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  • The Women’s March organized a protest at the NRA’s headquarters

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


    Miles Le / Media Matters

    The Women’s March group gathered at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Fairfax, VA on July 14 to denounce the organization’s recent incendiary, hateful video and its silence around the death of Philando Castile. Media Matters was there and spoke to activists and protesters.

    Here's what they had to say about the NRA, gun violence, and the media:

  • Cable and broadcast news still obsess over process, ignore personal stories in health care coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Immediately after Senate Republicans unveiled a new draft of their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), cable and broadcast newscasts framed reports about the bill around the challenges it faces in the legislative process, including vote counts and optics, rather than personal stories from those who would be most affected by the bill. However, the programs did use the opportunity to cover key changes to and consequences of the bill.

    Senate Republicans on July 13 introduced a new draft of their bill to repeal and replace the ACA, which includes key changes surrounding health savings accounts and ways for insurers to offer more bare-bones policies. While the bill has changed a bit, the media coverage has largely stayed the same. Once again, media are continuing to focus on the process surrounding the bill and largely ignoring personal stories from those most affected. Unlike with previous coverage, cable and broadcast news did focus on the new changes in the bill and their potential consequences for Americans. MSNBC in particular provided more context and information about the bill than other networks.

    Broadcast news

    During the July 13 newscasts, just hours after the new draft plan was introduced, broadcast news shows framed their coverage around the legislative process and optics of the bill. NBC’s Lester Holt introduced a report on the bill on NBC Nightly News by noting that “Republicans face a crucial battle for votes in their own party” over the bill. CBS’ Anthony Mason said the bill was “already in critical condition” on CBS Evening News because of the lack of Republican support. And ABC’s Mary Bruce framed her report on the new bill by pointing out that it faces “the same old problem: Can it get the votes to pass?”

    Like previous coverage, broadcast newscasts largely neglected to offer personal anecdotes from people who would be most affected by the bill. One exception was CBS Evening News, which followed its coverage of the bill with a segment on how Kentuckians would be “hard hit” by its Medicaid cuts.

    Network newscasts did do an exemplary job of highlighting the consequences of and new changes in this newest draft of the bill, however, including provisions that would allow “the return of skimpy junk insurance policies and discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions,” according to HuffPost, and expand the use of health savings accounts, which have been found to “primarily benefit the wealthy, the healthy, and the educated.”

    Cable news

    Like broadcast newscasts, the 6 p.m. hour of cable news coverage framed the unveiling of the bill largely around vote counting and optics. Fox News’ Bret Baier introduced a panel discussion of the bill on Special Report by explaining that the GOP “can only afford to lose one more vote” to pass the bill. Earlier in the program, Baier set up a report on the bill by highlighting “the continued internal dissent” surrounding the bill. MSNBC’s Ali Velshi framed his discussion of the bill on MSNBC Live by saying that it “is hanging by a thread” in terms of votes. CNN’s Jim Acosta opened a segment on the bill by stating that Republicans are “increasingly optimistic about its prospects.” Acosta even conducted an interview with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and asked only about the prospects the bill would pass, not the actual policies it contains.

    Like broadcast newscasts, cable coverage was also largely devoid of personal stories from those most affected. However, cable coverage did highlight several changes that are included in this draft of the bill and the consequences of the provisions. MSNBC, especially, excelled in this area, hosting Dr. Kavita Patel, medical director of Sibley Primary Care in Washington, D.C., who noted that this bill “does cause a death spiral … by allowing for insurance plans to sell … catastrophic insurance.”

    MSNBC also hosted Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, who pointed out that the bill negatively impacts state budgets, like in Virginia.

  • News outlets fail to report on what the GOP health care rollback means for LGBTQ Americans

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko/ Media Matters

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans will face greater hardship if Republicans in Congress succeed in reversing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) patient protections and expansion of Medicaid -- and this is especially true for people living with HIV -- yet, print and television news have almost completely ignored their stories.

    LGBTQ Americans deal with higher rates of poverty, greater need for Medicaid, and higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. Republican plans to decimate Medicaid and roll back patient protections will create disproportionate impacts for LGBTQ Americans. Yet, according to new research from Media Matters, major print and television news outlets have been virtually silent on how GOP health care proposals may harm members of the LGBTQ community.

    Media Matters reviewed major broadcast and cable news providers (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) available via Nexis from May 4 through July 13 and found only two significant segments discussing how the Republican health care rollback would affect LGBTQ people and only two other unrelated segments discussing how the rollback would affect Americans living with HIV. A Media Matters review during the same period of time of print newspapers available via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) found only three print articles that discussed how the GOP health care plan may affect the LGBTQ community and/or people living with HIV.

    A July 12 analysis from Media Matters found a similar lack of reporting by major television and print news outlets on how communities of color may be affected by Republican health care proposals. Additional Media Matters research has found that television news missed an opportunity to report on the unprecedented nature of the Senate’s health care secrecy and that television coverage had drowned out reports on how the legislation would impact tens of millions of Americans in favor of airing stories focused on the bill’s political machinations. Previous Media Matters research revealed that newspapers kept reports on health care off the front page during crucial periods of debate and that broadcast and cable news coverage neglected to consider diversity when booking guests to discuss health care-related topics.

    LGBTQ news outlets including The Advocate, NBC Out, and The Washington Blade have all covered how Republicans plans to roll back Medicaid would affect LGBTQ Americans as well as the more than 1 million people living with HIV. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), Medicaid is of significant importance for many LGBTQ Americans who face higher rates of poverty than the general population, and these higher rates of poverty correlate with fewer LGBTQ Americans having health insurance. On July 6, CAP reported that the ACA repeal legislation being considered by the Republican-led Senate -- the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) -- may result in up to 560,000 LGBTQ Americans losing Medicaid coverage while restricting health care access for transgender Americans. From the report:

    The BCRA slashes Medicaid by $772 billion over 10 years and would end Medicaid expansion over time:

    • Medicaid covers at least 1.8 million LGBTQ adults, including 31 percent of LGBTQ adults living with a disability and 40 percent of LGBTQ adults with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
    • An estimated 560,000 LGBTQ adults will lose coverage if Medicaid expansion is ended.
    • The BCRA prohibits federal Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year; Planned Parenthood is one of the country’s largest providers of transgender-inclusive health care.

    On February 14, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion has lowered the uninsurance rates for people living with HIV from 22 percent to 15 percent from 2012 to 2014. The California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers found that in California alone, the Medicaid expansion covered an additional 11,500 people living with HIV. Coverage and care for those living with HIV is of significant concern for many in the LGBTQ community, as the Kaiser Foundation points out, because gay and bisexual men make up 56 percent of Americans living with HIV and 55 percent of all HIV-related deaths in the U.S. despite comprising just 2 percent of the American population.

    If congressional Republicans are successful enacting their health care agenda, it could cause real harm to the nearly 69 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid, making it crucially important that news outlets tell their stories.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 13, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of available transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.

    We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and noneditorial articles that included any of the following keywords: gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual or LGBT or LGBTQ or queer or same-sex within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.

  • Reporters must ask Rubio whether he supports the GOP health care bill’s risk corridor provision

    Rubio previously sabotaged a similar measure in the ACA

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Local and national reporters should question Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) about the new draft of the Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and specifically about whether he supports a provision similar to the ACA’s “risk corridor” payments, which he previously led efforts to sabotage.

    The Washington Post reported that the draft of the Senate bill, which would allow insurers to offer “bare-bones policies” as long as they also provide “more-comprehensive ones,” unveiled on July 13 “would establish a $70 billion fund to subsidize insurers providing both kinds of plans ‘for the associated costs of covering high-risk individuals,’ according to a GOP summary of the bill.” The fund appears to be similar to the ACA’s temporary risk corridor program, which, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “was intended to promote accurate premiums in the early years of the exchanges (2014 through 2016) by discouraging insurers from setting premiums high in response to uncertainty about who will enroll and what they will cost. The program worked by cushioning insurers participating in exchanges and marketplaces from extreme gains and losses.” George Washington University professor of health law Sara Rosenbaum said of a previous version of the Senate bill (which had a similar funding provision) that "There's 'no difference' between the insurer funds in Obamacare and the ones in the Senate Republican bill," according to Bloomberg.

    In 2013, Rubio committed what The New York Times called “quiet legislative sabotage” by limiting how much federal funding could go to these risk corridors. Right-wing media also adopted Rubio’s attack on the funds, with pundits like then-Fox host Bill O’Reilly claiming the payments “subsidize private insurance companies if they don't make profit from Obamacare.” Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik noted that Rubio’s sabotage forced some small insurers out of business and created “higher premiums for [Rubio’s] constituents and insurance customers as a whole.”

    Rubio told the Miami Herald that he will vote for a motion to proceed with debate over the bill on the Senate floor, but, according to The Washington Post, he has been “unclear” about whether he will vote for the bill to pass.

    Rubio's actions are part of a pattern of Republicans sabotaging the ACA. Reporters cannot settle for Rubio’s vague position on the bill, especially given the potential hypocrisy if he decides to support it. Journalists must question Rubio about his support for the bill, especially in regards to risk corridor funds.

  • Far-right media are now accusing Obama of spying on John Roberts

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Pro-Trump media websites are pushing the doubtful allegation that former President Barack Obama “hacked” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. These fringe websites, that often peddle fake news and conspiracy theories, have also previously alleged that Obama has surveilled and targeted Trump Tower and the Supreme Court overall, and some of these websites have claimed that Obama is trying to take down President Donald Trump by forming a “shadow government.”

    On July 12, the pro-Trump alternative-media blog Big League Politics claimed that Roberts “was ‘hacked’ by a Deep State surveillance operation overseen by Obama administration CIA director John Brennan and Obama director of national intelligence James Clapper.” The blog pointed to audio supposedly from a “real estate billionaire” explaining the program to former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and associate Mike Zullo and saying, “John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, was hacked.” (Arpaio and Zullo are discredited figures who have pushed the false conspiracy theory that Obama’s birth certificate is fake). The author of the piece, Patrick Howley, also wrote that this supposed hack “by Obama officials provides some more context” for why Roberts voted in 2012 to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, suggesting the two are related. The blog, which also employs pro-Trump troll Cassandra Fairbanks, has previously pushed other dubious claims hyped by the alternative-media ecosystem.

    The report was picked up by pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit, which called the tapes “evidence” that Roberts was hacked. Following suit, fake news purveyors ran with the story, with Before It’s News and YourNewsWire republishing at least parts of the Big League Politics article, Conservative Patriot and The Washington Feed calling the report a “bombshell,” and American Today calling Roberts “the latest victim of the Obama hacking.” The Big League Politics, Gateway Pundit, and Conservative Patriot articles have received at least 1,900, 7,300, and 3,600 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo.

    The conspiracy theory comes after the pro-Trump fringe previously hyped Fox analyst Andrew Napolitano’s claim that Obama spied on the Supreme Court, and after fringe media outlets staunchly defended Trump’s false claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Fringe media outlets have also repeatedly charged that Obama is trying to thwart Trump’s presidency by forming a “shadow government.”

  • Trump’s shallow, congratulatory 700 Club interview is exactly what he wishes all interviews could be

    The president only wants to talk to people who will make him feel smart

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    President Donald Trump broke his streak of granting interviews exclusively to his friends at Fox to delve into an even safer space: talking about windmills with an octogenarian who hangs on his every word.

    This morning, the president’s interview with kooky bigot Pat Robertson aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)'s The 700 Club.

    Trump’s sit-down with Robertson is the first televised interview he’s granted to an outlet other than Fox News in two months. (He also gave an interview to Reuters’ Steve Holland on the same day.) With this interview, Trump has now granted more on-camera interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network (two) than he has to any other network besides Fox (11) since his inauguration.

    It’s telling that the president would turn to Robertson for a friendly media face as his administration continues to stifle press access in unprecedented ways -- he thinks critics of Trump are defying “God’s plan for America.” Robertson is also a deeply anti-LGBTQ figure on the evangelical right who has blamed feminists and the ACLU for 9/11 and thinks the Hurricane Katrina devastation was “connected” to abortion.

    Trump talked to Robertson because he knew the unabashed Trump fan wouldn't press him on any of the many scandals engulfing his administration, and Robertson didn't disappoint. Here are the highlights, speaking for themselves.

    Here’s Robertson opening the interview by telling Trump he’s “so proud of everything you’re doing”:

    Here is Trump showing off to Robertson that he knows how to pronounce Qatar:

    Here is Trump explaining to Robertson that the G20 Summit was a success because there were 20 countries represented there, and he got along well with everyone:

    Here is a hard-hitting exchange about Trump’s “good” and “not bad” meeting with Putin:

    Here is Trump sneaking in a little reference to windmills, one of his very favorite topics:

    Here’s Trump and Robertson talking about “thousands” of regulations Trump has purportedly lifted:

    Here’s the very in-depth answer Robertson got when he asked about the potential failure of the Republican health care bill:

    This one is just fun:

    And here’s Robertson predicting Trump will be re-elected and telling him that the “evangelicals of America” are praying for him: 

    There is no video of Trump talking about the ongoing investigations into his presidential campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, because it just never came up!

    The interview ended with Trump explaining, to Robertson’s visible delight, that he gave an interview to the host because he’s “treated very unfairly by the press” but Robertson has “people that I love.” “You will be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again very soon,” Trump assured him.

    Robertson then spent more time reflecting on his delightful time with the president and his staff and praising Trump’s “vision.” The televangelist also congratulated himself on not asking the president about any Russia “garbage.” Good job, Pat.

  • Fox & Friends stacked its panel of "everyday American” moms with conservative media activists 

    The segment’s on-screen banners included the professions of only the liberal-minded panelists

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    On the July 13 edition of Fox & Friends, Ainsley Earhardt hosted a “panel of moms” from “all walks of life” to find out whether “everyday Americans” care about President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia. As Earhardt introduced the panel, the show’s on-screen banners failed to disclose the professions of the panelists who are conservative Republicans and Trump supporters, one of whom claims to work for a Fox affiliate.

    The panel featured seven women who, as they spoke, were introduced via on-screen banners using the following descriptions: 

    • Danielle McLaughlin -- mother and Democratic strategist
    • Dr. Rebecca Grant -- mother and national security analyst
    • Dr. Wendy Osefo -- liberal commentator, mother of two
    • Carla D'Addesi -- mother of three
    • Kathy Barnette -- armed forces veteran, mother of two
    • Angel Voggenreiter -- mother of two
    • Hope Houston -- mother of six

    The first three women, who all had left-leaning opinions, were assigned identifiers related to their professions; Fox ensured its viewers knew McLaughlin and Osefo’s political leanings. But the other four women who all professed conservative political beliefs were identified only as mothers (one was also described as an "armed forces veteran," but her current profession was omitted).

    Carla D'Addesi is a conservative Christian blogger, anti-choice radio host, and "proud conservative." She's an active member of Berks Republican Women in Berks County, PA, and her Twitter feed is full of statements of support for Trump. Her Facebook page prominently features anti-LGBTQ posts and photos and videos documenting her activism against Planned Parenthood and promotion of anti-choice group Students For Life. D’Addesi recently hosted an event at her house titled “Protecting Liberty,” to which she invited anti-gay T-shirt business owner Blaine Adamson, representatives from anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and the right-wing Pennsylvania Family Institute. 

    Kathy Barnette is the founder of a “Christian conservative news” website and has previously appeared on another “panel of moms” on Fox & Friends. She claims to host a show on a Fox affiliate radio station in Philadelphia on which she has discussed topics like “an examination of Islam” and the “Homosexual AGENDA” (emphasis original). Her Facebook page contains multiple posts in support of Trump. Last year, Barnette spoke at an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania chapter of the Oath Keepers, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.”

    Angel Voggenreiter works for McLean Bible Church’s radio show in Virginia. She has previously appeared in multiple Republican National Committee advertisements.

    Media Matters could not find any information online about Hope Houston.

    From the July 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (HOST): The mainstream media's number one obsession still the Trump administration's alleged ties to Russia. But do everyday Americans care about this? We brought in our panel of moms from all walks of life to find out. It's a segment we're calling "Parental Advisory."

    [...]

    What are your concerns, as a mom?

    HOPE HOUSTON: As a mom I'm really concerned about tax reform and the economy and reform of health care because I have six kids and they are all kind of entering the workforce at different stages. And I really want a robust and positive economy for them to participate in.

    [...]

    CARLA D'ADDESI: I'm not concerned about Russia. We're not following that. We feel that there's no evidence that is putting our president and commander-in-chief in a bad light. We have full confidence in our president that is he going to do an amazing job with the economy. He has hired tens of thousands of employees. He's highly successful. And we are very confident in the team that he has put around him. 

    EARHARDT: Kathy?

    KATHY BARNETTE: Yeah, likewise. The issues regarding jobs, taxes, health care, all those things are very important. And one thing that has not been mentioned yet, I'm also concerned about the rampant amount of lawlessness that we are seeing on the streets, as well as throughout the ranks of our government. When I have to think twice about wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt because I don't know what kind of liberal lunatic is going to meet me at the grocery store, I think that is a very important concern of ours today. 

    EARHARDT: Angel? 

    ANGEL VOGGENREITER: I agree with that also. Something I didn't hear anyone mention is Obamacare. I'm ready for that to be repealed and replaced for my family. Our premiums have gone through the roof. And that's what I hear a lot of moms talking about for our kids. 

    CORRECTION: The language in this post has been updated to clarify that Kathy Barnette claimed she is a radio host on a Fox affiliate, that broadcasts her show

  • After years of right-wing media attacks, Republicans now hate college

    New research shows a majority of Republicans have a negative view of higher education

    Blog ››› ››› BRETT ROBERTSON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A new Pew Research Center report finds that a sharply increasing number of Republicans surveyed have a negative view of colleges. This follows years of concerted right-wing media attacks on higher education.

    Media Matters has reported extensively on conservative media’s portrayals of higher education. Here are four ways that conservatives demonize American colleges and universities, and several instances where conservative media misrepresented or sensationalized the words or actions of administrators, professors, and students, helping to convince audiences that higher education is bad for America.

    1) Conservatives claim liberal colleges turn students into jihadis, Nazis, and fascists

    Conservative media often depict colleges and universities as places where students are brainwashed and radicalized. According to Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, colleges are “literally corrupting people’s minds” and “turning them into jihadists.” Meanwhile, Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg equated "liberals on college campuses" to the Nazi "Brown Shirts."

    Then-Fox News host Bill O'Reilly blamed Black Lives Matter for "the rise of fascism on American college campuses."

    2) Mocking students for seeking “safe spaces” and fearing assault

    Conservative media often use the concept of so-called “safe spaces” to mock colleges and college students for seeking to create welcoming environments on campus. Fox contributor Judith Miller told student protesters: "You want a safe space? Stay in your playpen." Fox News has characterized students protesting insensitive Halloween costumes as wrapping themselves in the “cloak of victimhood” and another Fox panel once argued college students advocating fossil-fuel divestment are “immature and irrational.”

    Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed, “it's gotten to the point where women on college campus imagine they're going to be raped. Imagine they have been raped. Write fake stories about being raped when it hasn't happened.” Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham lamented that discussing sexual consent policies "is what they spend their time doing at our American colleges and universities today" because efforts to get people riled up about the “patriarchy thing hadn’t really caught on.”

    Fox host Tucker Carlson even bemoaned that “everybody gets a safe space” at American colleges “except white men,” who he claimed “are hated and despised.”

    3) Outrage over University of Missouri protests

    In the fall of 2015, student protests began at the University of Missouri following a series of racist incidents on campus. Many students felt that the university administration was not doing enough to respond to events that made black students feel unsafe on campus. The protests eventually resulted in the resignation of the university’s president.

    Limbaugh claimed that the president resigned for "committing the crime of being a white male." Some conservative outlets resorted to name-calling with the conservative blog Red State calling the protesters "cowardly liberal lazy douchebags."

    According to Fox News, student protests focused on racial injustice are illegitimate, although armed protests against federal law are likely to be called "patriotic."

    4) Right-wing activists smear supposedly “biased” professors

    Right-wing activist groups like Campus Reform and Professor Watchlist compile and sensationalize perceived instances of liberal bias on college campuses to create profiles of professors who “discriminate against conservative students.” These profiles include contact information of targeted academics to facilitate trolling and harassment.

    Campus Reform and Professor Watchlist are just two of the many conservative groups funded by right-wing dark money networks in an effort to influence campus politics and university curriculum. Stories from these conservative websites often end up being promoted by right-wing news media such as Fox News.

    Media Matters recently described how this process happened to Trinity College sociology professor Johnny Eric Williams. Williams wrote a series of posts on race and policing and linked to a controversial article on social media. Campus Reform wrote an article on the posts, which was picked up by TheBlaze and The Daily Caller, before reaching The Washington Times. These articles resulted in a deluge of threats and harassment being directed toward Williams and Trinity and eventually a campus shutdown. Fox News then blamed the social media post, instead of the threatening right-wing responses, when it wrote, “Professor’s “profane, anti-white messages cause campus controversy.”

  • Betsy DeVos just perpetuated years of right-wing attacks on rape survivors

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Many have questioned the incomprehensible logic of President Donald Trump’s proposal to collaborate with Russia on cybersecurity policy, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appears to be deploying a similar strategy: collaborating with rape deniers on policy regarding campus sexual assault. This comes after right-wing media spent years questioning the severity of sexual assault and attacking the credibility of survivors.

    First reported by Politico, DeVos planned a July 13 meeting with “advocates for survivors of campus sexual assault, as well as with groups representing students who say they were wrongfully accused.”

    Politico identified several invitees as representatives from the men’s rights groups Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE), and National Coalition for Men -- all of which have dedicated themselves to combating what they believe is rampant false reporting of sexual assault, and the lack of attention paid to the “true victims”: those who are accused.

    As The Daily Beast’s Robert Silverman noted, the Southern Poverty Law Center classified SAVE as an organization that is “promoting misogyny” and "lobbying to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors.” Jaclyn Friedman, an expert on campus sexual violence, told Silverman that groups like SAVE not only “actively publicize the names of rape survivors in order to intimidate them,” but also “blame women for ‘instigating’ men's violence against them” and believe that “victims' sexual histories should be fair game in rape cases.” According to ThinkProgress and BuzzFeed, organizations like FACE, National Coalition for Men, and the like are no better in their advocacy, nor less extreme in their beliefs.

    Despite posturing from these groups, false rape reports are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse, & Incest Network (RAINN), 66 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey revealed that “nearly half” of survey respondents “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.” Survivors already face rampant challenges when reporting sexual assault, and it is unlikely the Department of Education’s invitation to these men’s rights groups will improve these conditions.

    A July 12 press release explained that DeVos would meet with the various groups in a series of “listening sessions” meant to “discuss the impact of the Department’s Title IX sexual assault guidance on students, families and institutions.” In 2011, the Obama administration provided schools with guidance on how to “review and enforce Title IX complaints,” emphasizing the role assault and harassment play in the creation of “a hostile educational environment in violation of Title IX.” Many have speculated that DeVos’ openness to including men’s rights organizations in the meetings is just the latest signal that the department will revoke these protections.

    In April, ProPublica implied that DeVos’ selection of Candice Jackson to head the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was a sign of bad things to come for Title IX and anti-sexual violence protections, noting that Jackson had previously “arranged for several of Bill Clinton’s accusers to attend a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton” and that she called women who accused Trump of sexual assault “fake victims.” In June, ProPublica published a memo from Jackson that directed OCR staff to make changes to investigative procedures that “advocates fear will mean less consistent findings of systemic discrimination at colleges.” As ThinkProgress previously reported, DeVos herself has “long donated to organizations that frequently side with students accused of rape and sexual abuse.”

    The men’s rights groups DeVos plans to meet with aren’t alone in waging war on sexual violence protections and survivors. Some of Trump’s favorite right-wing media figures and staunchest cable news supporters have put on a masterclass in how to not report on sexual assault. After an uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about committing sexual assault, many Fox News employees seemingly made it their jobs to either downplay the severity of his comments or attack the many women who came forward with specific allegations against him.

    Even before Trump, right-wing media were especially adamant in their campaign of misrepresenting the severity of sexual assault and harassment. Beyond disputing the veracity of campus sexual assault statistics, right-wing media figures have called reporting on statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a “coveted status,” blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault harm men and constitute “a war happening on boys.” Although she has since fled the network in an attempt to rehab her image at NBC, former Fox News star Megyn Kelly was a chief proponent of the “war on boys” talking point -- which was just part of her long history of criticizing sexual assault prevention measures and minimizing the credibility of survivors.

    Fox itself has spent the better part of the past year -- when not providing the ultimate safe space for Trump and his administration -- embroiled in a series of sexual assault allegations after years of harassment at the network. Such allegations ultimately led to the ouster of both the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and longtime host (now aspiring podcast provocateur) Bill O’Reilly, as well as the recent suspension of Fox Business host Charles Payne.

    Although right-wing media have engaged in some of the most overt attacks on survivors, many other outlets are far from magnanimous in their coverage of sexual assault. As coverage around former Stanford student Brock Turner showed, media have a bad habit of sympathetically highlighting the past accomplishments of the accused, or bemoaning the costs to their lives and careers.

    The New York Times fell into this very trap in a July 12 article about the meetings. The Times began its report by highlighting the “heartfelt missives from college students, mostly men, who had been accused of rape or sexual assault” before going on to describe the consequences they faced, ranging from “lost scholarships” to expulsion. In one case, as the Times noted, a man had tried to “take his own life” but “maintained he was innocent” and “had hoped to become a doctor.” In another example, the Times highlighted the comments of the father of an accused student who complained that his son’s “entire world [was] turned upside down” and that, as the paper put it, he had been “forced to abandon his dream of becoming a college wrestling coach.” Reporting like this -- although seemingly benign -- not only perpetuates victim blaming, but also downplays the severity of allegations by treating offenders as the real victims.

    Slate’s Christina Cauterucci described DeVos’ planned meetings as “a classic case of false balance, because the two sides here do not have equal merit.” She noted that one side includes “advocates for sexual-assault victims” while the other is made up of “trolls who have made it their lives’ work to defend domestic violence.” She concluded that however unfortunate the decision to invite these men’s rights groups to meet, it was unsurprising. After all: “As a representative of an administration run by a man with an interest in protecting sexual harrassers, DeVos has every reason to side with the latter.”

    Undeterred, survivors aren’t letting DeVos off the hook that easily. While she meets with men's rights groups that have systematically tried to silence and shame survivors, organizations that advocate for them will be outside the Department of Education making their voices heard.

  • No, colluding with a hostile foreign power is not normal "opposition research"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump and members of his administration have spent months describing as fake news reports on his ties to Russia and the allegations that the Russian government acted to aid his presidential campaign. They have remained steadfast amid a drumbeat of stories and even U.S. intelligence community findings about Russia, the election, and Trump’s staff. His right-wing media allies have been a key force in this endeavor, consistently finding ways to minimize or explain away damning new revelations and blaming them not on Trump, but on a shadowy nexus of Democrats, the “deep state,” and the press. This aid is essential to maintaining the president’s political position: The vast majority of Republicans have continued to support Trump in part because of the efforts of his loyal propagandists.

    Over the last week, new information has emerged that should change the trajectory of the Russia story. As The New York Times reported, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., as well as top Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, met during the 2016 presidential campaign with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. Emails that Trump Jr. released reveal that the meeting came about after Trump Jr. was told the lawyer had damaging information about Hillary Clinton that was provided by a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Trump Jr. has effectively admitted to trying to collude with a hostile government. The debate should now move to how deep that collusion went, and who was involved.

    But this damning new information has moved few minds among the president’s core media supporters. Instead, faced with the devastating revelation that the president’s campaign was trying to collude with the Russian government, they have followed the president’s lead by offering the risible argument that anyone would have done the same thing if given the opportunity. Faced with evidence that the president’s team serves no morality but that which benefits itself, they have declared that everyone else shares this twisted worldview.

    As Newt Gingrich put it to The Atlantic, “If somebody in the middle of the campaign walks in the door and says ‘I have information that will harm your opponent,’ virtually every campaign in the world will say show me, what do you have.” “Let me tell you, if my father was running for president of the United States,” Kimberly Guilfoyle said on Fox, “I would sit down and take a meeting and find out if there was information against an opponent.” Yesterday, the president himself adopted this argument, telling Reuters, "Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do” what his son did; he reiterated the point this afternoon.

    It is obviously, flagrantly false that Trump Jr.’s actions were typical and proper. The media has said so: As The New York Times put it, “while opposition research is part of modern presidential campaigns, it normally does not come from representatives of a hostile foreign power.” Top Republican campaign operatives have said so, claiming that the incident was extremely unusual, that they wouldn’t have taken the meeting, and that the Trump team should have reported it to law enforcement. Christopher Wray, Trump’s nominee to become FBI director, has said so, stating that politicians in that situation should call the bureau. And history says so: When a top aide to Al Gore’s presidential campaign received George W. Bush’s debate preparation materials in the mail, he turned them over to the FBI. (And Trump ally claims that Clinton’s campaign similarly colluded with Ukraine are specious nonsense.)

    At this point, it seems foolish to imagine that Trump’s media allies will change their opinion of the story, regardless of what new information comes forward. They are in too deep at this point, having sacrificed their credibility and independence too many times to turn back now. He expressed unchecked bigotry and they were fine with it; audio bragging about sexual assault was explained away as “locker room talk”; his campaign viciously attacked and even physically battered reporters and was cheered. At a certain point, they went too far, and now have little choice but to tell one another that colluding with a hostile foreign power is not just acceptable, but necessary.

    The president’s media allies have decided to believe the president instead of their own lying eyes. The result is a series of arguments that have the country not only unmoored from a common view of reality, but of anything approaching a common morality. The propagandists have moved the goalposts from a question of whether a presidential campaign colluded with a hostile foreign government, to whether such collusion is actually a good thing. The nagging remaining question is whether their audience will ever decide that they’ve seen enough of this farce.