Author Page | Page 19 | Media Matters for America

Alexandrea Boguhn

Author ››› Alexandrea Boguhn
  • Fox's Bill O'Reilly Falsely Claims Harvard Requiring Class On White Privilege, Calls It "Inherently Racist"

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    O'Reilly on privilege

    Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that a new required freshman orientation session at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government would be a required course on white privilege. Despite the fact that the session doesn't focus exclusively on race, O'Reilly used it as an excuse to attack the concept of white privilege.

    On May 14, O'Reilly hosted Fox contributors Rev. Jacques Degraff and Stuart Varney to discuss what he falsely claimed would be a "required course" on white privilege at Harvard. After Degraff outlined what the term meant, O'Reilly said "I'm going to have to exempt myself" from having white privilege. He also attacked the orientation program as "inherently racist" for focusing on skin color:

    In fact, the session isn't exclusively about white privilege. HKS Speak Out, the organization which pushed for the orientation session, asked for a "mandatory power and privilege training that examines components of race, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, international status, and power differentials for every incoming HKS student starting August 2014."

    New York magazine, which reported on this, defines privilege as "a catchall term for the perks an individual enjoys in society because of his race, gender, or class." It also explained that the course O'Reilly attacks is actually an orientation program whose structure has yet to be decided upon:

    "We're at one of the most powerful institutions in the world, yet we never critically examine power and privilege and what it means to have access to this power," says Reetu Mody, a first-year masters student in public policy and a campus activist. "We're excited to have the administration on board for training all Harvard Kennedy School first years."

    [...]

    HKS Speak Out is still deciding what the content of the orientation program will be. "The substance of the training, while still under discussion, is to prepare students to understand the broad impact of identity on their decision-making and to engage them in constructive tools for dialogue," Mody says.

  • Fox's Dana Perino Debunks Right-Wing Conspiracy On Geithner's New Book

    Blog ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD & ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Fox's Dana Perino debunked the right-wing media's attempt to manufacture a scandal around former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's new memoir by claiming that the book reveals that the Obama administration had asked him to lie to the American public.

    On May 12 Geithner debuted his new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, detailing his time as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as Treasury Secretary under the Obama administration during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

    The book's excerpts promptly became fodder for right-wing media outlets, which latched onto two specific anecdotes to declare that the White House had directed Geithner to lie during appearances on the Sunday political talk shows.

    At issue is Geithner's description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011 in which then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer asked him to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote how he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute."

    Because of these anecdotes, Geithner's book represents a "new bombshell," according to Fox News, one that may show "the White House playing politics with the American people, perhaps." America's Newsroom anchor Martha MacCallum claimed:

    MacCALLUM: Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a book. In it -- the excerpts have been released today -- he says that the White House asked him to go a Sunday show and say something that was not completely true, because it worked better for them politically. That is what is being suggested here.

    But later the same day, on The Five, co-host Dana Perino, who previously served as press secretary under President George W. Bush, responded to allegations from her co-hosts that the White House had asked Geithner to lie. Perino explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint":

    PERINO: I can actually understand the Geithner thing. It's like saying, "Hey, can you not try to say this point about Social Security?" I don't think that is asking Geithner to specifically lie. I can understand from a communications standpoint you're asking the principle and the policy person, "How far can you go to say X,Y, or Z?" 

    Fox News also quoted from "a source close to Geithner" who pointed out that he "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows":

    After the anecdote began to generate attention on Monday, a source close to Geithner clarified to Fox News that the former secretary "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows."

    The source said all the former secretary was trying to get across was that Pfeiffer wanted him to "send a signal" to liberals about the president's commitment to not allowing major cuts to Social Security.

  • Fox's The Five Invokes Genocide In Attack On Woman Who Filmed Her Abortion

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    The hosts of Fox News' The Five lobbed a series of attacks against Emily Letts, a woman who filmed her own abortion and wrote about her experience in Cosmopolitan, going so far as to claim she had committed "some sort of genocide."

    On May 6, the Fox hosts speculated that she had orchestrated her pregnancy and abortion as a "publicity stunt." Greg Gutfeld said Letts "clearly needs help" while Andrea Tantaros described Letts as "deeply disturbed" and asked if her employer had considered giving her a "psychological exam." Eric Bolling took it a step further, likening her abortion to having committed "some sort of genocide":

    Letts, an abortion counselor at a New Jersey clinic, filmed her own abortion in order to erase some of the stigma and falsehoods that surround the procedure. In an op-ed for Cosmopolitan, Letts explained that she opted for a surgical abortion in order to combat misinformation and show others what the procedure really looks like:

    I searched the Internet, and I couldn't find a video of an actual surgical procedure in the clinic that focused on the woman's experience. We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like. A first trimester abortion takes three to five minutes. It is safer than giving birth. There is no cutting, and risk of infertility is less than 1 percent. Yet women come into the clinic all the time terrified that they are going to be cut open, convinced that they won't be able to have kids after the abortion. The misinformation is amazing, but think about it: They are still willing to sacrifice these things because they know that they can't carry the child at this moment.

  • Media's Revisionist History Of The Sunday Shows After Benghazi Attacks

    ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD, SOPHIA TESFAYE & ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Mainstream media outlets attempted to cast doubt on White House press secretary Jay Carney's explanation that a memo advising Susan Rice on her TV appearances referred to global protests as opposed to the September 11 attack specifically. However Sunday news coverage from Rice's press tour demonstrates that discussions of Benghazi did include broader context of anti-American protests in the region, as Carney had asserted.

  • Limbaugh Builds New Conspiracy Theory Around Clippers Owner Donald Sterling

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Rush Limbaugh adopted and promoted the conspiracy theory that Clippers owner Donald Sterling was set up by people looking to purchase his franchise.

    On the April 29 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh latched on to a caller's theory that the recordings of Donald Sterling's racist remarks had been a set-up in order to take the team from him. After entertaining the theory, Limbaugh fully adopted it, later speculating that whoever "set this up" got rid of the team's anthem singer:

    RUSH: Whoever set this up is really good. They covered every base. They've got the media wrapped around their little finger. I mean when you get rid of the anthem singer, I used to be in charge of anthem singers at the Kansas City Royals. When you can get rid of anthem singer, you've got power.

    Later in the show, Limbaugh expanded his conspiracy theory to speculate that the real reason Sterling told his mistress not to appear in photographs with Magic Johnson was not because Johnson is black, but because he suspected Johnson of trying to take the team and trying to lower the price by exposing Sterling's comments.

    The day before Sterling's suspension by the NBA, Limbaugh claimed that he was "only in trouble for not giving enough money to Obama."

  • Conservative Media Hide Dangerous Consequences Of Affirmative Action Decision

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Conservative media have rushed to praise the recent Supreme Court ruling which upheld Michigan's ban on affirmative action policies, while ignoring the ruling's dangerous consequences for minority rights.

    On the April 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, conservative author Mallory Factor applauded the decision by the Supreme Court in Schuette v. BAMN, in which the conservative justices of the Supreme Court effectively overturned decades of civil rights precedent and gutted a core component of equal protection law by giving Michigan voters the power to change their state's constitution to ban race-based university admissions. Factor praised the court for "finally saying, we're not going to make law from on high; we're going to leave law to the states and let the states make some decisions."

    But Michigan provides a perfect example for why rights like these should be decided by the courts, and not left up to voters: over 80 percent of residents are white. The Supreme Court decision did not change the fact that race-conscious government action, such as affirmative action, remains constitutional, but it did open a door for state majorities to change their political systems unfairly disadvantage minorities -- and in a state like Michigan where white Americans are the overwhelming majority, it's all too easy to see the dangerous consequences this decision could have on civil rights.

    The data shows the reality of these negative consequences. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that despite majority support for affirmative action programs around the country, a strong racial and partisan divide in opinion exists, with the overwhelming majority of those who oppose these policies being white and/or Republican:

    affirmative action statistics

    As Think Progress reported, the decision also "sanctioned two tiers of access in our nation's colleges and universities: one for the children of donors, alumni, and other interest groups, and another for racial and ethnic minorities." Any non-minority group seeking to lobby the state's public universities for improved admissions standards in the future -- such as children of rich donors or legacies -- are free to petition the university directly, but minorities must overturn a state constitutional amendment.

    In Michigan, the impact of the decision is already being felt by minority students. In addition to racist incidents and racial tensions on campuses around the country, the ACLU reported that enrollment of African-American students in Michigan has seen a dramatic decrease since Proposal 2, the act which barred the state's universities from considering race as an admission factor, took effect:

    There has been a notable decline in minority enrollment since Proposal 2 took effect. For example, African-American enrollment plummeted 33 percent at the University of Michigan/Ann Arbor between 2006 and 2012, even as overall enrollment grew by 10 percent.

    Factor isn't the only one praising the Schuette ruling. Immediately after the Supreme Court's decision was announced, conservative media jumped to applaud it, hailing affirmative action as a form of reverse-racism. Right-wing media's praise for the decision for doing away with imaginary racial discrimination against white people ignores the fact that the case did not actually rule on affirmative action itself, but instead ruled to give states the power to ban affirmative action themselves through a ballot initiative.

    By blindly praising the decision, conservative media cast aside the dangerous consequences it could have on civil rights by granting voters, instead of the courts, the power to make these decisions.

  • The Real Targets Of Conservative Media's Anti-Food Stamp Crusade

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    A report from Feeding America on food insecurity and food costs in the United States sheds new light on the real targets of the conservative media's crusade against food stamps.

    Conservative media often rush to baselessly condemn those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, as lazy or taking advantage of the system, but the truth is that these programs help feed millions of Americans who would otherwise go hungry.

    In 2013, Fox News shamelessly promoted "blissfully jobless California surfer" Jason Greenslate as the "new face of food stamps," and in April the network again attacked the program by portraying a couple living in a yacht and fraudulently collecting benefits as representative of the norm.

    But these attacks are out of touch with the reality that almost 41% of recipients live in a household with earnings, and according to the USDA program fraud is below one cent on the dollar. 

    Feeding America's report on the county and congressional district level food insecurity and county food costs in the United States paints a startlingly different picture of the food insecure than the one the right-wing media typically pushes. Feeding America found that more than 49 million* people in the United States are food-insecure, meaning that they have "limited or uncertain access to adequate food," and that 16 million of those people are children. On average, about 71% of the food-insecure throughout the country fall below 185% of the poverty line, making them eligible to receive SNAP benefits.

    In September 2013, Politico reported that Fox distributed copies of its misleading food stamp special to members of Congress during the August recess, and Fox's portrayal of Greenslate was prominently featured in GOP talking points. When Congress reconvened, conservatives in the House voted to cut $39 billion from the program. According to NBC News, food insecurity has been exacerbated by the cuts to program and have left many Americans unable to feed their families:

    "The recession has subsided for most Americans but it still hasn't subsided for low-income Americans. Their situation just has not improved," he said, adding that it was "probably worse now" because a temporary funding boost in 2009 to the key government food aid program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) was allowed to lapse by Congress last year.

    "It seems like we are stacking the deck against" low-income people, said Everett, who was recently named to the congressional National Commission on Hunger. "We're missing rungs at the bottom of the (economic) ladder to be able to help people to get to the top."

    *Number has been updated for accuracy

  • Media Expert Highlights Problematic Tea Party Ties In Right-Wing Talk Radio

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Media consultant Holland Cooke highlighted the deceptive advocacy of right-wing talk radio hosts on behalf of sponsors such as tea party groups, arguing that listeners "might not understand that free speech had a price tag."

    In a piece titled "The tea party radio network," Politico highlighted the relationship between conservative talk radio shows and tea party non-profit groups who often act as sponsors of the shows. The report "found that conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012." 

    On the April 17 segment on MSNBC's The Ed Show, Ed Schultz hosted talk radio consultant Holland Cooke and Ken Vogel, a co-author of the Politico piece. Vogel pointed out that the nature of right-wing radio's sponsorship "begs the question 'where does the line between the core ideological beliefs of the host end and where does the paid sponsorship start?'" Cooke pointed out that the conservative radio advertising landscape had shifted after Rush Limbaugh's notorious attacks on Sandra Fluke caused an advertiser boycott, due in large part to groups like Flush Rush, and explained that sponsors are often "treated like a news source," leaving many listeners not realizing that they are even listening to ads: