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Brian Powell

Author ››› Brian Powell
  • Glenn Beck: Hospitalized Heinz Kerry May Be Faking

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Glenn Beck launched a sordid smear campaign against Teresa Heinz Kerry, the hospitalized wife of Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing her and the State Department of orchestrating her medical scare to divert public attention away from reports about the whereabouts of her husband during Egypt's most recent transition of power. In a pair of cheap shots on his radio program and web show, Beck speculated that Heinz Kerry is lying and drew an institutional connection between what he baselessly suggests is Heinz Kerry's fake injury and the 2012 concussion suffered by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which Beck referred to at the time as a "scam."

    On July 3, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was deposed by the country's military leaders amidst popular protests. That same day, CBS reported that one of its producers had spotted Secretary Kerry aboard a yacht in the Nantucket Boat Basin. The State Department denied the allegations, and noted that Kerry was "working all day and on the phone dealing with the crisis in Egypt."

    Four days later on July 7, 74-year-old Heinz Kerry, Kerry's wife, was hospitalized with symptoms of a seizure that left her in critical condition. Doctors upgraded her condition to "fair" on Monday morning. 

    On his radio show, Beck compared Heinz Kerry's hospitalization to that of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a blood clot, which he suggested was orchestrated to distract the press from the Benghazi attacks. Beck called the State Department's denial of Kerry's whereabouts a "huge scandal" and wondered if Heinz Kerry's injury -- which took place four days after Morsi's ouster -- was also orchestrated as a distraction, asking "You expect me to believe that Mrs. Ketchup is in critical condition? I mean, no offense, maybe she is." Beck then compared Heinz Kerry's medical scare to Clinton's in 2012, wondering of Clinton's treatment, "Was that just a scam?"

    Beck repeated his accusation on his web show, saying of Clinton's hospitalization and treatment, "I didn't believe that. That was to get out of Benghazi." He equated this with Heinz Kerry, adding:

    BECK: I mean, I wish Teresa Heinz Kerry the best. But I find it fascinating that she is in critical condition this weekend after the State Department was caught in a lie. The same day the State Department is caught in a massive, massive lie,  the same the press is no longer asking anybody about that, because Teresa Heinz is now in the hospital. So, you can't ask any tough questions. This government has zero credibility.

    Beck has a history of capitalizing on his media presence to lob attacks against powerful women during their most vulnerable moments. In December, when Clinton first sustained a concussion, Beck ridiculed her and asked whether Clinton's injury was a "scam," claiming, "She shouldn't be President of the United States if she's going into the hospital for some sort of heart condition or brain condition or whatever she was in the hospital for."

    Other right-wing media figures joined in mocking Clinton's injury. Several pundits on Fox News Channel accused Clinton of faking her injury in order to avoid testifying before Congress about the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

  • Fox News' Jesse Watters Mocks Immigrant Taxi Drivers

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    A Fox News segment billed as an effort to uncover the opinions of New York City taxi drivers on immigration reform repeatedly mocked non-white immigrants' national origin and ability to speak English.

    The July 1 video package, part of a recurring segment on The O'Reilly Factor dubbed "Watters' World," featured clips of Fox contributor and O'Reilly producer Jesse Watters conducting man on the street interviews with cab drivers. Fox host Bill O'Reilly described the impetus for the segment, saying, "Many immigrants, both legal and illegal, drive taxi cabs. So we sent Watters out to check out that situation."

    The package interspersed brief clips of the interviewees, all of whom spoke with accents, with clips of movie characters who were often shown repeating the same phrase in a comedic accent. The characters, like Jim Carrey's Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber or Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat Sagdiyev in Borat!, were juxtaposed with the drivers in an unflattering manner that served only to ridicule their accents, the perceived depth of their comments, or their home country. At one point, Watters asked a participant, "Let me see your papers. I'm kidding around, I believe you."

    After the package played, O'Reilly questioned whether there were any women featured. Watters responded, "There was the one babe, with the red dress ... the nicest dressed taxi cab driver I've ever seen."

    Watters routinely misinforms Fox viewers and has a history of controversial comments that includes Watters asking, "Is there a Muslim problem in the world?"

  • Limbaugh Declares "All The Gay Issues Are Behind Us"

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Rush Limbaugh ignored the various obstacles the LGBT community continues to face, from employment discrimination to the ability to use public accommodations, when he declared that "all the gay issues are behind us" in wake of Wednesday's Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality.

    The Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v. United States on June 26 struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied married same-sex couples the benefits and protections afforded to married couples under federal law.

    Limbaugh responded to the news by stating, "With all of today's Supreme Court decisions on all of the gay issues, all the fatwas, we had DOMA, we had Proposition 8, so now all the gay issues are behind us ... So now the gays are free to turn out and support Republicans now."

    Later in his show, Limbaugh claimed, "For all of human history, marriage was that between a man and a woman. And everything was hunky-doory. Everything was fine ... Then all of a sudden one day, homosexuals decided that it wasn't fair. That they couldn't get married. So they began to agitate and stir things up."

    Of course, despite Wednesday's decisions, the struggle for equality under the law is ongoing for the LGBT community, and the status of equality in America is anything but "hunky-dory." Here are a few of the unresolved challenges gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people continue to face in the wake of Windsor:

    • Federal Law Does Not Prohibit Housing Discrimination On The Basis Of Sexual Orientation Or Gender Identity...
    • ...And Over Half Of U.S. States Offer No Protection From Housing Discrimination, Either.
    • Federal Law Does Not Prohibit Discrimination When Providing Access To Public Accommodations Like Restaurants, Parks, Hotels, and Buses.
    • LGBT People Face Discrimination And Other Barriers To Accessing Health Care.
    • Most States Do Not Have Laws Allowing Same-Sex Parents To Adopt Children - Six States Outright Ban Them.

    This is by no means a comprehensive list.

    Limbaugh's revisionist history and dismissive attitude toward the status of equal standing of his fellow listeners came as many others in the right-wing media sphere decried today's Supreme Court decisions as paving the way for the legalization of "incest and bestiality." 

  • Glenn Beck Defends Paula Deen

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Conservative commentator Glenn Beck ran to the defense of celebrity chef Paula Deen's right to use racial slurs without fear of being fired from her lucrative deals with the Food Network, QVC, and others. Deen came under fire after she admitted to using the racial slur on several occasions. Beck claimed her critics were engaging in "McCarthyism" and described Deen's words as "violations of political correctness, nothing more."

    Deen is being sued by Lisa T. Jackson, a manager at Deen's restaurants in Georgia, over allegations of sexual and racial harassment. A deposition from the proceedings revealed that Deen repeatedly used racial slurs and other offensive language. From The Daily Beast:

    In her testimony, Deen admits to using the N-word, reveals her ambivalence towards people watching pornography at a place of work, and--the arguably racist, definitely bizarre bit that's made headlines Wednesday--details the Southern plantation wedding of her dreams, in which black waiters serve guests slave-style.

    In the aftermath of the deposition's release to the public, Deen issued a recorded apology. The Food Network announced that her contract will not be renewed, and QVC -- the home shopping network -- is reviewing their business relationship with Deen.

    On his June 24 web show, Beck used the backlash against Deen as a platform to rant about what he believes is the active destruction of Constitutional principles, arguing that attacks on Deen over the content of her speech are symptomatic of the nation's decline. Remarkably, Beck invoked the name of African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. to defend Deen's use of racial slurs and attack the use of public boycotts -- a tactic King and others utilized to great effect during the civil rights movement.

  • AP's Hostess Comeback Story Ignores Context About Company's Expiration

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    The Associated Press ignored significant context about the role of organized labor in its report on the comeback of Hostess brands and the iconic Twinkie snack. The article privileged attacks from executives claiming unions were to blame for the company's demise while ignoring a history of union concessions, executive pay raises, and financial mismanagement that paint a different picture about the Twinkie's temporary expiration.

    The AP reported Sunday that Hostess Brands LLC, a trimmed-down version of the defunct Hostess Brands Inc., is aiming to have Twinkies and other well-known Hostess brand products back on store shelves by July 15. The story noted that Hostess went bankrupt "after an acrimonious fight with its unionized workers" and described in he-said-she-said fashion how the company ultimately failed:

    Hostess Brands Inc. was struggling for years before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in early 2012. Workers blamed the troubles on years of mismanagement, as well as a failure of executives to invest in brands to keep up with changing tastes. The company said it was weighed down by higher pension and medical costs than its competitors, whose employees weren't unionized.

    To steer it through its bankruptcy reorganization, Hostess hired restructuring expert Greg Rayburn as its CEO. But Rayburn ultimately failed to reach a contract agreement with its second largest union. In November, he blamed striking workers for crippling the company's ability to maintain normal production and announced that Hostess would liquidate.


    The trimmed-down Hostess Brands LLC has a far less costly operating structure than the predecessor company. Some of the previous workers were hired back, but they're no longer unionized.

    The article's depiction of the company's fall omits crucial context and leaves readers with the impression that the act of discarding union workers is what allowed the "trimmed-down" company to re-emerge. The AP did not tell readers that, just three years prior to Mr. Rayburn's negotiations with labor, union workers made "substantial concessions" to aid the company's financial health, or that Hostess stopped contributing to workers' pensions and cut wages and benefits "by 27 to 32 percent."

  • Fox Cuts Away From Obama's Berlin Speech To Cover Tea Party Protests

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Fox News broke from other cable networks when it cut away from President Obama's speech in Berlin to host a panel previewing planned tea party protests in Washington, D.C.

    Fifty years after President Kennedy delivered his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech on the front line of the Cold War, President Obama kicked off a series of German events celebrating the 1963 address with a speech of his own. MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News each covered the speech live. But while MSNBC and CNN aired Obama's remarks to their conclusion, Fox cut away early in order to discuss tea party protests planned in Washington, D.C. the same day.

    After cutting to a commercial break, Fox News ignored the remainder of the president's speech, opting instead to host a panel to discuss the significance of the tea party's rally against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Following that segment, Fox News covered wildfires in Colorado and an NFL player suspected of murder, all while their cable news peers continued to cover the president's address from Berlin.

    Obama received criticism from Fox for speaking in Germany as a U.S. senator in 2008. Then in 2009, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Fox News personalities criticized Obama for failing to give a speech in Berlin. Fox contributor Monica Crowley even accused the president of being "very reluctant to stand up for the values on which America is based and the values on which we stand."

    Fox News' promotion of anti-IRS tea party rallies is not surprising. The network has a history of pushing misinformation regarding the recent allegations of improper IRS scrutiny of conservative groups and has a storied history of propping up the tea party during the movement's infancy.

  • Rush Limbaugh: Conservatives Don't Suppress The Black Vote, Restrict Women's Choice, Or Lie

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Displaying a remarkable lack of self-awareness, Rush Limbaugh tried to convince a caller that "it's a pretty safe bet" that liberals always lie and conservatives never do -- an assertion he backed up with a series of his own lies on everything from abortion to minority vote suppression and the IRS.

    On the June 18 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh addressed a caller who expressed interest in hearing both sides -- liberal and conservative -- of any given debate before coming to his own conclusion on the issue. Limbaugh chastised the caller for informing himself in this manner, telling him, "The liberals lie. I do not form my opinions on what both sides say. I form my opinions on what I know to be right." Limbaugh concluded that it's a "pretty safe bet" that liberals are always lying, while conservatives don't lie. In his attempts to prove his theory, Limbaugh turned to some misinformation of his own on the subject of abortion and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

  • Rush Limbaugh Gets Schooled On "Abortion Pill" Myth

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Rush Limbaugh mischaracterized the effects of the emergency contraceptive pill known as Plan B while lecturing listeners on the "cultural decay" caused by the pill's accessibility to teenage girls. Limbaugh repeatedly referred to the pill as an "abortion pill," describing details of the contraceptive's process that defied reality and displayed a complete misunderstanding of basic female anatomy on the part of the conservative radio host.

    On June 10, the Obama administration announced it would drop its insistence on age restrictions for the sale of Plan B, paving the way for consumers of any age to purchase the emergency contraceptive without a prescription.

    The next day, Limbaugh addressed a caller who challenged the host's repeated assertions that Plan B caused abortions. Limbaugh initially accepted the caller's accurate assertion that the pill does not terminate pregnancies of any kind, with the caveat that the pill promoted teenage sex and "cultural decay" regardless of this fact.

    But after a commercial break, Limbaugh recanted, falsely claiming that the pill does in fact terminate pregnancy, if pregnancy is established at the moment of fertilization rather than at the moment a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall.

    "Plan B prevents the egg from implanting," said Limbaugh. "It does not prevent conception." He continued describing Plan B's interactions, claiming it "delays the release of the fertilized egg to the uterus."

    In fact, emergency contraceptives like Plan B prevent fertilization, not implantation, and in no way terminate pregnancy.

  • Erick Erickson's Latest Sexist Tirade Draws Outrage

    ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Fox contributor Erick Erickson drew outrage from conservatives and liberals alike over a series of sexist comments, in which he lamented an increase in the number of female breadwinners in the United States and argued that males should be dominant in human societies because "the male typically is the dominant role" in "the natural world."