From the September 16 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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Conservative media are condemning President Barack Obama's executive order prohibiting federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination, framing the order as an assault on religious liberty, pushing discredited arguments to claim this discrimination is legally insignificant and asserting that anti-LGBT workplace bias isn't a real problem.
On July 21, President Obama signed an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite pressure from some conservatives, the order did not include a broad exemption for religiously-affiliated organizations to engage in such discrimination, instead re-affirming a Bush II-era exemption that will allow a contracted "religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society" to continue to limit its hires to employees of their preferred religion. Prior to the issuing of the order, Executive Order 11246, more than 100 faith leaders signed a letter warning that the rejected religious exemptions would "open a Pandora's box inviting other forms of discrimination."
In a July 22 editorial, National Review Online complained that the order was unnecessary due to "changing social attitudes and the pressure of market competition" and argued that "the order addresses a small and shrinking problem of discrimination at a cost to religious liberty."
Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a writer for the Daily Signal, Heritage's news site, echoed NRO's objections. Anderson flatly rejected any comparison between anti-gay discrimination and that based on sex or race and referred to sexual orientation and gender identity as "voluntary behaviors":
Federal policy on government contracts should not seek to enforce monolithic liberal secularism. Today's order undermines our nation's commitment to reasonable pluralism and reasonable diversity. All citizens and the groups they form should be free to exist and participate in relevant government programs according to their reasonable beliefs. The federal government should not use the tax-code and government contracting to reshape civil society on controversial moral issues that have nothing to do with the federal contract at stake.
[S]exual orientation and gender identity are unclear, ambiguous terms. They can refer to voluntary behaviors as well as thoughts and inclinations, and it is reasonable for employers to make distinctions based on actions. By contrast, "race" and "sex" clearly refer to traits, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, these traits (unlike voluntary behaviors) do not affect fitness for any job.
Today's executive order bans decisions based on moral views common to the Abrahamic faith traditions and to great thinkers from Plato to Kant as unjust discrimination. Whether by religion, reason, or experience, many people of goodwill believe that our bodies are an essential part of who we are. On this view, maleness and femaleness are not arbitrary constructs but objective ways of being human to be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered. Thus, our sexual embodiment as male and female goes to the heart of what marriage is: a union of sexually complementary spouses. Today's order deems such judgments irrational and unlawful.
The Daily Signal revealed its biased reporting on education by only covering negative Common Core news since the site's launch one month ago.
On July 1, Education Week reported on a survey it completed with Gallup that showed about two-thirds of school district superintendents said they believe that the Common Core State Standards "will improve the quality of education in their communities," and that the standards were "just about right" in terms of level of difficulty.
This news on the standards from educators was summarily ignored by the Heritage Foundation's new digital news site, The Daily Signal, which has a dedicated section to the subject of Common Core. The Daily Signal purports to provide "straight-down-the-middle journalism" according to Geoffrey Lysaught, vice president of strategic communications at the Heritage Foundation, but one month after its launch, the website's coverage of Common Core has limited its reporting to bad news for the state-based education standards.
Ignoring the positive Gallup and Education Week research on Common Core, The Daily Signal instead published a piece the same day based on findings from the Friedman Foundation, an organization that aims to "amplify the national call for true education reform through school choice."
In the past month, The Daily Signal's Common Core reporting has focused on Common Core opposition from states and governors, like Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, and portrayed them in a negative light. Meanwhile, Jindal is a contributor to the site and an outspoken opponent of Common Core.
In addition to The Daily Signal's skewed reporting on Common Core, the outlet also misinforms on the actual standards by referring to them as "national standards" when in fact, the Common Core is a set of state standards that were developed by education commissioners, governors, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and state leaders. It comes as no surprise that The Daily Signal is distorting Common Core given the Heritage Foundation's mission to push conservative, though apparently misinformed, education policies.
For two years, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been peddling the theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list to a gay rights organization as part of an Obama administration conspiracy. Two separate investigations and a ruling by a Reagan-appointed judge have debunked that theory. But right-wing media, which have widely touted NOM's initial accusations, have largely ignored or denied the conspiracy theory's demise.
In the spring of 2012, an IRS employee inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. The pro-equality group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) got its hands on the list, highlighting past contributions to NOM by prominent conservatives like then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Noting that key HRC officials were prominent supporters of President Obama's re-election campaign, NOM alleged a conspiracy between the organization and the Obama administration aimed at embarrassing NOM and its supporters.
In April 2012, NOM filed a formal letter of complaint to the IRS. Conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Weekly Standard touted the complaint, focusing particularly on the revelation that Romney was one of the group's donors. For most of the next year, however, media interest in the story was scant.
That changed in the spring of 2013. In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric holder ordered the FBI to begin a criminal probe into allegations that the agency had targeted tax-exempt conservative political groups. While the IRS actually scrutinized progressive groups more extensively than conservative ones, the IRS "scandal" became a rallying cry for right-wing media. The controversy also meant newfound interest in NOM's allegations against the agency.
Mainstream and conservative media outlets were quick to pick up on NOM's call for an investigation into the IRS's activities.
The Wall Street Journal 's James Taranto spotlighted NOM's claims in a column on the IRS controversy, asking "How pervasive is the Obama IRS scandal?":
From the June 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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A new report from the Heritage Foundation attacks the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), mounting a perverse and fallacious defense of allowing businesses to discriminate against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In advance of the Senate's expected historic vote on ENDA, Heritage Foundation fellow and "ex-gay" therapy-advocate Ryan T. Anderson published a report titled "ENDA Threatens Fundamental Civil Liberties." The report, which is the culmination of Heritage's recent attacks on ENDA in conservative media, rehashes some of the worst conservative arguments against the law, which would merely prohibit employers from harassing or discriminating against LGBT employees. Here are the seven worst arguments he uses to attack ENDA:
A central conservative argument against ENDA is that the law would create "special" rights and privileges for LGBT people. According to Anderson:
ENDA creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, it would make it illegal for organizations with 15 or more employees to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."
In reality, ENDA would merely extend the same employment protections that already exist under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - for race, sex, religion, age, and disability status - to include sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA's text explicitly prohibits special privileges for LGBT employees, including "preferential treatment or quotas."
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
Florida Watchdog.org, an offshoot of the Koch brothers-funded Watchdog.org, parroted right-wing media claims that Congress is receiving an "exemption" from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by receiving a "special subsidy" from the government for its health insurance. However, this zombie lie is not based in fact and is due to a Republican effort to politicize the implementation of the law.
In a column on National Review Online's (NRO) The Corner, Fox News contributor and NRO columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky laid out what they considered "The Latest Evidence Of Voter Fraud." The evidence they offered, however, amounted to one county in Mississippi that was recently ordered to remove ineligible voters from its registration rolls, and a report released by the conservative Voter Integrity Project showing a statistically insignificant number of alleged voter fraud cases, neither of which showed any conclusive evidence or prosecution of voter fraud.
In a September 9 column, Fund and von Spakovsky wrote, "Obama-administration officials and their liberal camp-followers who routinely claim there is no reason to worry about election integrity because vote fraud is nonexistent suffered some embarrassing setbacks last week."
The first piece of evidence they offered was a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) -- a far right legal advocacy group whose senior fellow and policy expert once accused the NAACP's president of "treason" for denouncing voter ID laws, and who said it was racist to oppose those same laws -- against Walthall County, Mississippi in which the county was instructed to purge its voter rolls of felons, the deceased, and duplicate registrations. Fund and von Spakovsky made no claims of actual voter fraud in regards to that case, however, writing only that:
This is the first time in the 20 years that the NVRA has been in force that a conservative group has sued to enforce Section 8, while liberal advocacy groups have filed many cases to try to stop election officials from cleaning up their registration lists, a practice which they foolishly label "voter suppression."
An inflated voter registration roll by itself is not evidence of voter fraud, which the Brennan Center for Justice defined as "when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system." Instead, voter roll purges have repeatedly been used as a tool to disenfranchise minorities and students -- traditionally Democratic voting blocs.
The second piece of evidence Fund and von Spakovsky presented was a report released by the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina (VIP-NC), a group with a history of false claims regarding voter fraud. VIP-NC released a report they obtained from the North Carolina Board of Elections which shows 475 cases in which the state had a "reasonable suspicion" that voter fraud occurred. Those cases were turned over to the appropriate district attorneys and Fund, von Spakovsky, and VIP-NC acknowledged that prosecutors chose not to bring charges in those cases. However, Fund and von Spakovsky attributed the lack of convictions to political fear, writing, "As VIP also points out, the report raises the important question of why local district attorneys in North Carolina have been 'so negligent in prosecuting' these referrals."
Fund and von Spakovsky used the VIP-NC report to advocate for strict voter ID laws and portrayed North Carolina as a hotbed of voter fraud (emphasis added):
The report shows that there were 475 cases of election fraud that the Board "believed merited a referral" to prosecutors between 2008 and 2012. The fraud included double voting, impersonation and registration fraud, and illegal voting by noncitizens and felons. Not all of this fraud would have been stopped by voter ID, but there are certainly people willing to engage in fraud and we need to take a comprehensive approach to protect the security of the voting and election process.
In fact, the strict voter ID laws they advocate might have prevented only one of the 475 alleged voter fraud cases referenced -- the single allegation of voter impersonation. According to the report, the majority of the 475 cases occurred during the 2008 general election, when over four million people voted. Yet conservatives in the state have used similar claims of voter fraud to pass what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a "greatest hits of voter suppression."
According to Mother Jones, North Carolina's law "prohibits same-day registration, ends pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, eliminates one week of early voting, prevents counties from extending voting hours due to long lines (often caused by cuts in early voting) or other extraordinary circumstances, scratches college ID cards and other forms of identification from the very short list of acceptable state-issued photo IDs, and outlaws certain types of voter registration drives." From Mother Jones:
The bill's new provisions make it so that, with very few exceptions, a voter needs a valid in-state DMV-issued driver's license or non-driver's ID card, a US Military ID card, a veteran's ID card or a US passport. According to an April 2013 analysis (pdf) of state Board of Elections data by Democracy North Carolina, 34 percent of the state's registered black voters, the overwhelming majority of whom vote Democrat, do not have state-issued photo ID. The same study found that 55 percent of North Carolina Democrats don't have state-issued photo ID. Only 21 percent of Republicans have the same problem.
Instead of protecting elections from fraudulent voting, strict voter ID laws are instead being used to disenfranchise minorities and low-income individuals in an effort to help Republicans win elections.
Fund and von Spakovsky both have a history of spreading misinformation about voter fraud, culminating in a book they co-authored that is rife with falsehoods. NRO's continued advocacy of strict voter ID laws is not surprising given its sordid history regarding civil rights.
Roughly 45 minutes into Fox News' "special" investigation into the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or "food stamps," per the outdated parlance), host Bret Baier posed a question that gets right to the heart of what Fox News specifically, and conservatives generally, are trying to accomplish with regard to public attitudes toward social welfare programs. "Shouldn't there be at least some stigma?" Baier asked, referring to people who accept SNAP benefits. Baier's just-asking-questions lament about the lack of stigmatization was all part of Fox News' slipshod and flagrant piece of agitprop intended to shame the needy and promote public resentment of the government safety net.
Everything about Baier's special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" -- from the title to its absurd focus on a thoroughly unlikable miscreant named Jason Greenslate who proudly abuses SNAP benefits -- was designed to provoke hostility to the idea of nutritional assistance programs. Greenslate, a California musician who refuses to work and spends his monthly SNAP benefits on sushi and lobsters, is an anomaly in a program that has proven to be both efficient and effective. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "fewer than 2 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to households that do not meet all of the program's eligibility requirements." The USDA estimates that just one cent of every dollar of SNAP benefits is lost to "trafficking," a type of fraud. "About three out of four SNAP households included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person," per the Congressional Budget Office.
Greenslate, who is in no way representative of the typical SNAP recipient, was the subject of two separate segments, totaling nearly nine minutes, of Fox News' hour-long special. Baier proclaimed him "the new face of food stamps."
Greenslate is "the new face of food stamps" for no other reason than Fox News wants him to be. Baier offered no data to back up this assertion, and no fact-driven justification for even including Greenslate in the report. But this freeloading oaf is an easy-to-hate villain, someone the viewer can immediately dislike and a convenient punching bag for small-government agitators. Near the program's close, Fox News reporter John Roberts, interviewing Greenslate, attempted to shame him -- and every other recipient of SNAP benefits. "It used to be that, you know, that if somebody was on food stamps it's like 'hey, they're on food stamps, you know... loser,'" said Roberts.
As Congress considers legislation promoting energy efficiency, Media Matters examines the facts behind such efforts. Contrary to persistent myths in the media, increasing energy efficiency of appliances and buildings is a cost-effective way to benefit the environment and economy, and has historically enjoyed bipartisan support.
Late Friday, after the Heritage Foundation reportedly considered seeking the counsel of an outside PR firm to deal with damage to their brand, researcher Jason Richwine, who coauthored the deeply flawed immigration report pushed by the right-wing think tank, resigned his position.
His error seemingly had nothing to do with the poor quality of that document, exemplified by the bipartisan, panideological critiques of the study, as his coauthor Robert Rector is seemingly still employed at Heritage.
Richwine's offense seems to have taken place in 2009 when he offered up a doctoral dissertation arguing, as The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews wrote, that due to the "deep-set differentials in intelligence between races," Richwine wrote that Hispanic immigrants may never "reach IQ parity with whites." His interest in the linkage between race and IQ was not unknown. Richwine also spoke about that linkage on a 2008 panel at the American Enterprise Institute promoting Mark Krikorian's book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. It was on this panel Richwine proclaimed "Race is different in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ."
The year of his dissertation defense his work was cited in a New York Times "Idea of the Day" column focusing on Robert Putnam's controversial finding that "ethnic diversity isn't an unqualified good."
There is no plausible way Heritage was unaware of Richwine's beliefs when they hired him, as he has made no attempts to obscure them. Heritage distanced itself from the dissertation after it came to public light, but it's completely unimaginable for a recent Ph.D to be hired by a major think tank without inquiry into such a crucial facet of their past research. These views are flawed -- they are misguided -- they are not grounded in research -- but they were not a secret.
And why should they be? The Bell Curve author and AEI scholar Charles Murray has made a successful career at conservative think tanks evangelizing the flawed notion that differences in IQ among racial groups should drive public policy decisions, ignoring the underlying reasons for the disparity and dismissing research demonstrating IQ and outcome are not linked.
Murray stood up for his ideological protégé following the latter's resignation, tweeting "Thank God I was working for Chris DeMuth and AEI, not Jim DeMint and Heritage, when The Bell Curve was published. Integrity. Loyalty. Balls."
The paleoconservative mindset is no longer as central to the conservative movement as it once was. Yet Pat Buchanan's removal from his permanent post on the couch in the MSNBC greenroom has not excised these ideas from the conservative movement.
Richwine's resignation allows him to become a scapegoat for an ideology that is still perfectly acceptable inside the conservative movement and the right-wing media. If Richwine's focus on the IQs of Hispanic populations is unacceptable, then so is Charles Murray's focus on the African American community. So are those of the godfather of the entire anti-immigrant movement John Tanton, who "wrote a paper titled The Case for Passive Eugenics."
Rush Limbaugh defended Richwine's racial tests on his program, proclaiming: "So, now it's trash the messenger time." He went on to say "You're not suppose to bring that kind of stuff up. You're not supposed to talk about it. It's not politically correct, even if it's true. You're not supposed to bring it up."
Michelle Malkin attacked those who dare point to the fundamentally racist nature of Richwine's dissertation. writing at Townhall.com: "The smug dismissal of Richwine's credentials and scholarship is to be expected by liberal hacks and clown operatives."
Richwine resigned after doing the job he was hired to do and for views his employer must have known him to hold. He was the most junior member of the group of conservative researchers who have spent their careers producing questionable studies about race. And because he was the lowest in the hierarchy he was the easiest to cast aside.
Charles Murray is right. This move lacked integrity, for that would require a widespread condemnation of the flawed racial theories peddled in the conservative movement and the "respected" think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute that allow them to flourish. I doubt that is forthcoming, making Heritage's decision to accept Jason Richwine's resignation an act of craven political cowardice.
UPDATE: Slate's David Weigel reports that Jason Richwine has resigned from Heritage.
The Heritage Foundation is reportedly considering hiring a public relations firm to manage the fallout over the disastrous launch of its shoddy, heavily criticized immigration report. Compounding problems for the right-wing think tank was the revelation that the co-author of its report has argued that Hispanic immigrants are undesirable because they allegedly have lower IQs than white Americans. The media shouldn't be fooled: no amount of PR money can hide that one of Heritage's lead immigration analysts holds deeply offensive racial views, and has also tied himself and Heritage to a network of extremist and nativist anti-immigrant groups.
The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews reported this week that Jason Richwine, who co-authored Heritage's recently released immigration report, wrote in a 2009 dissertation that Hispanic immigrants have a lower IQ than white Americans, and the "prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
Richwine's offensive remarks about IQ and immigrants are part of a troubling anti-Hispanic immigrant pattern throughout his relatively short think tank career.
As numerous members of the conservative movement flee from the Heritage Foundation's flawed immigration study, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh has maintained a stalwart defense of the organization.
Not a surprise considering Rush Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, is the single largest independent contractor to the Heritage Foundation according to their latest 990 filing with the IRS, receiving $2,236,555 from the think tank.
With advertisers fleeing his show, and as a result radio companies suffering major losses, the fiscal sponsorship of the conservative movement is now fiscally critical. A "very high ranking" official at Cumulus, the owner of Rush and Sean Hannity's flagship station WABC, told Radio Ink, "Forty-eight of the top 50 network advertisers have 'excluded Rush and Hannity' orders. Every major national ad agency has the same dictate."
Without wingnut welfare, which has also included sponsorships from FreedomWorks, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity's shows would not be financially viable.
The financial relationship between the conservative movement and its radio hosts has existed for years -- Heritage has been a major sponsor of Premiere Radio talent, specifically Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, according to a 2011 report by Ken Vogel of Politico -- however with Limbaugh and Hannity's recent well publicized problems attracting sponsorship to their programs the role of the conservative movement is not rightwing radios key sponsor. (Vogel also tweeted about Heritage's 990 disclosure.)
Now with Heritage under attack from many on the right including the libertarian Cato Institute for a widely panned and publicized study of the costs of the Gang of Eight immigration proposal is it any surprise where Limbaugh came down in this conservative kerfuffle?
Limbaugh defended the Heritage study when it first came under attack.
Then later this week, he began a segment by promoting the think tanks website, telling listeners if they "go to the Heritage Foundation website . . . they were giving you the report free" as if this were a benefit and not standard for ideological organizations to want their work shared broadly with the public.
Rush then proceeded to defend an author of the study, who was roundly criticized for a college thesis that suggested immigration policy decisions should be based on racial IQ disparities.
Most notable was a throwaway line in which Limbaugh attacked dynamic scoring, saying it "doesn't quite wash." Kevin Drum points out that the wonky methodology is "critical to the conservative movement because it's the way they can claim that tax cuts produce higher tax revenue."
Limbaugh, in defense of his sponsor, was willing to toss aside the underpinning of thirty years of conservative arguments on the economic benefits of tax cuts.
We won't know, until the organization's 2012 990s are filed later this year, how much the organization spent to bolster right-wing talk radio in the wake of the advertiser boycott, but listening to the frequent on-air promotion of the Heritage Foundation, it is unlikely this significant level of support waned. And why not? They are clearly getting what they paid for.