Author Page | Page 4 | Media Matters for America

Olivia Marshall

Author ››› Olivia Marshall
  • NRO Minimizes Harmful Effects Of Extremist Personhood Laws

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL

    National Review Online's Ian Tuttle disregarded history when dismissing fears that "personhood amendments" and fetal-homicide laws could open the door to criminal prosecutions for women who have miscarriages or abortions. Women have already been prosecuted for miscarriages in several states, and personhood advocates are explicitly pushing to end legal abortion.

    In an October 21 article, Tuttle wrote that "liberals are lying about personhood amendments" like Colorado's proposed Amendment 67, which would define "'person' and 'child' in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings." Tuttle asserted that opponents are mischaracterizing personhood amendments to claim they would make abortion illegal and allow the prosecution of women who have had miscarriages:

    That is the talking point of opponents such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Vote No 67, the main opposition campaign, which says that "any woman who suffers a miscarriage would be open to investigation for murder."

    This feverish scenario runs contrary to both experience and law.

    Since 2006, Alabama has defined "person" in its homicide statute to include "an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability." No women have been investigated for miscarriages in Alabama. Or in Alaska, where a similar law also took effect in 2006. Or in Kentucky (2004). Or in North Dakota (1987). Or others.

    But Tuttle ignored the fact that similar state laws have already been used to prosecute women -- in Indiana, a woman who attempted to commit suicide while eight months pregnant was charged with murder. In fact, in Alabama, cited by Tuttle as an innocent actor, the judiciary is no stranger to interpreting the law in a way that pushes a personhood agenda. In that state, two women were prosecuted for endangering their unborn children by ingesting illicit drugs during their pregnancies, even though their "behavior ... was not intended to be criminalized when the Legislature enacted the chemical-endangerment statute." According to RH Reality Check, these laws are increasingly "misused by overzealous prosecutors and judges to trample women's rights in favor of the nebulous personhood rights of fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses." 

    Tuttle also waved off concerns that Colorado's personhood amendment would effectively prohibit abortion, despite the fact that the Colorado amendment was proposed by Personhood USA's state chapter Personhood Colorado, a group explicitly pushing to end legal abortion:

    And as in the Alabama Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Hamilton v. Scott in 2012, reaffirming Alabama's inclusion of unborn persons in its homicide statutes, the constitutional protections to abortion afforded by Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be read into Colorado's law. A "woman's right to terminate her pregnancy" (Roe's language) is not explicitly exempted from criminal prosecutions, but this is likely, as a practical matter, unnecessary.

    The very case Tuttle cites has been described as an explicit roadmap for overturning Roe v. Wade. As ProPublica explained, the judge who authored the opinion in Hamilton is "a pivotal figure in the so-called personhood movement" who wrote that "a centerpiece of Roe -- that states cannot ban abortion before the point of viability -- was 'arbitrary,' 'incoherent,' and 'mostly unsupported by legal precedent.'" 

  • Fox News Entertains Discredited Notion That Same-Sex Marriage Is Causing A Decline In Heterosexual Marriage

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL


    Fox News amplified the discredited right-wing claim that the legalization of same-sex marriage plays a part in the declining rate of heterosexual marriage.

    On the October 13 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier claimed "traditional marriage" has faced a number of obstacles this year, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in Alaska. Fox correspondent Shannon Bream cited a variety of factors that could explain the decline in heterosexual marriage, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states:

    The idea that same-sex marriage somehow discourages heterosexual marriage has been embraced by extreme anti-LGBT rights groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, but has no basis in fact.

    The Atlantic also pointed out that the link is unsubstantiated, because the decline in heterosexual marriage came before the rise of gay marriage:

    Out-of-wedlock births and delayed marriage were already underway before the 1990s, when gay acceptance took off. This suggests that gay marriage isn't leading to the decline of marriage. Rather, the "decline" of marriage happened to pique media interest at the same time that homophobia got smoked -- in entertainment, in federal law, and in wedding chapels.

    A study conducted by researchers at Portland State University's School of Community Health also concluded that same-sex marriage legalization does not affect heterosexual marriage rates:

    A deleterious effect on rates of opposite sex marriage has been argued to be a motivating factor for both the withholding and the elimination of existing rights of same sex couples to marry by policy makers-including presiding justices of current litigation over the rights of same sex couples to legally marry. Such claims do not appear credible in the face of the existing evidence, and we conclude that rates of opposite sex marriages are not affected by legalization of same sex civil unions or same sex marriages.

  • "Distinctly Unappealing" And "Half-Bright": National Review's Personal Attacks On Lena Dunham

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL

    National Review Online launched an ad hominem attack on actress Lena Dunham for writing a piece for Planned Parenthood Action Fund that encourages people to vote, continuing NRO's pattern of denigrating women who advocate for reproductive rights.

    In a September 28 post headlined "Five Reasons Why You're Too Dumb To Vote," NRO's Kevin D. Williamson responded to Dunham's piece, published on the Women Are Watching blog, a project of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In her post, clearly targeted to young women, Dunham asserted that every vote counts and urged young women to vote to protect their reproductive rights.

    Williamson started his response by levying a personal attack at Dunham, calling the actress "distinctly unappealing" and describing her piece as "a half-assed listicle penned by a half-bright celebrity and published by a gang of abortion profiteers," directed toward Dunham's "presumably illiterate following." He claimed that "cultural debasement" is the "only possible explanation" for Dunham's career.

    The NRO columnist echoed a previous infantilizing attack on feminism, casting Dunham's view of voting as "nothing other than a reiteration of the original infantile demand: "I WANT!" Williamson also took issue with Dunham's encouraging young women to vote on issues that directly affect them, framing an interest in reproductive rights as an "'all about me!' attitude":

    Miss Dunham's "all about me!" attitude toward the process of voting inevitably extends to the content of what she votes for, which is, in her telling, mostly about her sex life. Hammering down hard on the Caps Lock key, she writes: "The crazy and depressing truth is that there are people running for office right now who could actually affect your life. PARTICULARLY your sex life. PARTICULARLY if you're a woman. Yup."

    Yup? Nope.

    NRO has continually launched sexist and infantilizing attacks on women like Sandra Fluke and Wendy Davis who defend reproductive rights.

  • Stalin, The Nazis And A Serial Killer: The Villains Right-Wing Media Compared To Eric Holder


    The announcement that Eric Holder would resign as attorney general was met by renewed attacks on his tenure by conservative pundits, continuing a long tradition of ugly right-wing smears against President Obama's top law enforcer. Here is a selection of the worst villains that right-wing media have compared Holder to over the years:

    Al Qaeda

    In a June 5, 2013 fundraising email, Fox News contributor and former Republican Congressman Allen West claimed Holder was a "bigger threat to our Republic" than terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took control of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden's death. West also suggested Holder was guilty of treason. On June 7, he appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss his smears with sympathetic co-host Brian Kilmeade.

    Joseph Stalin

    On the January 10 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh called Holder a "Stalinist" for announcing that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages in Utah.

    LIMBAUGH: Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States says that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriage in Utah for the purpose of federal benefits despite the Utah governor's directive not to, pending the Supreme Court's review of the state's ban. So the states, when you've got people like Holder and Obama in office, it doesn't matter what governors do, it doesn't matter what the people of the state want. What Holder and Obama want is what's going to happen. Holder does not have this kind of power or authority but he does if nobody's going to stop him or challenge him.


    LIMBAUGH: You have the Attorney General engaging in executive actions, executive orders. Just as if Obama were to do it. Stalinists, folks.

    George Wallace 

    National Review Online published an editorial on September 4, 2013 criticizing the Obama administration's blocking a Louisiana school voucher program. NRO compared Holder to George Wallace, the notorious Alabama governor who attempted to illegally maintain school segregation. From the editorial:

    It was 50 years ago this June that George Wallace, the Democratic governor of Alabama, made his infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door" to prevent two black students from enrolling at an all-white school. His slogan was "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"

    These many years later, Democrats still are standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent black students from enjoying the educational benefits available to their white peers, this time in Louisiana instead of Alabama. Playing the Wallace role this time is Eric Holder, whose Justice Department is petitioning a U.S. district court to abolish a Louisiana school-choice program that helps students, most of them black, to exit failing government schools.

    The New Black Panthers

    On the August 22 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed in a discussion about the protests in Ferguson, MO that "Eric Holder is one of the biggest race-baiters in this entire country." She added that Holder runs the Department of Justice "like the Black Panthers would...allowing them to be outside that polling place was absolutely abominable" -- a reference to a favorite Fox smear that Holder improperly dismissed voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party.

    Serial Killer And Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer 

    Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent claimed Obama's decision to have Holder and Vice President Biden lead the administration's gun safety task force was akin to "hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to tell us how to take care of our children."


    In 2011, Mike Vanderboegh, a blogger featured on Fox News, repeatedly posted a manipulated photograph of Eric Holder dressed in a Nazi uniform:


  • Fox & Friends Criticize Obama For Doing Too Little On The Islamic State While Saying He's Asking For Too Much

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL

    Fox & Friends took issue with President Obama's $5 billion counterterrorism fund request to Congress to fight the Islamic State while almost simultaneously criticizing Obama for doing too little to address the threat.

    On the September 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman, and Brian Kilmeade discussed President Obama's push for Congress to approve a $5 billion fund he proposed in May as part of a strategy to fight the Islamic State. According to The Hill, the fund "would bolster efforts against ISIS" and "could be expanded to help fund U.S. bombing against ISIS targets":

    The United States has launched more than 140 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, and it's possible Obama will announce strikes against the group in Syria on Wednesday.

    When the administration first requested the $5 billion fund earlier this summer, it asked for $2.5 billion to train and equip international partners and $1.5 billion for Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq to help with the influx of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. While both amounts would bolster efforts against ISIS, they would not cover additional U.S. military strikes.

    The request also included $500 million "to address unforeseen contingencies related to counterterrorism or regional instability," the White House says, and that amount could be expanded to help fund U.S. bombing against ISIS targets in Iraq or Syria.

    During the discussion, Doocy claimed that "When you hear the president talk, he still kind of minimizes the threat." The segment ran a clip of Brit Hume accusing Obama of downplaying the Islamic State threat, and Kilmeade criticized the president of not being "definitive" enough:

    Later in the program, Kilmeade complained that the fund is "an exorbitant number that nobody agrees on." The segment's chyron read "Blank Check?" and Doocy highlighted criticisms from lawmakers calling the fund "way too much money" and a "slush fund."

    But despite their criticisms of Obama for asking for too much, the hosts continued accusing the president of not doing enough to address the Islamic State. Kooiman suggested Obama is "trying to downplay the threat of ISIS so that somebody else will possibly do something about it so it's not the president's problem":

    Fox & Friends has repeatedly claimed Obama is not doing enough to act on the Islamic State despite numerous actions taken by the administration, including its request for a counterterrorism fund and air strikes.