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After Democratic lawmakers moved to protect abortion rights in New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island, right-wing media responded with a flurry of inaccurate allegations that their efforts promoted “infanticide.”
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Ever since the first of three women reported sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, right-wing media’s message to victims of sexual violence has rung painfully clear -- if you come forward and tell your story, you’re putting yourself at risk and the establishment will circle the wagons to protect your abuser.
Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick have faced unending smear campaigns while also being summarily dismissed by those seeking to ram Kavanaugh onto the court. Conservative media have systematically overlooked the fact that Kavanaugh lied and perjured himself during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, instead propagating outlandish conspiracy theories about his accusers and questioning whether they have political motivations. Their smear campaign coalesces around one simple message of intimidation: If you tell your truth about sexual violence, it won’t disqualify your assailant from moving up in his career; instead, you’ll ruin the reputation of a good man, and a right-wing attack mob will set its sight on ruining yours as well.
Right-wing media’s radical and insulting insistence that a history of sexual assault doesn’t disqualify a man from sitting on the Supreme Court is perhaps the most honest confession in their coverage of allegations made against Brett Kavanaugh. They are telling survivors that coming forward is, as Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) put it, but a “hiccup” on the way to their assailant getting a promotion.
Perhaps the most shameless example of conservatives telling on themselves is an article published in The Federalist titled, “Why Brett Kavanaugh Should Be Confirmed To The Supreme Court Even If He’s Guilty.” An anonymous author argues “the actual impact” of Kavanaugh’s alleged history of sexual violence would likely be irrelevant to his “behavior as a Supreme Court justice.” The article goes on to say that “the stakes” of confirming Kavanaugh “are even higher” now than they were before, noting that if he fails to get on the court, “every Supreme Court nomination henceforth will be derailed by mere allegation.”
For its part, Fox News has also made clear that Ford’s report should not get in the way of Kavanaugh’s promotion. This is not a surprise, considering that the network functions as a mouthpiece for the White House communications team led by disgraced former Fox executive Bill Shine, who was forced out due to his role in the culture of sexual harassment that prevailed under Roger Ailes. Here are some of the most offensive takes from the network’s Kavanaugh coverage:
In the effort to rehabilitate Brett Kavanaugh’s image, right-wing media have characterized the reports as nothing more than smears of a good and innocent man. Some have bizarrely admitted they believe Christine Ford but they don’t believe what she says Kavanaugh did to her. They’ve also deflected from the women’s stories by mentioning that Kavanaugh goes to church and volunteers and coaches his daughters’ basketball team:
According to some right-wing pundits, even listening to victims is a wholesale attack on men. During her daily radio show, Laura Ingraham said she wanted to “focus on men for a moment” because “this could happen to any of you.” Not to be outdone by his peers, Tucker Carlson used the stories of sexual assault survivors to continues his ongoing white nationalist campaign, categorizing allegations against Kavanaugh as an attack on all white people and men and arguing that Democrats’ willingness to listen to Ford demonstrates a sexism that’s similar to racism. He also called Kavanaugh a “folk hero” to the “unfairly maligned.”
When conservative media figures portray a sexual assault report as a politically motivated smear of a decent family man, they are telling victims the damage wrought by the violence they experienced is unimportant and that speaking about it is wrong.
The conservative victim-blaming campaign discourages survivors from speaking up through the direct threat of a never-ending character assassination and harassment campaign. The results of this tactic have been illustrated by the fact that Ford has had to go into hiding, separately from her children, for her family’s safety. Here are some examples of right-wing media attacking Ford’s character:
And while Twitter is a general cesspool of conspiracy theories and smears against sexual assault survivors, no individual has put more into this effort than conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who called the confirmation process “the Left’s PizzaGate” and said that the Democrats were “willing to destroy an innocent man so they can keep killing kids.”
Right-wing media and Republicans in Congress have been working overtime to send a clear message to survivors of sexual violence: It’s better for us if you stay quiet. The campaign against Kavanaugh’s accusers reinforces what women already know -- that sexual violence is about power, and that when backed into a corner, power brokers will regroup and lash out at its challengers.
Millions of people watch Fox News every day. Many of them are undoubtedly survivors of sexual violence themselves. While Fox News personalities get rich smearing victims in an effort to install Kavanaugh into power no matter his past behavior or the fact that he repeatedly lied to Congress, they’re saying to their viewers, “We don’t care about you, we don’t believe you, and you should shut up and keep your experiences to yourself.” Right-wing media outlets are sustained by their commitment to punching down, even if that means launching an attack on half of the world’s population to save the career of one man. Only through the power of testimony and solidarity can survivors overcome the system that seeks to silence us.
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Swetnick says she “witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom”
On September 26, a third woman came forward with an account of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Julie Swetnick said in a sworn declaration, initially posted on her lawyer Michael Avenatti’s Twitter account, that she witnessed Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge “drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct,” including “abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.”
According to Swetnick, Judge, Kavanaugh, and others would make efforts to “‘spike’ the ‘punch’ at house parties … to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say ‘No,’” and they would make “efforts” to “cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys.” Swetnick also stated, “In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these ‘gang’ or ‘train’ rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present.”
Several right-wing media figures reacted to this story by attacking Swetnick, casting doubt on her story, and defending Kavanaugh:
The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson: “So the FBI conducts six investigations into Kavanaugh and totally misses that he's been running drug and rape gangs since age 15, but the solution is to have the FBI do a seventh investigation?”
”Erickson: “If you know there's a band of 15 year olds running drugs and raping fellow teenagers, why'd you keep going to the parties? Why'd you never tell anyone else about this rape gang?”
Erickson, again: “Was Bill Cosby ever at a Georgetown Prep party? Because this sounds more like they confused Kavanaugh for him.”
The National Review’s David French: “Please someone help me with this. … Lots of people knew [Georgetown Prep boys] were committing gang rape, … [but] no one has talked publicly for three decades, until the day before a crucial Senate hearing. What?”
Radio host Hugh Hewitt quote-tweeted French’s tweet, writing: “It is not plausible. Committee staff should speak with her and senators/committee counsel should question Kavanaugh specifically on new affidavit. Then vote Friday. The parade of late hits won’t stop, won’t be illumined by delay.”
The National Review’s Rich Lowry: “One obvious question about this account: Why would she constantly attend parties where she believed girls were being gang-raped?”
The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti: “At no point in this allegation does Avenatti's client claim she was raped by Brett Kavanaugh.”
The Daily Caller’s Derek Hunter: “Curiously @CNN is ignoring the garbage allegations of multiple gang rape parties. Yet they’re taking the test as gospel. What a bunch of bullshit.”
The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey: “Why the fuck did this woman go to ‘multiple parties’ where she knew gang rapes were a common occurrence?”
Fox News’ Stephen Miller: “This is going to end up at someone saw Kavanaugh do the shocker one time.”
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway: “One thing that is not being captured in the media/Dem coordinated ‘Destroy Kavanaugh’ campaign is how unspeakably angry it is making a huge percentage of the population… They are *angry.*
Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter re-tweeted Avenatti’s tweet of Swetnick’s name and photo, with the caption “full of it.”
Schlichter: “This is all bullshit. Confirm him.”
Conservative radio host Buck Sexton: “We are left with 2 choices. 1) Kavanaugh was part of a secret roving gang rape squad in DC that was systemically violating women. … 2) This is the most disgustingly dishonest, coordinated smear campaign in US history.”
President Donald Trump this morning tried to rally his supporters by claiming that his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is the victim of a biased prosecution because President Barack Obama “had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled.” Several of the president’s closest and most loyal media allies have pushed that nonsensical claim since Cohen pleaded guilty yesterday on eight federal charges including making illegal campaign contributions which he said came at Trump’s direction.
At 9:37 a.m., Trump tweeted:
Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
But as New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore pointed out, these cases are by no means parallel:
There’s a reason that deliberate and knowing violations of campaign finance law are a criminal matter, punishable by arrest and imprisonment, while good-faith paperwork errors are handled civilly, with fines.
— Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) August 22, 2018
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump also took Trump’s argument apart, calling it “entirely wrong.”
Trump may have gotten this bad-faith argument from one of the right-wing media figures who regularly run to his defense. Last night, Fox News’ Sean Hannity cited the Obama campaign fine in discussing a litany of “prominent liberals” who “committed similar crimes” but “didn't face the same consequences.” Trump is a regular viewer of the show, and Hannity and the president talk on the phone so frequently that White House staffers have billed the Fox host the administration's “shadow” chief of staff.
HANNITY: Oh, even the Obama campaign in 2008, they were hit with a mere fine which at the time was a lot, 375 grand for campaign reporting violations over $2 million worth. Cohen is now getting prison time.
He returned to the claim later in the show, saying, “You know, doesn't it happen every day, Andy McCarthy, that people that commit fraud on their taxes and people that commit campaign finance violations, Obama $2 million worth. Michael Cohen is about 300 grand. They only paid a $375,000 fine.”
Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett -- another Trump favorite and a regular Hannity collaborator -- also made the comparison on this morning’s Fox & Friends, saying that Obama “received $2 million in illegal campaign contributions; he paid a fine for it.” (In fact, as Confessore noted, it was Obama’s campaign, not Obama personally, which paid the fine, which related to failing to report contributions on time, not illegal contributions as Jarrett alleged.)
Trump apparently watched Fox & Friends this morning, as is his usual practice, though it’s unclear if his tweet came in response to Jarrett’s segment.
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, who yields to no one in her eagerness to explain why every news event actually exposes the perfidy of the president’s critics, similarly wrote in a post this morning:
There is also some disagreement about how an undisclosed non-disclosure agreement, even if held to be a campaign contribution, compares next to other campaign finance violations. The Obama campaign, for example, had to pay a $375,000 fine for concealing major donors’ contributions in the weeks before the 2008 election, among other reporting irregularities. No media called for Obama’s impeachment over these violations, major though they were for the campaign he led.
It is unlikely that Trump is channeling Hemingway, as he famously does not read, but I’ve included it anyway because the “no media called for Obama’s impeachment” jab is in such hilariously brazen bad faith.
There are careers to be made in concocting nonsensical conspiracy theories to excuse, justify, and redeem the actions of the president and his allies. There’s money to be made in explaining that the actions of his foes are the real story. There’s a ready audience for dreck, and Trump is often one of the people buying.
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Right-wing pundits out themselves as terminally dishonest enablers of corruption
Scott Pruitt has finally -- finally -- resigned as Environmental Protection Agency administrator after months of reporting on his increasingly farcical acts of corruption and petty grifting. The fact that Pruitt managed to stay in his job for as long as he did as evidence of his flamboyant venality accumulated speaks to President Donald Trump’s unique capacity to attract and protect corrupt officials. We’re not even two years into the Trump administration and already two Cabinet-level officials have been forced out because of ethics scandals and misuses of public funds. And that’s to say nothing of the interior secretary, the commerce secretary, the housing and urban development secretary, and Trump himself, all of whom are marinating in a toxic slurry of graft and malfeasance.
But even for the shockingly corrupt Trump administration, the breadth, depth, and frequently absurd nature of Pruitt’s grift made him something special. His conduct is the subject of more than a dozen official investigations, and the inquiries will continue despite his departure from the EPA. Given what we already know about Pruitt’s conduct and the possibility that still more abuses will emerge, there would seem to be little upside to defending this cretin as he slinks out the door. But that’s precisely what Pruitt’s allies in the conservative media are doing, rallying around the most gaudily corrupt Trump official and pretending that Pruitt is the victim.
We’ll start with radio host Hugh Hewitt, given that he’s an established accessory to the Pruitt corruption omniscandal. He tweeted his support for his “good friend and a very good man,” arguing that Pruitt had been unfairly “caricatured” by the now-familiar faceless conspiracy of liberals and reporters:
Scott Pruitt is a good friend and a very good man, caricatured by left and MSM. I hope he sets to work on a memoir ASAP and deals out a tenth of what he took. He’s a man of great faith and perseverance so he probably won’t, but the attacks on his family were unconscionable. https://t.co/Ob69m6fctg
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) July 5, 2018
Hewitt quote-tweeted Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, who insisted that the “lesson” of Pruitt’s scandal-plagued tenure and resignation is that “the left/media/organized greens” operate in bad faith by taking supposedly minor ethical lapses -- remember, there are over a dozen open investigations into Pruitt -- and turning them into a full-blown scandal:
Lesson to other Trump officials from Pruitt resignation: Give the left/media/organized greens any molehill and they will turn it into K2. Most of the accusations were overwrought, but the barrage was overwhelming. Let's hope an equally reformist successor denies them a repeat.
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) July 5, 2018
The Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway also bemoaned the success of the assumed liberal media conspiracy against Pruitt and direly warned that it will have future successes against other corrupt senior officials:
Well funded and media coordinated #bootpruitt movement finally gets its scalp. Would have taken hours, not months, in a typical GOP admin but now that it has had its success, expect it to be repeated with other Trump cabinet officials.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) July 5, 2018
And, bringing up the rear in spectacularly stupid fashion, we have the Wall Street Journal editorial board (of which Strassel is a member) which attacked the “permanent progressive state” for cynically capitalizing on the “tragedy” of Pruitt’s corruption to force him out:
Chalk one up for the swamp. The permanent progressive state finally ran Scott Pruitt out of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, and the tragedy is that Mr. Pruitt gave his enemies so much ammunition.
None of these defenses make much sense -- Strassel and the WSJ editors sort-of acknowledge Pruitt’s bad behavior but somehow still push blame off elsewhere -- and all of them presume the existence of an anti-Pruitt conspiracy to conveniently ignore the warehouses of evidence against Pruitt and the small cohort of Republican officials who’d called for his head. The only criticism they can muster against him is that he just wasn’t PR-savvy enough to deal with the phantom anti-Pruitt conspiracy.
They’re making these transparently ridiculous defenses of Pruitt mainly to avoid facing some uncomfortable realities. When Pruitt’s scandals first started bubbling up, most of the people highlighted here wrote basically the same piece arguing that liberals were conducting a political hit on Pruitt because he was such an effective destroyer of environmental regulations. That argument has aged extremely poorly. Also, if they were to allow that Pruitt is corrupt, that would change how they’d have to talk about Trump, given that the president allowed such a prolific abuser of public trust to remain in office for months after he should have been fired. Indeed, most of them demanded that Trump stand by Pruitt. They won’t admit that they were wrong, so instead they’re casting Pruitt as a victim and blaming his downfall on a shadowy cabal of reporters and green activists.
This flagrant intellectual dishonesty in defense of rampant corruption raises an important question: How long will the press tolerate and abet behavior like this? Strassel, Hewitt, Hemingway, and Journal editorial writers are Sunday show conservatives -- they appear as guests and panelists on mainstream news programs and they enjoy the respect of some elite journalists and news organizations. Already we’re seeing some stirrings of revulsion -- CNBC’s John Harwood asked if Hewitt “seriously believes” that Pruitt is a victim:
do you seriously believe Pruitt has been unfairly victimized in this situation, Hugh? https://t.co/ZbR3UH2AHy
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 5, 2018
There is no answer to this question that reflects well on Hewitt or anyone else making that argument. If they do believe that Scott Pruitt was victimized, then they’re either too stupid or too blinded by tribal loyalty to be taken seriously. If they don’t believe it, then they’re just lying to defend one of the most staggeringly corrupt politicians in recent memory. Either way, they’ve outed themselves as untrustworthy, bad-faith shills for a corrupt White House.
Following the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, media have been speculating about the possibility of a nominee selected by President Donald Trump casting the deciding vote overturning Roe v. Wade.
While some mainstream outlets have rightly warned about the likelihood and negative impacts of overturning, or even further hollowing out, Roe’s protections, many conservative outlets and figures deployed a variety of excuses either to suggest that Roe is not at risk or to downplay any potential negative effects such a move would have. But make no mistake -- the Trump administration and its anti-abortion allies haven’t been shy about their goal: making abortion inaccessible or even illegal in the United States, no matter what the consequences.
In 2016, then-candidate Trump said in response to a debate question about whether he would overturn Roe: “Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justice on, that’s really what’s going to be — that will happen. And that’ll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.” Previously, in July 2016, then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said that he believed that electing Trump would lead to the overturning of Roe and that he wanted to see the decision “consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.” In return, anti-abortion groups have also supported the administration -- a fact underscored by Trump’s keynote address at the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s (SBA List) gala in May.
Despite the administration’s promise, conservative media and figures are deploying a number of inaccurate excuses to either deny or downplay the severity of the threat to abortion rights with another Trump-appointed justice on the court:
In the aftermath of Kennedy’s announcement, some conservative media argued that abortion rights are not threatened because the sitting justices -- including Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump’s previous nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch -- would be reticent to overturn precedent.
For example, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal argued that because “the Court has upheld [Roe’s] core right so many times, ... the Chief Justice and perhaps even the other conservatives aren’t likely to overrule stare decisis on a 5-4 vote.” Similarly, during a June 27 appearance on Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, conservative lawyer Alan Dershowitz claimed that Roe is safe because “true conservatives also follow precedent,” and therefore any conservative appointee would not vote to overturn it. Short-serving former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said it is unlikely that Roe would be overturned because “the court recognizes that there are certain fundamental principles that are in place and certain presidential precedent-setting principles in place." He concluded, “I know there are conservatives out there that want it to be overturned but I just don't see it happening."
It appears highly unlikely that the new Supreme Court would keep Roe intact. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote that Kennedy’s retirement “ensured” that Roe will be overturned -- even if it ultimately will “die with a whimper” as the Supreme Court would allow anti-choice lawmakers to foist “extreme regulations on clinics, outlawing abortion after a certain number of weeks, or barring a woman from terminating a pregnancy on the basis of the fetus’ disability or identity.” As Stern concluded, “the constitutional right to abortion access in America is living on borrowed time.” This argument was also echoed by The Daily Beast’s Erin Gloria Ryan who contended that one more Supreme Court vote against abortion would mean that “the conservative minority in this country will have the power to uphold laws designed to force pregnant women into motherhood.” During the June 27 edition of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House, host Nicole Wallace explained that the impact of Kennedy’s retirement means “actually talking about a future generation growing up with abortion being illegal again” and “young women and men taking the kinds of risks that a generation now hasn't had to consider.”
In other instances, conservative media have argued that Roe is "bad" law because the constitution doesn't include a right to abortion. By this logic, they contend, a reversal of precedent is inconsequential because the new nominee would merely be helping correct previous judicial overreach.
In an opinion piece for The Sacramento Bee, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro argued that Roe v. Wade is a decision that was rendered “without even the most peremptory respect for the text and history of the Constitution,” but that “pleased the Left.” An improved Supreme Court, according to Shapiro, “would leave room for legislatures – Democrats or Republicans – to make laws that don’t conflict with the Constitution.”
In National Review, Rich Lowry similarly said that Roe “is, in short, a travesty that a constitutionalist Supreme Court should excise from its body of work with all due haste.” Lowry concluded that Roe “has no sound constitutional basis” and implied that it should be overturned because it is an embarrassment for the court.
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway claimed on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, “Even people who are pro-choice recognize that it was a poorly argued judicial decision.” She also said that Trump does not need to ask the judicial candidates about Roe v. Wade as “so many people regard it as such a poorly reasoned decision.” Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress also said on Fox News’ Hannity that Trump doesn’t need to ask about Roe because “there is no right to abortion.” Jeffress continued that though abortion is “nowhere in the Constitution” there is, however, a constitutionally protected “right to life that has been erased for 50 million children butchered in the womb since 1973.”
But, as legal analyst Bridgette Dunlap wrote for Rewire.News, these claims that Roe is bad law are part of a conservative tactic to invalidate abortion rights more broadly. She explained: “In order to portray abortion rights as illegitimate, conservatives like to argue—inaccurately—that the Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade by inventing a right to privacy that is not grounded in the Constitution’s actual text.” Instead, she noted, Roe is based on the idea that “using the force of law to compel a person to use her body against her will to bring a pregnancy to term is a violation of her physical autonomy and decisional freedom—which the Constitution does not allow.”
In addition, Roe is not just an important acknowledgement of the right to legally access abortion care -- even if states have already chipped away at the accessibility of that care. As Lourdes Rivera of the Center for Reproductive Rights explained in the National Law Journal, overturning Roe would impact the right to privacy and mean “uprooting a half-century of judicial decision-making, with profound consequences for our most cherished rights and essential freedoms.” Lawyer Jill Filipovic similarly wrote for Time magazine that “if Roe is done away with under the theory that privacy rights don’t exist, this could mean that there is no constitutional right to birth control, either.” In addition, she said, “cases that came after Roe, including Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated a Texas law that criminalized sex between two men, were decided on similar premises — and could be similarly imperiled.”
A common argument by conservative media -- and in some cases, Trump himself -- is that an overturning of Roe would merely return abortion regulations to the states and not completely outlaw the practice.
For instance, according to Fox News guest and constitutional attorney Mark W. Smith, even if Roe were overturned, it wouldn’t “outlaw abortion” in the United States, it would just allow “states and voters [to] decide what to do about abortion.” Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano also made this claim, saying the “worst case scenario” is that if Roe “were to be repealed or reversed, the effect would be the 50 states would decide” their own abortion regulations. This inaccurate claim was also made during segments on CNN and MSNBC. During a June 27 appearance on CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN legal commentator and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued that “all overturning Roe v. Wade does is” give the regulation power “to the states.” The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol made a similar claim on MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, when he argued that overturning Roe would merely “kick [abortion regulation] back to the states.”
In reality, sending abortion regulation “back to the states” would functionally outlaw abortion access across large parts of the country. As Reva Siegel, a professor at Yale Law School wrote for The New York Times, returning the issue to the states would be disastrous because already, “27 major cities are 100 miles or more from the nearest abortion provider, and we can expect these ‘abortion deserts’ in the South and the Midwest to spread rapidly” if states are given free reign. New York magazine’s Lisa Ryan similarly reported that currently “there are only 19 states in which the right to abortion would be secure” if Roe is overturned.
This landscape could easily worsen with anti-abortion groups turning their attention more directly to legislation on the state level rather than the federal level. As HuffPost’s Laura Bassett noted, a number of “abortion cases are already worming their way through the lower courts” that could further entrench abortion restrictions in a number of states. In 2016, ThinkProgress explained what a world before Roe looked like: “Wealthy women were able to access safe, though illegal, abortions, but everyone else had to risk their safety and sometimes their lives, and doctors had to risk going to jail.”
Another common reaction among conservative media has been to cast blame back on abortion rights supporters. In this case, right-wing media have attacked supporters of Roe for “overreacting” to the potential loss of abortion rights, and accused others of opposing Trump’s nominee not on facts, but on principle.
For example, during the June 27 edition of Fox Business’ Making Money with Charles Payne, guest and attorney Gayle Trotter argued that abortion rights supporters were just “trying to scare people” in order to “defeat the president’s nominee.” Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo also echoed this argument during a June 27 appearance on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier. According to Leo, “The left has been using the Roe v. Wade scare tactic since 1982, when Sandra O’Connor was nominated. And over 30 years later, nothing has happened to Roe v. Wade.”
Similarly, on June 29, Trump supporters and YouTube personalities Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, appeared on Fox News’ Fox and Friends to discuss potential replacements for Kennedy. During the segment, Diamond asked why Democrats were “fearmongering” and “going into a frenzy” before knowing the nominee or their position on abortion. After interviewing Trump on Fox Business about his thought process for nominating Kennedy’s replacement, Maria Bartiromo said on the Saturday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend she believed that “all of this hysteria” about a potential overturn of Roe was being "a little overdone” by the left.
Pro-choice advocates are not “overreacting” to potential attacks on the protections afforded by Roe. As journalist Irin Carmon explained on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, Kennedy’s retirement “is the point that the conservative movement, that the anti-abortion movement, has been preparing for for 40 years” by “taking over state legislatures and passing laws that are engineered to chip away at the abortion right.” Carmon said that even with Kennedy on the bench, “access to abortion, and in many cases contraception, was a reality [only] on paper already.” Now, “it is disportionately Black and brown women who are going to suffer with the regime that is going to come forward.” Attorney Maya Wiley similarly argued on MSNBC’s The Beat that overturning of Roe would mean “essentially barring a huge percentage of women from huge swaths of the country from access” to abortion.
Polling shows a large majority of Americans support the outcome of Roe. But some right-wing media personalities have said that such findings ignore other polling about Americans’ supposed support for restrictions on later abortion.
For example, The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack argued on Fox News’ Outnumbered Overtime that the claims of support for abortion access are inaccurate because there is a “great misunderstanding about Roe v. Wade” and the impact it has on abortion restrictions and that “there is actually pretty popular support for second trimester regulations.” This talking point has been used elsewhere, such as by the Washington Examiner and anti-abortion outlet Life News, in an attempt to discredit perceived support for Roe.
The argument deployed by McCormack has also frequently been used by right-wing outlets in the past -- despite the disregard such an argument shows for the complexities involved in abortion polling. As Tresa Undem, co-founder and partner at the public-opinion research firm PerryUndem, wrote for Vox, most “standard measures” that are used “to report the public’s views on abortion ... don’t capture how people really think” about the issue. In contrast to right-wing media and anti-abortion claims, polling done by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Hart Research Associates shows that support for later abortions goes up when people realize that abortions in later stages of pregnancy are often undertaken out of medical necessity or for particular personal circumstances.
As Trump prepares to announce his selection for the Supreme Court on Monday, July 7, right-wing and conservative media will only offer more of these excuses to downplay that Roe v. Wade is firmly in the crosshairs.
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Fox News’ flagship morning show, Fox & Friends, is attempting to scandalize recent reports that a confidential informant for the FBI made contact with at least two of President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers as part of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation of Russian links to his 2016 campaign. As Fox & Friends continues to express shock and dismay over the so-called “surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration” throughout the presidential race, The New York Times noted that the FBI chose to dispatch a confidential informant “to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign,” which intelligence experts have deemed to be standard operating procedure for a counterintelligence investigation.
In an almost breathless attempt to scandalize the U.S. intelligence community’s efforts to thwart a possible Russian infiltration of a major political party’s presidential campaign, Fox & Friends has tried to cast the counterintelligence efforts during the 2016 campaign in a political light, referring to the investigation as “surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration.” Following in lockstep with other right-wing attempts , Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway complained while appearing on the show that “the Obama administration behaved in a really reckless fashion” when the FBI dispatched a confidential informant. From the May 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
Hemingway went on to say that such action should be taken only with “really good cause” and that “we’re not seeing any evidence that there was good cause or anything approaching it.” Moreover, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy objected to the FBI’s actions, saying, “If somebody was going to put a spy into a president's campaign, it would be the Russians, right? It would be the Russians putting somebody in, not our own FBI.”
Except Hemingway and Doocy failed to mention that the FBI did indeed have “good cause” to be concerned about two Trump campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, and their ongoing “suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.” As The Washington Post noted, one reason the FBI may have been interested in Page’s position on the Trump campaign in 2016 was because, in 2013, Page “came to the attention of FBI counterintelligence agents, who learned that Russian spy suspects had sought to use Page as a source for information”:
Three years before Page became an adviser to the Trump campaign, he came to the attention of FBI counterintelligence agents, who learned that Russian spy suspects had sought to use Page as a source for information.
In that case, one of the Russian suspects, Victor Podobnyy — who was posing as a diplomat and was later charged by federal prosecutors with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government — was captured on tape in 2013 discussing an effort to get information and documents from Page. …
In one secretly recorded conversation, detailed in the complaint, Podobnyy said Page “wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practice the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money.’’
Moreover, according to The New York Times, “F.B.I. officials concluded they had the legal authority to open the investigation after receiving information that Mr. Papadopoulos was told that Moscow had compromising information on Mrs. Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails,’ months before WikiLeaks released stolen messages from Democratic officials. As part of the operation, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, the F.B.I. also began investigating Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his future national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.” As independent national security journalist Marcy Wheeler noted, “At the core of this entire conspiracy theory … is the GOP fantasy that the FBI had no business trying to chase down why Papadopoulos knew of the theft [of emails] before the DNC itself did.” She also tweeted:
I'll write this up when I'm back home.
But this is very simple:
CI investigation into Page: 2014 to 9/17.
CI/Criminal investigation into Manafort: 2014 to present.
CI investigation into Flynn: ?? to 11/17.
CI investigation into Trump, post Papa: 7/16 to present.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) May 22, 2018
If Trump had 1) done the least bit of vetting 2) cared even half as much abt RU spies as he does abt FBI informants 3) not hired so many assets, the FBI wouldn't have had so much they had to check out.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) May 22, 2018
While Fox & Friends attempts to scandalize what appears to be a typical counterintelligence probe into possible infiltration of a presidential campaign by a hostile intelligence service, experts such as John Sipher, a career CIA official with 28 years of experience running the CIA’s Russia operations, explained that Trump “and his allies have presented absolutely no credible evidence to support their theory that the FBI and other entities in the intelligence community did anything wrong in the course of conducting a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.” In fact, Sipher writes, the president and his enablers in the media are doing lasting damage to how American intelligence agencies do their job:
These actions will [do] damage to the United States’s ability to collect secret intelligence, protect itself from foreign spies and work with foreign partners—they break the trust necessary for intelligence officers and diplomats to do their work. Who would want to talk to the United States after this? If the leaders of the United States don’t trust their own law enforcement and intelligence agencies, why should anyone else?
The damage from this way of doing business will be broad, and we should add to that list the serious damage to our intelligence process. We may never know what sources will not confide in U.S. intelligence officers due to this contrived faux-scandal. Foreign policy is about credibility, and the United States is throwing its away.