Kevin D. Williamson

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  • National Review: Bernie Sanders Is Running On A "National Socialist" Platform

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    National Review likened Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to a Nazi. 

    In a July 20 post on National Review Online, National Review editor Kevin Williamson claimed that Sanders' political views equate to "national socialism," even as Williamson acknowledges Sanders' Jewish heritage and the fact that his family was killed in the Holocaust: (emphasis added)

    Aside from Grandma Stalin there, there's not a lot of overtly Soviet iconography on display around the Bernieverse, but the word "socialism" is on a great many lips. Not Bernie's lips, for heaven's sake: The guy's running for president. But Tara Monson, a young mother who has come out to the UAW hall to support her candidate, is pretty straightforward about her issues: "Socialism," she says. "My husband's been trying to get me to move to a socialist country for years -- but now, maybe, we'll get it here." The socialist country she has in mind is Norway, which of course isn't a socialist country at all: It's an oil emirate. Monson is a classic American radical, which is to say, a wounded teenager in an adult's body: Asked what drew her to socialism and Bernie, she says that she is "very atheist," and that her Catholic parents were not accepting of this. She goes on to cite her "social views," and by the time she gets around to the economic questions, she's not Helle Thorning-Schmidt -- she's Pat Buchanan, complaining about "sending our jobs overseas." L'Internationale, my patootie. This is national socialism.

    In the Bernieverse, there's a whole lot of nationalism mixed up in the socialism. He is, in fact, leading a national-socialist movement, which is a queasy and uncomfortable thing to write about a man who is the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and whose family was murdered in the Holocaust. But there is no other way to characterize his views and his politics.


    There are many kinds of Us-and-Them politics, and Bernie Sanders, to be sure, is not a national socialist in the mode of Alfred Rosenberg or Julius Streicher.
    He is a national socialist in the mode of Hugo Chávez. He isn't driven by racial hatred; he's driven by political hatred. And that's bad enough.

    Image via Marc Nozell via Creative Commons License

  • National Review Likens Concern Over Campus Sexual Assault To "Mass Hysteria" Of Salem Witch Trials

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN


    National Review's Kevin Williamson declared that the epidemic of campus sexual assault "is a fiction" and compared efforts to curb the crime to "mass hysteria" during the Salem Witch Trials.

    Rolling Stone recently retracted its controversial article on sexual assault at the University of Virginia, following a review by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) which determined the report to be a "journalistic failure."

    National Review correspondent Kevin Williamson responded by issuing a blanket denial of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses across the country. "There is no epidemic of rapes on American college campuses," Williamson wrote. "The campus-rape epidemic is a fiction." He likened outrage over campus sexual assaults to "mass hysteria" during the Salem Witch Trials and "the Satanic-cult hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s."

    But sexual assault on college campuses is a serious issue -- and one that experts say is vastly underreported. Experts have estimated that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while at college, and the problem may be even more serious than statistics on the crime reveal. According to the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network, sexual assault is "one of the most under reported crimes," with nearly 70 percent of crimes going unreported to police.

    National Review's response to the CJR report on Rolling Stone takes the very position CJR explicitly warned against. In its review, CJR cautioned that the Rolling Stone case should not be used to discredit the larger movement to address campus sexual assault, writing, "It would be unfortunate if Rolling Stone's failure were to deter journalists from taking on high-risk investigations of rape in which powerful individuals or institutions may wish to avoid scrutiny but where the facts may be underdeveloped."

    Moreover, Williamson's attempts to deny the seriousness of campus sexual assault are in line with National Review's history of repudiating the existence of rape. The outlet has repeatedly dismissed efforts to curb sexual violence, even going so far as to blame victims for crimes perpetrated against them.

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

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL

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

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

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

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

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

    Yup? Nope.

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

  • NRO Still Thinks Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has A "Desire To See As Many Poor Children Killed" As Possible


    A new interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that will appear in Elle magazine has given National Review Online an opportunity to once again twist the justice's views on the importance of equal reproductive rights for everyone, regardless of their financial means. As it did in 2009, NRO claimed that Ginsburg's frequent observations that poor women are disproportionately affected by anti-choice legislation may be proof of her support for eugenics -- even though that misinterpretation of her comments has been debunked.

  • To National Review Online, The Transgender Community Is "Delusional"

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Laverne Cox

    National Review Online capitalized on a historic event in the transgender community to attack transgender people as "delusional" with "subjective impressions" about gender identity.

    This week actress Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine, which in its June 9 edition offers a profile of Cox as well an inside look at the transgender movement and discrimination faced by transgender people. 

    To National Review's Kevin Williamson, the cover story was an opportunity to attack Laverne Cox and the transgender community. According to Williamson, she "is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman," because transgender identity is a "delusional tendency":

    Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.


    The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one's life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question. There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.


    The mass delusion that we are inculcating on the question of transgendered people is a different sort of matter, to the extent that it would impose on society at large an obligation -- possibly a legal obligation under civil-rights law, one that already is emerging -- to treat delusion as fact, or at the very least to agree to make subjective impressions superordinate to biological fact in matters both public and private.

  • Don't Litigate It, Don't Ever Talk About It: Right-Wing Media's Solution to Racial Discrimination

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Ta-Nehisi Coates' much-praised essay, "The Case for Reparations," that recently appeared in The Atlantic has given right-wing media a fresh opportunity to argue that the best way to address racially discriminatory laws or policies -- such as housing segregation -- is to never speak of them, let alone litigate them under civil rights law.

    In Coates' essay, which ultimately calls for a congressional study on the long-term effects of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, he explores the country's history of racism and oppression, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to the present. Although right-wing media have been known to erroneously claim that racism is no longer a problem, the systemic effect of state and federal laws that favored whites and oppressed people of color is still felt today. As Coates explains, institutionalized oppression of black people was often sanctioned by the federal government, either through legislation that inadequately addressed racial discrimination or by agencies that propagated biased policies rooted in federal law. For example, agencies like the Fair Housing Administration often refused to insure mortgages in neighborhoods that they deemed unsuitable, perpetuating systematic housing segregation that in turn fueled other disparate racial impacts that continue today, such as separate and unequal schools. Despite the fact that redlining was outlawed in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the housing market is still hostile to black buyers and renters, even in neighborhoods that have taken steps to improve residential housing segregation.

    Ultimately, Coates argues that the best way to even begin to evaluate how whether the government owes a debt for the generations of stolen wealth and opportunity it sanctioned would be to allow Rep. John Conyers' (D-MI) bill, HR 40, also known as the Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, to proceed. The bill calls "for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for 'appropriate remedies.'" Conyers has introduced this bill -- which does not actually authorize the disbursement of any funds -- every year for the last 25 years, but it has never proceeded to the House floor. For Coates, HR 40 represents an opportunity to finally study the impact state-sanctioned discrimination has had and continues to have on black communities, and provide a vehicle for a "a serious discussion and debate ... we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion."

    But yet again, members of right-wing media have no interest in such a discussion. 

  • Allies Repeatedly Compared Racist Rancher To Civil Rights Figures

    Blog ››› ››› BEN DIMIERO

    Several conservative media figures are in an awkward position this morning after Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher they've spent weeks lionizing and comparing to civil rights heroes, was quoted by The New York Times saying appalling things about "the Negro."  

    In a story published late Wednesday, the Times reported on a news conference Bundy held on Saturday, in which he "wondered," among other things, whether blacks were "better off as slaves":

    "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

     "And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

    Bundy's racism follows weeks of conservatives championing his cause and comparing his fight with the federal government to those of fugitive slaves, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Conservative Media Hero Cliven Bundy Goes On Racist Tirade

    Will Right-Wing Media Finally Renounce The Rancher?

    Blog ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

    For weeks, conservative media have embraced Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who engaged in an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay decades worth of federal grazing fees on public land. The support persisted even as Bundy and his supporters were engaging in revolutionary, insurrectionist rhetoric and repeated threats of violence against government authorities.

    Bundy took this even further on April 19, when he made overtly racist comments during one of his daily press conferences. From the New York Times (emphasis added):

    "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.

    "And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

    Though Nevada coverage of the Bundy standoff has made it clear that Bundy is breaking the law, right-wing media, and Fox News in particular, have propped up his cause with a PR campaign that romanticizes his lawlessness and the armed militia groups that helped him force a standoff with federal agents. On Fox alone, Bundy received a total 4 hours and 40 minutes of its prime-time programming between April 5, when Bundy's story broke, and April 17:

    Fox figures have been aggressive in supporting Bundy's fight with the federal government, led by Fox host Sean Hannity. Hannity interviewed Bundy on his Fox show Hannity, on April 9, sympathizing with the rancher's claims and arguing that allowing Bundy's cattle to graze on public lands "keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer." In the following days, Hannity escalated his rhetoric, arguing that federal agents have "drawn the wrong line in the sand here," praising Bundy because he "like[s] anybody that's willing to fight," and stoking fears "of what this government is capable of doing." Hannity also repeatedly predicted a violent outcome, saying, "This can spiral out of control," and, "If it keeps going, this is going to end very, very badly." He even demanded, "The government needs to stand down" because "I'm telling you, [it is] my opinion that this crisis could come to a head, and lives could be lost." He has refused to apologize for touting the standoff, and has doubled down on his support when his hypocrisy on the rule of law was highlighted.

    Other Fox figures have downplayed Bundy and his supporters' threats of violence, agreeing that Bundy and his supporters demonstrate "the resistance of patriotic Americans," supporting the agitators as "good, hardworking Americans" or "law-abiding American citizens -- patriots," even as they concede that Bundy's actions were illegal. Right-wing outlets outside of Fox have made similar arguments. National Review Online's Kevin Williamson called the presence of armed agents "inflammatory" and compared Bundy to Gandhi. The Drudge Report recklessly hyped the growing fear of a violent standoff between anti-government militia members and federal forces.

    Some of Bundy's conservative media supporters seem undeterred by his repulsive comments. Radio host Dana Loesch, who has already used Bundy's standoff to invoke Benghazi, said his comments were "odd and sounds offensive," but also defended him, saying:

    I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn't media trained to express himself perfectly. He seems to be decrying what big government has done to the black family -- which big government has negatively affected not just the black family, but all families regardless of ethnicity -- so perhaps he included that in his remarks against big government? I'm just trying to figure out how he even got to the point of discussing it and yes, it's justified to have a healthy suspicion of the New York Times.

    On the April 24 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, on the other hand, demonstrated what rational coverage of the Bundy's lawlessness looks like, noting, "it's the kind of conservatism that undermines everything that conservatives should be about": 

  • National Review Online's Problem With Feminism: Sandra Fluke And Wendy Davis' "Career Path"

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA MARSHALL

    National Review Online (NRO) has a problem with feminism and how it's embodied by Democratic women running for office like Sandra Fluke and Texas State Senator Wendy Davis.

    NRO roving correspondent Kevin D. Williamson penned a February 6 column decrying modern feminism, which he defined as, "Feminism is the words 'I Want!' in the mouths of three or more women, provided they're the right kind of women."

    According to Williamson, feminism is now a "career path," where cunning politicians can succeed by "defending the position favored more heavily by women than by men [which] becomes, through the magic of feminist rhetoric, anti-woman, even part of a 'war on women.'" In other words, a policy that appears to be anti-woman may simply be an innocuous proposal with disparate support among the genders that's become tainted by feminist rhetoric.

    The author's examples of such conniving feminist politicians were California state senate candidate Sandra Fluke and Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, popular targets in the conservative media sphere as of late. "Whatever Sandra Fluke is up to, you can be sure she's looking for somebody else to pay for it," Williamson wrote, summarizing her 2012 congressional testimony in support of contraception coverage in health plans as a petulant "'I WANT!'"

    Davis, who conducted a filibuster against Texas's new abortion restrictions in June 2013, Williamson accused of "thwarting the interests of a majority of those women she is campaigning to govern," painting her as an opportunist.

    Indeed, Williamson's post is full of invective, but low on the facts regarding the very events he highlights as revealing the "Feminist Mystique."

    When Sandra Fluke testified before Democratic members of Congress in 2012, she simply argued that women's insurance policies -- which they already paid for -- should cover medication like contraception that is prescribed by a medical professional. To highlight the medical need for contraception coverage, Fluke told the story of a friend whose polycystic ovarian syndrome was treated with birth control pills:

    FLUKE: After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn't afford her medication anymore, and she had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that, in the middle of the night in her final-exam period, she'd been in the emergency room. She'd been there all night in just terrible, excruciating pain. She wrote to me: "It was so painful I woke up thinking I'd been shot." Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result.

    Although Fluke briefly mentioned her personal use of contraceptive medicine during the testimony, she never referenced whether it was a financial burden or not.

    And rather than "thwarting the interests" of Texas women, Davis filibustered a Republican bill that ultimately devastated women's access to reproductive health care in the state. Besides closing state clinics, the new restrictions Davis opposed also ban abortions after 20 weeks, putting the life of the fetus and mother in danger if certain pregnancies are forced to go to term. 

    Williamson has a history of making inflammatory remarks about women's issues -- during the 2012 presidential election, he wrote that Mitt Romney was more "high-status" than President Obama because Romney has sons instead of daughters. And after former Rep. Gabby Giffords criticized Senate inaction on gun legislation, Williamson called her "childish."

  • Right-Wing Media: Low-Income Americans Are Inheriting Too Much, Working Too Little

    Right-Wing Media Take BLS Study Out Of Context

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    A new right-wing media narrative is brandishing out-of-context statistics on inherited wealth to argue that lower-income Americans are disproportionately benefiting from inherited wealth transfers, unlike the wealthiest Americans who earn their wealth with hard work.

    As a national dialogue heats up over the problem of global and domestic income inequality, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others are rushing to the defense of the wealthiest Americans by claiming that low-income Americans simply don't work as hard as their wealthy peers. As evidence, the conservative outlets are pointing to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study showing top income brackets inherit a smaller percentage of their wealth than do lower income Americans, a finding that, according to National Review's Kevin Williamson, proves that rich Americans "work more -- a lot more."

    The January 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted Williamson to discuss his theory, and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced his segment by saying, "It's easy to assume that the rich inherit their money without earning it. But in reality, under 15 percent of top income earners inherit their wealth, while more than 40 percent of lower income earners inherit theirs." Fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade added, "So how does the rich really make their money? ... By hard work! That's the conclusion. Wealthy households tend to have four times the amount of full-time workers than poorer households."

    Rush Limbaugh read from the National Review post on the January 21 edition of his radio show, stating that "The middle class and the poor, a greater percentage of their assets come from inheritance than from working, rich Americans. The country would be far better off if more people actually lived the way the top 20 percent do. If they actually worked like the top 20 percent do."

    Ignoring the fact that Limbaugh, Friends, and National Review are attacking a straw man -- they never identify anyone who is arguing that wealthy Americans don't work hard -- their argument omits an important statistic from the BLS study they cite: The average value of  "wealth transfers" (of which inheritances are a large percentage) to low-income Americans versus those to wealthier Americans.

    BLS did indeed find that among the households in the highest income brackets, transfers accounted for only 12.6 percent of net worth. What Fox and the like omit is the fact that the average value of wealth transfers received by the top 1 percent of U.S. households was a whopping $1,045,200 in 2007. That's twenty-five times the average value of inheritances for households in the lowest income bracket, whose average inheritance was $42,000 the same year. For lower-income earners, 42 grand is a large chunk of their total wealth. But the average wealth of households in the top 1 percent isaround $16,439,400 -- so a million dollar inheritance is not as impactful.

  • Memo To Right-Wing Media: Gabby Giffords And Newtown Families Are Not Props

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The argument by conservative media that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other survivors of gun violence who supported a failed Senate compromise to expand background checks on firearms sales are "props" of the Obama administration is both hypocritically partisan and logically flawed.

    Right-wing media are unable to acknowledge that President Obama's gun violence prevention agenda mirrors the priorities of gun violence survivors, who are not mere "props," to pass stronger gun laws. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post notes, "the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want":

    All of this aside, the "props" line is actually an insult to the families, posing as a defense of them. It implies that the families, in lobbying on these issues, are not thinking for themselves. In reality, the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want. Indeed, one of the family members, Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel in the shooting, voluntarily stood with the president at the White House yesterday as Obama reacted to news of the Senate vote, and thanked Obama for his leadership. Needless to say, if Barden felt like he was being exploited or used as a prop, he wouldn't be thanking the president. [emphasis in original]

    Logical flaws aside, those who would call Newtown families and other gun violence survivors "props" fail to acknowledge that presidents routinely evoke the experiences of victims in advocating for policies that would prevent future tragedies.

    In 1991, former President Ronald Reagan evoked his own experience of being shot by a would-be assassin, as well as the experiences of others wounded in the 1981 attack in order to advocate for background checks on gun sales. In a New York Times op-ed Reagan wrote about his press secretary, Jim Brady, who was grievously wounded in the attack by a man who acquired a gun despite a lengthy history of serious mental illness. Brady would go on to lend his name to the legislation -- the Brady bill -- that mandated a background check for gun sales conducted by licensed dealers:

  • National Review Online Calls Giffords 'Childish' For Promoting Gun Safety Legislation

    Blog ››› ››› LAURA SANTHANAM

    The National Review Online took a swipe at former Rep. Gabby Giffords, calling her criticism of Senate inaction on gun legislation "childish."

    In an NRO post, Kevin D. Williamson attacked Giffords for criticizing the Senate after it failed to pass gun-safety legislation. Williamson called Giffords' New York Times op-ed "childish" and  argued that being "shot in the head by a lunatic" does not mean that her policy positions on the recently defeated Toomey-Manchin gun control legislation should receive special consideration. From the National Review's blog, the Corner:

    While Ms. Giffords certainly has my sympathy for the violence she suffered, it should be noted that being shot in the head by a lunatic does not give one any special grace to pronounce upon public-policy questions, nor does it give one moral license to call people "cowards" for holding public-policy views at variance with one's own. Her childish display in the New York Times is an embarrassment.

    In her op-ed, Giffords criticized Congress for cowering to the gun lobby interests, saying the fear imposed on the Senate by the National Rifle Association could not compare to the fear of the school children of Sandy Hook Elementary and the victims and survivors when gunman Jared L. Loughner shot Giffords, killed six people and wounded 13 others. Since then, Giffords has undergone physical therapy and lobbied for stronger gun control measures, including more rigid background checks. On Wednesday, the proposed Toomey-Manchin legislation failed to gain enough support in the Senate and was voted down 54-46.

    Williamson's blog was posted next to an advertisement for the National Rifle Association:

    NRO screenshot