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  • How Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss have taken the NY Times’ campus concern trolling to new heights in just 2 years

    The two were brought over from the WSJ to bring a bold new perspective to the paper. Instead, they’ve been amplifying its most played-out talking point.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In April 2017, The New York Times announced the hiring of Wall Street Journal columnist and Pulitzer winner Bret Stephens. In a memo sent to staff, editorial page editor James Bennet wrote that Stephens would “bring a new perspective to bear on the news” as part of the newspaper’s plan to “continue to broaden the range of Times debate about consequential questions.”

    Hiring Stephens was a controversial move given his history of denying the reality of human-caused climate change, engaging in Iraq War revisionism, and disputing the existence of the campus-rape epidemic. And Stephens did little to assuage critics of his hire; his debut column for the Times was an error-riddled op-ed misrepresenting the state of climate consensus in the scientific community. That article was later held up by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt to defend his personal skepticism of climate science.

    Stephens was joined at the Times by fellow Wall Street Journal alum Bari Weiss. At the Journal, Weiss wrote about things like “campus rage,” “the PC police,” and “social justice warriors” who were supposedly outraged over the film Sausage Party. In another memo to staff, Bennet announced that Weiss would “be writing and commissioning the kinds of quick-off-the-news pieces that are such a critical part of our efforts to amplify the section’s already important voice in the national conversation.”

    More than two years into Stephens’ and Weiss’ tenures at the Times, it remains unclear how Stephens -- or Weiss, for that matter -- has broadened the range of debate on the paper’s pages.

    Instead, it seems their presence has served mostly to intensify the focus on topics like campus speech and social justice activism -- namely, arguing that liberals are overstepping their bounds in both arenas. From reading Stephens and Weiss, you'd get the impression that some of the most pressing issues in the country are the conduct of protesters demonstrating outside a Ben Shapiro speech -- where he’s no doubt busy CRUSHING a question about atheism and DESTROYING the argument for trans rights -- and runaway PC culture on college campuses, which poses an existential threat to democracy itself.

    Weiss appears to delight in shining a light on minor campus controversies such as the one that erupted at Evergreen State College, when a professor was challenged by student activists for his views on a proposed “day of absence” protest. Similarly, she has shown a particular interest in stories about speakers being “no platformed” at universities.

    In a piece titled “We’re All Fascists Now,” Weiss bemoaned Lewis & Clark Law School students’ protest of a speech by American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers. On Twitter, Weiss called this incident “a 21st-century auto-da-fe,” referring to public executions carried out during the Spanish Inquisition. But far from the teeming masses her article made the protest out to contain, video shows only about a dozen demonstrators in total.

    Weiss also took issue with students’ characterization of Sommers as a “fascist,” noting that she is “a self-identified feminist and registered Democrat.” As this piece illustrated, Weiss has a tendency to give incomplete and often inaccurate descriptions of her stories’ protagonists. In this case, Weiss failed to note that Sommers was a prominent voice in the anti-diversity “GamerGate” movement, has joined panel discussions alongside the likes of neo-Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos and far-right troll Steven Crowder, has appeared on Fox News to argue against perceived liberal causes, and has been a guest on white supremacist YouTube channel Red Ice TV’s Radio 3Fourteen. The original version of Weiss’ article also referred to libertarian talk show host Dave Rubin as “a liberal commentator” who was supposedly “denounced as an ‘Anti-L.G.B.T. fascist’ and a ‘fascist lieutenant’ for criticizing identity politics.” But those criticisms of Rubin came from a parody Twitter account, and the references to him were later removed.

    In May 2018, Weiss published a piece about the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, a “collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation — on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums — that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now.” As Weiss framed it, the IDW is made up of freethinkers who dare to speak uncomfortable truths that exist outside the liberal mainstream. In reality, the IDW is a collection of trolls, harassers, and some outright bigots. Her pieces on the issue often feature many of the same rotating cast of characters. In the May article, Weiss namechecked Sommers and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who was also referenced in her “We’re All Fascists Now” article). Additionally, there’s Bret Weinstein (who was the subject of Weiss’s story about Evergreen State College), Rubin (again), Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro (who she profiled in a fawning piece in September 2017), Joe Rogan, and others. Weiss paints these speakers as outcasts “in our new era of That Which Cannot Be Said,” but the truth is that these are some of the most watched and listened to commentators in the world.

    Since joining the Times, Weiss has cheered on cultural appropriation, written repeatedly of the perceived overreaches of the #MeToo movement, and made a laughably inaccurate prediction that “liberal lion of Hollywood and prominent donor to Democratic politicians” Harvey Weinstein would remain welcome in progressive circles following reports that he sexually abused numerous women.

    On Twitter, Weiss has made a habit of sharing stories by other authors related to college controversies. “The new normal on campus,” Weiss tweeted earlier this month, sharing a Commentary article by Jonathan Marks about the status of a pro-Israel student group being denied recognition at Williams College (the school did eventually recognize the group). Last June, Weiss shared a story by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic warning of the “potential excesses of policing sex on campus.”

    Stephens has remarkably similar positions on political correctness and campus speech. While Weiss has tended to pull from her Intellectual Dark Web rogues’ gallery for stories about campuses, Stephens takes a slightly more macro approach and often focuses on what college liberals could be doing instead of protesting what he invariably sees as a wasted cause.

    In a February 2018 piece, Stephens chided liberals for not focusing their ire at Venezuela’s Maduro regime instead of whatever it is they’re protesting these days. He wrote:

    Every generation of campus activists embraces a worthy foreign-policy cause: Ending apartheid in South Africa; stopping ethnic cleansing in the Balkans; rescuing Darfur from starvation and genocide. And then there’s the perennial — and perennially unworthy — cause of “freeing” Palestine, for which there never is a shortage of credulous campus zealots.

    Then there are the humanitarian causes young activists generally don’t embrace, at least not in a big way. Cuba’s political prisoners. Islamist violence against Christians in the Middle East. The vast and terrifying concentration camp that is North Korea. Where are the campus protests over any of that?

    “Waiting on campus progressives everywhere to take bold stance against Malaysia….” Stephens tweeted in January, quoting a post about an anti-Semitic statement made by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

    Stephens’ list of campus complaints isn’t limited to student protests. In the month following his hiring, Stephens published the transcript of a commencement address he delivered at Hampden-Sydney College titled “Leave Your Safe Spaces.” In it, he referenced a 2014 mini-scandal at Brown University in which a student offered counter-programming for sexual assault survivors during an event in which the subject of sexual assault would be debated elsewhere on campus. Stephens criticized this move, writing that “if a college or university should accept the principle of a ‘safe space’ in a single designated room, why should that same principle not extend to the classroom, the lecture hall, dormitories, college newspapers, chat rooms, social media and so on?” He took that a step further, writing, “And if it is not O.K. to say certain things, anywhere, should we even think them?” In the span of just a few paragraphs, Stephens distorted the idea of giving people a space to relax for an hour into an Orwellian attack on free thought, making aggressive use of the slippery slope fallacy along the way.

    Stephens lauded the Trump administration (something he will be the first to say that he is loath to do) for its September 2017 decision to roll back Obama-era Title IX guidelines on campus sexual assault, calling the original Obama move “Exhibit A in the overreach of an administrative state pursuing a narrow ideological agenda through methods both lawless and aggressive.”

    In “America’s Best University President,” Stephens cheered University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer’s defense of the school’s stance on “trigger warnings” and school speakers. Again, Stephens invoked Orwell in making his argument for a campus speech free-for-all:

    If you can’t speak freely, you’ll quickly lose the ability to think clearly. Your ideas will be built on a pile of assumptions you’ve never examined for yourself and may thus be unable to defend from radical challenges. You will be unable to test an original thought for fear that it might be labeled an offensive one. You will succumb to a form of Orwellian double-think without even having the excuse of living in physical terror of doing otherwise.

    On Twitter, Stephens called a recent heckling of AEI’s Sommers “leftist fascism,” and he sneered at critics who protested conservative author Charles Murray at Middlebury University as “leftist enemies” of free speech.

    There wasn’t some glaring absence of articles about supposed anti-speech liberals on college campuses before the Times hired Stephens and Weiss.

    In 2014, Times columnist Ross Douthat compared the culture of “hypersensitive political correctness” on American college campuses with Kim Jong Un and the North Korean response to the movie The Interview. The following year, Douthat wrote, “I have little sympathy for the goals of these new activists,” and the Times’ David Brooks denounced what he called “a form of zealotry” among student activists. Timothy Egan capped 2015 by cheering, “Campus free-speech censors are on the run. Across the political spectrum, people have had enough of pampered college students who are afraid of words and ideas that offend them.” Douthat continued his campaign against liberal fragility on college campuses following the 2016 election, publishing a piece comparing campus protests to “religious revivalism.”

    And it’s not as though the Times’ other columnists have softened up since Stephens and Weiss came on board. In April 2017, Brooks wrote a piece that partly blamed “fragile thugs who call themselves students” for creating a “crisis of Western civilization.” That August, Douthat penned a column referencing the “fainting-couch politics of recent campus and online progressivism.” Brooks wrote a November 2017 article comparing “campus social justice warriors” with the gun lobby, and he would later heap praise upon New York University professor Jonathan Haidt and Harvard University psychology professor Steven Pinker for “bravely stand[ing] against what can be the smothering orthodoxy that inhibits thought on campus.”

    Not even the Times’ more liberal-leaning columnists can resist getting in a jab at campus liberals. In August 2017, Thomas Friedman wrote, “Political correctness on college campuses has run ridiculously riot.” Frank Bruni questioned whether colleges should adopt some sort of campus affirmative action program for conservative instructors, wrote an entire op-ed responding to a college newspaper’s opinion piece criticizing whiteness, slammed “illiberal liberalism” on college campuses, interviewed a professor who said, “The student became the customer who’s always right," and penned a somewhat sympathetic piece about Yiannopoulos, writing, “There’s too much policing of indelicate and injurious language and too little recognition that the wages of fully open debate are ugly words and hurt feelings."

    Not all cases of campus censorship are created equal, apparently.

    With so much going on right now in the world, you would think that there’d be less focus on a handful of college students at one campus or another protesting a speaker. At very least, you might expect that instances of conservatives shutting down progressive speakers would be discussed with the same regularity as those about liberals.

    Instead, readers are treated to a full-on case of free speech hypocrisy.

    One example of this involves progressive Jewish political cartoonist Eli Valley’s recent trip to Stanford University. Days before his scheduled appearance, the Stanford College Republicans posted flyers around campus containing some of Valley’s work alongside clippings from Der Stürmer, a Nazi-era German newspaper known for publishing vicious anti-Semitic propaganda. The group acknowledged that it did this in retaliation because posters for one of their events were covered up by posters of the group sponsoring Valley’s appearance.

    The groups bringing Valley to campus, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, took some of the blame for the backlash. In an op-ed for The Stanford Daily, the groups apologized for including Valley’s work, which is meant to be a grotesque and provocative political criticism, without the proper context. In response, The Stanford Daily published an opposing op-ed comparing Valley’s work to the propaganda of Joseph Goebbels, writing, “To apologize for the flyers but insist on continuing with the event is equal parts absurd and appalling.”

    This seemed like precisely the kind of campus controversy that would grab the attention of Weiss, Stephens, and the rest of conservative media: Here was a student group trying to intimidate a speaker out of appearing on campus as scheduled. On the principles of free speech and academic freedom, taking a stand for Valley seemed to be the obvious call. Instead, Weiss praised the article calling for Valley’s cancellation on Twitter, thanking its author.

    “Bari Weiss's attempt to get me de-platformed at Stanford, and her smear that my celebration of non-Zionist Jewish culture, politics, and art is tantamount to Nazism, should put an end to the myth that she is interested in a free exchange of ideas,” Valley said in a Twitter direct message. “She is interested [in] silencing the Left and in mainstreaming far-right ideology.”

    Valley’s view of Weiss is in line with her own history of activism and protest against pro-Palestinian Columbia University professors during her time at the school. Far from a proponent of across-the-board freedom of expression, she and the Times’ other columnists have been extremely selective about which stories get heard.  

    The idea that no-platforming and other efforts to control campus speech are tactics carried out primarily by students on the left is almost undoubtedly the result of outlets like the Times’ opinion section giving such incidents excessive amounts of coverage -- while essentially ignoring the many examples of conservatives trying to shut out speech they don’t like. You’re unlikely to read Bret Stephens’ take on the efforts of conservative students to use the court system to cancel a panel discussion about Palestinian rights at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. David Brooks isn’t likely to weigh in anytime soon on the University of Arizona students who were arrested on campus for criticizing Border Patrol agents. Ross Douthat didn’t churn out an article to condemn the Nebraska GOP for using its political influence to call on Creighton University to rescind its offer to have former-Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) deliver its graduation speech.

    The New York Times has been publishing stories about a supposed campus speech crisis for more than 100 years.

    “Is free speech an essential part of the American college and university system? This question, never for long obscured, has again become of major importance,” wrote Ralph Thompson in the Times in 1935, quoting a school administrator saying that harmful political movements “will reveal themselves more evidently in the light of open discussion than in the obscurity of whispered argument.”

    The entire piece could have just as easily been written in the past couple of years, demonstrating that the moral panic surrounding campus speech is far from a new phenomenon. In fact, examples of Times articles about academic liberty and freedom of expression date back more than a century.

    In 1903, French sociologist M. Léopold Mabilleau decried the state of American higher education as a restrictive nightmare void of freedom of speech or expression. “It is necessary that the professor be able to think and speak as he chooses, even though his ideas be contrary to the opinions of the Trustees,” he told The New York Times, speaking of his experience lecturing at the University of Chicago. “This liberty does not exist in many of your American universities, many of which are founded by private individuals.”

    In 1970, the Times published an article warning that “leftist student agitation” in France was “contributing toward the rebirth of extreme rightist student movements of a fascist and antirepublican nature.”

    “The rightists are campaigning against Marxist dictatorship in the faculties and for ‘freedom of expression.’ The far leftists — followers of Mao Tse-tung and Trotsky for the most part — rally students against fascism. Each extreme feeds on the other,” reads the piece -- a line that wouldn’t sound at all out of place in today’s paper.

    If the idea behind hiring Stephens and Weiss was to expand the conversations unfolding in the Times opinion pages, their excessive focus on this specific topic gives little reason to believe this was a successful move. Repeating the same talking points that have peppered the paper’s opinion pages since 1903 isn’t some sort of bold expansion at all, but rather a retreat into what is essentially a “safe space” for milquetoast defenses of the status quo. Yes, the Times publishes work by many authors who aren’t on-staff columnists, and there certainly is some variety in their opinions. But if the paper of record wants to break new ground, its columnists will need to look further than the local campus for their next stories.

  • Right-wing media can't stop mis-citing a 2013 abortion study -- and other outlets are repeating the error

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As part of the escalating rhetoric surrounding abortions later in pregnancy, right-wing media and anti-abortion media have consistently -- and erroneously -- pointed to a 2013 study from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health as a piece of “gotcha” evidence allegedly disproving arguments about the dangers of restricting later abortion access. The study doesn't support the purported argument about the frequency of later abortions; that hasn't stopped anti-abortion groups (which repeatedly argue that being "pro-life is pro-science") from touting it -- nor has it stopped other outlets from uncritically allowing or repeating these assertions.

    In 2013, Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport authored a study published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (though it is sometimes inaccurately cited as a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a disclaimer at the bottom clarifies that “the views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute”). This study examined the potential impact of legislation banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and attempted to assess the reasons why someone would choose to have an abortion around that time period.

    This January, as state legislatures in New York and Virginia began considering measures to protect abortion access or to remove unnecessary anti-choice barriers, right-wing media continually cited this 2013 study out of context to allege that Democrats had an extreme position on later abortion access. In particular, anti-abortion and right-wing media have cherry-picked language from the introduction of the 2013 study as proof that third-trimester abortions are not performed due to fetal abnormalities or dangers to the life of the pregnant person. In reality, that is not the time period analyzed by the study and those reasons for seeking an abortion were explicitly excluded from its scope.

    The crux of this disingenuous allegation relies on a misinterpretation of a sentence in the study’s introduction stating that “data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.” Right-wing and anti-abortion media have taken this sentence as evidence that few, if any, people seek abortion care in the third trimester due to fetal abnormalities or dangers to the life of the pregnant person. There are several issues with this interpretation.

    First, as the study’s co-author Foster confirmed on Twitter, the study “was about abortions at 20 weeks up to the end of the second trimester [around 27 weeks]. It has no relevance to third trimester abortions.” She continued, “My article was intended to increase understanding of the circumstances of women who have abortions after 20 weeks and within the second trimester,” however, “that doesn’t mean that women seeking abortions in the third trimester are just like those in the second trimester.” In addition to focusing on abortions in the second trimester, the 2013 study also explicitly excluded people who had abortions for reasons of fetal abnormality or dangers to the pregnant person’s life from the analysis altogether. As the authors wrote: “Our study has several important limitations. Our data are limited by the exclusion of women who sought later abortions on grounds of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”

    Despite this, abortion opponents have alleged the study’s findings about common reasons why people seek abortion care -- “they were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous” -- were all evidence that pro-choice advocates’ claims about the medical necessity of access to third-trimester abortion care were inaccurate. In reality, there are many personal and medical reasons people choose to have abortions in the second and third trimester. As Foster further clarified to Rewire.News after a 2018 congressional report inaccurately referenced the study, “I wouldn’t state that fetal anomaly and life endangerment are a small minority of later abortions because nobody has statistics on this.”

    While right-wing media and anti-choice advocates have erroneously cited this study before, faux outrage spun up in reaction to state abortion measures spurred an uptick in the mischaracterizations and misuse of this study -- mischaracterizations that are now spurring inaccurate coverage from other outlets.

    After New York and Virginia’s abortion measures, anti-abortion and right-wing media cited the 2013 study to counter arguments about the necessity of later abortion access

    • Anti-abortion advocate Abby Johnson wrote in Townhall that the 2013 study showed “the most common reasons why women chose abortion late-term” and claimed that it refuted pro-choice claims that people need to be “able to terminate so late in their pregnancies because of fetal abnormalities.”
    • In February, Hillary Clinton tweeted that abortions later in pregnancy occur “almost always” because a pregnant person’s “health or life is at risk, or the pregnancy is no longer viable.” Townhall’s Lauretta Brown disagreed, claiming that “the Guttmacher Institute cited a study from 2013 that found ‘most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.’”
    • In a series of posts, National Review writers cited the 2013 study to question the necessity of Virginia’s abortion measure. The most explicit example came from senior writer David French, who opined:

    So, why do these babies die? The Guttmacher Institute has looked at the reasons for late-term abortion, and the reasons are chilling. First, the top-line finding is clear: “[D]ata suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”

    Interestingly, even in some of the anecdotes chosen by Guttmacher, the women describe their decision to have a late-term abortion as “easy” or “very easy.” They didn’t find out they were pregnant until later in the pregnancy, didn’t want the child, and aborted it. Their only challenge was raising the money or finding the clinic. The thought that they were killing a viable infant — a person who would could be raised in a loving home if the mother didn’t want her child — apparently doesn’t factor into their decision-making. It’s treated as casually as an early-term abortion.

    This is the reality of late-term abortion in America.

    • The New York Times’ columnist Ross Douthat cited the 2013 study on Twitter to claim “most third-trimester abortions are not performed for reasons of fetal or maternal health.”
    • The Federalist’s David Harsanyi:

    • The Federalist also published several articles incorrectly citing the 2013 study. Ben Domenech wrote that those “seeking 3rd trimester abortions” are not doing so “because of the non-viability of the fetus or fetal abnormalities.” Instead, he claimed, “A 2013 Guttmacher study – no friend of anti-abortion activists – found this was not the case at all.” In another article, Kenny Xu wrote that the 2013 study allegedly “revealed that out of 272 women surveyed who had received an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, none of them received it for any kind of clinical endangerment to the health of the mother.”
    • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh incorrectly cited the study and then tweeted about how it was further evidence that so-called “pro-aborts” are “damned dishonest” and “everything they say is a lie”:

    • Breitbart published two articles using the study to allege that “research does not support the common pro-abortion-rights narrative that late-term abortions are performed primarily in cases of ‘severe deformities’ or when the unborn baby is determined ‘non-viable,’” and to claim that it “found that ‘most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.’”
    • Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, tweeted that the “pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute” refuted pro-choice advocates’ “claims about ‘tragic’ circumstances of most/all late abortions” involving fetal abnormalities or the health of the pregnant person, again citing the 2013 study.
    • Micaiah Bilger of the anti-abortion media outlet LifeNews.com:

    • Bilger repeated this claim in an article for LifeNews.com, writing, “The truth is that many late-term abortions are elective.” The assertion was repeated in another LifeNews.com article and on the outlet’s Twitter account:

    • Anti-abortion group Live Action published a piece citing the study as evidence that pro-choice advocates were misrepresenting why people have abortions later in pregnancy:

    Abortion supporters will claim, “No one’s going to abort so late in pregnancy unless there’s something wrong with her or the ‘fetus’!” They’re wrong about that. A Guttmacher study points out the reasons why women seek “later” abortions — to use their terminology — and it’s not for the reasons they publicly claim. Instead researchers found that most “were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.”

    No mention of the mother’s life or health being at risk, or of a fetal anomaly.

    • The Washington Examiner published a “fact check” of a CNN article about abortions later in pregnancy. However, the Examiner’s so-called “fact check” cited the 2013 study to allege that most people do not seek later abortions due to fetal abnormality or risks to the health of the pregnant person. An additional Examiner article said that the 2013 study actually showed “most late abortions are elective, and done for socio-economic reasons.”
    • Americans United For Life’s Catherine Glenn Foster used the 2013 study incorrectly in a thread on Twitter:

    A major anti-abortion movement “research” organization often uses this study erroneously to support inaccurate conclusions

    The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) is the research arm of the anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List, and attempts to brand its members as impartial scientific experts, when in reality the organization has an explicit mission to oppose abortion access. Unfortunately, while right-wing media and anti-abortion groups often cite CLI to support inaccurate claims about abortion, other outlets sometimes rely on them without sufficient context or disclosure about the organization’s ideological purpose. CLI has adopted an inaccurate reading of the 2013 study to support anti-abortion positions, using it in both a “report” and “fact sheet” on their website. Although in each instance, CLI included a note that the 2013 study does have “significant” limitations, such as excluding those participants seeking an abortion for health risks or fetal abnormalities, both documents still inaccurately conclude that the study is an effective bludgeon for refuting arguments about the reasons people have abortions later in pregnancy.

    However, CLI’s Twitter account did not mention the potential “limitations” of the 2013 study, and instead repeatedly promoted it to further the popular misinterpretations of the findings:

    Other outlets have allowed anti-abortion advocates to erroneously cite this study

    As the hyperbolic “controversy” over the measures in New York and Virginia unfolded, The Atlantic and The Washington Post both gave right-wing misinformation about the 2013 study an uncritical platform in each outlet’s opinion section.

    The Atlantic published a piece by National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis in which she wrote, “Research from the pro-abortion-rights Guttmacher Institute contradicts the claims that abortions after 20 weeks are most often necessary in heart-wrenching medical emergencies. One study summarized the available data as suggesting that ‘most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.’” A note on the piece stated that it was “updated to clarify that the claim quoted from the Guttmacher Institute study came from its survey of existing research, and was not a finding made by the study itself,” but failed to address DeSanctis’ inaccurate primary claim that she had mockingly pushed on Twitter as well:

    Similarly, The Washington Post published an opinion piece by Bethany Mandel, where she said that “according to research from the Planned Parenthood-affiliated Guttmacher Institute, ‘data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.’” Mandel also continued promoting this claim on Twitter:

    Right-wing and anti-abortion media will continue to erroneously cite this 2013 study, and it will likely be rehashed by anti-abortion lawmakers in any number of reports or hearings. Other outlets have a responsibility not to repeat this inaccurate characterization of the study -- or else they're helping abortion opponents spread further misinformation with potentially dire consequences.

  • Here are the conservative media outlets and figures pushing the outlandish theory that Christine Blasey Ford misidentified her attacker

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative legal commentator Ed Whelan yesterday pushed a theory that it wasn’t Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh who sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, but another man who looked like Kavanaugh. While many have denounced the speculation, calling it, for instance, “wildly irresponsible,” several mainstream and fringe conservative media outlets and personalities endorsed Whelan’s theory.

    Ford has debunked the claim, saying there’s “zero chance that I would confuse them.” Though Whelan later deleted his tweets and apologized for identifying the supposed doppelganger, he hasn’t retracted his theory.

    In the days before Whelan tweeted his ridiculous theory, other conservative media figures and even a Republican lawmaker speculated that Ford was mistaken about who assaulted her. A Wall Street Journal editorial published on September 17 with the title “The #MeToo Kavanaugh Ambush” claimed, “Mistaken identity is also possible.” The same day, Fox News The Five co-host Jesse Watters speculated, “Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity.” And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested Ford is “mixed up.” On September 18, conservative Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker wrote that “as crazy as that sounds, it wouldn't be unheard of” for this to be just a matter of “mistaken identity,” in a column titled “Is there a Kavanaugh doppelganger?”

    But it was Whelan’s now-deleted thread of tweets, posted on September 20, that spread throughout conservative media. Those who promoted it include:

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy: Whelan “figured out what house it may have happened at, because it was a house closest to the golf course, and then realized whose house it was and looked at a picture of the young man who lived there at the time who was a classmate of Mr. Kavanaugh's. Put up side by side images, they look a lot alike.”

    Conservative blogger Erick Erickson: Whelan “decided to put up a more compelling story that embraces Ford’s theory of assault.”

    While I am still not convinced there was an assault on Professor Ford, an intriguing theory has come forward that embraces the idea she was assaulted and makes a far more plausible case than that Brett Kavanaugh did it.

    Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center decided to put up a more compelling story that embraces Ford's theory of assault, while filling in the details she provided. And while I continue to find it unseemly to drag another innocent person into a fraudulent claim, the facts are very compelling that this is the location and things make more sense if you assume Ford was assaulted.

    The facts, as Ed Whelan laid them out, are that Brett Kavanaugh did go to school with someone who has a striking resemblance. That person lived within walking distance of the club Ford claims she had been at. The home matches the limited description Ford provided. I suspect more information will roll out as well over the coming days.

    I continue to believe Ford's accusation is not credible. If you find it credible, Whelan's evidence is compelling unless you're just trying to stop Kavanaugh for partisan or ideological reasons.

    Conservative NY Times columnist Ross Douthat: I “assume there’s more reason to believe [Whelan’s] doppelganger theory than just what he just tweeted.”

    Gateway Pundit: Whelan “drops pictures and evidence that blows Christine Ford’s case wide open.”

    Accuser Christine Blasey Ford is waging a war on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh with decades-old, unsubstantiated claims of sexual assault in an effort to derail his confirmation to the Supreme Court.

    Judge Kavanaugh has categorically denied the allegations and even told Senator Orin (sic) Hatch he wasn’t at the party in question.

    Ed Whelan, Justice Scalia’s former law clerk and president of conservative think tank the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), came out in defense of Brett Kavanaugh and said compelling evidence will come out next week exonerating Kavanaugh.

    On Thursday afternoon, Ed Whelan started dropping pictures and evidence that may blow Christine Ford’s case wide open.

    Twitchy: “Ed Whelan’s BOMBSHELL thread takes Ford’s accusations against Kavanaugh apart.”

    Earlier today, Twitchy covered the ‘rumor’ that information had been obtained that some felt would 100% exonerate Kavanaugh. This originally stemmed from tweets Ed Whelan sent out in the first part of this week.

    Welp, looks like Ed made good on his claim and posted a thread of facts that would give anyone pause as to what really did and did not happen to Ford and could eventually prove Kavanaugh’s innocence.

    Keep in mind, we can neither confirm nor deny anything Whelan has stated in his bombshell thread.

    Zero Hedge: “Was Kavanaugh accuser almost raped by his doppelganger? A new theory emerges.”

    A new theory has emerged in the case of whether Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted accuser Christine Blasey Ford roughly 35 years ago; it was Kavanaugh's high school look-alike, whose high school house better fits Ford's description, and who kept in touch with the other guy allegedly in the room, Mark Judge.

    The theory was presented Thursday afternoon by Ed Whelan, a former clerk to USSC Justice Antonin Scalia and currently president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank.

    The Goldwater: “Breaking: Attorney Ed Whelan drops explosive evidence of vindication for Judge Kavanaugh.”

    Ford has been traumatized by the memory of sexual assault for 35 years. She sought therapy in 2012 due to the horrible memories. No one would go to all that trouble for nothing. Something happened to her.

    I couldn’t wrap my head around this story. What happened here? There had to be an explanation. Something I was missing. Then I read a story today that closed some loopholes for me. Below is the story I read.

    Please note that I am in no way stating that this is true. We have no idea what happened to Ford back when she was a teenager. This is just one idea, one possibility. Keep in mind that Ford can’t remember much about the details. It was a long time ago. This is why Kavanaugh should have never been put through this. He and his family are suffering, and Ford has no facts to base her allegations on.

    Ed Whalen’s Theory of Kavanaugh Rape…

    Conservative Firing Line: “It looks like the case brought against Judge Brett Kavanaugh just took another serious hit.”

    It looks like the case brought against Judge Brett Kavanaugh just took another serious hit. The Washington Post reported that Ed Whelan, a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the president of conservative think tank the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), said “compelling evidence” which apparently includes photos and maps would exonerate Kavanaugh from allegations brought by Christine Blasey Ford.

    Powerline promoted Whelan’s tweets with headline “Mistake identity?”

    Paul (and Senator Orrin Hatch) has already mentioned the possibility that Dr. Ford’s allegation of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh may be a case of mistaken identity, based in part on Ed Whelan’s cryptic tweets that Kavanaugh is going to be fully exonerated. This has set off a firestorm of rumors and expectations. Whelan has just now (6 pm eastern time) provided one specific scenario of this on Twitter, offering up a specific name (though careful to note that he makes no allegation of implication that the other person, Chris Garrett, assaulted Ford as claimed).

    Read the whole thread—it doesn’t take long, but it is not easily summarized here.

  • Conservative Media Fight Over David French Trial Balloon

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who has long advocated for a third party alternative to the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, announced his desire to recruit National Review writer David French as his chosen candidate. French’s coworkers and some core Never Trump figures supported the possible candidacy, while many other right-wing media figures called it “embarrassing” and “preposterous.”

    The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol Pushes National Review's David French To Enter Presidential Race

    Wash. Post: "David French Is Urged To Enter Presidential Race As Independent." On May 31 The Washington Post reported that Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, sought to recruit National Review writer David French as a third-party conservative presidential candidate. French has not stated whether or not he will run:

    Tennessee attorney David French, who in recent years has become a prominent right-wing writer, is being urged by some conservative leaders to make a late entry into the 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate, according to two people close to him.

    William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard magazine and a former Republican White House official, is at the fore of the draft effort. A group of well-known evangelical leaders and GOP operatives is also involved in the discussions, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss private conversations. 

    [...]

    When reached by phone Tuesday, French’s wife, Nancy, declined to comment. David French did not respond to multiple calls and emails over the past weekend. [The Washington Post, 5/31/16]

    Some Never Trump And National Review Figures Support A French Candidacy

    National Review: "French Is Preposterous? This Year?" National Review blogger Mona Chen defended Bill Kristol's selection of French for a third party bid, calling for "an honest man in this contest." Chen asserted that since “the Democrats are about to nominate a woman who may be indicted” and the Republicans “a reality star who knows nothing of policy, but ... threatens to undermine" the GOP itself, French has a viable opportunity to enter the presidential race:

    Twitter tittered with a combination of contempt and amusement yesterday when word leaked that it might be our own David French who is considering an independent run for president. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” — that great “herd of independent minds” — the same tone prevailed (except for Mark Halperin, who noted that much would depend upon whether French could get financial backing). Mika Brzezinski scoffed that Bill Kristol needed a vacation, and the assembled crew were unanimous that French lacks the stature to enter the race. 

    In any normal year, they would certainly have a point. But look around people. This is the year when the Democrats are about to nominate a woman who may be indicted. The Republicans are nominating a reality star who knows nothing of policy but excels at schoolyard taunts, and threatens to undermine the one party that, until recently, stood (broadly) for the Constitution. But David French is out of his league? French is a graduate of Harvard Law. While Trump was bedding married women and allegedly defrauding strivers who signed up for Trump University, French was earning a bronze star in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He’s a major in the US Army Reserve. He’s a bestselling author of, most recently, The Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore and countless brilliant articles. He is past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and has worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice. [National Review, 6/1/16]

    National Review Editor Jim Geraghty: “If A David French Candidacy Gets All Of America To See The Alt-Right Clearly, He’s Done A National Service.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]
     

    Talk Radio Host Charlie Sykes: “David French Is A Class Act, Would Be An Impressive Candidate.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    RedState's Leon H. Wolf: "French ... Will Easily Get My Vote." RedState.com writer Leon H. Wolf wrote that French “will easily get my vote over any of the options that are currently on the ballot.” Even though Wolf conceded that French has little realistic chance to win, he asserted that he will never “bow before the con man who bragged that I would support him even after he destroyed my party.”

    I guess some are determined not to give French a shot on the basis that he can’t possibly win. Personally, I could not care less. A realistic chance of anyone who deserves the office winning left the building a long time ago.

    I don’t have a duty or obligation of any kind to vote for a candidate who might win. The only duty I have – to myself or anyone else – is to vote for the candidate who is most deserving of my vote. Hell, by the time election day of 2008 rolled around, McCain had no chance, and we all voted for him, didn’t we?

    If French really does run, he will easily get my vote over any of the options that are currently on the ballot, in addition to my help gathering signatures and whatever spare money I can afford. Not only will he deserve it, but I won’t submissively tuck my tail between my legs and bow before the con man who bragged that I would support him even after he destroyed my party. [RedState.com, 6/1/16]

    Erick Erickson: “I’d Gladly Vote For David French Over Either Hillary Clinton Or Her Donor Donald Trump.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Erickson: “I’d Be Happy To Participate In The #FrenchRevolution.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Daily Caller's Matt Lewis: “I Will Vote For David French … But We Could Probably Hold Our Convention In A Phone Booth.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Ben Shapiro: “Voting For David French Over Hillary And Trump Would Be The Easiest Call Ever.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Others In Right-Wing Media Ridicule The "Embarrassing" Potential Candidacy Of French

    Hot Air: Bill Kristol Is "Now Pulling Fans Out Of The Stands To Play QB." Conservative blogger Allahpundit ridiculed Kristol's choice of French in a May 31 blog post on HotAir.com:

    This was who he had in mind with that much-hyped tweet this weekend that had everyone wondering if Romney had reconsidered? An … NRO writer? Trump fans are forever deriding #NeverTrump as a “movement” consisting of, like, six guys at National Review and the Weekly Standard. And now here we are.

    [...]

    As it turns out, Kristol actually touted French as a potential independent candidate in a piece published in the Standard just a few days ago. No one put two and two together this weekend, though, presumably because, um, no one thought he could possibly be serious.

    [...]

    There’s a sense that, having exhausted everyone on the team’s depth chart, you’re now pulling fans out of the stands to play QB. I’m not sure either what the value is in picking a conservative challenger to Trump who’s even less well known than Gary Johnson is. [HotAir.com, 5/31/16]

    Breitbart News: “It’s Likely This Will End Up In The Ash Heap Of Kristol’s History Of Inaccurate Positions.” Breitbart News dismissed Kristol’s selection of French, writing in a May 31 post that “it’s likely this will end up in the ash heap of Kristol’s history of inaccurate predictions”:

    Kristol created a media firestorm after tweeting that an “impressive” third party candidate would run with a “real chance.” If David French is all Kristol can come up with, it’s likely this will end up in the ash heap of Kristol’s history of inaccurate predictions. [Breitbart News, 5/31/16]

    Guy Benson: French Candidacy “Will Represent An Embarrassing Fizzle For A ‘Never Trump’ Movement That Once Seemed Potent. Or At Least Relevant.” Townhall political editor Guy Benson called French’s selection by Kristol an “embarrassing fizzle” for the Never Trump movement in a May 31 post:

    And the grand reveal is...National Review writer David French? And it's not even confirmed? Don't get me wrong: French is a decorated Iraq war veteran, a strong writer, and a principled conservative whose stalwart commitment to religious liberty is admirable, even if one disagrees from time to time. … He's an impressive man. The impressiveness of his team -- if this presidential run ever actually comes to pass -- remains to be seen. But the notion that a relatively little-known writer could parachute into this race at such a late juncture and have a prayer of winning even a single state is, frankly, preposterous. 

    [...]

    So with due respect to the potential candidate, and with strong sympathy for its most prominent backers, I must say that if the French report proves accurate, it will represent an embarrassing fizzle for a 'Never Trump' movement that once seemed potent. Or at least relevant. Instead, it will have roared in like a lion after Indiana, then trotted impotently and inexorably toward the political abyss ahead of California. [Townhall, 5/31/16]

    Hot Air's Ed Morrissey: "I Like And Respect David, But This Can’t Be Right.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Morrissey: A French Candidacy Is “Like Picking George Will To Pitch For Your Fantasy Baseball Team.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    NY Times Columnist Ross Douthat: “Both David French And Bill Kristol Will Be Mocked If French Is The #NeverTrump Candidate.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

  • The Media's Outrage At Trump's Abortion Comments Ignore That Women Are Already Being Punished

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    Trump MSNBC Town HallGOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump's statement that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions led to widespread condemnation from mainstream and conservative media alike, but the media has ignored that many women already face punishment in many states due to the lack of access to reproductive care.

    Trump was pressed by Matthews during a town hall on March 30 about whether he believed a "woman be punished for having an abortion?" Trump responded, arguing that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who get an abortion.

    Right wing media figures expressed immediate displeasure with Trump's initial remarks calling them "awful," "tone deaf," and "ignorant."

    Trump attempted to walk back his remarks the same day, issuing a statement that said the punishment for abortions should be restricted to "the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act ... not the woman" (emphasis original):

    DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT REGARDING ABORTION

    If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed - like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.

    Trump's statement ignores that when abortion is illegal or when a legal abortion is out of reach for women, some will go to desperate lengths to terminate a pregnancy and some states have already punished women for it.

    According to MSNBC's Irin Carmon "women are already being prosecuted and even convicted on suspicion of having abortions." Carmon noted that an Indiana woman "is appealing a 30-year prison sentence for her conviction for feticide" because she allegedly "ordered abortion pills online."

    A New York Times article examined the case of Pennsylvania's Jennifer Whalen, who was jailed in 2014 for ordering medication for her 16-year-old daughter because the nearest abortion providerwas 75-miles away. The state required a 24-hour waiting period between the first counseling visit and the procedure -- which meant Whalen and her daughter would have to take two trips or stay overnight with the family's only car, which Whalen and her husband both used to get to work.

    Whalen and Patel are not the only women who have faced punishment for their attempts to terminate a pregnancy. In 2011 Idaho authorities arrested Jennie Linn McCormack for inducing an abortion, a crime that could have carried a penalty of up to five years in prison. The charges were later dropped for a lack of evidence and McCormack's case actually led to Idaho's self-induced abortion statute being ruled unconstitutional. And in December 2015, Tennessee charged Anna Yocca for her attempt to induce a self-abortion with a wire coat hanger.

    In a statement to Media Matters, the Guttmacher Institute's Senior State Issues Associate Elizabeth Nash explained that, seven states currently ban all or some self-induced abortions. Delaware, Nevada, South Carolina, and Utah prohibit all self-induced abortions while Kentucky, New York, and Oklahoma permit self-induced abortions under very limited circumstances.

    While the GOP and right-wing media may want to spout rhetoric that "punishment" is not their goal in seeking to end legal access to abortion, the truth is that women are already being punished for being unable to cross the many barriers to abortion access already passed by conservative states.

  • Right-Wing Media Panic Over Donald Trump's Front-Runner Status On Super Tuesday

    Right-Wing Media: If Trump Gets Nomination, "The GOP In Its Current Form Ends"

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Right-wing media figures lamented Donald Trump's primary success, after he won the majority of Republican primary contests on Super Tuesday. Their attacks against the front-runner follows a New York Times report on the formation of the "Our Principles" political action committee, a right wing PAC devoted to a "full-fledged campaign against Donald J. Trump."

  • NY Times' Ross Douthat Resurrects Debunked Claim That Planned Parenthood "Endorsed A Right To Post-Birth Abortion"

    ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    The New York Times' Ross Douthat defended GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's widely-discredited statements regarding footage she claims was in the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress' deceptively-edited videos, citing a Florida Planned Parenthood lobbyist's halting testimony about the unlikely event of a live birth during a failed abortion. Douthat did not mention that Planned Parenthood of Florida issued a statement after the hearing that clarified the fact that illegal "born alive" cases are "extremely unlikely and highly unusual" and eliminated any doubt as to whether its clinics would provide life-saving care in that hypothetical scenario.

  • The Curious Way New York Times Columnists Are Covering Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Promoting his latest column deriding Hillary Clinton for being chronically unethical and a lot like Richard Nixon, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni took to Twitter to suggest the Democrat's campaign constituted "psychological torture," which definitely sounds bad. Unsubtly headlined "Hillary the Tormentor" (because she inflicts so much pain on Democrats, apparently), Bruni's effort was unusually overwrought even by his dramatic standards.

    In his column, the essayist outlined concerns from two nameless "Democrats," who viewed Clinton as "tainted" and guilty of creating "ugly, obvious messes." One source was so "disgusted" he wants "never to lay eyes on [Hillary] and Bill again."

    Turns out that same day, fellow Times columnist Ross Douthat also made Clinton the focus of his column and he also dinged the candidate. Far less excited than Bruni's effort, Douthat nonetheless made it clear that Democrats supporting Clinton should consider themselves "warned" for when things go terribly wrong if she's elected president.

    So on the same day, two different Times columnists attacking the Democratic frontrunner; a candidate who enjoys historic and unprecedented support among the party's faithful. It was just a case of bad timing for Clinton's on the Times opinion pages, right? Just a coincidence where not one but two columnists for the supposedly-liberal newspaper of record unloaded on her?

    Not quite.

    In truth, the Bruni-Douthat tag team was a rather common occurrence among Times columnists, some of whom have banded together this year to publish a steady stream of attacks on Clinton. (Yesterday, columnist David Brooks announced Clinton's electoral strategy is all wrong, and that it's bad for America.) What's unusual is that the conveyor belt of attacks hasn't been balanced out by clear signs of Clinton support among Times columnists. More importantly, the Times' odd brand of Clinton wrath has not been duplicated when columnists assess Republicans.

    Searching essays written by Times columnists this year, I can't find a one that unequivocally supports the Democratic frontrunner. (There have been passing sentences and paragraphs of support, but nothing focused or thematic by columnists.) By contrast, I can count more than two dozen that have focused on attacking her.

    Is the New York Times under any obligation to employ a columnist who supports Clinton? Of course not. But it's worth noting that Clinton enters this campaign season with more Democratic support than perhaps any non-incumbent frontrunner in recent party history, yet the New York Times hasn't published an opinion column in support of her possibly historic run. (The Times has published editorials backing parts of her agenda.)

    Increasingly, the Times is facing criticism about its off-kilter Clinton coverage and its, at-times, odd obsession with the Democratic candidate. Is that attack-dog mentality also playing out on the opinion pages?

  • New York Times Columnist Apologizes For Attending Fundraiser For Anti-Gay Legal Group

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP & CARLOS MAZA

    New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized for appearing at a fundraising event for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extreme anti-gay legal group working to criminalize homosexuality.

    On October 16, Douthat spoke at "The Price of Citizenship: Losing Religious Freedom in America," an event held by ADF and aimed at drawing attention to a number of popular right-wing horror stories about the threat LGBT equality poses to religious liberty. Douthat spoke alongside radio host Hugh Hewitt and the Benham brothers, who are notorious for their history of extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The event ended with explicit solicitations for donations to support ADF's legal work.

    As Media Matters noted, ADF is one of the most extreme anti-gay legal groups in the country, fighting against even basic legal protections for LGBT people and working internationally to repress LGBT human rights, including supporting Belize's draconian law criminalizing gay sex.

    On Wednesday, Douthat explained that he did not know ADF's event was a fundraiser and said he plans to decline the honorarium he received from the event.

    "I was not aware in advance that this event was a fundraiser and had I known, I would not have agreed to participate," he said in a statement issued to Media Matters through the Times Wednesday. "I was invited by an events organizing group, not by ADF directly. I understood this to be a public conversation about religious liberty. This is my fault for not doing my due diligence, and I will be declining the honorarium."

  • A New York Times Columnist Spoke At A Fundraiser For A Group Working To Criminalize Gay Sex

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    New York Times columnist Ross Douthat spoke at a fundraising event for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing legal group that works to defend anti-LGBT discrimination and supported the criminalization of homosexuality.

    On October 16, ADF held an event titled "The Price of Citizenship: Losing Religious Freedom in America" in Denton, Texas. The event, which focused primarily on highlighting the alleged tension between LGBT equality and religious liberty, featured a conversation between radio show host Hugh Hewitt and Douthat.

    The event also featured an appearance from the Benham brothers, the right-wing activists who lost their HGTV reality show because of their history of extreme anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim rhetoric:

    The event touched on a number of popular right-wing horror stories about LGBT equality, from the plight of anti-gay bakers and florists, to the outrage over the recent subpoenaing of several Houston pastors. David Benham, who has previously warned that the gay "agenda" is "attacking the nation," urged the audience to take "dominion" of the media and legal system back from the "sexual anarchy agenda":

    DAVID BENHAM: Unfortunately, the church, now that we have the keys to authority that Christ gives the Christian church, we give that dominion back through our silence. And so what we see now is the struggle for dominion. And one of the ways that we've lost dominion is because Christians, unfortunately, don't believe in the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign over all things. The Bible says in Psalm 24 "the Earth is the Lord's and everything in it," including government, entertainment, media, education, the legal system, everything. My finances, my sexuality, everything is under God. ... Does this agenda, this sexual anarchy agenda, does it want dominion? Take a look. Has it got dominion in government? Has it got dominion in entertainment? Has it got dominion, I mean, you name it, in the marketplace? Yes. Absolutely it does. How does God get dominion back? ... The government exists for the punishment of evildoers and for the reward of those who do good. The problem is, is when we switch good and evil and evil and good. There's only one institution that can fight that dominion battle, and that's the church. [emphasis added]