Justice & Civil Liberties

Issues ››› Justice & Civil Liberties
  • Anti-abortion extremist group resurfaces to promote anti-choice misinformation in Wash. Times

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After disbanding earlier this year, the anti-choice extremists behind Protest ABQ are back and operating under a new name -- and thanks to The Washington Times, they’re getting a bigger platform than ever to spread misinformation about late-term abortion and demonize abortion providers.

    In a June 20 article, The Washington Times gave an uncritical platform to a newly re-formed New Mexico anti-abortion group, Abortion Free New Mexico (AFNM). This group is the latest venture of longtime anti-choice extremists Bud and Tara Shaver. The Shavers are acolytes of Troy Newman, the head of the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which has for years pushed violent rhetoric against, and harassment of, abortion providers. Prior to forming AFNM, the Shavers headed a similar campaign in New Mexico, called Protest ABQ. Protest ABQ operated from 2014 to March 2017 and not only targeted individual abortion providers and clinics, but also deceptively recorded comments made by clinic staff in order to allege wrongdoing. Before concluding the Protest ABQ campaign, the Shavers leaked their baseless information to a congressional panel investigating disproven claims against Planned Parenthood.

    According to the Times, AFNM and the anti-abortion group Priests for Life “have released a series of undercover audio recordings of abortion clinic workers” engaged in behavior they consider unlawful. Although there has been no external confirmation of these claims -- or validation of the recordings themselves -- the Times drew a comparison between AFNM’s recordings and a set of deceptively edited videos from the discredited anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The Times excluded the information that multiple investigations have disproved CMP’s claims of wrongdoing. Instead, the article credited AFNM for attempting to “to raise awareness about the prevalence of late-term abortion, especially in New Mexico,” via similar tactics.

    The Shavers launched AFNM in April, using a model touted by Newman in his book Abortion Free that centers on surveilling and harassing abortion providers. AFNM then began what it calls the #NewMexicoTrue project, a “6 Part Series exposing the [New Mexico] Abortion Cartel.” As part of this effort, AFNM began posting audio it claims represents illicit practices by abortion providers at clinics across the state. As of late June, AFNM had posted four videos that it alleges demonstrate discriminatory and dangerous practices by abortion providers. For example, in the most recent installment, AFNM claims that its “undercover recording … reveals just how arbitrary the standard is for determining which baby lives or dies” in New Mexico. Despite having no external corroboration, the Times not only promoted AFNM’s recordings, but also thus legitimized the tactic of deceptively filming and releasing video of abortion providers.

    Unfortunately, this is only the latest example of right-wing media giving a platform to an anti-abortion group that is attempting to manufacture outrage through deceptive “undercover” recordings. In May, when CMP released footage that identified abortion providers in violation of a court order, right-wing and anti-choice media did much of the legwork of spreading the organization’s disproven and malicious claims. 

    There is an even longer history of right-wing media figures assisting anti-choice groups by amplifying their attacks on individual abortion providers. For example, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly spent years openly bullying abortion providers like Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009. O’Reilly often referred to the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was “a special place in hell for this guy.” Indeed, Newman praised O’Reilly in Abortion Free for how he “spoke passionately against Tiller’s late-term abortion business” and “often used television as a bully pulpit to denounce” Tiller. O’Reilly also actively collaborated with Newman to more effectively target Tiller, as Newman explained, helping “locate Tiller gassing his armored Jeep at a QuikTrip near his abortion clinic” so Fox News’ Jesse Watters could be filmed “surprising Tiller with questions about his late-term abortion business.”

    This type of targeted harassment and monitoring of abortion providers breeds conditions for anti-choice violence. According to a recent report from the National Abortion Federation, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats.”  

    Late-term abortion is an essential and legal medical service in the United States -- and neither patients nor providers should be demonized for receiving or performing the procedure. Nearly 99 percent of abortions performed in this country take place “before 21 weeks” of pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. After the 20th week, the Supreme Court has explicitly protected a woman’s right to an abortion if it is “necessary to preserve [her] life or health.” By promoting the work of anti-abortion groups like AFNM, the Times and other right-wing media are not only encouraging such groups to use deceptive tactics, but also enabling the type of targeted harassment that endangers abortion providers, patients, and clinics.

  • Trump's appointees are promoting anti-choice “alternative science” ripped from right-wing media

    LA Times describes appointees as “the four horsewomen of disinformation” on abortion and contraception

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine called out four of President Donald Trump’s recent appointees for promoting bad policy on contraception and abortion -- policies that are rooted in “alternative science” supported by discredited research and right-wing media.

    In a June 14 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Law School professor R. Alta Charo, who focuses on the law and bioethics, wrote about President Donald Trump’s appointment of Charmaine Yoest, Teresa Manning, and Valerie Huber to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as his assignment of Katy Talento to serve as a health care adviser on his Domestic Policy Council. Charo lamented that these appointments exemplified how “reproduction has become the victim of alternative science, rife with alternative definitions of well-understood medical conditions.”

    In a June 15 article for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik characterized Charo’s article as “identifying four Trump appointees as carriers of the disinformation virus” and called the appointees “the four horsewomen of disinformation.” Most alarmingly, Charo told Hiltzik that these four appointees “could influence an entire generation’s attitude toward contraception, for the worse.”

    For example, Charmaine Yoest, the assistant secretary for public affairs at DHHS and the former president of the anti-abortion group Americans United For Life, has a long history of misinforming on contraception, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. One of Yoest’s most egregious and often repeated claims is that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, an assertion that Charo explained “will only encourage the alarming pattern of state legislation requiring physicians to provide this misinformation in the name of ‘informed consent.’”

    Similarly, Teresa Manning, the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at DHHS, is a former legislative analyst for the hate group Family Research Council and a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee. Although Manning doesn’t believe that contraception can be effective, she is now in charge of the Title X program, which provides family planning funds for low-income people. Manning’s belief, which will shape the federal policy, is not supported by science. As Charo noted, there is ample evidence that “hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.”

    Trump’s recent appointment of Valerie Huber to serve as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health is problematic given the department’s oversight of adolescent health programs. As the former head of a group called Ascend, Huber promoted abstinence-only sex education, which Charo rightfully identified as having “repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at preventing” teen pregnancy. Indeed, as multiple studies have found, abstinence-only sex education failed to prevent a long-term delay in sex or teen pregnancy, and, in some cases, actually led to a decrease in the use of condoms or contraception, increasing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

    The final appointee Charo criticized was Katy Talento, who now serves as a health care adviser on the Domestic Policy Council. Talento believes birth control causes infertility and miscarriages, which is not supported by the majority of scientific studies. To demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence behind Talento’s claims, Charo pointed to an article Talento had written in which she incorrectly cited a study to claim birth control is “breaking your uterus.”

    According to Charo, misinformation on abortion and other reproductive choices has “been used to support abortion restrictions” at the state level, despite having little factual or scientific basis. Such rewriting of science, Charo claimed, is not done by “reasonable people” for they “may disagree about how to interpret data, but they do not ignore scientific method by giving credence to flawed, fraudulent, or misrepresented studies.”

    Although the appointment of these anti-choice stalwarts may be recent, the misinformation they advance is nothing new in the world of right-wing media. Fox News has continually provided legitimacy to the discredited anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress and carried water for its disproven claims about fetal tissue donation and Planned Parenthood. Fox News has also hosted people like White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who advocates for 20-week abortion bans based on a flawed scientific premise and has a long history of promoting anti-choice misinformation during her appearances on the network. During the 2016 election, Fox News also alleged multiple times that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported “partial-birth” abortion, a term that has no medical basis and was, in fact, invented by anti-abortion groups to demonize people seeking medically necessary late-term abortions. Similarly, the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives relied heavily on claims from anti-abortion groups that were promoted as credible evidence by right-wing media.

    Trump’s health care appointees exist in the right-wing media world of “alternative science.” And as the New England Journal of Medicine reported, the impact of these discredited anti-choice views will lead to unsound policies that will have a substantial impact on abortion access and reproductive health throughout the country.

  • Days before Megyn Kelly interview airs, Alex Jones pushes more Sandy Hook conspiracy theories

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Just days before NBC is set to air an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Megyn Kelly’s new show, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, Jones once again pushed several conspiracy theories about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    Kelly and NBC’s decision to interview Jones has created a firestorm of controversy, with some family members of Sandy Hook victims calling for NBC to shelve the recorded interview given that Jones has pushed toxic conspiracy theories about the shooting that spurred some of his followers to harass the families. Page Six reported that following harsh criticism of the decision to give Jones a platform, Kelly invited Sandy Hook families to be interviewed for the episode as well.

    During the June 15 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones promoted several conspiracy theories that he and others have previously used to deny that the tragedy ever happened.

    Citing the U.S. government’s use of misinformation to justify wars in the Middle East, Jones said, “If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location.”

    It should go without saying that Jones’ claims about the shooting that took 26 lives are false.

    On his show, Jones continued to lie about what he has said about the Sandy Hook tragedy in the past, saying he has “looked at every angle of” the shooting and claiming that he has said previously, “It could have been totally true, could have been totally fake.” (In recent months, Jones has repeatedly claimed he was merely playing “devil’s advocate” when commenting on the shooting.)

    As Media Matters documented, in the years following the tragedy, Jones definitively stated on several occasions that the shooting did not happen. In 2014, for example, Jones said, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

    Jones has been lying about his past comments on Sandy Hook since his statements started drawing heightened scrutiny following his claim after the 2016 election that President Donald Trump would soon appear on his show. (Trump appeared on Jones show in 2015 and praised the conspiracy theorist’s “amazing” reputation.)

    Kelly’s interview is set to air June 18 at 7 p.m. EST.

    Jones’ June 15 comments on Sandy Hook:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): It is a fact that on the eve of the Gulf War in 1990 a PR firm was hired, and the daughter of the owner of the PR firm, who’d never been to Kuwait and who spoke fluent English and had been brought up in the U.S., went and testified to seeing Iraqi soldiers ripping babies out of incubators and bashing their brains out by the hundreds. This was used as the pretext to launch that war that was meant to legitimize the U.N. as a global government body and bring in a new world order as George Herbert Walker Bush said, or Bush 41. Now, if criminal elements of our government will do something like that to launch now three wars in the Middle East, back radical jihadists to take over Iraq, Syria, Libya, other areas, overthrow our allies in Egypt, kill millions of people, starve millions more, and have Madeline Albright, Clinton’s secretary of state, say a half-million kids is an OK price to pay -- in fact, let’s cue that up. If they’ll do that, then am I supposed to question Sandy Hook when it happens and they’ve got the kids going in circles in and out of the building, and they don’t call the rescue helicopters, and then instead an hour later there’s port-a-potties and food being delivered and PR firms are there and Anderson Cooper says he’s on location but he’s clearly faking the location. We looked at every angle of that. And so they’ve now misrepresented what we’ve said, that I said it could have been totally true, could have been totally fake. I didn’t progenerate. I didn’t create. I wasn't the fount of that. The things that I am the fountain of, I’ll tell you. 1776 worldwide. Rebooting America. Nationalism.

  • HBO’s Vice News Tonight shows the reality of living in a state with just one remaining abortion clinic

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On June 12, HBO’s Vice News Tonight highlighted the struggles abortion providers and patients face in the seven states with only one abortion clinic remaining. In particular, by allowing providers to speak in their own words about what it’s like to operate in a one-clinic state, HBO shined a light on the consequences of dwindling abortion access across the country.

    During the June 12 edition of Vice News Tonight, abortion providers in Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Mississippi discussed the challenges of operating the single remaining abortion clinic in their states. Although Vice News had previously profiled these clinics, the June 12 segment gave providers an even larger platform.

    For example, several providers underscored the pivotal role their clinics play for patients seeking abortion services and other forms of essential health care. Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said, “We’re resolute that we must stay open because if we’re not there, there is no one to take care of the women in our state and in our community.” Shannon Brewer, the clinic director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, MS, said that her clinic must stay open because people “have nowhere else to go. They can go to neighboring states, but why should they have to?”

    Research echoes these clinic directors’ comments about impact of abortion restrictions in their one-clinic states. The greatest burden of anti-choice restrictions is faced by already marginalized groups, particularly low-income individuals and people of color. These patients and others seeking an abortion in one-clinic states may have to travel great distances to even reach the clinic in their state. As The Daily Beast explained, in the center of the country, where "roughly 400,000 women of reproductive age" live, they have to travel at least 150 miles to get to the nearest clinic.

    In other cases, patients may be forced to travel to another state for abortion care. Before even getting to the clinic, however, those seeking an abortion will face any number of economic and logistical barriers -- including the cost for transportation and childcare, and the loss of income caused by taking time off work. This is further complicated in states with mandatory waiting periods, which force patients to not only take multiple days off work but also to arrange several trips to the clinic.

    Along with the burdens placed on patients, abortion providers face elevated threats of violence in states with one clinic remaining. Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic director and owner of Red River Women’s Clinic in North Dakota, told Vice News Tonight that the first abortion provider in the state faced threats from protesters coming to her home. As Ms. Magazine explained, the threat of violence against abortion providers means that sometimes when physicians leave a clinic, there is no one to replace them and the clinic must close. Nevertheless, right-wing media continue to push violent rhetoric against abortion providers and spread misinformation about abortion safety.

    With many states continuing to consider and pass abortion restrictions -- as well as the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood at the federal level -- more states may join the seven HBO highlighted, with just one clinic left to serve their entire population.

  • Here is exactly what Alex Jones has said about the Sandy Hook massacre

    Jones on Sandy Hook: “Staged,” “inside job,” “undoubtedly there’s a cover-up,” “giant hoax,” “the whole thing was fake,” “in my view, manufactured”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is calling for his upcoming interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly not to air because he says Kelly misrepresented his views on the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

    A short promotional video released by Kelly on June 11 showed Jones attempting to obfuscate and spin his past statements about Sandy Hook, with the prominent conspiracy theorist and ally of President Donald Trump calling Sandy Hook “complex,” claiming he has advocated both for and against concluding that the shooting actually happened, and claiming he “looked at all the angles.”

    Following the release of this promo, Jones wrote on Twitter, “I'm calling for @megynkelly to cancel the airing of our interview for misrepresenting my views on Sandy Hook.” Jones’ tweet included a link to a 40-minute video in which he complained about the interview. The interview is scheduled to air June 18.

    While we don’t know how the Sandy Hook exchange will play out in the full interview, what can be proved is that Jones is a liar who -- since developing a high profile during the 2016 election -- has attempted to sanitize his definitive past claims that the shooting was a “hoax.”

    In 2013, Jones called the shooting “staged” and said, “It’s got inside job written all over it.”

    In March 2014, Jones said, “I’ve looked at it and undoubtedly there’s a cover-up, there’s actors, they’re manipulating, they’ve been caught lying, and they were pre-planning before it and rolled out with it.”

    In December 2014, Jones said on his radio program, “The whole thing is a giant hoax.”

    Jones continued: “The general public doesn’t know the school was actually closed the year before. They don’t know they’ve sealed it all, demolished the building. They don’t know that they had the kids going in circles in and out of the building as a photo-op. Blue screen, green screens, they got caught using.”

    Making it clear he didn’t view the occurrence of the shooting as an open question, Jones explicitly said that the Obama administration was behind the shooting, noting, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

    Jones made similar comments the following January, saying the shooting was “a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are that they clearly used actors.”

    In July 2015, Jones said cast doubt on whether children were actually killed during the shooting, before citing prominent Sandy Hook hoaxer Wolfgang Halbig.

    Jones began to spin his past Sandy Hook statements in earnest following the victory of Donald Trump as his past statements came under increased scrutiny because of his association with Trump and his claim that the new president would appear on his show in the near future.

    Despite his recent contradictory claims about the shooting, Jones continues to make statements that fuel Sandy Hook conspiracy theories.

    Here are some headlines that advance Sandy Hook conspiracy theories that are still active on Jones’ website, Infowars.com:

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]
     

    [Infowars.com, accessed 6/13/17]

  • Fox's Ed Henry falsely claims Comey lied under oath about leak of Trump memos

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News correspondent Ed Henry misleadingly recounted May 3 testimony provided by then-FBI Director James Comey during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to falsely suggest that Comey had lied under oath. Henry’s flawed version of Comey’s responses to a Republican senator’s line of questioning mirrors a May 12 Breitbart.com article, which made the same misinformed suggestion.

    On the June 11 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz, Henry quickly rattled off a series of questions posed to then-FBI Director James Comey by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during a May 3 hearing. After quoting Grassley’s questions from a transcript, Henry then paraphrased Grassley, claiming the senator asked Comey “whether he had allowed others to leak anything,” to which Comey responded, according to Henry’s erroneous account of the May 3 hearing, “no, no, no.” Henry suggested that this supposedly misleading testimony from Comey stood as evidence that the ousted FBI director was no “white knight” before claiming that Comey seemed “like someone who had been leaking a lot before”:

    ED HENRY: This idea that he's a white knight, this idea that oh he's shocked, shocked by leaks. I went back and looked at the record, and I think a lot of people have missed this. May 3, he was under oath, Senate Judiciary Committee before he was fired, and James Comey was asked by Chuck Grassley, "have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters related to the Trump investigation or Clinton investigations?" "Never." Followed up, "have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to leak information in either of those?" He says, "No." And then finally he said, "are you aware of any classified information related to the president or his associates leaking out?" "Not to my knowledge." This was before he got fired. "Not to my knowledge” is kind of an odd answer, number one. But number two, the idea that Grassley asked him whether he had allowed others to leak anything, and he said, under oath, "no, no, no."

    Hang on a second. Now, the playbook according to James Comey in this latest hearing is, "I can use somebody over at Columbia." You didn’t really believe that was the first time James Comey did that? It sounded like someone who had been leaking a lot before.

    In fact, according to a transcript from the May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey, under oath, did not answer misleadingly to a broad question that Henry claims was posed to him by Grassley about “whether he allowed others to leak anything.” Comey only specifically denied that he: 1) was “an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation;” 2) that he “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation;” and 3) that “any classified information relating to President Trump or his ... associates [had] been declassified and shared with the media”:

    SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?

    JAMES COMEY: Never.

    GRASSLEY: Question two, relatively related, have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?

    COMEY: No.

    GRASSLEY: Has any classified information relating to President Trump or his association — associates been declassified and shared with the media?

    COMEY: Not to my knowledge.

    On June 8, Comey testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he used “a good friend … who’s a professor at Columbia Law School” to provide information to The New York Times. Comey was not the anonymous source, nor was “someone else at the FBI,” and Comey established in his June 8 testimony, during a back and forth with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), that the information eventually provided to the Times by an intermediary was not classified material. And of course, this New York Times report was published on May 11, a week after Comey’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, and two days after Trump fired him as FBI director.

    Suggesting that Comey lied under oath in response to Grassley’s line of questioning is false, and Henry’s misconstrued paraphrasing of Grassley’s question matched earlier attempts to defame Comey from Breitbart.com and other fake news purveyors.

  • NRA's news outlet blatantly lied about Comey hearing to protect Trump

    NRATV gaslights the public with a fake “direct quote” from Comey

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV spun former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate intelligence committee to President Donald Trump’s advantage by flatly lying about what Comey said.

    Comey testified in an open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on June 8, almost a month after Trump abruptly fired him. Trump’s public statements on the firing have caused numerous legal experts to warn that Trump may have obstructed justice by improperly interfering with an FBI investigation.

    NRATV was quick to jump to Trump’s defense before and during Comey’s appearance. During the 11 a.m. edition of its program Stinchfield, which provides live news updates at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST, host Grant Stinchfield said the hearing came down to one question: “Did [Trump] ever try to obstruct justice in any way?" He said Comey answered, "No": 

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Now as I look and listen to this hearing, what I see is James Comey being questioned. One, being led by the Democrats to try to sink Donald Trump, and two, by the Republicans trying to get to the heart of what this hearing is all about. Did Donald Trump try to obstruct justice when it came to this Russian investigation in any way? A direct quote when he was asked about this by the chairman of the committee, a Republican, “Did Donald Trump ever ask you to stop the Russian investigation?” James Comey’s answer, “No.” “Did he ever try to obstruct justice in any way?” James Comey’s answer, “No.”

    In actuality, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the intelligence committee, asked Comey whether the president was trying to find a way for former national security adviser Mike Flynn to “save face” after having been fired, or whether he was trying to “obstruct justice” when he said he hoped Comey could “let [the investigation] go.” At the time, Flynn was under investigation for his ties to Russia. Comey didn’t respond “no,” but instead said, “I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that's an offense”:

    RICHARD BURR: Director, when the president requested that you -- and I quote -- “let Flynn go,” General Flynn had an unreported contact with the Russians, which is an offense and if press accounts are right, there might have been discrepancies between facts and his FBI testimony. In your estimation, was General Flynn at that time in serious legal jeopardy and, in addition to that, do you sense that the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face given he had already been fired?

    JAMES COMEY: General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts themselves. And so that was my assessment at the time. I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that's an offense. [CSPAN, James Comey hearing, 6/8/17]

    The special counsel Comey referred to is former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is tasked with investigating “ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.”

    Before the hearing even began, Stinchfield tweeted that the “testimony will be a big ‘Nothing Burger!’”

    During the 9 a.m. update, Stinchfield claimed there was nothing wrong with Trump’s “demand for loyalty” from Comey and that in prepared testimony released before the hearing, the former FBI director “makes it clear in no way did Donald Trump ever obstruct justice.” (The prepared testimony reached no such conclusion. As Comey’s testimony during the hearing demonstrated, his view is that the question of whether Trump’s conduct could constitute obstruction of justice should be left to the special counsel.) During the 10 a.m. update, Stinchfield attempted to undercut Comey’s upcoming statements by claiming Comey was “almost posing for the camera” as he took his seat before the hearing and said, “There is no doubt in my mind that James Comey loves the spotlight. In fact, he relishes it. This is why he writes those memos, throwing Donald Trump under the bus.”

    The NRA was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, spending millions of dollars to help his campaign. NRATV has long since established itself as a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, previously calling any dissent against Trump “anti-patriotic” and an “assault against freedom and the Constitution.” Stinchfield and NRATV commentator Dana Loesch have praised Trump’s “tough straight talk about the dishonesty of the media” and encouraged then President-elect Trump to continue his attacks against the press. In February, Stinchfield blamed Trump’s Russia scandal on a “concerted effort with Obama loyalists ... trying to undermine the president every step of the way.”

    In January, the NRA released a video promising that the group would be “Donald Trump’s strongest, most unflinching ally.” That allegiance apparently extends to fabricating quotes from a public hearing for the benefit of the president.

  • Broadly highlights how crisis pregnancy centers promote misinformation instead of medical care

    “It’s reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith -- as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true.”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a May 30 article, Broadly’s Callie Beusman highlighted the “public health crisis” posed by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) -- anti-abortion organizations that represent themselves as reproductive care clinics, but that employ deceptive tactics and medical misinformation to mislead patients into continuing their pregnancies.

    According to Beusman, the recent opening of the Hartford Women’s Center, a CPC located “a mere 30 feet from Hartford GYN Center, in the same office complex, with nearly identical signage,” is an entirely intentional decision by the anti-abortion organizers behind it. As Beusman explained, CPCs often “employ a variety of deceptive tactics, including posting misleading ads and establishing locations next to clinics and hospitals, with the intent of luring women into their offices” so that they can “bombard them with spurious information” until they either reject abortion or delay the decision long enough “to push the pregnancy past the legal window for termination.”

    Beusman said NARAL described the consequences of allowing CPCs to supplant legitimate reproductive health and abortion care in many communities as a “public health crisis.” For example, despite appearing as a “legitimate family planning clinic on its surface,” Hartford Women’s Center in reality provided “none of the vital health care services women can access next door at Hartford GYN Center: no STI testing, no well women exams, no prenatal care, no birth control.”

    This is not uncommon. A year-long investigation by Cosmopolitan found that CPCs often “do not provide or refer [patients] for contraception or abortion” and that many employees, “even those who provide medical information, are not licensed.” According to Salon, in some cases, states directly fund CPCs to provide misleading information anti-choice in lieu of actual medical services. In one example, in 2016, Texas awarded the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive health program to anti-abortion extremist Carol Everett and her network of CPCs, The Heidi Group. In mid-March, The Dallas Morning News reported that despite being “armed with $1.6 million taxpayer dollars, the Heidi Group has delivered nothing.”

    As Beusman explained, “It's reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith—as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true, or as though it's ever morally justifiable to deny care to women in need.”

    From Broadly:

    Hartford Women's Center, which opened its doors for the first time this month, is the newest St. Gerard's location. It's a mere 30 feet from Hartford GYN Center, in the same office complex, with nearly identical signage. This is very confusing, and intentionally so. Hartford Women's Center is what's known as a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), a term used to describe anti-abortion organizations whose sole purpose is to convince women to carry pregnancies to term, oftentimes by posing as legitimate reproductive health care providers.

    CPCs typically employ a variety of deceptive tactics, including posting misleading ads and establishing locations next to clinics and hospitals, with the intent of luring women into their offices. Once women are in their clutches, they bombard them with spurious information: that abortions are extremely painful and perilous, that ending an unwanted pregnancy may result in permanent psychological damage, that an abortion might not even be necessary because miscarriage is so common. In some cases, staff will even lie about the fetus' gestational age in order to push the pregnancy past the legal window for termination. There are currently over 3500 CPCs operating in America, compared with around 800 abortion clinics.

    [...]

    Although Hartford Women's Center resembles a legitimate family planning clinic on its surface, it offers basically none of the vital health care services women can access next door at Hartford GYN Center: no STI testing, no well women exams, no prenatal care, no birth control. Women who end up in the center are told that abortion is murder, that several forms of contraception are also murder, and that choosing to terminate a pregnancy could have ruinous repercussions, including PTSD, breast cancer, and infertility. They're urged to carry their pregnancies to term and promised financial and emotional support if they choose to do so. (In addition to the services advertised on its card, St. Gerard's currently offers free baby clothing and diapers for women who enroll in its education program, social service referrals, and baptism preparation for infants and mothers alike.)

    [...]

    I do not doubt that numerous volunteers and "prayer warriors" who had flocked to the new St. Gerard's location genuinely felt they were doing the right thing: saving the mother from sin, saving the fetus from abortion. I think they believe all their own stories, the Biblical parables and anti-abortion propaganda materials alike. But it's reckless and dangerous to approach accepted medical science as one approaches faith—as if incessantly proselytizing about the grave dangers of abortion makes it true, or as though it's ever morally justifiable to deny care to women in need.