding an email his brother sent, which called New York City Major Bill de Blasio's female spokesperson a "self-righteous bitch" with "dick-fright." Previously, Caller writer Patrick Howley came under fire for inappropriate comments about a female reporter. The conservative website also published a sexist cartoon attacking Meghan McCain which featured a photograph of McCain with speech bubbles emerging from her breasts. Tucker Carlson told Politico in 2014 that the site frequently publishes "slideshows of the female form" because they "care about traffic."
It's Earth Day, a day on which people around the world put "environmental concerns front and center" to help build "a clean, healthy, diverse world for generations to come." But for the right-wing media, Earth Day signifies something else entirely: The opportunity to engage in another round of conspiracy theories, anti-science claims, and unwarranted attacks. Here's how they are celebrating this year:
Rush Limbaugh celebrated Earth Day by inventing a new and extremely bizarre conspiracy theory: Earth Day has prompted the government to tell people to ignore food expiration dates, which will lead them to "ration" health care and eventually lead to "death panels."
On the April 22 edition of his show, Limbaugh berated the U.S. Department of Agriculture for trying to limit food waste by providing consumers with a tool educating them on the types of foods that have incorrect or overly cautious expiration dates. Limbaugh went on to claim that the government will eventually use expiration dates to ration medicine and health care, and that "there are going to be death panels." He concluded: "All of this has as its root, Earth Day."
Right-wing websites National Review and Townhall thought it was important to "remind" their audiences about the story of Ira Einhorn, who claimed that he was the co-founder of Earth Day and was convicted for murder several years later. Both outlets stated that Einhorn "composted" his girlfriend. Though Einhorm participated in the first Earth Day, leaders and organizers of the original 1970 Earth Week Committee of Philadelphia have made clear that Einhorn inappropriately disrupted the event and played no role in organizing it.
Right-wing media attacked President Obama's Easter prayer breakfast speech, claiming he "smeared" Christianity by referring to "less-than-loving" statements from Christians.
Right-wing media have falsely suggested that the civil rights protections in Indiana's "religious freedom" bill force business owners to endorse messages that they share serious ideological disagreements with. But a recently-decided discrimination case in Colorado debunked this argument, differentiating between discrimination on the basis of ideology and discrimination on the basis of membership in a protected class.
On April 2, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed an anti-discrimination amendment to his state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) after facing widespread criticism due to the law's potential to authorize anti-LGBT discrimination. To address that danger, the amended law explicitly prohibits individuals and business owners from invoking RFRA to deny services on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Right-wing media were quick to criticize Pence, arguing that the amendment "gutted" the state's RFRA and claiming that the revision would "force" the devout to violate their religious beliefs by holding them accountable to generally applicable civil rights protections. A number of conservative media outlets like The Wall Street Journal took this argument further, falsely claiming that forcing religious business owners to abide by anti-discrimination laws would also "compel" them to serve customers with "politically unacceptable thoughts":
For that matter, should a Native American printer be legally compelled to make posters with an Indian mascot that he finds offensive, or an environmentalist contractor to work a shift at a coal-fired power plant? Fining or otherwise coercing any small number of private citizens -- who aren't doing anyone real harm but entertain politically unacceptable thoughts -- is thuggish stuff.
But a recent "religious discrimination" case from Colorado illustrates how this hypothetical betrays a fundamental inability to understand that the RFRA debate was over discrimination against gay people, not gay "thoughts."
Conservative media are grossly distorting a recent study on aerosols' climate impact as a "death blow to global warming hysteria." But the study's author himself stated in response that his research does not contradict the scientific consensus on global warming.
A recent study provided new estimates for the rate at which aerosols -- tiny particles of matter suspended in the atmosphere -- deflect the sun's rays, measuring what is known as aerosol "radiative forcing." The study from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, which analyzed data from 1850 to 1950, found that the level of radiative forcing from aerosols is "less negative" than commonly believed, suggesting that aerosols do not cool the atmosphere as much as previously thought.
According to right-wing media, the study represents a "death blow to global warming hysteria." The reasoning behind the claim, which originated in a Cato Institute blog post, is that climate models rely on aerosols to offset much of the projected greenhouse gas effect from carbon dioxide. So if aerosols offset less warming than commonly believed, Cato claims "the amount of greenhouse gas-induced warming must also be less" and "we should expect less warming from future greenhouse gas emissions than climate models are projecting." The Cato blog post was picked up by the Daily Caller, American Thinker, Alex Jones' Infowars, Investors' Business Daily, and Rush Limbaugh. Daily Caller even claimed that the recent study directly disputes the scientific findings of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, writing: "Basically, the IPCC says aerosols deflect a lot of warming -- the opposite of the Max Planck study's finding."
But the study does nothing to dispute the scientific consensus on global warming, according to the study's author himself. In response to media outlets using his study to make inference's about the climate's sensitivity to carbon dioxide, climate scientist Bjorn Stevens published a statement on the Max Planck Institute's website, debunking the notion that human-induced climate change is "called into question" by his study. He also wrote that his estimates of aerosol radiative forcing are "within the range" of the IPCC's previous findings (which he actually co-authored), and that "I continue to believe that warming of Earth's surface temperatures from rising concentrations of greenhouse gases carries risks that society must take seriously." From Stevens' statement:
Fox News host and Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson acknowledged he instructs his employees that "you can't go after Fox ... because I work there." Carlson added that the rule is a "conflict" and "Is that unfair? Yes, it is. But that's what it is."
Carlson's policy surfaced after blogger Mickey Kaus quit the Caller when a piece critical of Fox News was yanked from the website. Kaus said Carlson told him he took down the post because "We can't trash Fox on the site. I work there."
Carlson acknowledged his rule prohibiting criticism of Fox News during a Real Clear Politics interview posted on April 2:
CARLSON: I have two rules. One is you can't criticize the families of the people who work here. And the other rule is you can't go after Fox. Only for one reason. Not because they're conservative or we agree them; because they're doing the Lord's work. Nothing like that. It's because I work there. I'm an anchor on Fox. And so I had a couple of my employees say, "Well, isn't that a conflict?" To which I said, "yes, it's a conflict. For sure." It's a conflict that I am the owner of The Daily Caller -- my business partner and I own it. And I'm an employee of Fox. That's a conflicted situation, but I don't know what to do about it.
Carlson added: "You don't criticize your employer. I mean that's just kind of 101 ... Is that unfair? Yes, it is. But that's what it is." Prior to being hired by Fox in 2009, Carlson was one of Fox's fiercest critics, calling the network "a mean, sick group of people" and The O'Reilly Factor a "shit" show hosted by "a thin-skinned blowhard."
In a 2010 interview, Carlson claimed that his then-new site was "not going to suck up to people," stating: "Our goal is not to get Republicans elected. Our goal is to explain what your government is doing. We're not going to suck up to people in power, the way so many have. There's been an enormous amount of throne-sniffing ... It's disgusting."
Though The Daily Caller won't allow criticism of Fox, there are a lot of things they'll still permit. This includes employing blatant sexists and producing sexist content; heckling the president during a Rose Garden address; publishing anti-science "reporting" denying the existence of depression; selling out readers to a firm they previously said is headed by a fraudster; and failing to adequately correct errors, among many other issues.
Washington Examiner correspondent Eddie Scarry tweeted in response to Carlson's admission that Glenn Beck's The Blaze enacted a similar policy against criticizing Fox News. Scarry, who worked for the conservative website from 2011-2014, wrote: "100% true: I was told at TheBlaze not to write about Fox News. But no editor there would have admitted that in public." He added that the rule "was because they didn't want to upset Fox, which has heavy clout with cable providers. Blaze really wants to be on Comcast."
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus tweeted the following in response to Tucker's admission (h/t Erik Wemple):
Tucker admirably honest about his No-Trash Fox rule. Except he didn't tell me about it when he signed me up (or ever) http://t.co/XeHxghMUtP-- Mickey Kaus (@kausmickey) April 2, 2015
Kaus expanded in a post on his website, writing that "The Rule is not sustainable. We're about to enter a media driven Republican presidential primary in which Fox is accused, not without basis, of favoring Jeb Bush" and "that means everything Daily Caller writes about Fox is suspect (of being BS) since they are presumably leaving out any bad parts, even if true" (emphasis in original).
Right-wing media have been mocking a recent resolution to address the disproportionate impacts that women will face from climate change, laughing at the possibility that "climate change will turn women into prostitutes." But the grim reality is that climate change will affect women in ways that should not be laughed at or ignored.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation on March 25 to "recogniz[e] the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change." When an identical resolution was introduced in 2013, PolicyMic reported that it would oblige Congress to "acknowledge the disparate effects that climate change will have on women, build gender into a framework for combating climate-related issues, and take steps to reverse this disparity."
Right-wing media coverage of this bill, on the other hand, has been exclusively focused on sex -- by ridiculing the notion that climate change could force women into prostitution.
Conservative news sites published scandalizing headlines such as Breitbart's "Congresswoman Claims Climate Change Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes," WorldNetDaily's "Lefty Lawmaker Warns: Climate Change Makes Women Prostitutes," Powerline's "Will Global Warming Cause Prostitution?" and Daily Caller's "Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): Global Warming Will Turn Women Into Prostitutes For Food." A blog post on the American Spectator wrote that climate change "is going to be great for dudes, who apparently don't have to worry about any negative effects of the transactional sex they engage in as a result of the warming climate." An editorial at Tennessee's Kingsport Times-News quoted the movie Forrest Gump to attack the proposal, writing: "Forrest Gump said that 'stupid is as stupid does.' Witness Rep. Barbara Lee, Democrat of California ... [who says] that global warming will force women into prostitution." Fox News' late night show Red Eye devoted several minutes to mocking the idea that climate change harms women more than men. And Rush Limbaugh asked on the March 27 edition of his show, "which came first, prostitution or climate?"
They are all are referring to a single line in the bill's text: "[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health."
The harmful impacts of climate change on women, which Rep. Lee's resolution hopes to address, are no laughing matter. A United Nations analysis detailed how women are often more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men, particularly in developing countries, and that it is therefore "important to identify gender-sensitive strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change." U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres noted further in a CNN.com op-ed that "women often bear the brunt in places where the impacts of climate change are already being felt":
From the March 25 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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The Daily Caller's founder and Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson dismissed questions about a controversial email revealing that his brother called New York City Major Bill de Blasio's female spokesperson a "self-righteous bitch" with "dick-fright" in response to her request for a correction in an article. Carlson responded that the comments were meant in the "nicest way."
On March 25, BuzzFeed reported that a spokesperson for de Blasio, Amy Spitalnick, contacted the Daily Caller to request a correction on a story regarding comments made by de Blasio on public transportation funding. After an exchange of emails with senior editor Christopher Bedford, who called her whiny and annoying, Spitalnick contacted Tucker Carlson to complain about Bedford's "appalling" and dismissive response. Carlson replied Spitalnick that agreed that her tone was "whiny and annoying," which he said was meant "in the spirit of helpful correction rather than criticism."
Carlson's brother, Buckley Carlson and "political strategist" for the site, replied to Tucker's response in an email that accidentally copied Spitalnick. The email contained several sexist comments: describing her as a whiny "little self-righteous bitch," with "extreme dick-fright," and called her "LabiaFace":
From: Buckley Carlson
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 3:18 PM
To: Tucker Carlson; Spitalnick, Amy (OMB)
Subject: Re: Correction Needed
Great response. Whiny little self-righteous bitch. "Appalling?"
And with such an ironic name, too...Spitalnick? Ironic because you just know she has extreme dick-fright; no chance has this girl ever had a pearl necklace. Spoogeneck? I don't think so. More like LabiaFace.
The full exchange is available at BuzzFeed.
The Daily Caller and its staff have a long and troubling history of sexist content. Tucker Carlson has downplayed sexual harassment and statutory rape of men as "whiny." And reporter Patrick Howley has a history of pushing misogynistic rhetoric and once claimed that looking "looking at a woman's chest will legally be a 'hate' crime instead of a love crime."
Conservative media are alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is attempting to "punish" governors who do not acknowledge climate change by "holding disaster funds hostage." In reality, FEMA is simply updating its requirements for state disaster mitigation plans to ensure that they include consideration of climate change impacts, which is essential to reduce risk from hazards that states will face as the climate continues to change.
Conservative media figures railed against a New York high school at which a student recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic for National Foreign Language Week, connecting the language with terrorism and demanding the Pledge be said in English.