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Hannah Groch-Begley

Author ››› Hannah Groch-Begley
  • Wash. Post Recasts Rand Paul As Civil Rights Ally, Forgetting Their Own Reporting

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    Rand Paul

    The Washington Post reporter Dan Balz portrayed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) as a key figure who can help GOP outreach to racial minorities, following Paul's criticism of Ferguson, Mo., law enforcement and their role in the Michael Brown killing. But Balz ignored Paul's previous opposition to the Civil Rights Act, despite having reported on it in 2010.

    In his August 14 article, Balz highlighted Paul's opinion piece in Time decrying the response of Missouri police to protests in the wake of the police shooting of the 18-year-old Brown. Paul acknowledged in his piece that race skews "the application of criminal justice in this country" and criticized the "militarization of our law enforcement" -- which Balz characterized as "a shift away" from typical conservative rhetoric. According to Balz, Paul's acknowledgement of racial disparities in particular "sets him apart from others in his party," allowing him to help expand the GOP's base (emphasis added):

    Paul is a prospective 2016 presidential candidate and the leading proponent of libertarian philosophy among elected officials. In Ferguson, he has found circumstances almost tailor-made to advance his worldview. In doing so, he continues to set himself apart from others in the Republican Party with the hope of expanding the party's coalition and advancing his own political future.

    In this case, he blames the militarization of local police on big government and especially Washington's willingness to provide such materiel to local communities. His comments on race mark another moment in which he is trying to show an openness to the issues affecting African Americans that sets him apart from others in his party. 

    But in 2010 Balz himself reported that Paul had "embarrassed the GOP establishment" by "questioning parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act."

    In an interview while running for his Kentucky Senate seat, Paul had said that while he supported portions of the Act, particularly in regards to ending discrimination by the government, he also believed "in freedom" and "private ownership." When asked if "it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworth's," Paul responded that such action would be "abhorrent" but implied he would support the private owner's right to discriminate.

    Racial discrimination by private actors is prohibited by both Title II and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

  • Fox Host Defends Calling Michelle Obama Fat

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    Keith Ablow

    Fox News host Keith Ablow defended his attack on First Lady Michelle Obama's weight, telling Politico that it was "hypocrisy" for her to act as a "role model" on diet when she "has not been consistently a picture of fitness."

    Ablow came under fire for his comments on the August 12 edition of Fox's Outnumbered, where he argued that Michelle Obama is not a credible voice on school nutrition because "she needs to drop a few" pounds. Even one of Ablow's colleagues at Fox, Janice Dean, criticized his remarks, tweeting "please keep your comments about women 'dropping a few' to yourself."

    Nevertheless the next day Ablow told Politico that he was "not taking food advice from an American who dislikes America" and "has not been consistently a picture of fitness":

    "I do dislike hypocrisy and I really do believe that people speaking about diet should be role models themselves, and I'm not sure if the First Lady is that role model," Ablow said in an interview.


    "I'm not taking food advice from an American who dislikes America, who in many photographs during her tenure as First Lady is obviously not fit, and who has a record of saying things that show that she's two-faced," Ablow said Wednesday. "This should be obvious, I don't know why it isn't."

    Ablow is standing by his comments and saying that people "should be less sensitive about talking about [weight]."

    One reason for his criticism, he says, relates to consistency.

    "It happens to be the case that the First Lady during her tenure has not been consistently a picture of fitness," he said. "That's all, it is just a fact."

    Michelle Obama has made fighting childhood obesity a cornerstone of her time in the White House, helping to put in place federal school lunch standards that emphasize healthy eating.

  • Maureen Dowd Reaches Self-Parody: Links Robin Williams' Death To Hillary Clinton Attack


    Maureen Dowd

    UPDATE: In an August 13 blog post, New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal praised Maureen Dowd for the "masterful" analysis in her latest column of a recent Hillary Clinton interview. He did not address the criticism of that column.

    Maureen Dowd's long descent into anti-Clinton self-parody hit a new low last night when she managed to transition from discussing the death of Robin Williams to an attack on Hillary Clinton.

    In her August 12 column following the news that Williams died in an apparent suicide, Dowd opened by recounting an interview she once conducted with the comedian, before abruptly transitioning into an attack on Hillary Clinton (emphasis added):

    As our interview ended, I was telling him about my friend Michael Kelly's idea for a 1-900 number, not one to call Asian beauties or Swedish babes, but where you'd have an amorous chat with a repressed Irish woman. Williams delightedly riffed on the caricature, playing the role of an older Irish woman answering the sex line in a brusque brogue, ordering a horny caller to go to the devil with his impure thoughts and disgusting desire.

    I couldn't wait to play the tape for Kelly, who doubled over in laughter.

    So when I think of Williams, I think of Kelly. And when I think of Kelly, I think of Hillary, because Michael was the first American reporter to die in the Iraq invasion, and Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.

    Dowd's bizarre segue was immediately greeted with widespread ridicule from both conservatives and liberals.

    Conservative website Twitchy -- which Media Matters agrees with very seldomly -- asked, "How does that make any sense whatsoever?" The site also highlighted criticism from numerous pundits, including NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who wondered whether "the New York Times is too embarrassed to edit Maureen Dowd anymore"; Bay Area News Group editor Daniel Jimenez, who called the column "stupefyingly embarrassing" and posited that Dowd was "destroying" the Times' brand; and Forbes contributor Tom Watson, who said the Times should "be ashamed."

    Fox News contributor Mary Katharine Ham, writing for conservative site Hot Air, called Dowd's transition from Williams to Clinton "the most graceless, tacky, incoherent segue in recent memory." Referencing Dowd's ill-fated experiment with edible marijuana, Washington Examiner senior writer Philip Klein wrote, "From now on, I'm just gonna assume that Maureen Dowd writes all her columns from a Denver hotel room." (Examiner colleague Tim Carney replied, "I literally assumed there was an editing error.")

    Several critics noted Dowd's tendency to turn any news event into an attack on the Clintons. Wonkette's Rebecca Schoenkopf called the piece "as glowing an example of Maureen Dowd's Hillary vendetta as any we've seen yet," while Mother Jones' Kevin Drum asked, "I wonder if there's anything left in the world that doesn't remind Dowd of Hillary Clinton?"

    The answer is no. Dowd's bizarre obsession with Hillary Clinton dates back more than two decades, during which she has attacked the former secretary of state and first lady in at least 141 columns. A Media Matters analysis of Dowd's work since 1993 found that the columnist has repeatedly used popular culture references to attack Clinton, managing to link her to everything from the movie The Stepford Wives to a Picasso painting.

  • One Year Later: How A Media Myth Helped Close Half Of Texas Women's Health Clinics

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    A federal trial begins today challenging the medically-unnecessary restrictions on women's health clinics which were passed into Texas law one year ago. The restrictions, which have forced half of Texas clinics to close already, were voted in by lawmakers based on a myth about abortion that the media perpetuated.

    On August 4 a federal trial begins in Austin challenging a Texas law passed last summer which requires abortion clinics in the state to qualify as "ambulatory surgical centers" starting this September. The ambulatory surgical centers requirements say that a clinic must have doorways and hallways of a certain width, and "additional infrastructure like pipelines for general anesthesia and large sterilization equipment." As Mother Jones noted, "These requirements aren't medically necessary for an abortion, and they cost a lot of money to implement."

    Abortion clinics already have safety requirements, according to medical experts there is no evidence that the additional surgical center restriction "positively affects health outcomes," and these requirements could severely reduce the number of clinics. There are more than 13 million women in Texas, but according to the Wall Street Journal, only seven clinics in the entire state currently meet the extra requirements.

    Texas has already lost half of its women's health clinics in the year since the law was passed. Another portion of the law which went into effect last year, and which is currently being appealed, requires doctors who perform abortions to have "admitting privileges" at nearby hospitals. The Texas Medical Board already regulates all physicians in the state, but the requirement forces doctors to also be judged by a nearby hospital -- which some hospitals have refused to do, and which is impossible if there is no hospital within the vicinity.

    The rapidly closing clinics have created a health crisis in Texas, leaving millions of women hundreds of miles away from accessing basic health services, and forcing many to resort to using unsafe and illegal procedures. The crisis is not just on lawmakers' hands, however; it was also championed and perpetuated by the media, who failed to investigate an anti-choice myth about the clinics before it was too late.

  • As Murdoch Tries To Buy Time Warner, Two More Charged With Phone Hacking

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    Rupert Murdoch

    Just as News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch was attempting to put scandal behind him and acquire a major media corporation, two more of his former editors were charged with phone hacking while working at his now-shuttered tabloid News of the World.

    According to Reuters, former deputy editor Neil Wallis and former features editor Jules Stenson have been charged with "conspiracy to intercept voicemails on mobile phones of well-known figures or people close to them." The tabloid's widespread hacking of the voicemails and phones of crime victims, celebrities, politicians, and British royalty in order to find fodder for stories became major international news after it was reported that News of the World had accessed the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered teenager.

    Murdoch was forced to shutter News of the World in 2011 when the scandal broke, and his company News Corp. has admitted that they have paid out millions in legal fees relating to the scandal. In June, former editor Andy Coulson was found guilty of conspiring to intercept communications at the end of a lengthy trial, though his fellow News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner were acquitted at the time.

    Meanwhile, Murdoch's other company, 21st Century Fox (which owns Fox TV and Fox News), is trying to take over Time Warner, which would make it one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. However, his initial offer of $80 billion was rejected, and voices in media have suggested that putting the phone-hacking scandal behind him is key to his ability to expand and maintain his empire.

    Now that more charges have emerged reminding the media of his past ethical blunders, whether such a risky merger could go forward remains to be seen.

  • Conservatives Fabricate Hillary Clinton Embrace Of Bush Foreign Policy

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    Hillary Clinton On CNN

    Conservative media are cherry-picking Hillary Clinton's recent praise of President Bush's work on HIV/AIDS relief in Africa to suggest she was embracing Bush's leadership and distancing herself from President Obama. But in the same interview Clinton issued a sharp rebuke of Bush's record and offered support for Obama's foreign policy initiatives. 

    On the July 27 edition of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, Clinton briefly noted President Bush's work on HIV/AIDS relief in Africa, saying "whether you agree or disagree with a lot of what else he did -- and I disagree with a lot of it -- I am proud to be an American when I go to Sub-Saharan Africa and people say, I want to thank President Bush and the United States for, you know, helping us fight HIV/AIDS."

    Right-wing media immediately fixated on the comment, misleadingly framing it as a rebuke of Obama. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy called it a "shocking confession," asking if Clinton was "trying to distance herself from her former boss." Fox host Bret Baier agreed with Doocy, calling it a "subtle dig" and claiming she was "in essence, criticizing the current administration." The Washington Times concurred with the headline, "Hillary swats aside Obama."

    Washington Times headline:

    But in the same CNN interview, Clinton issued a sharp criticism of Bush's foreign policy record while defending Obama administration initiatives.

    On Iraq, Clinton said she had given President Bush "too much of the benefit of the doubt," and that his decisions had taught her "to be far more skeptical of what I'm told by presidents" (emphasis added):

    CLINTON: I had worked closely with President Bush after the attack on 9/11. I supported his efforts to go after bin Laden and al Qaeda and, by extension, the Taliban, which were sheltering them in Afghanistan. And I, frankly, gave him too much of the benefit of the doubt. My view at the time -- and this is still true today -- is that the threat of force can often create conditions to resolve matters, and sometimes what we call coercive diplomacy is necessary. And I thought that that's what the president would do. It turned out not to be the case. And then following the invasion, the decisions that were made, everything from disbanding the military and disbanding, you know, the political structure turned out to be very ill-advised and we ended up with a dangerous situation, which then, you know, the Americans did not convince Maliki to allow a follow-on force that might have given us some ability to prevent Maliki from beginning to undermine the unity of Iraq. 

    She also stood by many of Obama's foreign policy choices. She noted that she supported the Obama administration negotiations with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which failed only after Maliki refused terms with the U.S. When asked if Obama was handling the current crisis in the Ukraine appropriately, Clinton noted that the president was facing "the same challenges that American presidents face when dealing with threats within Europe," and urged allies to fully participate with the president's efforts. And she defended the president from Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer's claim that Obama is not focusing enough on global issues (emphasis added):

    ZAKARIA: Charles Krauthammer, a conservative critic, has said the world is going to hell and President Obama is playing golf. Is he playing too much golf while all these crises are popping up? 

    CLINTON: No. I think that's an unfair comment to make. I know from my own experience with the president where we work so closely together, and as I write in the book, you know, went from being adversaries to partners, to friends, that he is constantly working and thinking. But he also wants to do what will make a difference, not just perform. He wants to be sure that we know what the consequences, both intended and unintended are. 

    Moreover, contrary to the suggestion that praise for Bush's record on HIV/AIDS relief is an implicit and noteworthy criticism of Obama, Obama himself has also lauded Bush's work in Africa, saying he deserves "enormous credit." Obama told ABC News that AIDS relief was one of Bush's "crowning achievements ... Because of the commitment of the Bush administration and the American people, millions of people's lives have been saved." Former President Bill Clinton has also praised Bush's work in this area back in 2012, noting that the relief efforts "saved the lives of millions of people." 

  • The Worst Part Of Paul Ryan's Poverty Plan Is Based On A Media Myth


    Rep. Paul Ryan's poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals' "spirit" and personal life choices. Experts say poverty is the result of systemic inequality and lack of opportunity.

  • Shameless Sean Hannity's Photo-Op Flip-Flop

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    Fox News' Sean Hannity is currently visiting the Texas border and criticizing President Obama for not doing so during the developing humanitarian crisis. But in 2012, when President Obama visited regions devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Hannity lashed out at the president for his "photo-op" trip.

    On July 9, President Obama visited Texas, meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) and local officials to discuss the administration's response to the crisis and called on Congress to approve billions in emergency aid funding for the region. But Obama chose not to visit the Texas border with Mexico to view the developing refugee crisis, in which thousands of children are fleeing violence in Central America. At a news conference he explained: "There is nothing taking place down there that I'm not intimately aware of and briefed on. This isn't theater. This is a problem. I'm not interested in photo ops. I'm interested in solving the problem."

    Conservatives attacked Obama for his comments, often falsely suggesting that he had expressed a broad aversion to doing photo-ops in general.

    In response, Hannity, who is touring the border with Perry in preparation for a special edition of his Fox News program, tweeted asking "shouldn't the president be down here too?" He also tweeted photos showing himself traveling with Texas Highway Patrol gunships on the Rio Grande, which look for drug cartels along the border, and posing with the Governor and several guns:

    Based on past precedent, if Obama had actually toured the border, Hannity would have criticized him for that as well.

  • Nine Military Officers Demolish Fox's Benghazi "Stand Down" Order Fable

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    Stand downNewly released transcripts of congressional testimony from nine military officers confirmed that no "stand down" order was issued during the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, again debunking Fox News' constantly-cited myth.

    The Associated Press reported July 10 that previously classified testimony given to Congress from the military officers "undermines contentions by Republican lawmakers that a 'stand-down order' held back military assets that could have saved the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed at a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya." Instead, the military officers confirmed that the Special Operations team of four who were in Tripoli that night "were instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. The senior military officer who issued the instruction to 'remain in place' and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized."

    This new testimony confirms previous reports that debunked the false claim that someone in the Obama administration or military had denied assistance to Americans at the diplomatic facilities in Benghazi the night of the terrorist attacks. Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson, the former commander of a four-member Army Special Forces unit in Tripoli, Libya, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both told congressional committees over a year ago that no stand down order was given. Multiple CIA senior officers have repeatedly denied the false charge. In early 2014, a House Armed Services Committee report and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report put the myth to rest.

    As Media Matters previously noted, Fox News was a primary force behind the false "stand down" story claim. Just a month after the attacks they repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration had made a "political decision" to allow Americans to be killed, and pushed variations on the false "stand down" narrative in 85 primetime segments in the following months. The network has continued to push the myth long after it was debunked, citing questions of why military aid was supposedly withheld as a rationale for the establishment of the House select committee on Benghazi.

    A six-member quick reaction team and 60 Libyan militiamen in Benghazi responded to the attack, and reinforcements from the embassy in Tripoli arrived the same night. 

  • The Daily Caller's Menendez Smear May Have Come From The Castro Regime

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    Tucker Carlson, Daily Caller Editor-in-Chief

    The Daily Caller may have been duped by the Cuban government when they published a series of stories accusing Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) of allegedly patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, according to new allegations. The Daily Caller previously came under fire for not sufficiently scrutinizing the story before running with it on their front page.

    The Washington Post reported on July 7 that Menendez's lawyer sent a letter to the Justice Department asserting that Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence pushed the false claims in an unsuccessful effort to derail Menendez's reelection campaign. The senator is "one of Washington's most ardent critics of the Castro regime," according to the Post.

    A former U.S. official also told the Post that the CIA has "obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims." According to the intelligence information, the Cuban agents helped create a fake tipster named "Pete Williams," who told FBI agents and others that Menendez had solicited prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. The Post noted, however, that there "was no indication that the information gathered by U.S. intelligence officials alleging Cuba's role in the Menendez case had been fully investigated or proved."

    The charges against Menendez were first touted by The Daily Caller in November 2012, which relied on the testimony of two alleged Dominican prostitutes who claimed Menendez had paid them. Matt Boyle, the reporter behind the first Daily Caller story, now writes for Breitbart News.

    Fox News aggressively hyped the uncorroborated allegations during at least 22 segments in the following months, according to a search of the Nexis database.

    The story began to disintegrate, however, when the Post reported that one of the women had recanted her story and claimed in an affidavit that she was paid to lie about the senator. The FBI has also reportedly found no evidence backing up the tipster's claims, or even linking his emails "back to a real person."