In response to the protests following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the right-wing media have unleashed an array of race-baiting tropes. From "lynch mobs" to "race pimps," here are some of the worst examples.
With the nation's attention turned toward the growing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, media figures have called on President Obama to speak out more forcefully on the situation and race relations in America. But Obama's past statements on race have been met with attacks from conservative commentators, blasting Obama for "promoting racial division" and "exacerbating racial tensions."
Voices currently urging the nation's first black president to say more on race ignore the marked history of conservative media figures' accusations of race-baiting in response to Obama's previous remarks:
Conservative media figures have wrongly accused Muslim groups and leaders of failing to denounce the violent acts of the terrorist group the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), despite the fact that numerous Muslim religious authorities, advocacy groups, and Imams have come together to denounce the Islamic State's un-Islamic crimes against humanity.
From the August 18 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Laura Ingraham's opinion on the merits of a protest movement seem to vary considerably from month to month. Ingraham recently characterized protestors in Ferguson, Missouri as a "lynch mob" and downplayed the story as a "local, criminal" story, but in April the radio host helped to elevate the standoff between scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy and federal law enforcement agents while suggesting his supporters' violent threats against the government constituted a mere "act of civil disobedience."
Police in Ferguson, Missouri are currently using heavy force to crack down on citizens protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, at the hands of an officer of the mostly white St. Louis County Police Department. Journalists have been arrested on baseless or suspect justifications, and events in the St. Louis suburb have exploded into a national news story.
On August 14, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham complained that the events were receiving too much attention and suggested Brown's death was nothing more than a "local, criminal" story. Ingraham, a nationally syndicated radio host and contributor for both ABC and Fox News, blamed the media for sensationalizing and nationalizing the story, claiming the media presence "perpetuates the unrest and the discontent on the ground."
"You bring in the satellite trucks," Ingraham said, "And then people start playing to the cameras on scene."
Ingraham's disdain extended to the protestors, whom she grotesquely equated to a "lynch mob."
Ingraham struck a much different tone earlier this year, when racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy refused to comply with court orders instructing him to remove his trespassing cattle from federal land.
ABC News contributor and nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham has established herself as one of the most stridently transphobic conservative media figures, repeatedly assailing parents who offer support and affirmation for their transgender children. But medical and child health experts condemn Ingraham's transphobic smears as "dangerous" and "ignorant."
During the August 6 edition of her radio show, Ingraham delivered a screed against parents who affirm and accommodate their transgender children, calling it "child abuse" to provide transgender youth with hormone therapy:
Her comments were roundly condemned, but they were just the latest in Ingraham's campaign against trans-supportive families. Ingraham has asserted that putting trans youth on hormone blockers could have "long term effects" that children will come to "regret." She's also claimed that medical caring supporting trans youth "push[es] kids into a box" and prevents them from potentially realizing that they aren't transgender.
But a number of experts in transgender and child health care deride Ingraham's comments as "dangerous," "ignorant," and wholly divorced from reality.
"When one speaks from ignorance, there is a good chance that they will say ignorant things. This could be no more true than for Laura Ingraham," said Diane Ehrensaft, a clinical psychologist and head of the University of California-San Francisco's Child and Adolescent Gender Center, in a statement to Equality Matters:
If we do nothing for these children, just let them be children, as Ingraham suggests, we are actually doing something, and that something is not good: we put them at risk for anxiety, depression, poor school performance, and later--drug abuse, self-harm, sexual acting out, suicidal thoughts, attempts, or completions... Ingraham repeats what so many in my own field, mental health, have done to significantly harm gender-nonconforming youth: dismiss what they are trying to tell us, blame the parents who are trying to support them, and deny them adequate care in one fell swoop... We might even consider the denial of the service a form of child abuse--there's a life jacket right there, we're watching, and we're letting the child drown.
Psychiatrist Jack Drescher, a member of the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders, echoed Ehrensaft's concern, stating that Ingraham is "staking out an opinion, but she's not talking about the actual situations that exist. The way she speaks is appealing to prejudice."
From the August 13 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham baselessly suggested that Muslims aren't condemning the violent tactics employed by the extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), though in reality many prominent Muslim voices have strongly denounced the group.
Recent news reports have documented shocking acts of terror that have made ISIS the "most feared organization in the Middle East." The group has warned Christians that they must either "convert to Islam or die," and according to Secretary of State John Kerry, its "grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide."
During an August 11 conversation about ISIS' threats against Iraqi Christians with the National Review's Nina Shea, Laura Ingraham claimed that few, if any, Muslims have spoken out against the group:
INGRAHAM: And it would be nice if more in the Muslim world coming out and condemning what the Islamic State is doing. You're not hearing enough of those voices, if any. I mean, where are those people?
But in reality, many Islamic leaders have strongly denounced ISIS, and thousands more Muslims have gathered to promote messages of peace.
Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which represents 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries around the world, condemned ISIS' threats against Christians in Iraq, saying the "forced deportation under the threat of execution" is a "crime that cannot be tolerated." In an interview with Reuters, Turkey's highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, similarly decried ISIS' threats against Christians and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community: "Islamic scholars need to focus on this (because) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures heralds the collapse of a civilization."
In a July 7 statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called ISIS' actions "un-Islamic and morally repugnant." CAIR noted that the group's "human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented" and called on other Muslim community leaders to speak out against the violence. The Muslim Council of Great Britain's Shuja Shafi also said: "Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction."
From the August 6 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Right-wing media are exploiting the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa to stoke fears that undocumented immigrants could carry the deadly virus across the southern U.S. border, even though the Centers for Disease Control and other health experts have stated that the likelihood of such an event is "almost nonexistent."
A day after politicizing the current West African Ebola crisis in order to stoke baseless fears that immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border could spread the disease to Americans, radio host Laura Ingraham flipped to criticizing the media for taking advantage of the crisis by whipping up "hysteria" about the crisis without consulting experts to put the situation in context.
Two American health workers who were infected with the Ebola virus while fighting the ongoing epidemic in West Africa recently returned to the U.S. for treatment. Radio host Laura Ingraham took advantage of the news to ratchet up her efforts to smear Central American immigrants and push back against immigration reform. On the August 4 edition of her radio show, Ingraham cautioned her viewers about the supposed health risks of having "a border that's so much like Swiss cheese that anyone could be coming across the border right now," and warned: "We could have Ebola people coming across the border right now." Ingraham concluded, "If you're going to be upset about Ebola, you'd better be upset about the border."
These comments stand in stark contrast to Ingraham's August 5 coverage of the Ebola outbreak. Ingraham bemoaned the fact that media outlets are whipping up "hysteria" with extensive ebola coverage and attacked the media for stoking baseless fears about the potential spread of the virus while neglecting to talk "to medical experts about what the truth is about infectious diseases, the spread of this, what measures we take and what measures aren't taken in Africa to deal with this."
But Ingraham's own coverage conspicuously avoided the facts she called for. The suggestion that, in Ingraham's words, "Ebola people" could be "coming across the border right now" has already gotten a "pants on fire" rating from Politifact, which actually contacted experts on the issue. As Politifact noted, the CDC reports that "There is no Ebola in the Western Hemisphere," and it is "extremely unlikely" that a migrant entering the U.S. across the Mexican border could be infected. Experts also noted that even if the illness spread to central America, an infected person would unlikely to survive the journey across the border:
Experts we asked issued a resounding "No."
First, we checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose job includes tracking outbreaks of serious infectious diseases. Spokesman Daniel J. DeNoon confirmed that the CDC has received no reports of a human Ebola infection anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less the U.S.-Mexico border. "Ebola cases in humans have never been reported outside of Africa," DeNoon said.
William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agreed. "The congressman is misinformed," he said. "There is no Ebola in the Western Hemisphere."
We also checked whether it was plausible for a child or adult entering the United States from Central America via Mexico to be infected with the Ebola virus. CDC scientists call it "extremely unlikely," DeNoon said.
Independent experts agreed. "It's very, very, highly unlikely if you are talking about someone from Central America who has not traveled to Africa," Thomas W. Geisbert, a microbiologist and immunologist specializing in Ebola at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
However, the profile of the jet-flying Ebola carrier doesn't mesh with the types of peoples now flocking to the U.S. border.
"The incubation period is two to 21 days, so theoretically, an African could fly from an infected area, land in a Mexican airport, take a bus toward the border, hire a coyote to take him across and then 'present' with Ebola," said Thomas Fekete, section chief for infectious diseases at the Temple University School of Medicine. "But this presupposes a suicidal person who also has the resources for this kind of travel."
Indeed, the prior, scattered examples of exotic and deadly diseases reaching the United States suggest that "the likelihood of an illegal migrant getting infected and introducing the disease to the U.S. is probably less than that of a 'legal' traveler," said Daniel G. Bausch, head of the virology and emerging infections department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No.6 in Lima, Peru.
Another problem: If you had such an infection, the chances are good that you would die on the journey to the United States, said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "You would be too sick to make it to the border by foot," he said.
Ingraham has a history of stoking fears of communicable disease in order to push her anti-immigration agenda.
From the August 4 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the July 21 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the July 14 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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The racially charged and conspiratorial rhetoric protesters spewed at child migrants on their way to temporary housing in Murrieta, California, closely mirrored some of conservative media's favorite xenophobic talking points.
In the first week of July, hundreds of protesters gathered in Murrieta to voice opposition to the planned housing of migrant detainees at the federal Border Patrol station in the city, blocking buses and forcing them to return to the Border Patrol station in San Diego. The buses contained unaccompanied minors and women with children, awaiting deportation proceedings after crossing the U.S. border in Texas to flee violence in Central America.
These protests, along with a preceding Murrieta town hall on July 3, were full of invective -- protesters charged that the "illegal aliens" carried dangerous diseases and were possibly members of gangs and drug cartels. The crowds demanded that the government simply send the children back, screaming chants of "go home" and "U.S.A."
The protestors were so full of vitriol that immigration officials rerouted the migrants' buses to San Diego, citing safety concerns for the women and children aboard.
Media Matters for America researcher Lis Power contributed to this post.