Russia's recent crackdown on its LGBT community has been condemned by everyone from President Barack Obama to grassroots gay rights activists. But since Russia passed a series of sweeping laws banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" and prohibiting the adoption of children by Russian same-sex couples and any foreign couples from nations with marriage equality, many right-wing media figures have instead rallied to the country's defense.
It's not surprising that far-right figures from anti-gay hate groups like the American Family Association (AFA) and Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) have enthusiastically endorsed President Vladimir Putin's draconian crackdown on gays. As the Russian news agency RIA Novosti recently reported, AFTAH President Peter LaBarbera has championed Putin's cause. In a statement on his group's website, LaBarbera said, "Russians do not want to follow America's reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth." The AFA's Bryan Fischer praised Putin's anti-gay laws, stating that the country isn't being homophobic but "homorealistic."
But AFTAH and AFA are not alone in endorsing Russia's right to arrest anyone who offers a positive depiction of homosexuality, as the new laws will allow. Outlets and figures within the mainstream of the conservative movement have also jumped on the bandwagon.
The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus will appear at an August 21 Tea Party meeting to whip up fears that comprehensive immigration reform "would change America irrevocably, and for the worse."
The Hancock Park Patriots, a Tea Party group based in Los Angeles, announced Kaus' participation in the event, promising that he would answer the questions "Can they be stopped?" and "What's the alternative?"
Kaus self-identifies as "neoliberal" and "common sense Democrat" but espouses a far-right ideology, including a fixation on union-busting, and his participation in the Hancock Park Patriots meeting makes clear that Kaus is anti-immigrant. The former Slate blogger has become obsessed with the issue, dedicating all but one of his posts in July on his Daily Caller blog to the subject.
The Daily Caller clutched its pearls over news that the College of Charleston has assigned a graphic memoir featuring gay and lesbian characters to its incoming freshmen.
In an August 2 post titled "Public college freshmen forced to read comic book starring lesbian, child molester," Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens touted the concerns of the Palmetto Family - a group tied to the anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council - which has raised hackles over the assignment for incoming freshmen at the College of Charleston to read Alison Bechdel's 2006 memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.
Fun Home chronicles Bechdel's troubled relationship with her father and probes issues like identity, self-discovery, and belonging. The New York Times Book Review lauded the memoir as "a pioneering work, pushing two genres (comics and memoir) in multiple new directions." Salon called the book "extraordinary." The Boston Globe called it "brilliant." The Quarterly Conversation declared that Fun Home is "a graphic novel autobiography that easily rivals the best works in the field."
The Daily Caller, on the other hand, was appalled at the book's sexual content and the presence of openly gay characters:
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre criticized President Obama for saying that Americans should disregard those who say "tyranny is always lurking just around the corner," before warning that the administration is attempting to "disarm citizens on multiple fronts -- a step at a time -- not only of their firearms, but of their free speech"
The NRA often engages in hyperbolic language to suggest that Obama wishes to form a tyrannical government and destroy the Second Amendment. From LaPierre's July 30 op-ed appearing on conservative news website The Daily Caller:
Specifically, Obama signaled what he sees as dangerous political speech in his May, 2013 [Ohio University commencement] address:
"Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate sinister entity that's at the root of our problems. Some of these voices also do their best to gum up the works. They warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices."
As members of the oldest civil rights organization in the nation, NRA members know tyranny when we see it. Five million strong, we proudly "gum up the works" when those "works" are designed to destroy American liberty, be it attacks on rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment or the First Amendment.
"Tyranny." That's Obama's word. The president is right about one thing: Many people are, indeed, warning about tyranny "lurking just around the corner."
Referencing controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's use of improper screening methods when reviewing tax-exempt status for some non-profit groups, LaPierre wrote, "Obama cannot erase the Second Amendment without crippling or controlling exercise of the First Amendment. And that's exactly what is at the heart of the ongoing scandals involving the vindictive assault on conservative Americans by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)."
In fact, this characterization is overblown. There is no evidence of White House involvement in the use of improper screening methods by the IRS. Furthermore, despite initial reports that only conservative non-profits were targeted, it was later revealed that the IRS also used improper screening techniques on liberal organizations as well.
Still, in his opinion piece LaPierre described the IRS as "the president's thug arm" and implored readers to elect candidates who will "root out and prosecute what has morphed from the corruption of the 'Chicago way,' into the much more sinister Obama way," adding that he hopes "Obama's 'transformation' of our nation and our culture" can be stopped.
The Daily Caller decried a southern California school district's agreement to accommodate transgender students, misidentifying the gender of the student whose complaint prompted the agreement and belittling the experiences of transgender individuals.
In a July 28 article, Daily Caller education editor Eric Owens lamented the trend toward increased acceptance of transgender students, highlighting the case of a suburban Los Angeles school district where a transgender male successfully pushed the schools to allow transgender students to use facilities like restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities:
It's all the rage these days for transgender students (or their parents) to sue or make a big fuss because their genitalia doesn't match the bathrooms and locker rooms they prefer to use.
The latest flare-up occurred in a quiet, expensive suburb northeast of Los Angeles. The Arcadia Unified School District in Arcadia, Calif. finalized an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to terminate a Title IX investigation into allegations of discrimination against a transgender middle schooler, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The agreement resolves a complaint pressed by the Department of Education and filed on behalf of an unnamed student who was born female but wants to be a male.
For GOP national candidates, navigating the conservative media is kind of like NASA executing a gravitational slingshot: there's a hot, dense center of gravity that you want to get just close enough to so that your campaign rocket ship gets a boost in the right direction. Veer too far and you'll drift into the political void. Get too close and you'll crash hard onto Planet Wingnut.
This complicated act of political physics is becoming a defining characteristic of national Republican politics. Would-be candidates who don't hold elected office or otherwise lack a national platform turn to Fox News for exposure (and in the case of paid contributors, a paycheck). Anyone who wants to make it past the Ames straw poll can't risk drawing the ire of a big name radio host. Of course, as Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum can attest, you can't be too cozy with the activist right either. It's tough to pull off, particularly as talk radio and conservative online media slouch further and further to the right.
Those of us who remember the 2012 election know that presidential candidates who channel the conservative blogosphere and poach talking points from Fox News quickly run into trouble. Mitt Romney's exposition on the 47 percent and his claims about President Obama's global "apology tour" traced their roots back to the conservative blogosphere. Romney (one could argue) indulged in this sort of rhetoric because he felt he had to boost his standing among the Republican base.
With that in mind, we turn to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose trip to Iowa last week stoked a round of 2016 speculation. Cruz is a different matter from the likes of Romney. Conservative activists love the junior senator from Texas, and he's a Fox News favorite (a Nexis search shows he's been on Hannity five times this year already). He'll enthusiastically grab onto conservative media narratives and carry them into Senate hearing rooms.
The Daily Caller published a column cheering on Russia's brutal and draconian crackdown on LGBT people, downplaying concerns about state sponsored anti-gay violence and criticizing American activists for meddling in Russia's affairs.
Russia has enacted a number of extreme anti-LGBT measures in the past few months, including laws that prohibit the dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors and ban the adoption of Russian children by people from countries that allow same-sex marriage.
The vague language of the "gay propaganda" law, which has been condemned by human rights experts for violating international human rights law, makes it especially dangerous - anything from waving a rainbow flag to holdings hands in public could potentially be considered criminal "propaganda" under the measure. The law has already led to the arrests of several openly gay tourists in Russia. Meanwhile, police continue to violently crack down on gay pride celebrations and homophobic murders remain a constant threat to Russia's LGBT community.
On July 25, the Daily Caller published an op-ed titled "Putin is not the gay bogeyman," written by Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) President Austin Ruse. According to Ruse, international concerns about Putin's brutal crackdown on LGBT people are wildly exaggerated. In fact, Ruse argues, America should be learning from Russia's anti-LGBT policies:
Homosexuality and homosexual acts are totally legal in Russia. Homosexuality is quite open in Russia. What the Russians do not want, and this opposition is widespread, is for homosexuality to be taught to school children or otherwise exposed to school children.
Russians understand that homosexuality exists in their society and always has, even when it was illegal under the Soviets and that it exists in all human societies. What is new and what they resist is the political movement to regularize and even celebrate it. They view this as harmful to children and society.
They are appalled, as are many Americans, at how these sexual practices and lifestyles are celebrated in the United States. The state of California now mandates the teaching of homosexuality to school children. Those individuals and institutions in the United States that oppose the homosexual advance are ostracized and in some cases criminalized.
And under the Obama administration this ideology has now become a part of US foreign policy. Openly gay ambassadors are now placed in largely religious countries. Gay celebrations are now held in US embassies even in countries, like Pakistan, where such parties are calculated to deeply offend legitimate religious sensibilities and beliefs. [emphasis added]
Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama's focus on immigration reform, saying that the top priority should be the economy and jobs. In fact, immigration reform is an economic issue: studies show that it would boost economic output and lower unemployment.
Fox News and the Daily Caller claimed that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida "benefit" black Americans, ignoring the fact that fatal shootings with black victims were more likely to be found "justified" than those with white victims, and that black shooters who killed whites were the most likely to be found guilty.
Stand Your Ground laws (Also termed "Shoot First" or Kill At Will) allow individuals who believe their life or safety is in danger to use lethal force in self-defense without being required to retreat in certain situations. Such laws have been passed in more than 20 states, and attained notoriety due to their role in the Florida trial over the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. The laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims that has triggered an inquiry by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the laws while speaking at the NAACP national convention on July 16, suggesting that they encourage "violent situations to escalate in public" and have "victimized too many who are innocent."
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade attacked Holder for his comments on July 17, calling the remarks "divisive" and citing the Daily Caller to claim "when it comes to the Stand Your Ground rule ... the law has helped African Americans" in Florida. According to the Daily Caller, black individuals "benefit" from Florida's Stand Your Ground law at a "disproportionate rate" because those who used the defense were successful 55 percent of the time, while white individuals were only successful in 53 percent of cases (including pending cases).
But the data the Daily Caller cited, from The Tampa Bay Times, reveals that contrary to the claim that blacks largely "benefit" or have been "helped" by Florida's Stand Your Ground law, those who killed black people and cited Stand Your Ground got off at a higher rate than those who killed white people. Additionally, a comprehensive review of Stand Your Ground states found that black individuals citing the statute whose victims were white were less likely to go free than any other perpetrators.
For fatal cases that have reached a verdict in Florida, the attack was more likely to be considered justified if the victims were black (78 percent) than if the victims were white (56 percent), according to the Times database.
Research conducted by John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, has also suggested that blacks do not necessarily "benefit" from such laws. Roman found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, "the killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks." Roman found that white people were 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than another white person across Stand Your Ground states. He found that white shooters with black victims were disproportionately more likely to be found justified in non-stand your ground states as well, but to a lesser extent.
Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation similarly showed that nationwide, 34 percent of cases involving a white shooter and a black victim were deemed justifiable, while "in similar situations, when the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was ruled justifiable only 3.3% of the time."
The polling firm Gallup has agreed to pay $10.5 million to settle civil charges that the company had kept two sets of books in order to overbill federal agencies by millions of dollars. The Daily Caller and Fox News had previously floated a conspiracy theory suggesting that the lawsuit was related to supposed efforts by the Obama campaign to "subtly intimidate" the firm to compel them to produce polling results more favorable to Obama.
The Daily Caller had also helped to smear the whistleblower who first exposed Gallup's alleged practices, Michael Lindley, publishing a variety of unsubstantiated criticisms of Lindley from an unnamed "senior Gallup official." Under the terms of the settlement, Lindley, who says he was fired in July 2009 after warning his superiors that he would go to the Justice Department if the company did not stop illegally overbilling the federal government on their contracts with the U.S. Mint and the State Department, will receive $1.9 million.
In a September 6, 2012, story, headlined "Justice Dept. Gallup lawsuit came after Axelrod criticized pollsters," then-Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle wrote:
Internal emails between senior officials at The Gallup Organization, obtained by The Daily Caller, show senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod attempting to subtly intimidate the respected polling firm when its numbers were unfavorable to the president.
After Gallup declined to change its polling methodology, Obama's Department of Justice hit it with an unrelated lawsuit that appears damning on its face.
Boyle summarized on Twitter:
The alleged "intimidation" cited in the emails Boyle highlighted were complaints among Gallup executives that Obama strategist David Axelrod had sent a tweet criticizing Gallup's "methodological problems" in its polling of the presidential race. In June, Gallup acknowledged that their methodology had indeed been flawed, leading the firm to consistently overestimate Mitt Romney's support.
As even conservative bloggers noted, Boyle's conspiracy theory made little sense: a single tweet from an Obama aide did not suggest Gallup's polling was a priority, there was little upside to trying to intimidate the firm, and the timeline showed that the Justice Department had been involved with the case for years before the tweet was issued.
Nonetheless, Fox quickly adopted Boyle's conspiratorial frame. In a September 7 segment on his Fox Business program, Stuart Varney fabricated direct contacts between Axelrod and the Gallup employees to claim that the Gallup executives "had felt threatened." A few hours later on Fox News' America Live, guest anchor Shannon Bream said the Caller's story "suggests a conspiracy theory" between the filing of the DOJ lawsuit and Axelrod's "angry tweet." Both guests, attorney Brian Claypool and GOP pollster Chris Wilson, agreed that there was a connection between the two events; Wilson said it was indicative of "Chicago-style politics" on the part of President Obama and called it "frightening," while Claypool said the DOJ "needs to hire Houdini right now as a legal consultant" to "get them out of this mess."
In fact, the DOJ's own lawyers were sufficient to convince Gallup to pay more than $10 million rather than risk continued legal action.
The Daily Caller would "gladly run" future opinion pieces from contributor Jack Hunter despite revelations this week of his past neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist views, a spokesperson said.
Asked if Hunter -- who has written more than 50 opinion pieces for the website in the past -- would be welcomed to write for the site again in the future, Daily Caller spokeswoman Nicole Roeberg stated via email: "He is welcome to submit an opinion piece, just like anyone else. Each piece would be judged on its own merit. If it adheres to our standards, we would gladly run it."
She also stressed: "Any submission which violates Daily Caller standards won't be accepted. Though Hunter has written many good pieces for us in the past, comments like those being talked about this week would not have met our editorial standards and would have been rejected."
The conservative Washington Free Beacon reported this week that Hunter, a "close aide" to Sen. Rand Paul who also co-wrote the Kentucky Republican's 2011 book, "spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist. Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which 'advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.'"
The Free Beacon also quoted from Hunter's South Carolina radio commentaries, delivered under the pseudonym "The Southern Avenger," in which he expressed admiration for Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, indignation that white Americans are treated to a "racial double standard," and opposition to Spanish-speaking immigrants. Hunter reportedly "told the Free Beacon that he no longer holds many of these views," including his pro-Lincoln assassin views, but "declined to say that he no longer supports secession."
In an interview, Roeberg pointed out that Hunter had written just one piece for the Daily Caller since last August and that none of the previous articles were related to his controversial views. "He was an opinion writer, we have hundreds and hundreds of opinion writers, [and] he was never paid," she said. "All of his pieces were opinion pieces and we don't pay our opinion writers."
She later added: "None of his pieces that he ever wrote for us had anything to do with any of those views, they were all kind of just standard political issues that weren't super controversial. We never would have approved anything like that."
Roeberg said she did not know if Daily Caller editors knew about Hunter's past controversial views, adding that the news outlet had no other comment on the new revelations.
Hunter's Daily Caller archive includes more than 50 pieces written between August 2011 and May 2013, including numerous editions of a slickly-produced, Daily Caller-branded video commentary series, "The Deal with Jack Hunter."
His most recent Daily Caller piece, from May 6, was headlined, "Rand Paul shatters left-right paradigm, can help grow GOP." In his written and video commentaries, Hunter also promoted the candidacy of Sen. Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), whose 2012 presidential campaign he worked for as an "official campaign blogger."
In a February 2012 Daily Caller video, Hunter argued "that by firing Pat Buchanan, MSNBC, Media Matters and the Color of Change have undermined free speech." The Daily Caller noted that Hunter is "known by his radio moniker the 'Southern Avenger,'" and identified him as "a frequent guest on Fox Business" and the co-author of books by Sen. Paul and former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).
The latest revelations about Hunter's neo-Confederate past brought a rebuke from one of Daily Caller's most well-known columnists, Matt Lewis, who wrote a piece on July 9 describing Hunter's comments as a "damaging staffer admission" and his past views as "very bad baggage." Lewis wrote that Hunter's presence on Paul's staff reflects poorly on the senator's "credibility and honesty -- to Paul's fundamental character."
Lewis did not mention Hunter's previous Daily Caller work and did not respond to a request for an interview.
The persistent right-wing talking point that immigration reform would bring in anywhere from 11 million to as many as 30 million new Democratic voters has definitively been exposed as a myth.
The charge, pushed by Fox News, rests on the bogus allegation that because the Senate immigration reform bill includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, those new citizens would then be eligible to vote for Democrats.
As Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote in a syndicated column arguing that "illegal alien amnesty violates our founding principles," "Unrepentant amnesty peddlers on both sides of the aisle admit their plan is all about votes and power." She continued:
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain continues his craven, futile chase for the Hispanic bloc. Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez is openly salivating at the prospect of millions of new illegal aliens -- future Democratic Party dependents of the Nanny State -- who could be eligible for Obamacare and a plethora of other government benefits despite clear prohibitions against them.
On Fox, contributor Monica Crowley echoed the argument, claiming that the Senate immigration reform bill "has nothing to do with immigration." She added: "The Democrats have played this brilliantly. This is about flooding the zone with new Democratic voters so they can get a permanent voting majority."
Right-wing media have invented several conspiracy theories to attack the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill, including claiming that the legislation provides free cars and cell phones for undocumented immigrants, and that it is a secret plot to create a permanent one-party system reminiscent of Marxist Russian premier Vladimir Lenin.
Right-wing media have adopted Betsy McCaughey's unfounded conspiracy theory that immigration reform, like health care reform, is a secret plot to create a permanent one-party system, reminiscent of Marxist Russian premier Vladimir Lenin. Like her health care fearmongering, McCaughey has no evidence to support her charges.
Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, has a long history of pushing conspiracy theories about health care reform, including that the bill's outreach provisions are designed to create a "beholden" Democratic majority. In an interview with The Daily Caller's Ginni Thomas, McCaughey revived the same baseless attacks on the Senate immigration proposal, claiming that "you can count on" third party outreach groups to register immigrants as Democrats. Later in the interview, McCaughey claimed President Obama was using the bill to "elevat[e] community organizations to a fifth branch of government without any of the rules that limit what the other branches can do." McCaughey went on to claim the tactics were similar to those used by Lenin.
McCaughey's baseless conspiracy theory was picked up by Andrea Tantaros, co-host of Fox News' The Five, who cited McCaughey to call the bill a "Christmas tree of carve-outs for lobbyists," claiming, "she says that it funnels money to groups like La Raza, community organizing groups, takes the authority away from the DHS and lets them handle the amnesty process":
Of course, the text of the bill limits the scope of activities for which organizations can use federal funding.
Rush Limbaugh cited a flawed statistic several times during his radio show to claim that the future immigrant population will reach 46 million in two decades under the Senate's immigration reform bill, even though the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) scoring of the bill contradicts that statistic.
The 46 million immigrant statistic was reported by The Daily Caller's Neil Munro, who claimed that "current forecasts predict an inflow of roughly 11 million per decade, or 22 million by 2033." Munro goes on to explain that 22 million "plus the new 16 million [as reported in the CBO] and the eight million illegals [who are already here], add up to 46 million new or legalized people for the nation in 20 years."
During the June 19 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh jumped on board attributing this number to the CBO report, not Munro: