Right-wing media have worked themselves into a tizzy over a controversy about a student reading his Bible in a Florida public school, but they aren't telling the whole story.
The CBS affiliate in Miami, FL, reported on May 5 that a fifth-grade boy at a public school in Broward County claimed he was banned from reading his Bible during "free-time reading" in his classroom:
A Broward County boy said he was banned from reading "The Good Book" during free-reading time in school. The boy and his father have hired an attorney, calling this a violation of the boy's Constitutional rights. Meanwhile, the Broward County School District says this is all a big misunderstanding.
The Miami Herald reported that Broward school officials "rejected the accusation" because the student was reading his Bible during a "classroom 'accelerated reading' program," not during a free-reading session. The Herald also noted that the boy's family is being represented by the Liberty Institute, a "conservative religious-rights group" that "targeted Broward County on Monday in an ongoing campaign contending that faith is under attack in America's elementary schools." (Indeed, the Liberty Institute has a "long history of hyperbolic assertions about the impending end of religious freedom.")
A statement from Broward County Public Schools on Monday, May 5, affirmed the county's commitment to religious freedom:
Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materials to school, including the Bible, and to read these items before school, after school or during any "free reading" time during the school day.
On right-wing media, however, it's a much different story.
Fox News' Fox & Friends discussed the story on May 6, leading with its "Trouble With Schools" chryon. Co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the boy's father had previously been in touch with the school principal about when the boy was allowed to read the Bible in school, which included before and after school, during lunch, and at free time, but that "the teacher didn't like it" when the boy began reading his Bible during "his free time." Doocy continued:
DOOCY: Well the teacher didn't like it, and the kid said, if you have a problem with this, you need to call my dad. Well the dad wasn't there to pick up the phone and instead, the teacher left this embarrassing voicemail.
After Attorney General Eric Holder discussed his support for developing and improving technology that would allow guns to only be fired by authorized users, members of the right-wing media concocted a baseless conspiracy theory that the technology would be used by the government to spy on lawful gun owners.
If the annual Conservative Political Action Conference is any indication, conservative media won't be abandoning their scandal-mongering about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi any time soon. Though conservatives' conspiracies about the assault on U.S. diplomatic facilities have fallen apart under scrutiny, many CPAC attendees are upset with mainstream outlets for not being aggressive enough on the story.
"I would say the media isn't pursuing information about Benghazi enough, including FOIAs, trying to interview people who ... the government doesn't want interviewed and has discouraged from being interviewed and not in general doing due diligence," said John Fund, a conservative columnist at National Review. "I would compare the lack of follow through unfavorably to scandals such as Abu Ghraib and even Guantanamo."
Larry O'Connor, editor of Breitbart.com, offered a similar view when asked if Benghazi is being covered enough. "I see stories from Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News and Bret Baier's Special Report that I don't see other outlets covering."
Mainstream outlets have devoted significant coverage to the Benghazi story, if not always in the manner that those pushing the scandal would prefer. In December, The New York Times published an exhaustive six-part series on Benghazi which debunked several myths propagated by the conservative media. The fact-finding out of Congress also hasn't backed the scandal narrative; in January, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a bipartisan report stating that there was no attempt by the Obama administration to cover up the attacks and pointing out that no "stand down" order was given to the military.
Those facts aren't stopping the conservative media.
"We have still not gotten a great answer as to why the military did not respond when one of our embassies is attacked," said John Solomon, editor of The Washington Times. Regardless of what Solomon considers a "great answer," the various aspects of the military response the night of the attacks have been widely detailed.
TownHall.com editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich largely blamed the administration for reporters' difficulties covering the story, saying, "It is difficult for reporters to cover an issue when the government is not giving answers."
Support for more Benghazi investigations did not only come from media figures at CPAC. With former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving massive attention over her potential run for the White House in 2016, conservatives clearly see Benghazi as a way to damage her possible candidacy.
During a speech, Sen. Mitch McConnell claimed media were "trying to fix Benghazi for Hillary" by not repeating the right-wing myths about the attacks.
There was also a Breitbart News-sponsored panel just a block away from the CPAC venue where participants claimed a cover-up exists, but offered few specifics.
Fox News contributor Ben Carson joined the growing list of American conservatives praising Vladimir Putin's Russia for its ultraconservative social policies, asserting that Russia is "gaining prestige and influence throughout the world" thanks to Putin's hardline brand of Orthodox Christianity.
In a February 12 column for TownHall.com, Carson echoed Pat Buchanan and Breitbart.com in musing that the former Soviet Union - once pilloried as the "godless, evil empire" - has long since overtaken the United States in the realm of "Christian values." Carson lauded Russia's religious conservatism while endorsing Putin's recent remarks suggesting that the U.S. and western Europe have become "godless" (emphasis added):
We used to characterize the Soviet Union as a godless, evil empire. Like many societies based on communism or socialism, the Soviets saw fit to minimize the importance of God and, in many cases, wreaked unimaginable persecution on religious people.
Why is faith in God anathema to such states? It's because they need to remove any authority other than themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong.
Interestingly, last year Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Euro-Atlantic countries, including the United States, of becoming godless and moving away from Christian values. Some may bristle at such an accusation, but when you consider that many Americans are hesitant even to mention God or Jesus in public, there may be some validity to his claim.We also casually have tossed out many of the principles espoused in the Bible and have concluded that there's no authority greater than man himself.
As secular progressives try to remove all vestiges of God from our society, let us remember the godly principles of loving our fellow man, caring about our neighborhoods, developing our God-given talents to the utmost so that we become valuable to the people around us, and maintaining high principles that govern our lives. Our Judeo-Christian values led this nation to the pinnacle of the world in record time. If we embrace them, they will keep us there.
While we Americans are giving a cold shoulder to our religious heritage, the Russians are warming to religion. The Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours. I wonder whether there is a correlation.
According to a poll by Rasmussen Reports being trumpeted by right-wing media, a majority of American voters believe the Obama administration is "not aggressive enough in deporting those who are in this country illegally." The poll also found that a majority of white as well as minority voters "oppose a halt to deportations." But these results don't take into account the federal government's record on deportations and are contradicted by a veritable litany of polls taken this year and over the past two years.
Conservative media are promoting the poll as evidence that the country wants more undocumented immigrants deported and that this proves that the current border enforcement and deportation policies of the Obama administration are too lax.
The poll, a national survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters conducted December 8-9, asked vague and out-of-context questions about a specific category of immigrants (those who overstay their visas) including:
But the first question -- which used the language "make them leave the country" instead of "deport" -- failed to put the overstays in context. According to a February 2013 study, overstays declined by 73 percent between 2000 and 2009 thanks to enhanced security measures by DHS in the years following the September 11, 2001, attacks. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that about 40 percent of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country are those who overstayed their visas. The article continued:
Little is known about the demographics of the so-called overstayer population, but some studies suggest they tend to be better educated and more fluent in English than those who crossed the border illegally. They also are more likely to hail from European, Asian and African countries. And in many cases, they used tourist visas to enter the U.S.
Pat Buchanan made clear that he isn't a fan of Pope Francis, condemning the pontiff for his overtures to the LGBT community and women.
In his November 15 syndicated column, Buchanan - who popularized the notion of a "cultural war" with an inflammatory speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention - accused the pope of "non-belligerence, if not neutrality, in the culture war for the soul of the west." Buchanan excoriated the pope "sowing seeds of confusion" for Catholics with his statements that he wouldn't "judge" gay people and that the church had grown too "obsessed" with social issues. Comparing the women's and LGBT movements to the mass slaughter of Mao's Cultural Revolution, Buchanan wrote (emphasis added):
"Pope Francis doesn't want cultural warriors; he doesn't want ideologues," said Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash.:
Yet here is further confirmation His Holiness seeks to move the Catholic Church to a stance of non-belligerence, if not neutrality, in the culture war for the soul of the West.
There is a small problem with neutrality. As Trotsky observed, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." For the church to absent itself from the culture war is to not to end that war, but to lose it.
The cultural revolution preached by Marxist Antonio Gramsci is continuing its "long march" through the institutions of the West and succeeding where the violent revolutions of Lenin and Mao failed. It is effecting a transvaluation of all values. And it is not interested in a truce with the church of Pope Francis, but a triumph over that church which it reviles as the great enemy in its struggle.
Indeed, after decades of culture war waged against Christianity, the Vatican might consider the state of the Faith.
"Who am I to judge," Pope Francis says of homosexuals.
Well, he is pope. And even the lowliest parish priest has to deliver moral judgments in a confessional.
The shift in tone ushered in by Pope Francis is merely the latest cultural development to provoke Buchanan's ire. In August, he fondly reminisced about the days of school segregation. Homosexuality, he believes, is "unnatural and immoral," while marriage equality is an "Orwellian absurdity." With LGBT people beginning to win basic legal protections and social recognition, Buchanan pines for the days when that was unthinkable - before society believed "[t]hat all races, religions and ethnic groups are equal," before , as Buchanan puts it, there were too many Jews on the Supreme Court. His model for a better, more "moral" society? Vladimir Putin's Russia.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Right-wing media have mischaracterized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that requires certain preventive health care services be included in employer-provided health insurance at no cost as a violation of the religious freedoms of corporations who object to contraception. In reality, this mandate, currently before the Supreme Court, accommodates religious employers' First Amendment rights without allowing secular, for-profit corporations to skirt federal law, and there is no legal precedent that gives corporations the right to exercise religious freedom.
Media outlets are ramping up their pushback against a highly questionable PolitiFact Virginia analysis of the proposed elimination of no-fault divorce law supported by Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia and favorite of "father's rights" groups.
Fox News and other conservative media outlets have amplified Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) misleading claim that Democrats "excuse[d] themselves" from testimony given by the families of the victims of the Benghazi attack. In fact, over the course of the hearing, members of both parties were in and out of the proceedings.
Rep. Issa posted a tweet claiming that Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee left the hearing room as Patricia Smith and Charles Woods testified about their sons, Sean Smith and Charles Woods, who were killed in Benghazi.
Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich dishonestly criticized the independence of the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya by hyping the fact that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed four of the ARB's members. Federal law mandates that the secretary of state appoint four of the five members of each Accountability Review Board.
During a September 19 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Republican Congressman John Mica of Florida asked Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, vice chairman of the ARB, to confirm that Clinton appointed four of the five members of the board. After Mullen confirmed that, Mica commented "it looks like sort of an inside job of investigation, the Department of State looking at the Department of State." Mica also commented that the ARB did not interview Clinton for its report.
Pavlich, who was commenting on the hearing through her Twitter account, seized on this fact to criticize the ARB report, calling it a "whitewash":
Pavlich later made the same point in a post on Townhall.com, where she's an editor, this time to impugn the independence of the board:
During the hearing, Republican Rep. John Mica pointed out Clinton appointed four out of the five members of the ARB board investigating the Benghazi attack. The ARB describes itself as "independent."
But the secretary of state is required by federal law to appoint four of the five members of an Accountability Review Board:
A Board shall consist of five members, 4 appointed by the Secretary of State, and 1 appointed by the Director of Central Intelligence. The Secretary of State shall designate the Chairperson of the Board. Members of the Board who are not Federal officers or employees shall each be paid at a rate not to exceed the maximum rate of basic pay payable for level GS-18 of the General Schedule for each day (including travel time) during which they are engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Board. Members of the Board who are Federal officers or employees shall receive no additional pay by reason of such membership.
Pavlich has previously smeared Clinton over the Benghazi attack on Fox News.
Right-wing media have pounced on a forthcoming book claiming that gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard's brutal 1998 murder was motivated by drug use, not homophobia. While these media figures shroud their interest in a desire to get at the facts, their vitriolic attacks on Shepard and the movement for whom his death became a rallying cry reveal that there's more to Matthew Shepard trutherism than a concern for the truth.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez revives his decade-old theory that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson killed Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Shepard's death sparked a national discussion on anti-LGBT violence, but Jimenez makes the bombshell claim that Shepard and McKinney had actually had sex and done meth together. McKinney has denied this assertion.
Jimenez's theory is also difficult to square with the fact that McKinney cited Shepard's sexuality as a factor in the murder, attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial.
Inexplicably, media coverage of The Book of Matt has ignored Jimenez's history of shoddy reporting on the case. In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a special on Shepard's murder for ABC News' 20/20. The widely panned report downplayed the role of anti-gay bias in Shepard's murder, suggesting that meth was the primary factor. After the special aired, Gay City News unearthed an email Jimenez wrote two months before 20/20 even began its reporting, in which he proclaimed that the report would upend the conventional interpretation of Shepard's death.
Conservatives are using a comment from former President Bill Clinton's speech at the memorial celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to falsely suggest that background checks are required for all gun sales.
During his speech, Clinton stated, "A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon."
Clinton appeared to refer to two conservative legislative priorities: Their passage in several states of voter ID laws and other laws that make it harder for people to vote, especially low income and minority voters; and their effort to block earlier this year federal legislation to strengthen and expand the background check system to prevent felons and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing firearms.
Responding to Clinton's comment, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson facetiously wrote on his RedState.com blog that Clinton had "called for the elimination of background checks to purchase guns." Erickson claims that "purchases of firearms in every state must go through a firearms background check" and thus concludes that since one "does not even need photo identification in every state to vote... I take this statement to mean Bill Clinton wants background checks for gun purchases eliminated."
At TownHall.com, fellow Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich similarly wrote:
Clinton's words came in reference to voter identification laws being passed all over the country which require voters to show government issued photo identification in order to vote. Federal gun laws also require people purchasing firearms to show government issued photo identification. In addition, firearms purchasers are required to undergo a background check.
In fact, under federal law background checks are only required on those who seek to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer; no such check is needed for those who buy them from private sellers, including at gun shows and online.
Right-wing media have responded to a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a barrage of false attacks and overheated rhetoric. The rule, which attempts to increase minority access to community resources like public transportation and education, has been called an act of "tyranny" designed to "encourage diversity, for diversity's sake."
Fox News continued its smear campaign against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, by hyping an evidence-free claim that recipients are using the program to send food overseas.
A July 21 New York Post story claimed that low-income New Yorkers were using SNAP funds to purchase food to send overseas. The Post based its claims on anecdotes from unnamed sources at two New York supermarkets that "confirmed the practice," but failed to include specifics. The anonymous woman that the Post provided as its sole example of the practice was not a SNAP beneficiary:
Last week, a woman stuffed dozens of boxes of macaroni and evaporated milk into a barrel headed for her family in Kingston, Jamaica. She said she didn't have welfare benefits and bought the food herself.
"This is all worth more than $2,000," she said. "I've been shopping since last December. You can help somebody else, someone who doesn't live in this country."
A man helping her pack the barrel said: "We're poor here, and they're poor. But what we can get here is like luxury to them."
You're paying for food stamps for foreigners? The New York Post reports that welfare recipients in New York City are buying groceries and sending them in giant barrels to relatives in Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The Agriculture Department won't investigate. That will be up to individual states. Thanks.