The globe recently experienced the hottest June on record, fitting in with the trend of global warming. Yet several top media outlets reported on the announcement without mentioning climate change at all.
2014 has been a record-breaking year for global temperatures. On July 21, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association announced that the average global temperature for the month of June was the hottest experienced for 134 years of records. This finding follows the hottest May on record, the hottest March to June period on record, and the third hottest first half of the year on record. The average ocean surface temperatures for the month of June were the warmest on record for any month of the year. NOAA's climate monitoring chief Derek Arndt explained succinctly to the Associated Press -- the only top U.S. print source* that reported on the findings in the context of global warming -- stating that the planet is in the "steroid era of the climate system." Climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck added: "This is what global warming looks like."
But if you consume mainstream media, you likely missed this context. CBS, NBC, MSNBC, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal,** and The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang all covered the announcement without mentioning its key context: global warming, driven by human activities, is making hotter temperatures the norm.
The July 21 edition of ABC's World News With Diane Sawyer was the only broadcast network program to report on the record in the context of global warming, introducing it as "a new statistic for arguments about climate change," and going on to discuss extreme weather events currently happening across the United States:
In the thirteen months directly prior to kicking off his Republican presidential campaign in February 2007, Rudy Giuliani earned more than $11 million dollars giving paid speeches. The former New York City Mayor, who was thrust into the national and international spotlight after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, typically charged between $100,000 and $300,000 for his speeches and spoke more than 120 times.
According to one speaking contract published at the time, Giuliani required clients pay for meals and lodging for himself and four travel companions. Giuliani required a two-bedroom suite (with a king-sized bed) for his overnight stays; a suite preferably located on an upper floor with a balcony. Clients also had to pay for four additional rooms to house Giuliani's entourage.
As for travel, the contract stipulated that clients "should provide Mr. Giuliani with first class travel expenses for up to 5 people to include a private plane." What kind of private plane? "Please note that the private aircraft MUST BE a Gulfstream IV or bigger."
Note that along with the $11 million in speaking fees Giuliani pocketed in 2006, he also earned $8 million on the speech circuit in 2002. If Giuliani was able to average between $8 and $11 million in speaking fees from 2002 until he announced his candidacy in early 2007, he would have earned more than $40 million giving speeches in the five years prior to his White House campaign. (Speaking fees represented only part of his income.)
What's newsworthy about that today? Simply the fact that back in 2007 when a wealthy Republican became a presidential hopeful the Beltway press didn't care that he'd earned an eight-figure income giving 45-minute speeches. (With an additional 15 minutes allotted for Q & A.) Indeed, Giuliani's financial revelations barely registered with pundits and reporters who gave the information little time and attention. The Washington Post, for example, published just three mentions of Giuliani's multi-million dollar "speaking fees."
The press certainly never elevated the issue to a defining narrative for the Republican's campaign. Perhaps they realized there was nothing intrinsically wrong with a speaker being paid what organizations are willing to offer them.
Compare that collective shoulder shrug with the nearly month-long media fascination still churning over Hillary Clinton's speaking fees; a fascination that's part of a larger, misguided media obsession over the issue of Clinton wealth. ("Speaking fee" articles and columns published by Post so far this year regarding Clinton? 28.)
Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer attacked the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), a newly proposed law that would protect the constitutional right to obtain an abortion, by claiming the federal government has no business legislating reproductive health services -- despite the fact he had previously supported a federal law passed by Republicans that banned a rare late-term abortion procedure.
On July 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on WHPA, a proposed bill introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that could help ensure access to reproductive health services for women by preventing states from passing uniquely and possibly unconstitutionally restrictive abortion legislation. Since 2010, state legislatures have aggressively proposed and enacted a wave of anti-abortion laws, known as TRAP laws, under the guise of protecting women's health. In reality, these laws impose significant burdens on abortion providers by unnecessarily requiring doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals as well as mandating clinics to comply with seemingly arbitrary "safety" rules and building code provisions. The Women's Health Protection Act would bring an end to these constitutionally-suspect laws by prohibiting states from passing anti-abortion legislation that is any more restrictive than laws that regulate comparable outpatient medical procedures.
Fox News was quick to attack the bill, with host Bill O'Reilly wondering if the senators who proposed it were "executioners." Kelly File host Megyn Kelly was also critical of the legislation, claiming that it would "open the door on late term abortions ... not just to save the mother's life, but to save the mother's health." Kelly went on to invoke the assassination of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller after suggesting that women had "abused" the health exception provisions of late-term abortion bans.
On the July 15 edition of Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier, Krauthammer argued that, even if the bill passes, "there is no way it would survive constitutional scrutiny because it is such a violation of federalism. This is not the federal government's purview. It belongs to the states."
A landmark new study finds that children of same-sex couples are happier and healthier than children raised by heterosexual parents - a finding that major media outlets have largely ignored despite its potential significance in the legal fight for marriage equality.
On July 4, researchers at the University of Melbourne unveiled the results of a study that looked at how children of same-sex and heterosexual couples fare on a variety of health and wellness measures. The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS) is the largest study of its kind to date. Controlling for factors like socioeconomic status and parental education, researchers examined 500 children of 315 same-sex parents. An estimated 80 percent of the children were raised by female parents, with 18 percent raised by male parents. The Guardian summarized the researchers' findings:
The children raised by same-sex partners scored an average of 6% higher than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion. They were equivalent to those from the general population on measures of temperament and mood, behavior, mental health and self-esteem.
Researchers did identify one hurdle often confronted by children of same-sex parents: anti-LGBT stigma, which about two-thirds of the children reported experiencing.
The Australian study is noteworthy not only given its unprecedented size and scope, but also because of its potential significance in the ongoing legal fight for marriage equality.
The Heartland Institute, an organization notorious for its virulent climate denial, opened its conference on climate change with a German rap on the "Climate Swindle" that claims "saving the climate means wiping out the humans," according to an English translation.
The conference, which is being held in Las Vegas this week, featured a live performance by Austrian rapper Kilez More of "Klimawandel (Klimalüge, Klimaschwindel)" -- translation "Climate Change (Climate Lies, Climate Swindle)" -- alongside speakers who are largely industry-funded and have no scientific expertise. According to an English translation by the German climate denial blog NoTricksZone, the rap claims that hacked "Climategate" emails showed scientists "fudging the data" to fake warming, contrary to every independent investigation into the matter, in order to gain "more power, more money, more control, more global tax." The chorus repeats that "climate change was not made by man," shouting "nein!" Later, the rap really goes off the rails, claiming that climate change advocates believe that "there's only one way here to clean the planet / saving the climate means wiping out the humans."
A July 7 Heartland Institute press release quoted More stating he's "honored" and "pleased the Heartland Institute liked the song and invited me to present it live on stage."
You might have thought that after the Heartland Institute ran a billboard campaign in 2012 comparing those that accept climate science to the Unabomber -- later pulling the billboards but refusing to apologize -- that the media would have already stopped turning to the organization for analysis. However, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and Fox News all quoted Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast casting doubt on a 2013 scientific report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, without noting that he has no climate expertise and previously denied the science showing secondhand smoke can lead to cancer.
The conference in Las Vegas is also being co-sponsored by Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., which owns mainstream television and radio stations across the country. What would it take for the media to stop taking the "kings of unintentional climate-comedy" seriously?
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler misquoted Hillary Clinton while criticizing her recent and accurate comments about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.
Kessler specifically took Clinton to task over a comment she made during the Aspen Ideas Festival:
CLINTON: It's very troubling that a salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer's health-care plan because her employer doesn't think she should be using contraception.
But in taking issue with the portion of Clinton's remarks about the affordability of contraception, Kessler actually misquoted what she said:
As for "very expensive," this is in the eye of the beholder. Studies have indicated that when times are tough, women have tried to save money by skimping on birth control, such as skipping pills and delaying prescription refills.
Clinton never said that contraception is "very expensive." She said it was "pretty expensive." The distinction is meaningful in light of the fact that Kessler specifically went on to criticize Clinton for not being careful while making extemporaneous remarks.
Kessler also criticized Clinton for observing that a Hobby Lobby sales clerk would not be able to access contraception because her employer doesn't think she should be using it. Here's Kessler's rationale:
In the specific case, the company on religious grounds objected to four of 20 possible options, leaving other possible types of contraceptives available to female employees -- though not necessarily the most effective or necessary at the moment.
Contrary to Kessler's reasoning, it's entirely accurate to say that a sales clerk could decide in consultation with her doctor that a valid form of contraception is the best option for her health needs and yet be denied access because her boss doesn't think she should be using it.
Kessler addressed similar criticism from readers in an update, calling it an "interesting parsing" but standing by his original analysis.
The Washington Post misleadingly described the timeline of the Obama administration's response to the 2012 Benghazi attacks by privileging the conservative media myth that President Obama did not immediately identify the attacks as an act of terror.
On July 1 the Washington Post reported on the suspected leader of the attacks Abu Khattala's arrest and indictment, and attempted to lay out the controversy over the timeline of the administration's public statements. From the Post:
The exact cause of the attack in Benghazi became the source of a bitter political dispute in Washington, in part because U.S. officials initially said it had begun as one of a number of spontaneous anti-U.S. street demonstrations sweeping across the Arab world as protesters denounced an anti-Muslim Internet video. The Obama administration later labeled what happened in Benghazi a terrorist attack.
But the day after the attacks, in his first public remarks, Obama identified the tragedy as an act of terror. In his September 12 Rose Garden speech, Obama said "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
The attacks appear to have been both an act of terror and a response to an anti-Islam video. The suspected ringleader of the Benghazi attacks, Abu Khattala, reportedly told other Libyans at the time that his actions were in retaliation for the video.
From the July 2 edition of CNN's New Day:
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Lisa Sendrow, whose experience of college sexual assault was dismissed by The Washington Post's George Will, slammed the columnist for silencing the voices of survivors and rejected the idea she received any privileges from her status as a survivor, as Will suggested. Instead, she said she was diagnosed with PTSD following her assault and received violent threats after her story was first reported.
Will's June 6 column sparked outrage from women's organizations, U.S. senators, and college rape survivors for suggesting that sexual assault victims -- or people who Will decided were only claiming to be sexual assault victims -- enjoyed "a coveted status that confers privileges." To make his point, Will relied on an anecdote from a Philadelphia magazine article about a young woman from Swarthmore College, implying that he didn't believe her story qualified as an actual incident of assault:
Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. "sexual assault." Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student "was in her room with a guy with whom she'd been hooking up for three months":
"They'd now decided -- mutually, she thought -- just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. 'I basically said, "No, I don't want to have sex with you." And then he said, "OK, that's fine" and stopped. . . . And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn't do anything -- I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.'"
Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped. Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of "sexual assault" victims.
Will didn't name the woman in his column, but Philadelphia magazine did -- this is Lisa Sendrow's story.
Sendrow graduated from Swarthmore in 2013 and now works as a legal assistant. She told Media Matters in an interview over the weekend that she first "tried to avoid the Will piece as much as possible," but after friends pressed her to read it she found the column "infuriating," and felt that his dismissal of her story was dangerous to survivors.
"No one wants to hear that you brought this on yourself," she said, while discussing her reaction to Will's piece. "No one wants to relive the experience or tell that story, when they haven't really had a chance to reflect. You can't really heal if people are telling you that it's your fault. But that's what Will did."
Sendrow explained that she has experienced sexual assault multiple times, but decided to officially report this particular experience and talk to Philadelphia magazine in part because at the time she worked as an advocate for survivors on a campus hotline. "I realized that I could no longer be an advocate and tell survivors to go to the college and report if I wasn't going myself." But the decision wasn't easy, and that contributed to her choosing to wait before initially reporting. "The fact that Will said I waited [to report the assault] -- most women wait awhile. You have to think about what happened, you have to heal."
Research from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that 1 in 5 women had been sexually assaulted while in college, and repeat victimization is common. Reporting rates are particularly low on campuses, and campus assailants tend to be repeat offenders. "This is the only sexual assault I've ever reported," Sendrow noted, "because I felt I was the most safe reporting this one."
She added that she "was also raised to think I put myself in this situation, and it took me a really long time. After hearing others' stories I realized it wasn't my fault -- I was raped. I didn't want to be diminished, I didn't want to be afraid."
While the Philadelphia magazine story clearly documented a serious example of sexual assault (notably, Sendrow specifically stated that she did not consent), Sendrow felt that the magazine took her story and others out of context and omitted key details, "which was exactly what we didn't want to happen." Her assault was "more violent than what [the Philadelphia magazine reporter] wrote. The way he made it seem was very small in comparison." Sendrow added that she received "very threatening" messages from her attacker days after the assault, which the Philadelphia story hadn't included. She had hoped that talking to the media would in part help other survivors by showing they no longer had to be afraid and that their stories couldn't be diminished, and was frustrated when that was "exactly what [Will's column] did."
Sendrow also vehemently rejected Will's claim that survivors might have a coveted status. "I absolutely have not received any privileges from sexual assault. [Will] has clearly never experienced the fear of sexual assault," she said. "He clearly has no idea how hard it is to sleep, to walk around, thinking at any moment this person that you live down the hall from could come out."
She saw a counselor and was diagnosed with PTSD following the assault, she said, which "is pretty common for a lot of survivors I know. It did not help my grades, it did not help my social status. I lost a lot of friends ... No one tells you, 'oh you're a survivor, let me give you a free lunch.' No one gives a shit about you. What benefit could we possibly get? Sometimes I feel like I can't have a real relationship because someone might touch me in the wrong way. How is that okay?"
Sendrow told Media Matters she received violent threats after the Philadelphia article was published. One threat said that she and the other women quoted in the story "deserved to be stoned." Others said "I should be raped again, or 'really' raped, that I was a slut, you know, using my sexual background to say I deserved it."
For Sendrow, most upsetting about Will's column was that "he was politicizing sexual assault, he's a conservative columnist, but why should sexual assault be political?" She criticized him for putting the term sexual assault in quotation marks, implying doubt in survivors' stories, and for using her personal story to "describe the experience of all survivors, and [making] it seem very small." She added, "it was mostly upsetting because I don't feel like survivors' voices were heard."
Will's full column, Sendrow said, made it feel "as if women don't have a voice. Anything bad that happens to a woman, it doesn't matter, because we're the ones who are at fault. And this is already what we're told every single day," she concluded. "We're raised all our lives to think this isn't an issue. But this is an issue. This is why people are triggered, this is why people have PTSD. People will go through their lives thinking rape culture isn't real."
In the end, Sendrow wondered whether Will would have been able to similarly dismiss her story of assault if it came from someone close to him.
"What if [Will's] daughter -- I don't know if he has a daughter -- but would he say to her, that this didn't happen?" she asked. "If she came to him crying, or even not crying, but if she came to him and told him this story, would he just say it wasn't real?"
New evidence revealing the full context of Hillary Clinton's comment about the "truly well off" suggests that she was not trying to contrast herself from the ranks of the wealthy, as many in the media previously suggested.
On June 21, The Guardian reported pieces of an interview they had conducted with Clinton during the roll-out of her new memoir, Hard Choices:
America's glaring income inequality is certain to be a central bone of contention in the 2016 presidential election. But with her huge personal wealth, how could Clinton possibly hope to be credible on this issue when people see her as part of the problem, not its solution?
"But they don't see me as part of the problem," she protests, "because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work," she says, letting off another burst of laughter.
Numerous media outlets jumped on Clinton's comments, suggesting that in her statement "unlike a lot of people who are truly well off" Clinton was saying that she and President Clinton are not "truly well off." At times, media outlets even altered the quote to fit that impression, falsely reporting that Clinton had said they were "not truly well off." For example:
Business Insider: Hillary Clinton Says She Isn't 'Truly Well Off'
Washington Post: Hillary Clinton says she's unlike the 'truly well off'
Fox News: Clinton: I'm not 'truly well off'
As Media Matters' Eric Boehlert noted at the time, while Clinton's comments were somewhat unclear, "at least as good an interpretation of the quote is that Clinton included herself and her husband among the 'truly well off,' but was saying that unlike many of them, they pay ordinary income tax."
Indeed, the full transcript of Clinton's response supports this interpretation. Clinton immediately followed up the comment by noting, "We know how blessed we are." She went on to explain that the Clintons did not grow up rich and that her goal is to "create a level playing field" to ensure opportunity for all. Here's the transcript, posted by The Hill on June 26 (emphasis added):
QUESTION: Domestically, as you mentioned towards the end of the book, one of the key issues is inequality.
QUESTION: Presumably whoever runs in 2016 will be talking a lot about that. It's come up already, but I did want to - it's such a polar - another polarized issue. Can you be the right person, were you to decide to run, to raise an issue like that when - with your own huge personal wealth, which is something that people have already started sniping about? Is it possible to talk about that subject --
QUESTION: -- when people perceive you as part of the problem, not the solution?
CLINTON: But they don't see me as part of the problem because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names, and we have done it through dint of hard work. We know how blessed we are. We were neither of us raised with these kinds of opportunities, and we worked really hard for them. But all one has to do is look at my record going back to my time in college and law school to know not only where my heart is, but where my efforts have been. I want to create a level playing field so that once again, you can look a child in the eye and you can tell them the truth, whether they're born in a wealthy suburb or an inner city or a poor country community; you can point out the realistic possibility that they will have a better life. But here's what they must do: It's that wonderful combination of individual effort, but social support, mobility and opportunity on the other side of the equation. So I'm willing to have that debate with anybody.
Journalists should not be duped into portraying anti-wind energy activist John Droz Jr. as simply a "physicist" and an expert on issues related to climate change. Droz has cast doubt on man-made climate change and undermined scientifically accurate sea-level rise predictions in North Carolina, despite admitting he has no expertise in either area.
The bad bout of 2003 déjà vu continued on Sunday when former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on ABC's This Week to lecture President Obama about how his policies had allegedly made a mess out of Iraq, as violence there continues to grip the country and threatens to completely destabilize the nation.
Cheney's appearance continues a maddening, week-long stroll down Baghdad memory lane as media outlets rush to get commentary from the people who, eleven years ago, got everything wrong about the Iraq War: The stunning cost, the causalities, the war planning, the intelligence, the sectarian violence.
"The neoconservative program cost the United States several trillion dollars and thousands dead and wounded American soldiers, and it sowed carnage and chaos in Iraq and elsewhere," writes Harvard University professor Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy.
The head-scratching question continues to be, why? Why are the discredited "experts" who botched Iraq last time now being a given a platform to comment on the military crisis they helped create? And why are these rejected mouthpieces being given a chance to bash President Obama, someone who opposed the failed war in the first place? (ABC's Jonathan Karl to Cheney: "What would you do in Iraq?" Left unsaid: Cheney left office with a 13 percent approval rating, in large part for leading the charge for the Bush administration's failed invasion.)
Why the strange rehabilitation? Here's a hint: People might be forgetting the deep bond that ran between the compliant Beltway media in 2003 and the very same failed Iraq War architects and partisan boosters the press is now turning to for advice. In other words, the Beltway press was part of the Iraq problem then. (They sold us a disastrous war.) So it's not that surprising the press is part of the problem now.
Fact: You can't talk about the Iraq War without addressing the central role the U.S. news media played during the run-up to the invasion, and the fevered and futile hunt for weapons of mass destruction. And that's why the current move to treat failed war sponsors as knowledgeable experts might also be seen as an effort by some journalists to put behind them the massive media missteps that led to the war.
Meaning, the reason the press doesn't think it's strange having the people who got everything wrong about the war on TV today is because so much of the Beltway press got the same things wrong eleven years ago.
As the years pass by and memories fade, it's important to never forget just how much government stenography went on prior to the war in D.C. newsrooms, and just how little daylight existed between the Bush administration and media elites in their ironclad agreement about the need to invade Iraq. Only then does the continued symmetry now on display begin to make sense. (Fact: The "liberal" Washington Post editorialized more than two dozen times in favor of war, between September 2002 and February 2003.)
UPDATE: Washington Post's Erik Wemple reports that the three editors for the Post syndication group who reviewed Will's column were all male. Wemple writes this is "indeed important," adding, "Women are the predominant victims of rape and sexual assault; therefore, they may have some insight on the editing of a column on sexual assault."
George Will doubled down on his claim that sexual assault victims have a "coveted status" on college campuses, refusing to apologize for a recent column that sparked significant backlash.
Will has been under fire from women's rights organizations following the column he wrote earlier this month about "the supposed campus epidemic of rape," in which he claimed efforts to combat the problem "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." Four U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein, Tammy Baldwin, and Robert P. Casey, Jr., wrote a letter condemning the column, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dropped their syndication of his work.
In a June 20 C-SPAN interview, Will doubled down on his conclusion, refusing to backtrack:
C-SPAN: You wouldn't take back any of the words you used?
WILL: No, no.
Will also repeated his claim that universities, the Democratic U.S. senators, and the Department of Education had overstated the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, dismissing the evidence that shows 1 in 5 women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault, and insisted the definition of assault was too wide and therefore trivialized the true problem.
Will also claimed that he takes "sexual assault somewhat more seriously" than the senators working to help the victims, a claim he previously made in a response letter to them.
The Washington Post stood by Will's column, telling Media Matters that the column was "well within the bounds of legitimate debate."
The Chicago Tribune declined to run George Will's controversial column on sexual assault, labeling it "misguided and insensitive."
Will has been under fire following a column he wrote earlier this month about "the supposed campus epidemic of rape" and how some schools' efforts to curb the problem "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." The column sparked outrage and calls for his removal from the Washington Post by prominent women's rights groups, including the National Organization for Women and UltraViolet. Several U.S. senators have also criticized Will.
On June 18, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced it was dropping Will's column from the paper following his "offensive and inaccurate" piece.
The Tribune, one of the largest papers in the country, told Media Matters that the paper turned Will's column down after reading it.
In comments to Media Matters, Bruce Dold, editorial page editor of the Tribune, explained why his paper, which runs Will on occasion, passed on the June 7 column.
"I thought the column was misguided and insensitive," Dold told Media Matters Thursday. "We didn't publish it. Marcia Lythcott, the Op-Ed editor, made that decision and it was the right call."
The paper has no plans to abandon Will permanently, however.
"That doesn't mean we pulled Will for that week, though. We don't anchor syndicated columnists," Dold explained. "We run George Will on occasion. I checked our archives and it looks like we've run him four times in the past year. We will continue to consider him on a column by column basis, as we do with other syndicated columnists we buy."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the largest newspapers in the Midwest, has dropped George Will's syndicated column, calling the conservative pundit's recent commentary on sexual assault "offensive and inaccurate" and apologizing for its publication.
In a June 7 column, Will disputed evidence that 1 in 5 women on U.S college campuses experience sexual assault, and claimed that efforts to fight what he called "the supposed campus epidemic of rape" have made victimhood a "coveted status." The Post-Dispatch called Will's comments "offensive and inaccurate," and in a June 18 editorial, it announced it would no longer publish Will's syndicated column:
The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.
As Media Matters has reported, Will's column has drawn significant criticism from women's rights activists, writers, and several U.S. senators. Women's rights group UltraViolet launched a petition drive calling for Will's ouster from the Washington Post. National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill agreed, saying "The Washington Post needs to take a break from his column, they need to dump him," adding that columns like Will's are "actively harmful for the victims of sexual assault."
As the backlash against Will's claims began to heat up, the Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt defended Will in a statement to Media Matters, saying his comments were "well within the bounds of legitimate debate":
George Will's column was well within the bounds of legitimate debate. I welcomed his contribution, as I welcome the discussion it sparked and the responses, some of which we will be publishing on our pages and website. This is what a good opinion site should do. Rather than urge me to silence a viewpoint they disagree with, I would urge others also to join the debate, and to do so without mischaracterizing the original column.
The Post-Dispatch noted that the move to drop Will's column had "been under consideration for several months," but Will's column on sexual assault "made the decision easier." This isn't surprising, given that Will's contributions to public debate have a problematic history of denying facts. According to Discover Magazine, Will has helped to "muddle our collective scientific literacy" by grossly distorting climate data -- a trend that the Los Angeles Times has similarly dubbed "mystifying." Will has also misrepresented the effects of the Voting Rights Act to claim that it has given "a few government-approved minorities ... an entitlement to public offices" and has come under fire for claiming that President Obama owed his success in the 2012 presidential election to his race.