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Libby Watson

Author ››› Libby Watson
  • Fox Hosts Outraged At Non-Citizen Voting In D.C., Where U.S. Citizens Lack Voting Rights

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    Outnumbered

    Fox's Outnumbered roundly denounced a proposal that would allow permanent residents in the District of Columbia to vote in local elections, lamenting that it undermines the notion of American citizenship while ignoring that D.C. citizens do not have a vote in Congress.

    On July 8, D.C. legislators discussed a bill that would allow U.S. permanent residents, or green card holders, the right to vote in local elections. According to WAMU, advocates of the proposal suggest the measure would give a "formal voice" to permanent residents who already pay taxes.

    Discussing the bill on the July 10 edition of Outnumbered, host Sandra Smith remarked that "[y]ou are not an American citizen so you don't have the right to vote. Period." Andrea Tantaros agreed, calling  D.C.'s measure "lunacy" as Harris Faulker claimed that her "sensibilities are offended by the fact that we don't at least respect where we come from." Fox contributor Julie Roginsky went on to ask "[w]hat does it mean to be an American citizen if not that you have the privilege of voting for the representative government that you want?"

    But Roginsky's question ignores that all residents of the District of Columbia, citizen and non-citizen alike, are not represented by a voting member of Congress. D.C. is represented in Congress by a non-voting delegate, currently Eleanor Holmes-Norton, who cannot vote on the House floor. DC Vote, a group that advocates for D.C. voting rights, points out that citizens in the District "pay federal taxes, fight and die in wars, and serve on juries, yet are denied voting representation in Congress," and that Congress has the final say over their laws. According to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, over 600,000 people live in DC -- more than the state of Wyoming-- and its residents pay $1.6 billion in federal taxes each year.

  • Daily Caller Headline: "Barack Obama, Wife Beater"

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    Conservative blog The Daily Caller posted an article with the headline: "Barack Obama, Wife Beater."

    The July 1 post, posted just before midnight with an anonymous "Daily Caller contributor" byline, featured just five words -- "He's wearing a wife beater" -- accompanied by two pictures of President Obama, in which a "wife-beater" sleeveless shirt is visible under his white dress shirt. The headline read "Barack Obama, Wife Beater." 

    As of Thursday morning, the piece was featured on The Daily Caller's homepage. 

  • "The End Of America As We Know It": Conservative Media React To Supreme Court's Health Care Decision

    Right-Wing Commentators Savage Chief Justice Roberts As "Scumbag," "Disgrace" For Preserving Affordable Health Care For Millions

    ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS, ALEXANDREA BOGUHN & LIBBY WATSON

    Conservative media were outraged after the Supreme Court ruled to uphold health insurance tax credits for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), just as Congress intended.

  • Fox's Scramble To Make The Charleston Shooting About Religion, Not Race

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    Fox News' immediate response to the deadly shooting at a black Charleston church was to repeatedly push the prospect that the massacre was a religious hate crime, rather than a racially motivated one.

    At around 9 p.m. on June 17, a white man named Dylann Roof entered a prayer service at the historic black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and murdered nine black people with a gun. Roof is said to have left one witness alive, to "tell the story of what had happened," and reports soon surfaced that Roof told his victims, ranging in age from 26 to 87, that "you rape our women and are taking over our country, and you have to go." Charleston police chief Gregg Mullen was quick to describe the shooting as a hate crime, calling the crime "senseless" in a news conference that same evening.

    The church was founded in 1816, and after a founding member of the church, Denmark Vesey, organized a slave revolt in 1822, the church was burned in retaliation. One of the shooting victims, state senator and pastor Clementa Pinckney, previously said, "This site, this area, has been tied to the history and life of African Americans since about the early 1800s."

    On the morning after the shooting, Fox News' coverage scrambled to suggest the shooting may not have been racially-motivated, but was perhaps a religious hate crime.

    Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy stated that it was extraordinary the massacre was being labeled a hate crime, positing, "It was a church, so maybe that's what they're talking about" and citing "hostility towards Christians." Guest Bishop E. W. Jackson agreed that "most people jump to conclusions about race," and that "we don't know why he went into a church, but he didn't choose a bar" or "basketballc ourt." Later, frequent Fox guest and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani theorized that "we don't know the motivation of the person who did this," saying "maybe he hates Christian churches." And later that day on Fox News Radio, Brian Kilmeade speculated that maybe the shooter "hates Christian churches" or possibly just the state of South Carolina. 

    After Dylann Roof was arrested, he reportedly confessed to investigators that his motivation for the shooting was to "start a race war." Additional evidence emerged of his racist, white supremacist beliefs -- A Facebook photo showed Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and the former nation of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, which have been "adopted as emblems by modern-day white supremacists." And friend of Roof's said that he "was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites," and that he wanted to "start a civil war."

    Fox has a long history of concocting alternative explanations for events others see as examples of racism and its effects. When Eric Garner died at the hands of police in Staten Island last year, Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Greg Gutfeld blamed New York's high cigarette taxes for leading Eric Garner to sell black market cigarettes, the crime for which police were arresting him when he was killed; Hannity described it as the "root cause" of his death. Host Bill O'Reilly has attributed the disproportionate imprisonment of black people to "the culture" in "ghetto neighborhoods," while contributor Geraldo Rivera once said that Trayvon Martin's hoodie was "as much to blame" for his death as George Zimmerman was. And Fox host Eric Bolling has said he simply doesn't "think there's racism" in America, because we have a black president. 

  • New Wash. Post Poll Confirms One In Five Women Is Sexually Assaulted On Campus, Despite Right-Wing Media's Denial

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    A poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 20 percent of women who attended college in the past four years were sexually assaulted, contrary to claims in the right-wing media that the problem of campus sexual assault is overblown. 

    The poll of 1,053 men and women, conducted by phone between January and March, found that 20 percent of women and five percent of men reported being sexually assaulted either by force or while incapacitated. A further 11 percent of women reported an attempted assault.

    The poll also underlined the problem of under-reporting in sexual assault cases, with three-quarters of victims saying they told someone else, but only 11 percent saying they told the police or college authorities. 89 percent said no one was held responsible or punished for the incident.

    Men and women in the poll were sharply divided on what they perceive to be the rate of campus sexual assault, too: "58 percent of men believe the share of women sexually assaulted at their school is less than 1 in 5. An identical majority of women believe the share assaulted is 1 in 5 or greater." 

    The Post story highlighted the stories of some of the women who were given follow-up interviews:

    A 21-year-old at a public university in the Southeast who participated in the poll said she was raped by a male student who escorted her out of a nightclub after she suddenly became woozy and separated from a group of friends. Someone, she suspects, had slipped a drug into her rum drink.

    "In the morning, I woke up and my lip was so swollen," the woman said. "I just remember sobbing and sobbing and sobbing the next day. You learn a lot of lessons."

    Like most who said they had been assaulted, the woman did not report the incident to university officials or police. She said she worried about whether she would ruin the man's future and wondered what to make of what had happened: Had there been a misunderstanding? Should she have been more vehement in saying no? She remembers clearly crying during the attack. She knew it was rape. But how would others see it?

    Many in the right-wing media have downplayed concerns about college sexual assault. Previous studies with similar findings caused widespread outrage among right-wing media figures when the White House cited them in its campus sexual assault strategy launch, with the Daily Caller describing a Centers for Disease Control study that found one in five women is sexually assaulted in college as "bizarre and wholly false." On an NRA News show, The Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow claimed that the "one in five myth" was driving "hysteria" on campuses. And Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the issue of college sexual assault "fake" and "made up."

    Last year, the Post's own George Will described efforts to combat such assaults as an attempt to "make victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege," calling a 20 percent assault rate "preposterous."  Not long after the poll's publication, the Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted that he was removing the single "Pinocchio" that he had given President Obama for his citation of the one-in-five statistic.

  • Fox's Doocy Parrots RNC Talking Point To Attack Clinton's Support Of Early Voting

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    Fox host Steve Doocy parroted a Republican National Committee (RNC) attack on Hillary Clinton's voting rights proposals, without disclosing the source.

    In a June 4 speech at Texas Southern University, a historically black college, Hillary Clinton proposed significant voting law reforms, including universal automatic voter registration and at least 20 days of early voting. The Washington Post reported that  Clinton criticized Republican support for policies that disenfranchise voters, saying: "Today Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting." 

    On the June 5 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy took issue with Hillary Clinton's focus on voting rights (emphasis added):

    DOOCY: But what's interesting is, remember she was the U.S. senator from the state of New York which is a Democrat state. And yet New York does not allow early voting while dozens of Republican-led states do. So, I mean if she's going to be talking about voting, how about early voting in New York, Madam Secretary?  

     

    But the Fox & Friends hosts did not acknowledge that Doocy's attack came directly from the RNC. Orlando Watson, the RNC communications director for black media, criticized Clinton on June 4, saying her "shameless attacks ignore the fact her Democrat-led home state of New York does not allow early voting while dozens of Republican-led states do."        

    And as The New York Times noted at the time, Republicans in New York's state legislature opposed the 2013 early voting measure proposed by Democrats to improve the state's low voter turnout (emphasis added):

    All but one Republican voted no. And Senate Republicans are resisting, too. Why? Not, they say, because they want to discourage voting. Their complaint is that early voting would be too expensive for upstate counties. That problem could be addressed by cutting back on the extra hours and adding a little extra state money.

  • Right-Wing Media See "Hysteria Against Cops" As Cause Of Increase In Homicides

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    Media outlets are baselessly linking an increase in murders in Baltimore and other cities to "increased scrutiny" of police, without noting the legitimate reasons why such scrutiny of local police departments is needed. 

    Homicides have spiked in the last month in Baltimore, with 43 killings reported in May, the most in one month since 1971 and the highest monthly per capita rate on record, according to The Baltimore Sun. At the same time, arrests have plummeted, with a WBAL-TV investigation finding arrests have gone down 32 percent since the curfew was lifted, and the Sun reporting arrests in May this year were less than half the number in May last year.

    Several right-wing media figures are attributing these numbers to increased scrutiny of police, and this narrative is seeping into mainstream coverage. On the June 1 edition of Fox & Friends, during an interview with author Kevin Jackson, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle argued that "police are more concerned about their own well-being. They don't want to be arrested or persecuted for just putting on the blue every morning." She added that "when you have individuals like [Baltimore City State's Attorney] Marilyn Mosby going aggressively against the police," this "undermines the ability of law enforcement to keep people in the community safe," linking the increase in homicides to Mosby's decision to charge six Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.

    On the May 31 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, National Review Online contributor Heather Mac Donald similarly claimed the U.S. is "in the grips of a hysteria against cops," saying "cops have gotten the message that they should back off of policing." She faulted the "mainstream media, the university presidents talking about assaults on blacks and of course the president and former attorney general." Mac Donald, who has a history of deeply offensive commentary on race, was discussing her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which she argued that the "most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months." 

    The previous week, National Review editor Rich Lowry also advocated for increased incarceration in response to the spike in violence, and cited anonymous police officers who "say they feel that city authorities don't have their back, understandably enough when city leaders are loath to call rioters 'thugs.'"

    And now the Associated Press is adopting the same language. In a May 31 report on Baltimore homicides, the AP stated that "Some attribute the drop [in arrests] to increased scrutiny of police following the April death of Freddie Gray from injuries received in police custody."  

    Aside from the obvious problem with this argument -- that there is no evidence these feelings attributed to the police have resulted in an increase in murders -- this coverage has also missed a significant reason why people have called for increased scrutiny of police officers since the deaths of men like Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray: the fact that police killings and police brutality disproportionately affect people of color. 

    On May 30, the Washington Post released a study on police killings, which found that two-thirds of unarmed victims of police shootings were minorities, and "blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred." Their figures represent far greater total than the FBI statistics on police killings, which are "widely considered to be misleading and inaccurate": FBI records show about 400 shootings per year, compared to 385 so far this year in the Post's data. Three of the 385 shootings the Post reported on resulted in the officer being charged, or less than one percent. And over the last several years, the Department of Justice has found that numerous local police departments have engaged in a "pattern or practice" of improper discrimination against residents of color, and have disproportionately targeted them for stops and arrests.

    Faced with stark numbers like these, any media outlet should feel compelled to at least contextualize claims of a "hysteria against cops" with this evidence of disproportionate police violence against minorities. 

  • CNN Puts Fox News Coverage Of Police Brutality To Shame In One Segment

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    A segment on the arrest of a pregnant California woman on CNN's New Day demonstrated a stark contrast with Fox News about how to discuss police brutality. 

    California resident Michelle Cooks was arrested for resisting arrest in an elementary school parking lot on January 26. At the time, Cooks was eight months pregnant. The incident was captured on the police officer's body camera after the police had been called by a school employee, who was white, because of an argument with Cooks about her driving in the parking lot. The video shows the officer telling the woman that he did not "see any crime" having been committed, but that he would ask Cooks for her name and her side of the story. According to the Huffington Post

    The officer then asked Cooks for her name and she refused to give it to him.

    "I actually do have the right to ask you for your name," the officer said.

    "Let me make sure," Cooks said, as she proceeded to take out her phone to call her boyfriend.

    The officer agreed to give Cooks two minutes to verify what he told her, but apparently changed his mind, as he only waited about 20 seconds. He and a fellow officer then wrestled Cooks to the ground.

    "Please," Cooks screamed on the video. "I'm pregnant. Please, stop this."

    Cooks was then handcuffed and placed into the back of a police cruiser.

    During a segment on the May 29 edition of CNN's New Day, host Chris Cuomo discussed the arrest with former NYPD detective Harry Houck who defended the officers' actions, saying Cooks should have submitted. Cuomo pointed out that California law doesn't require individuals to give their name to police, unless an officer suspects a crime was committed -- which the video shows was not the case. Cuomo challenged Houck, saying "you are putting it on her when he is the one who did the wrong thing." Watch:

    Cuomo's discussion provides a stark contrast to the way Fox News personalities discuss police brutality and citizen's rights. When discussing the death of unarmed Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, Sean Hannity said that a "simple solution" to avoid death by police was to not "run at 8:30 in the morning when you see a cop." After the death of Eric Garner, who was killed by a police chokehold for selling cigarettes on the street, Fox invited former NYPD officer Bo Dietl who said he used the same chokeholds during arrests he made in New York City.