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Alexandrea Boguhn

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  • Will The Media Stay Silent On Jeb Bush's Dark Money Donations?

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    Recent revelations that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush "has given his tacit endorsement" to a group that will funnel dark money to benefit a potential presidential run raise questions about how the media will respond, given how the press has frequently treated publicly disclosed charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation as a major scandal for Hillary Clinton. 

    Jeb Bush "has given his tacit endorsement" to Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit organization established by a former Bush staff member that shares its name with two Bush affiliated political committees, according to a March 31 report from The Washington Post. The nonprofit allows Bush to side-step campaign finance laws that cap donations from individual donors and require donations to political action committees (PACs) to be publicly reported, permitting "individuals and corporations" to "give as much as they want while remaining anonymous." As noted by the Post, experts now predict that the creation of the "Bush-allied nonprofit" may push other candidates to create similar groups, "injecting more secret money into the political process."

    The media have previously gone to great lengths to scandalize donations to the Clinton Foundation, a global charity, devoting weeks of coverage in order to speculate about the impact of donations to a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run. The criticism has come in spite of the fact that those donations were publicly disclosed by Clintons, whose foundation according to the The Washington Post "goes beyond legal requirements" for transparency at a philanthropic organization. Various media figures baselessly speculated that the donations were "another way in to Clinton's potential campaign" and National Journal's Ron Fournier even asserted that donations to the charitable organization were proof that the Clintons would "cut any corners for campaign cash."

    The press' obsession with Clinton Foundation donations is in direct contrast to their lack of interest in controversial campaign donations to potential 2016 GOP contenders, like dark money donations benefitting Wisconsin Governor and 2016 presidential hopeful Scott Walker. On March 23 Yahoo News reported that the "richest man in Wisconsin" had made over $1.5 million in secret donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a "pro-Walker advocacy group" where Walker helped generate large undisclosed donations. The group also worked to defend him in the 2012 recall election. However, according to a Media Matters analysis, the story went largely unreported by the media.

  • CBS Evening News Misleadingly Compares Indiana's Discriminatory "Religious Freedom" Law To Measures In Other States

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    RFRA reporting

    CBS Evening News falsely claimed that "19 other states" have laws similar to Indiana's controversial new "religious freedom" law -- but as both NBC Nightly News and ABC World News pointed out, the state's new legislation is different in its effects, in part, because the state lacks protections for sexual orientation.

    Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) on March 27, providing a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.

    On the March 30 edition of CBS Evening News, Adriana Diaz reported on the backlash following the passing of the measure, claiming in a March 30 report that "19 other states have similar laws" to the religious freedom law signed by Pence in Indiana" and that "many were passed before gay marriage laws swept the nation."

    But as both NBC and ABC explained during their evening news reports on the newly passed measure, Indiana's "religious freedom" law differs in effect from those passed in several other states because the state lacks protections for LGBT people. As Gabe Gutierrez explained on NBC Nightly News, although 19 other states "have similar laws," Indiana's "is different, in part because there is no statewide non-discrimination law here protecting sexual orientation." On ABC World News, network reporter Gio Benitez also pointed to the lack of protections, reporting that "business owners who want to deny services to gay and lesbian couples" may be able to, unlike the situation in other states "with similar laws in place."

    Indiana's RFRA is also much broader than the RFRAs that have been passed in other states, both because of its expansive definition of a "person" and its criteria for determining who can invoke RFRA as a defense in a legal dispute. As the ACLU of Indiana noted, these differences make Indiana's RFRA "virtually without precedent." Even Fox News anchor Brett Baier dismissed the comparison between Indiana's law and other laws across the country. 

    This post has been updated for clarity.

  • The Daily Show Debunks Right-Wing Media's Favorite Myths On Campus Sexual Assault

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Comedy Central's The Daily Show debunked some of right-wing media's favorite myths about campus sexual assault, highlighting the high levels of the crime occurring at colleges and universities, the low instances of false reporting and the rarity of punishment for those accused.

    During a March 25 interview on The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart spoke with Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, the director and producer of The Hunting Ground, a recently released "exposé of sexual assault on U.S. campuses," and discussed many of the most widespread misconceptions about campus sexual assault. The segment highlighted the harmful implications failing to address the issue has across the country:

    Many of the myths highlighted by The Daily Show are baseless falsehoods that continue to be peddled by right-wing media outlets in order to downplay the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Here are three of right-wing media's favorite myths about campus sexual assaults, debunked:

    MYTH: False Reports Of Sexual Assault Are A Widespread Problem

    Despite a recent push by The Wall Street Journal to highlight men who "say colleges are too quick to believe an alleged victim's testimony," suggesting that false reports of sexual assault are on the rise, instances of false allegations are actually very rare.

    "False reporting of rape is exactly the same as any other crime, and you don't hear people concerned about the false reports of carjacking, or the 2 percent of false reports of burglaries," explained Ziering to Stewart. "But it is statistically not anomalous. That is what everybody needs to keep in mind." Indeed, according to a report by the National Center for the Protection of Violence Against Women, "methodologically rigorous research" has found the rate of false reports to be extremely low -- between 2 and 8 percent.

    MYTH: Efforts To Address Campus Sexual Assault Constitute A "War On Boys" And Men

    Conservative media figures like Fox News' Andrea Tantaros often hold up efforts to address sexual assault as proof of a "war" on men on boys, but many institutions actually favor alleged perpetrators when investigating the crimes.

    As the The Hunting Ground's director Kirby Dick noted, "It is more likely that somebody who is sexually assaulted will leave school than the perpetrator will be kicked out ... A very small percentage of perpetrators are actually kicked out. The numbers are astonishingly low." A national survey conducted for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) supports Dick's assertion, finding that many colleges and universities "afford certain due process elements more frequently to alleged perpetrators than they do to survivors" and that schools often fail to penalize perpetrators.

    MYTH: Claims Of A Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic Are Exaggerated

    After the White House released a report on addresesing campus sexual assault in 2014, conservative media rushed to try to discredit findings that one in five women experience attempted or completed sexual assault while in college. In the time since, media have continuously questioned statistics finding a high prevalence of the crime, with right-wing media figures like Rush Limbaugh going as far as to claim that "it's not happening" at all."

    But as Dick pointed out, "The reality is that rapes are happening at all schools. In epidemic proportions." Numerous organizations have spoken out defending these findings. Right-wing media's efforts to dismiss the epidemic of campus sexual assault further stigmatize a crime that according to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network already goes unreported up to 60% of the time.

  • Right-Wing Media's Debunked Obamacare "Death Panel" Myth Persists

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Right-wing media continue to push the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a "death panel" provision, and years after the birth of this smear, it continues to have an impact on public perception and find its way into Republican legislation.

    When the House first introduced the health care bill that would eventually become the ACA in 2009, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed the bill would "require" end-of-life counseling for seniors to "tell them how to end their life sooner." The baseless claim was later amplified by Sarah Palin and the notion quickly gained steam as the right-wing media echo-chamber championed the idea.

    Despite being conclusively debunked as Politifact's "lie of the year" in 2009, conservative media still persist in trumpeting the death panel lie. In 2014, Fox News' Eric Bolling compared the Veteran Affairs health care system to the ACA, citing them as examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system." He concluded, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is." Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Sean Hannity, and other conservative media outlets trotted out the death panel lie last year as well, in the midst of good news about enrollment and reductions in the nation's rate of uninsured people. 

    The death panel falsehood is still reflected in both the public's perception of the health care law as well as the Republican legislative agenda. As Sarah Kliff explained in a March 23 post for Vox, 26 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats still agree that "a government panel helps make decisions about patients' end-of-life care" is "part of the law."

    vox chart

    The myth even continues to make its way into GOP legislation critical of the health care law. The Washington Post's Stephen Stromberg noted in a March 22 post that despite having been debunked, "the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has hold on the party" and was "written explicitly" into the House GOP's 2016 budget proposal:

    Experts and professional fact-checkers have debunked the notion that the Affordable Care Act would empower a faceless government board to deny critical health-care procedures, the Obama-era equivalent of pushing inconvenient seniors onto ice floes. But the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has a hold on the party, its illogic written explicitly into the House's budget.

    "This budget repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected, unaccountable board of 15 bureaucrats charged with making coverage decisions on Medicare," the document reads.

  • WSJ Recycles Old News To Scandalize Donations From Individual Donors To Clinton Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    The Wall Street Journal is recycling old news to scandalize donations from foreign individuals to the Clinton Foundation by funders who were previously disclosed by the Clintons as early as 2008.

    The Clinton Foundation, a global charity, agreed not to accept donations from foreign governments while Clinton was secretary of state, in order to avoid any possible conflict of interest. The Journal baselessly suggested on March 19, however, that the foundation may have been inappropriately sidestepping this ban by still "raising millions of dollars from foreigners with connections to their home governments" from more than a dozen individuals since Clinton became secretary of state in 2009. The article noted that the donations were for "charitable, not political reasons," but went on to hype "political criticism" over the donations.

    A Fox News panel subsequently used the article to baselessly push that there may be a "conflict of interest" with donations to the Clinton Foundation from these individual donors.

    But this is yet another attempt to recycle old stories in order to sensationalize charitable donations to an organization with global reach.

    The Clintons publically released their donor list in 2008, ahead of Hillary Clinton's confirmation at the State Department which the Journal wrote about at the time. The Journal's 2015 report covers donations to the Clinton Foundation from several of the same foreign individuals referenced in those reports:

    ·         Donations from Victor Dahdaleh were referenced in a December 2008 Journal article.

    ·         Donations from Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi were referenced in a separate December 2008 Journal article.

    ·         Donations from Viktor Pinchuk were referenced in a January 2009 Journal editorial.

    Moreover, many of the donors hyped by the Journal have made numerous charitable contributions to a variety of organizations. For example, Wang Wenliang donated to "Singapore, Harvard and New York Universities as well as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank," as the Journal noted.

  • This Wall Street Journal Report Could Help Perpetuate The Myth Of Widespread False Rape Reports On College Campuses


    Wall Street Journal report on campus sexual assault suggested false accusations of sexual assault are on the rise but failed to explain the rarity of such accusations. What's more, studies show that universities tend to favor accused perpetrators over victims when investigating sexual assault reports, and the myth of widespread false accusations may actually deter victims from reporting assaults to police.

  • Fox News Suggests Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Aren't Real, Cites Anonymous "Independent Expert"

    Network Largely Ignored News Of Major Decline In Uninsured Since The Affordable Care Act Took Effect

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    Fox News cited an unnamed "independent expert" to cast doubt on the veracity of recent Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, which have exceeded 16 million Americans and are reported to have driven the largest reduction in uninsured persons in 40 years.

    On March 16, the Obama administration announced that 16.4 million Americans had enrolled in insurance through the health care law since it took effect. As The New York Times reported "Since the first open enrollment period began in October 2013, the officials said, the proportion of adults lacking insurance has dropped to 13.2 percent, from 20.3 percent."

    But at Fox News, high enrollment numbers and a plummeting rate in those uninsured was barely mentioned. According to a Media Matters count, the network mentioned the 16.4 million Americans who enrolled in health insurance just once in the days following the announcement in an attempt to discredit the findings. On the March 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier briefly reported on the enrollment numbers, offering the unevidenced claim that "an independent expert says the reality is fewer than 10 million people have signed up."

    Fox has consistently downplayed and twisted Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, going as far as to skew on-air graphics to misleadingly suggest less Americans were signing up for insurance through the health care law than had been originally projected.

    UPDATE: The Associated Press reported that the government's numbers differed from those of "an independent expert," who concluded only about 9.7 million people gained insurance. The lower number was based on a survey by Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, who "took into account insurance losses" during some of the years the ACA was in effect.

  • Conservative Media's Double Standard For Former Secretaries Of State On Separation Statements


    Conservative media fabricated perjury charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, demanding to see a copy of a separation form they argued she violated through her use of her personal email. Those same media figures did not demand to see the same form from Colin Powell -- whom State Department officials say did not sign the same form.

  • Limbaugh Claims "Nobody Ever Denies" Ed Klein's Credibility, Despite Previously Calling It Into Question

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    Rush Limbaugh claimed that "nobody ever denies" Ed Klein's credibility, despite having previously called the discredited journalist's sources into question himself.

    Ed Klein dubiously suggested that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett deliberately leaked the Hillary Clinton email story to the media to "sabotage" the possible presidential ambitions of Obama's former secretary of state -- citing anonymous "members of Bill Clinton's camp" and a nameless "source close to the White House" in a March 16 column for the New York Post.

    The same day, Rush Limbaugh highlighted Klein's accusation that Jarrett had leaked the story on Clinton's emails, and asserted Klein's credibility claiming that the author has penned many works on Clinton but that "nobody ever denies his stuff":