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Miles Le

Author ››› Miles Le
  • #WontBeErased: Transgender activists and allies rally against Trump administration's attempt to erase trans people

    Protesters explain why media must include trans voices in their coverage

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & AUDREY BOWLER

    Transgender activists and their allies gathered in front of the White House on Monday to protest the Trump administration's latest attack on transgender rights.

    The New York Times recently uncovered a memo drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services that would severely constrain the legal definition of sex and gender. The proposal suggested key government agencies define gender as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” meaning that gender would be defined as determined by genitalia at birth or through genetic testing.

    This definition, if implemented, would have enormous repercussions for transgender and gender nonconforming people in the United States. It would basically eliminate federal recognition for those 1.4 million people who identify as a gender other than the one listed on their birth certificate.

    Since the news broke, the trans community and their allies have rallied to protest the administration's continued attempts to roll back civil rights protections for LGBTQ, and particularly transgender, Americans.

    Here's what activists had to say about protecting trans rights and the media's role in covering the transgender community, including the need for media to include trans voices in their coverage of LGBTQ issues and talk about the very real ways this will hurt people:

  • "Leftist mob," "hyenas in a bear trap," "ladies, have you no shame?": The right-wing attacks on Kavanaugh protesters are out of control

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE

    Conservative media figures have unleashed relentless attacks on people who are protesting the nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused by multiple women of sexual assault, to the Supreme Court. Right-wing media figures have likened the protesters to deranged monsters, compared them to children, claimed that they are on drugs, called for punitive measures against them, and more.

    Here’s a roundup of the attacks:

  • Brett Kavanaugh lied repeatedly. News reports and personal accounts prove it.

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE, LEANNE NARAMORE & TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is a petulant liar -- about matters large and small -- and he often tells his lies under oath. During his confirmation hearings with Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh’s falsehoods have run the gauntlet from repeatedly lying that Christine Blasey Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted by him has been “refuted” by witnesses, to lying about his behavior in high school and college, to repeatedly lying about the policies he worked on in the Bush administration. Kavanaugh is such a brazen liar that many of his false claims have been entirely refuted by reporting:

    Here are some of Kavanaugh’s lies:

    Kavanaugh repeatedly claimed Ford’s accusation has been “refuted” by others who she said attended the party -- even though the other attendees have said no such thing. Kavanaugh seized on the word “refuted” when responding to Ford’s report, claiming in five instances that the three people who Ford says were at the party when Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her had “refuted” her account. That’s an obvious misrepresentation of what those people have said. They have actually all said that they don’t recall the party in question -- a major difference from saying something didn’t happen. And Ford’s friend Leland Keyser has said that although she doesn’t remember the party in question, she believes Ford is telling the truth.

    Kavanaugh said he “did not travel in the same social circles” as Ford, but he did. During prepared remarks, Kavanaugh said that Ford “and I did not travel in the same social circles. It is possible that we met at some point at some events, although I do not recall that.” But Ford testified that she went out with one of Kavanaugh’s friends, whose name appears 13 times in Kavanaugh’s calendar.

    Kavanaugh attempted to fabricate an alibi by suggesting he did not drink on weekdays and was out of town almost every weekend night of the summer of 1982. Kavanaugh claimed that the incident Ford described “presumably happened on a weekend” and suggested that he and his friends didn’t drink during the week because of their jobs while adding he was “out of town almost every weekend night before football training camp started in late August.” In doing so, Kavanaugh attempted to falsely imply that he did not attend the type of get-together that Ford described. Kavanaugh’s lie is readily apparent in the calendars he provided the committee and a contradictory statement he made acknowledging “the calendars show a few weekday gatherings at friends’ houses after a workout or just to meet up and have some beers.” In particular, great attention has focused on his July 1 calendar entry -- a Thursday -- that showed he was having “[brew]skis” with some of the people Ford said were at the party.

    Kavanaugh said he had no connection to Yale University prior to attending undergrad and law school there, but he was a legacy admittee. While denying that he was a heavy drinker in college who drank to the point of blacking out, Kavanagh said, “I got into Yale Law School -- that’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there; I got in there by busting my tail at college.” In fact, Kavanaugh’s grandfather Everett Edward Kavanaugh attended Yale, making Kavanaugh a legacy student.

    Kavanaugh denied every blacking out from drinking and downplayed his alcohol consumption as a young man, but numerous Yale classmates say he was a belligerent drunk. Kavanaugh became angered under questioning from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) after she asked him if he ever blacked out from excessive drinking. In response, Kavanaugh pressed Klobuchar if she had ever blacked out and claimed that he doesn’t have a drinking problem. The New York Times reported that “nearly a dozen” of Kavanaugh’s classmates “said they recalled his indulging in heavy drinking, with some characterizing it as outside the norms of college life.” His freshman roommate James Roche said Kavanaugh was “frequently unusually drunk” and would become “belligerent and mean,” while classmate Charles “Chad” Ludington said Kavanaugh was “a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker.” Classmate Elizabeth Swisher called Kavanaugh’s claim he never blacked out “a lie” based on her observation of his behavior at the time. Classmate Lynne Brookes told CNN that she and her former classmates were texting each other during the hearing that Kavanaugh was lying about his college drinking habits.

    Kavanaugh cited Maryland’s drinking age in explaining his behavior, even though he was too young to legally drink in any case. Twice during his testimony, Kavanaugh cited what he said had been Maryland’s drinking age, saying that “the drinking age was 18 in Maryland for most of my time in high school” and “the drinking age, as I noted, was 18 so the seniors were legal.” But Maryland raised the drinking age from 18 to 21 when Kavanaugh was 17, meaning his implication that he was a legal drinker was a lie.

    Kavanaugh said he didn’t live close to Columbia Country Club, but he did. Ford testified that the assault occurred at a house close to Columbia Country Club, where both her family and Kavanaugh’s family were members. During his opening statement, Kavanaugh said, “In her letter to Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), she said that there were four other people at the house, but none of those people, nor I, lived near Columbia Country Club.” But Kavanaugh did live close to the club, according to a map used during the hearing. His house was approximately 3.5 miles from the club. In general, all of the individuals in question lived in the suburban Maryland area surrounding the club.

    Kavanaugh lied about him and his friends’ juvenile yearbook joke targeting female acquaintance. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questioned Kavanaugh about the text he included on his yearbook page that read “Renate Alumnius,” which refers to Renate Dolphin, an attendee of a local all-girls school. Other references to Dolphin in Kavanaugh’s yearbook make it clear that she was the target of a joke that implied she had had sexual relations with Kavanaugh and his friends. Under questioning, Kavanaugh played off the reference as merely an attempt at “affection” among he and his friends, and blamed the media “circus” for the term being interpreted as relating to sex, which it clearly was. Dolphin, who had signed a letter of support for Kavanaugh, became aware of the yearbook references and told The New York Times, “I can't begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”

    Kavanaugh said the “devil’s triangle” reference in his yearbook refers to a drinking game (that no one has ever heard of). Kavanaugh told Whitehouse that “devil’s triangle” was a drinking game played with three glasses and quarters. But the term is commonly used to refer to a sex act involving two men and a woman. Pete Davis, who attended high school in Washington, D.C., told Current Affairs, “Every guy who went to my D.C.-area high school knows what ‘devil’s triangle’ means. I’m sure Brett Kavanaugh knows what it means, too.”

    Kavanaugh said “boofing” yearbook reference was about flatulence. Both Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, who Ford said was in the room when Kavanaugh assaulted her, made references to boofing in the yearbook. Kavanaugh said during the hearing, “That refers to flatulence, we were 16.” Boofing is actually a term for anal sex. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman noted on Twitter, “Urban Dictionary has the definition of ‘boof’ that I recall from high school in the 1980s and it wasn't flatulence.”

    Kavanaugh attempted to explain that his membership and title in the “Beach Week Ralph Club, Biggest Contributor” was related to his aversion to spicy food. Asked by Whitehouse about “ralphing,” Kavanaugh said it could be a reference to alcohol-related vomiting, but then went on a long explanation of his famously “weak stomach,” saying, “The last time I was here, you asked me about having ketchup on spaghetti. … I got a weak stomach, whether it’s with beer or spicy food or anything.” Whitehouse asked a follow-up question, “So the vomiting that you reference in the Ralph Club reference related to the consumption of alcohol?” Kavanaugh didn’t answer -- instead he listed his academic achievements in high school.

    Kavanaugh mischaracterized a memoir about teenage alcoholism written by Judge. Judge wrote a memoir documenting his alcoholism and antisocial behavior as a young man. In the book, Judge mentions a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who passes out in a car from drinking. Kavanaugh told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) during the hearing that Judge’s book is “fictionalized.” The title page of the book says, “This book is based on actual experiences.” During the questioning, Kavanaugh refused to say whether he was the “Bart O’Kavanaugh” mentioned in Judge’s book, saying, “You’d have to ask him.” On October 2, The New York Times reported that Kavanaugh wrote a letter in 1983 that characterized he and his friends as “loud, obnoxious drunks” that he signed with the name “Bart,” which The Times explained was Kavanaugh’s nickname at Georgetown Prep.

    Kavanaugh denied under oath that he had watched Ford’s testimony, but The Wall Street Journal reported that he did just that. Ford spoke before Kavanaugh at the hearing. When Kavanaugh was asked whether he watched Ford’s testimony, he said, “I did not. I planned to, but I did not, as I was preparing mine.” But a judiciary committee aide told The Wall Street Journal that Kavanaugh was watching “from a monitor in another room in the Dirksen Senate Building.” WSJ uncritically repeated Kavanaugh’s statement from the hearing in an update to its initial report.

    Kavanaugh said that he first became aware of Deborah Ramirez’s report that he exposed himself to her in college when it was published in the press, but that isn’t true. While being questioned by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Kavanaugh said that he first learned that Ramirez said he exposed his penis to her when they both attended Yale “in the last -- in the period since then, in the New Yorker story.” But according to NBC News, “In the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News.”

    Kavanaugh either lied about being a virgin for “many years” after high school to Fox News, or lied to a Yale classmate that he was not a virgin. Kavanaugh raised eyebrows with his claim during a Fox News interview when he said, “I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.” Beyond the fact that Kavanaugh has been reported for sexual misconduct and assault, not rape, a former Yale classmate disputed Kavanaugh’s claim on the basis of things Kavanaugh himself said when they were in college.

    Kavanaugh acted like he never heard of the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres where his good friend works as a partner. During the first round of confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh was caught off guard when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked if he had discussed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, which was founded by Trump’s personal lawyer. Kavanaugh reacted to the question with befuddlement. But Kasowitz Benson Torres employs Ed McNally, a close friend who worked at the Bush White House with Kavanaugh, and who was also part of a testimonial put out by the Republican National Committee in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

    Kavanaugh said documents stolen from Democrats that he received from a GOP operative didn’t raise any red flags with him, even though they were marked for internal use. Kavanaugh’s receipt of emails stolen from Democratic offices during a time when he worked on judicial confirmations for the Bush administration has plagued him for years. Kavanaugh has always denied that he had any reason to believe the emails he received were stolen, but Leahy called out his claim during the initial confirmation hearings. Leahy presented Kavanaugh with emails clearly marked for internal use, including one with the subject line “spying.” Kavanaugh repeated his denial, leading Leahy to say, “Judge, I was born at night, but not last night.”

    Kavanaugh previously testified he didn’t work on the confirmation of controversial judge William Pryor, but he did. During his 2004 confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship, Kavanaugh was adamant that he had not worked on Pryor’s nomination besides participating in a “moot court argument.” During his 2018 confirmation hearings, Leahy confronted Kavanaugh with emails indicating otherwise.

    Kavanaugh said he grew up in “a city plagued by gun violence,” but he actually grew up in Bethesda, MD, which was not plagued by gun violence. Kavanaugh seemed to reference Washington, D.C., during his initial hearing, claiming, “I am a native of this area, I’m the native of an urban-suburban area, I grew up in a city plagued by gun violence, and gang violence, and drug violence.” In fact, he grew up in wealthy and low-crime Bethesda, MD.

    Kavanaugh denied knowing that disgraced Judge Alex Kozinski oversaw a work environment hostile to women, leaving other people who clerked for Kozinski scratching their heads. Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski, who abruptly resigned in 2017 when facing multiple reports of sexual misconduct. Kozinski had previously been criticized in 2008 for operating “a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos,” and for running a sexually explicit email list. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned Kavanaugh about his relationship to the disgraced judge, and he denied knowing about any impropriety Kozinski was involved in, including denying knowledge of Kozinski’s widely known email list even though its existence has been public for 10 years. Former Kozinski clerk Heidi Bond wrote for Slate: “Having clerked in his chambers, I do not know how it would be possible to forget something as pervasive as Kozinski's famously sexual sense of humor or his gag list.”

  • The March for Black Women: They stand up, they fight, and they vote, and it's time media took notice

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH WASKO & MILES LE

    During the 2018 March for Black Women, Black womxn and allies marched in Washington, D.C., to protest the systemic injustices they face and to disavow systemic over-policing, gender-based violence, sexual assault, wealth inequity, and lack of political response to securing Black womxn’s basic rights. Protesters also spoke about the media’s failure to adequately cover their causes.

    Black womxn have long been the leading forces in social justice movements. They stand up, they fight, and they vote. It’s about time media start highlighting their invaluable leadership and elevate their voices as they fight for social change.

  • Video: Conservatives say they don't know why athletes are protesting. Here are over 40 athletes, coaches, sports commentators, and others explaining.

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE

    Right-wing media figures have repeatedly attacked athletes in the NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues for speaking out about police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality. Fox News hosts and guests have claimed that athletes are ungrateful and overdramatic, that they "hate your country" for protesting "racism or something,” and that they should just “shut up and dribble.”

    Conservative commentators and guests have also complained that athletes haven’t adequately explained why they’re protesting in the first place. But current and retired professional athletes, student athletes, coaches, sports commentators, and others have explained at length what they are fighting for. Here are over 40 examples:

  • Media should stop treating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as inevitable

    Activists and concerned citizens are fired up and engaged in the fight against Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & MILES LE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Ever since President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill retiring Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, media outlets have continually downplayed the energy and activism of those working to oppose this far-right nominee’s confirmation, treating it as a fait accompli.

    Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination on July 9, 2018, a week and a half after Justice Anthony Kennedy disclosed that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court (he officially retired July 31). Despite Kavanaugh’s record as “an uncommonly partisan judge” with troubling views on the environment, labor, LGBTQ discrimination, abortion rights, gun safety, immigration, and more, many media figures portrayed him as a centrist pick who is “within the broad mainstream” and “not as far right” as other options Trump considered.

    In addition, many outlets have treated his confirmation as inevitable. For example, The Washington Post and The New York Times argued that activists weren’t engaged in the fight to stop Kavanaugh. As the Post wrote, “Democrats have all but acknowledged that they are unable to stop the Senate from confirming Trump nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court this fall,” while the Times blamed everything from upcoming midterm elections to activists’ inability to compete with “an almost daily barrage of other Trump administration actions” for the perceived lack of energy. New York magazine similarly argued that “the resistance to Kavanaugh has remained on a low flame, failing to boil over into the righteous fury that characterized the battle over Obamacare repeal last summer.”

    However, as Rewire.News’ Katelyn Burns reported, “Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court is not inevitable.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund told Burns, “A veneer of inevitability has been the actual strategy that the people backing Kavanaugh have used,” but activists are “countering that and saying, ‘No way.'” HuffPost guest writer Robert Creamer similarly argued that treating Kavanaugh’s nomination as inevitable “plays right into the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hopes to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Creamer pointed to Kavanaugh’s extremely narrow path to confirmation -- with Republicans having “a tiny effective majority of 50 to 49 in the Senate” -- as well as his incredibly low approval numbers, and the “unprecedented nationwide campaign to resist” his confirmation, as evidence that the fight against Kavanaugh is far from over. As Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca wrote: “When you subscribe to the myth of inevitability, you confirm it as reality, and for anyone who gives a sh*t about equality and/or democracy, that is simply not an option.”

    Outlets may not be reporting on the vast amount of activist energy against Kavanaugh, but people are fired up and making their feelings known:

    Kavanaugh's confirmation isn't inevitable -- he's got the lowest approval ratings of any Supreme Court nominee in decades, in addition to an extreme record on a number of consequential topics. The hearings to confirm Kavanaugh start soon. And media shouldn’t erase or ignore the very real opposition to his confirmation that’s on display across the country.

  • Video: Climate change worsens extreme weather and hurts people of color the most. When will mainstream media tell this story?

    Media severely under-covered Hurricane Maria, which affected mostly Latinx people.

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Thousands of people died as a result of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, researchers estimate, and it took 11 months to restore power to all residents. Maria was the worst weather disaster to affect Puerto Rico in 80 years and potentially the deadliest hurricane to hit the U.S. since 1900. But many news outlets failed to give much coverage to the storm and the ongoing recovery efforts.

    Why?

    Maybe because most of the victims of Hurricane Maria were people of color: 99 percent of the population of Puerto Rico is Latinx.

    Extreme weather and climate disasters have the biggest effects on people of color, the poor, and women, both in the U.S. and around the world -- and the media need to be talking about that.

    The first Sunday after Hurricane Maria made landfall, the five major Sunday political talk shows cumulatively dedicated less than one minute of coverage to the storm. When outlets did turn their coverage to Maria, it was because of the president’s antics. Coverage spiked when President Donald Trump got in a Twitter fight with the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, and when he visited the territory and threw paper towels out into a crowd. When the drama ended, coverage dropped significantly and has stayed low even as Puerto Rico continues struggling to recover.

    On top of this lack of coverage is the problem that many mainstream outlets don’t talk to the people who are most affected by climate change, and they also don’t talk enough to scientists or climate researchers. Only 13 percent of guests featured during climate-related segments on Sunday shows in 2017 were people of color, just 29 percent of the guests were women, and no climate scientists or journalists were featured at all -- the second year that scientists and journalists were completely excluded.

    Mainstream media outlets need to talk to the people who are being hurt the most by climate change. They also need to connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather, to help everyone understand that climate change isn’t just something that will happen in the future or in faraway places. It's happening now, and it's happening everywhere.

  • “Not in our city”: Activists are protesting at the ICE field office for Washington, DC

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & PAM VOGEL

    On August 2, activists led by the Washington, D.C., metro area chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (Metro DC DSA) began a multiday protest outside of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office for the D.C. area, located in Fairfax, VA. Four protesters were arrested that day, and six more were arrested on August 3. The action was sparked by recent ICE activity in D.C. neighborhoods, including arrests in the communities of Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, as part of a larger ICE operation in which 132 people were detained in D.C. and Virginia. The activists plan to continue the protest in the coming days, and are hoping their direct action will spur media to question D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has declared the city a "sanctuary city." 

    Here’s what activists, including the six people arrested on August 3, had to say about why they were willing to risk arrest and how media ought to report on ICE activities:

  • Video: There's a housing discrimination crisis in America -- and coverage of the issue should reflect that

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    The Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago, but housing discrimination is still rampant, and media coverage of the issue is overly focused on President Donald Trump’s history of racism and discrimination in this arena. While his past is notable, it’s important for mainstream outlets to inform viewers about the widespread and complicated nature of housing discrimination by interviewing victims and highlighting fair housing research.

    The Fair Housing Act was supposed to protect the right to fair housing for all people. And yet the act is not fulfilling its goals, with unprecedented attacks from the Trump administration and continued discrimination by banks, lenders, landlords, and/or developers, against Black and Latinx people, the poor, the formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and single women who are looking to rent or buy a home. There were 28,181 reported complaints of housing discrimination in 2016, but according to the National Fair Housing Alliance, housing discrimination is seriously underreported. The organization estimates that there are actually over 4 million cases of housing discrimination each year in America.

    Mainstream television coverage of housing discrimination has been overly focused on Trump's personal history with discrimination. Mainstream news outlets are right to warn viewers about his history of racism and discrimination against Black people. However, mainstream outlets such as MSNBC and CNN should follow the lead of PBS and Democracy Now and use these opportunities to inform viewers about the issue, including by interviewing victims of housing discrimination and highlighting important fair housing research.

  • Activist groups deliver 600,000 petitions to the FCC demanding the merger of Sinclair and Tribune be stopped 

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, JOHN KERR & MILES LE

    On July 12, 2018, activist groups gathered outside the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington, D.C., to deliver over 600,000 petitions demanding that the unprecedented acquisition of Tribune Media by conservative local TV giant Sinclair Broadcast Group not go through.

    Video shot by John Kerr

    Are there Sinclair stations near you? Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.