Saturday, December 14, 2013

Megyn Kelly Blames Her White Privilege On The Black Girl


Update 4pm Sunday: Sad news. After holding this piece for 30 hours, Andrew Kirell says it's too late in the cycle to publish it, so you can only read it here. Please share it.

This piece was submitted for publication this morning, but is awaiting approval/edits. Here's a sneak peak for Tommy Xtra readers.

On Fox News' The Kelly File Friday night, host Megyn Kelly tried to explain away her emphatic insistence that Santa Claus is emphatically, undeniable, and unchangeably white by explaining that she was just agreeing with Slate's Aisha Harris that our culture depicts Santa Claus as white. Kelly also claimed she was the victim of accusations of "racism," but then proceeded to play several clips of no one accusing her of that. Kelly's commentary was an outrageous example of white privilege, and so was her defiant response to the controversy.

In her response to the controversy last night, Kelly made several claims that just don't match up with reality. She claimed that "Kicking off the light-hearted segment, I offered a tongue in cheek message for any kids watching, saying that Santa, who I joked is a real person whose race is identifiable, is white, just as Harris claimed in her piece, but that we were debating whether that should somehow change."

That's simply not true. Joking or not, Kelly was not simply outlining the debate, she was making an emphatic ruling on it, repeatedly. She had already called the premise of Harris' piece "ridiculous," and later explicitly acknowledged that she had considered Harris' argument, and again offered Santa's immutable whiteness as rebuttal. "I have given her her due on where she was going with," Kelly said, adding "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change.

"Jesus was a white man, too," Kelly continued. "He was a historical figure. That's a verifiable fact -- as is Santa. I want the kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy, of the story, and change Santa from white to black?"

Kelly seems to think she was mocked for thinking that Santa is a real person, but that's the entire point; Kelly's rigid insistence that Santa Claus just is white is only absurd because we all know he isn't a flesh-and-blood person. The debate is over the "reality" of Santa in the sense that Frank Church wrote about it, in his ability to "make glad the heart of childhood." Faced with someone whose heart is not made glad by white Santa, Kelly's response was: too bad, he just is white.

She also claimed to have been beset by charges of racism, and while that may have occurred in some other forum, none of the examples she provided included that charge, nor did anyone say her commentary was "motivated by racial fear or loathing," as Kelly also claimed. The criticism was of the commentary as an expression of white privilege.

White Privilege is not the same thing as racism, but rather, a product of racism that allows otherwise decent people to support a racist status quo by inoculating them from racism's effects, and blinding them to their own privileged immunity from them. Kelly's insistence that Santa Claus just is white is, as she pointed out in her response, the product of a dominant white culture that simply will not entertain the notion of a nonwhite Santa Claus, as Kelly herself would not.

But the ultimate expression of that white privilege is to go on television before your overwhelmingly white audience, and explain that when you told them that Santa Claus just is white, and that it was "ridiculous" to say otherwise, and that "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," you were really just agreeing with the black lady who wrote the original piece, and by the way, that black lady is a "race-baiter." Kelly used Aisha Harris as a brush in the whitewashing of her remarks.

Kelly has that privilege because there is zero risk in the proposition, and considerable reward. Fox News' audience doesn't include many people who will be alienated by any of this, and her well-promoted response will likely generate huge ratings. By doubling down, Kelly also provides fodder for more criticism, which will only draw more like-minded eyeballs to her program.

If there are people calling Megyn Kelly a racist over this, I disagree with them, but I also think Megyn Kelly ought to listen to them instead of bristling. Fox News nighttime demographics aside, Kelly ought to ask herself just which kids she was really talking to when she repeatedly assured them that Santa is white, and if she was talking to all of them, how that might have made some of them feel.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Race War on Christmas: Megyn Kelly Declares ‘Santa Claus Just Is White’ and So Was Jesus

It's come to this. Of all the absurdity that has emerged from the War on Christmas™ narrative, there has been nothing so surreal as a hard news anchor weighing in, authoritatively, on the racial identity of a nonexistent person, which is what happened on Wednesday night's edition of The Kelly File. Discussing a Slate article that suggested a more inclusive Santa, host Megyn Kelly repeatedly informed "the kids" (a key Fox News primetime demo) that "Santa Claus just is white," and that "Jesus was a white man, too."

Slate's Aisha Harris wrote a thoughtful piece about the effects of cultural exclusion from such a dominant American symbol of childhood, and suggested that Santa Claus be transformed, not into a black man (good thinking, because Black Santa would get down exactly one chimney before getting shot in the face), but a penguin, "spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame" that she remembers from childhood.

Of this thoughtful essay about inclusion, Kelly says "I kind of laughed and I said this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it's racist to have a white Santa."

Harris, it should be noted, did not say it was "racist to have a white Santa," but rather that the notion that Santa can only be white "helps perpetuate the whole 'white-as-default' notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture)," i.e. it's messed up to say that you can't have a black Santa Claus, as well.

"For kids watching at home, Santa just is white," Kelly continues, "but this person is arguing we should have a black Santa."

Again, Harris actually isn't arguing that at all (not that there would be anything wrong with a black Santa, any more than there's a problem with an endless succession of white Jackson Five's). She wants him to be a penguin.

Some of the panel handles the subject with a surprising amount of nuance, but later on, Kelly answers their agreement by responding "Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man, too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure, as is Santa."

There is, of course, considerable disagreement about Jesus' race and appearance, but her designation of Santa Claus as a "historical figure" dooms Kelly's argument.

After Monica Crowley sensibly observes that "a penguin would never work, because penguin cannot lug gifts around the world," unlike pre-diabetic fat men on flying sleds, she agrees with Kelly that "Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, a Greek bishop, who was a white man."

Kelly's main objection here seems to be changing Santa, because obviously, there are no differences between these two guys:




As Crowley points out, Santa is partially based on a historical figure, one with whom the current Santa Claus differs significantly. If we're going to be purists, then we should be decorating our trees with the pickled, severed heads of would-be sex slaves, and street-corner Santas should be railing against Arianism as they ring their bells. Of the millions of differences that there are between Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas, why is it that the one trait that must never, ever be changed is that he was white (assuming he was even all that white)?

Because it's just that important, apparently.

We had an expression in my family that went "You keep Christmas in your way, and I'll keep it in mine," and it worked pretty well, but if we're looking to roll out a new, dominant cultural symbol of Christmas, then Santa Claus should be a giant self-aware computer who delivers presents using an army of antlered (possibly red-nosed) drones. Now there's a War on Christmas I can get behind.

Here's the clip, from Fox News' The Kelly File:



(h/t MMFA)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

GOP Strategist Rick Wilson Tweets About Sh*tting in Sarah Palin's 'Whore Mouth'

The ouster of MSNBC host Martin Bashir over commentary he delivered about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has sparked intense debate online, debate which included Republican strategist Rick Wilson tweeting something far more vulgar about Palin than anything Bashir said in his controversial commentary. Responding to a tweet berating liberals for failing to oppose Bashir's ouster, Wilson tweeted "Yeah, I mean it was just Sarah Palin right? Totes cool to talk about shitting HER whore mouth, amitrite? I mean, really." 
 By rights, anyone referring to Governor Palin's oral cavity as a "whore mouth," and calling her a "whore" by extension, should never expect to get a job in politics again. During our Twitter exchange, I asked if Wilson should expect a fate similar to Bashir's:



The fact is that context matters, and Rick Wilson clearly did not actually mean that Sarah Palin has a "whore mouth," or that he would like to hear more about it being defecated in. Rick Wilson was using satire (not parody) to make a point, which was that many Palin detractors view her with irrational, at times misogynistic, contempt, while also attempting to falsely recast Bashir's remarks as a gender-specific attack. It was vulgar and provocative, but was clearly intended to make a point, not to literally condone the filling of anyone's mouth, "whore" or otherwise, with fecal matter.

 The same could also be said of the commentary that resulted in Martin Bashir's ouster. It was vulgar and provocative, but was clearly intended to make a point, not to literally condone the filling of anyone's mouth with fecal matter. The purpose of Bashir’s commentary was to illustrate, mainly to Sarah Palin, the sick trivialization of her remarks about slavery. Bashir’s goal was worthy, and his means were legitimate, but that’s not the commentary or provocation that I would have used. Yes, it amplified the underlying message, but at the cost of obscuring it.

Palin deliberately referenced American slavery, as conservatives are wont to do, in order to make a trivial point about public debt, and Bashir's intent was to show just what it was she was comparing. Bashir described, at length, the barbaric punishments used on slaves, and in the long tradition of political satire, included a provocation that served to amplify that commentary. Just as Swift didn’t actually intend for people to eat babies, Bashir did not literally wish for Palin to be shat upon, or into.

 It's an important distinction to make, because Martin Bashir didn't lose his job for violating MSNBC language standards, or for offending the sensibilities of his audience, but for running afoul of people who already didn't like him, and who relentlessly sought to silence him. That MSNBC volunteered to capitulate is unfortunate, because they have introduced a chill to an essential form of political and social commentary, and it's an asymmetrical chill. Conservatives don't punish people for saying offensive things, they reward them.

 To be clear, Martin Bashir's commentary didn't get it right; the provocation that he punctuated it with was misguided and irresponsible, and he was right to apologize for it. MSNBC would even have been justified in suspending him for it, had they done so immediately. In forcing Bashir out under external pressure, MSNBC has drawn a target on the back of any liberal commentator who dares to be provocative. [photo via Wikimedia Commons]

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Heritage Foundation 'Updates' Incorrect Obamascare Story That Fox News Parroted


This post has been submitted for publication at Mediaite, but is being published here first:

On Monday night's The Kelly File, Fox News' Trace Gallagher delivered a report on yet another Obamascare horror story that didn't quite check out, and which was based entirely on reporting from The Heritage Foundation blog. Since publication of a fact-check on that story, Heritage has "updated" their story several times to address the points raised in that critique, acknowledging some problems in their original report. That's to their credit, even if they couldn't bring themselves to call them corrections, but their updated post still doesn't check out.

 The Fox News report focused on the sacrifices that the family of Northern Californian Kate Joy will have to make in order to afford health insurance under Obamacare, which includes things like extra mortgage payments, manicures, and dinners out. “They live in northern California, and help support their 19- and 21-year-old sons who work part-time and go to college,” Gallagher reported. “Here’s the deal. Under the old plan they paid $499 a month. Of course it was cancelled, because it doesn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. Look at the number. $1,252 per month.”

 According to that Heritage post, the Joys “live off her husband’s retirement salary,” and that “the family does not qualify for any subsidies.” She told Heritage that the $750 increase was on-fifth of her husband's salary, which is $45,120 a year. According to Covered California, a family of four adults from Sonora, CA, at that income level, qualifies for subsidies that would make an Anthem Blue Cross Bronze plan available for $4 per month. That’s not a typo. Four bucks. For $172 /mo., such a family could get an enhanced Silver plan from Anthem with a $1,000 family deductible, $16,000 less than the Joys’ old plan. $507, what the Joys were paying before, gets an Anthem Gold plan with no deductible at all.

 This is where the "updates" come in, and I don't scare-quote that word just to be a jerk. Heritage's reporting was, at best, sloppy and incomplete, but they were also given incorrect information by their source, incorrect information that seems to be the result of honest confusion. They still should have checked, but in a series of tweets, they seem genuinely interested in sorting it out. Here are those updates:
UPDATE: Following publication of this story, Mediaite asserted on November 26 that Kate Joy’s family is eligible for subsidies that would make a Bronze 60 plan available at $4 per month. That is incorrect. 
Even though she has chosen not to disclose her husband’s retirement salary, Joy did confirm that it is higher than the $58,899 cut off for subsidies under Covered California. The Anthem option that is closest to the family’s current plan is $1,252 per month — money that Joy reiterated will cause unwanted cuts in other areas of the family budget: 
"As I tried to point out and I don’t think it came across, we are in a position to make discretionary spending cuts and we are truly blessed, but we still have a monthly budget and no one, I don’t care their income level, should have to deal with increases like we are seeing with Obamacare."
UPDATE II: In a series of tweets, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher challenged Heritage’s update to this story. It appears that a poorly worded sentence on our part is causing confusion about whether Kate Joy’s family qualifies for a subsidy. 
The sentence originally read: “The 150 percent premium increase amounts to one-fifth of her husband’s retirement salary, and she said that they don’t want to devote that much money to health care.” 
In his story, Christopher was basing his calculations on the $753 per month increase in the family’s premium. Over the course of a year, that increase totals $9,036. That’s how Christopher calculated the $45,120 salary he included in his story. 
However, in a subsequent email exchange with Kate Joy, she explained the total cost of the premium—not the increase alone—amounts to one-fifth of the salary. She declined to reveal the actual salary, but told us it is more than $58,899 cutoff for a subsidy. Joy got the subsidy number by using the Covered California calculator. 
She acknowledged that a family of four could qualify for a Bronze 60 plan at $4 per month, as Christopher explained. Joy’s family, however, isn’t eligible because of her husband’s income. 
What does this mean for the Joy family? Kate can purchase the Bronze 60 plan for $1,136 per month from Covered California. Instead, she’s decided to stick with Anthem, at a cost of $1,252 per month, because the Bronze 60 plan has higher out-of-pocket costs in the event of a major medical event. In our earlier update, we inadvertently used the $1,136 figure instead of the $1,252 monthly cost. We regret the error.
As I explained to Heritage's Robert Bluey on Twitter, Joy's revised claim, that their income is five times the total premium amount, still only adds up to about $75,000, well within the cutoff for federal assistance. The cutoff figure that Kate Joy got from the Covered California calculator is for cost-sharing subsidies; the cutoff for premium assistance is $94,200. According to Covered California, based on a $75,000 a year income for a family of four, a PPO Bronze costs $171 /mo. after premium assistance.

 Ideological differences aside, this is confusing stuff, and even the best mainstream reporters have failed to thoroughly check these stories out. What's important is that everyone get the right information, and get health insurance if they can. Heritage has offered to help Mrs. Joy get in touch with me so we can sort this whole thing out. Whatever you want to call it, a correction, an update, or a clarification, Fox News should follow Heritage's lead, and give its viewers the correct story.

Here's the post after it was edited, and then still not published, by Mediaite:

Heritage Foundation Updates Incorrect Obamascare Story

On Monday night's The Kelly File, Fox News' Trace Gallagher delivered a report on yet another Obamascare horror story that didn't quite check out, and which was based entirely on reporting from The Heritage Foundation blog. Since publication of a fact-check on that story, Heritage has updated their story several times to address the points raised in that critique, acknowledging some problems in their original report. That's to their credit, even if they couldn't bring themselves to call them corrections, but their updated post still doesn't check out.

The Fox News report focused on the sacrifices that the family of Northern Californian Kate Joy will have to make in order to afford health insurance under Obamacare, which includes things like extra mortgage payments, manicures, and dinners out. “They live in northern California, and help support their 19- and 21-year-old sons who work part-time and go to college,” Gallagher reported. “Here’s the deal. Under the old plan they paid $499 a month. Of course it was cancelled, because it doesn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. Look at the number. $1,252 per month.”

According to that Heritage post, the Joys “live off her husband’s retirement salary,” and that “the family does not qualify for any subsidies.”

She told Heritage that the $750 increase was on-fifth of her husband's salary, which is $45,120 a year. According to Covered California, a family of four adults from Sonora, CA, at that income level, qualifies for subsidies that would make an Anthem Blue Cross Bronze plan available for $4 per month. That’s not a typo. Four bucks. For $172 /mo., such a family could get an enhanced Silver plan from Anthem with a $1,000 family deductible, $16,000 less than the Joys’ old plan. $507, what the Joys were paying before, gets an Anthem Gold plan with no deductible at all.

Heritage's reporting was, at best, sloppy and incomplete, but they were also given incorrect information by their source, incorrect information that seems to be the result of honest confusion. They still should have checked, but in a series of tweets, they seem genuinely interested in sorting it out. Here are those updates:


UPDATE: Following publication of this story, Mediaite asserted on November 26 that Kate Joy’s family is eligible for subsidies that would make a Bronze 60 plan available at $4 per month. That is incorrect.

Even though she has chosen not to disclose her husband’s retirement salary, Joy did confirm that it is higher than the $58,899 cut off for subsidies under Covered California.

The Anthem option that is closest to the family’s current plan is $1,252 per month — money that Joy reiterated will cause unwanted cuts in other areas of the family budget:

As I tried to point out and I don’t think it came across, we are in a position to make discretionary spending cuts and we are truly blessed, but we still have a monthly budget and no one, I don’t care their income level, should have to deal with increases like we are seeing with Obamacare.

UPDATE II: In a series of tweets, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher challenged Heritage’s update to this story. It appears that a poorly worded sentence on our part is causing confusion about whether Kate Joy’s family qualifies for a subsidy.

The sentence originally read: “The 150 percent premium increase amounts to one-fifth of her husband’s retirement salary, and she said that they don’t want to devote that much money to health care.”

In his story, Christopher was basing his calculations on the $753 per month increase in the family’s premium. Over the course of a year, that increase totals $9,036. That’s how Christopher calculated the $45,120 salary he included in his story.

However, in a subsequent email exchange with Kate Joy, she explained the total cost of the premium—not the increase alone—amounts to one-fifth of the salary. She declined to reveal the actual salary, but told us it is more than $58,899 cutoff for a subsidy.

Joy got the subsidy number by using the Covered California calculator. She acknowledged that a family of four could qualify for a Bronze 60 plan at $4 per month, as Christopher explained. Joy’s family, however, isn’t eligible because of her husband’s income.

What does this mean for the Joy family? Kate can purchase the Bronze 60 plan for $1,136 per month from Covered California. Instead, she’s decided to stick with Anthem, at a cost of $1,252 per month, because the Bronze 60 plan has higher out-of-pocket costs in the event of a major medical event.

In our earlier update, we inadvertently used the $1,136 figure instead of the $1,252 monthly cost. We regret the error.


As I explained to Heritage's Robert Bluey on Twitter, Joy's revised claim, that their income is five times the total premium amount, still only adds up to about $75,000, well within the cutoff for federal assistance. The cutoff figure that Kate Joy got from the Covered California calculator is for cost-sharing subsidies; the cutoff for premium assistance is $94,200. According to Covered California, based on a $75,000 a year income for a family of four, a PPO Bronze costs $171 /mo. after premium assistance.

Ideological differences aside, this is confusing stuff, and even the best mainstream reporters have failed to thoroughly check these stories out. What's important is that everyone get the right information, and get health insurance if they can. Heritage has offered to help Mrs. Joy get in touch with me so we can sort this whole thing out.

Original Version: Fox Lifts Bogus Obamascare Story from Heritage Foundation Without Sourcing

This post was edited, several hours after publication by Mediaite, without my input or knowledge. This is the post as it was originally written and published, minus the annoying font colors that Blogger changed for no good reason: Fixed the formatting:
Even as CNN greatly improves its reporting on Obamacare, Fox News continues the mainstream media trend of bogus reporting on supposed Obamacare horror stories that don’t pan out. On Monday night’s The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly featured a report by Trace Gallagher that told the sad story of a family that might have to cut down on manicures and such, in order to afford their Obamacare plan, and while the story predictably doesn’t add up, it has the added twist of being lifted from The Heritage Foundation’s blog, without attribution.

 Gallagher’s report focused on Kate Joy, a California woman who, “despite her name, is not happy” about Obamacare. She and her husband “have an extensive Christmas list, and have checked it more than twice,” Gallagher reveals. “It’s a list of what they plan to give up to pay for the new healthcare plan.”

Obamacare burn! Nicely done.

“They live in northern California, and help support their 19- and 21-year-old sons who work part-time and go to college,” he continues. “Here’s the deal. Under the old plan they paid $499 a month. Of course it was cancelled, because it doesn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. Look at the number. $1,252 per month.”

This would be a good place for Gallagher to explain why the old plan didn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act, but he doesn’t. The viewer, then, is free to assume that the old plan only covered non-complicated doctors’ visits on alternating Tuesdays.

“That’s actually more than my monthly mortgage on my home,” Joy says in an interview clip. “You can imagine that you have to start thinking about, you know, where is the extra money coming from to pay for the policy.”

“To make up for the increase, the Joys are cutting money they normally add to the mortgage every month,” Gallagher explains. “They are cutting the home phone, instead using cell phones. Charitable donations go down, along with the anniversary fund, and teeth cleanings will be just once a year. Add to that manicures, magazines and movies, and they should have the extra $750 they need. Despite her name, Kate Joy isn’t happy.”

“Fewer haircuts, not eating out as much, not going to the movies. That affects small businesses in our community,” Joy says.

On the latter point, people paying more under Obamacare are extreme outliers, so the millions more people who will be paying less ought to be able to pick up the slack for manicurists and dinners at The Olive Garden.

Stay tuned, though, because Kate Joy’s nails may yet be saved. “Remember, California rejected President Obama’s plan to extend those individual policies,” Gallagher reminds viewers, “so the Joys’ reality begins in 36 days.”

(Watch Video Here)

At face value, most people would probably agree that one set of marginally gnarlier nails is a fair price to pay so that millions of other people can no longer be denied health insurance, but it doesn’t even have to be that way.

Newshounds‘ Ellen Brodsky thought something sounded familiar, and smelled a little funky, about Gallagher’s reporting. She pointed out that the report is an almost rote regurgitation of a Heritage Foundation blog post, and that something had to be wrong.

The Heritage post makes the claim that the Joys don’t qualify for subsidies, a subject which Gallagher ignores: If this family is struggling to get by to the point that they have to give up dental treatments (as both reports stated), it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t qualify for any subsidies. Considering that the Kelly File has come up with many of Fox’s even more numerous bogus ObamaCare victims, there’s good reason to be skeptical.
It’s also suspect that Gallagher didn’t discuss it. After all, it’s a major component of the Affordable Care Act. 

According to that Heritage post, the Joys “live off her husband’s retirement salary,” which, according to what Kate Joy told them, is $45,120.00 a year, and that “the family does not qualify for any subsidies.”

But according to Covered California, both of those things cannot be true. A family of four adults from Sonora, CA, at that income level, qualifies for subsidies that would make an Anthem Blue Cross Bronze plan available for $4 per month. That’s not a typo. Four bucks. For $172 /mo., such a family could get an enhanced Silver plan from Anthem with a $1,000 family deductible, $16,000 less than the Joys’ old plan. $507, what the Joys were paying before, gets an Anthem Gold plan with no deductible at all. Heritage and Gallagher also fail to acknowledge the fact that without Obamacare, the Joys wouldn’t even have the option of covering their adult children.

Gallagher doesn’t credit Heritage for this story, but for Heritage, credit isn’t the point; slagging Obamacare with stories like this is the point. Given a choice, I’d much rather Gallagher and his staff had bothered to check Heritage‘s reporting than disclosed them as the source. It would also be nice if Kelly’s team would exercise some editorial judgment in the Obamacare stories she puts on the air.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Unedited version: Maddow Slams ‘Conservative Media Criticism Website’ Mediaite’s Coverage of Gettysburg Address Scandlet


This is the unedited version of this post, which was published at Mediaite.

As Mediaite's Andrew Kirell reported yesterday, the conservative media spun up its outrage warp drive over President Obama's supposed omission of the words "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address, only to later learn that the President had been asked to read a first draft of the speech that did not contain the phrase. It was with some delight, then, that I noted Mediaite fave Rachel Maddow cited our reporting on Tuesday night's episode of The Rachel Maddow Show.

 Rachel began the segment in trademark fashion, building a foundation of context for the story by ticking off several other deranged right-wing outrages from earlier in Barack Obama's presidency. This is one of the reasons people hang in until 9 pm to see TRMS, because even when she's covering a story you've already seen 18 times that day, Rachel Maddow will sweeten the pot with old video clips and history lessons, or in this case, histrionics lessons. She touched on a few perennial favorites, like the evergreen vacation outrage, but missed my personal favorites, the teleprompter story, the trips to Israel kerfuffle, and uppity King Obama's use of a food taster.

 Then, she went around the horn describing how various right-wing media outlets fairly convulsed with outrage over the President's "omission" of the phrase "under God," and Mediaite's writeup appeared onscreen. What a proud moment...(record-scratch noise).

 "The conservative media criticism website Mediaite covered it under the guise of covering the outrage about it," Maddow said.

video


 Wait, what? By "conservative media criticism website," does she mean a website that constantly criticizes the conservative media? Either interpretation is unfair, since this site has always featured writers with a diverse set of viewpoints, so while you can argue over where the balance tilts at any given time, or take issue with the merits of those varying points of view, we have always been defined by that diversity of views. When we're not a "conservative media criticism website," we're "primarily left-wing," to hear Bill O'Reilly tell it.

 On the issue of the merits, the accusation that Mediaite covered the Gettysburg kerfuffle under the "guise" of covering the outrage about it would be fair if we had suddenly, just for Barack Obama's recitation of the speech, created a whole new category of reporting on outrage just for the occasion. It's actually kind of our wheelhouse. It's only fair to note that, in covering the outrage, Andrew Kirell noted the following:
TheBlaze has reported extensively in the past on the controversy surrounding whether Lincoln actually said the words “under God” in his original speech. Lincoln’s original draft did not include the words “under God” and so, perhaps, Obama was reading from that iteration? We’ll likely soon find out.
If anything, the websites that ran with this story probably should have waited to find out, but they didn't. What we did do was provide that bit of context, and update our story immediately, crediting Media Matters for pointing out that the President was reading from the earliest draft of the Gettysburg Address, which did not include the words "under God," and that he was asked to do so by documentarian Ken Burns.

 It would have been even nicer if we had tracked down that notation on Burns' "Learn the Address" website, but as much as I hate to be the one to point this out (not really; nothing would please me more than to have the wingnut media further clown itself by shrieking about a "coverup"), it probably wasn't there when this ridiculous narrative got rolling. It's not in the Google cache version of the page from November 15, which means it was added some time after that. It also apparently wasn't there when CBS News' Major Garrett, as fastidious a reporter as there is, asked Jay Carney about it at Tuesday's White House briefing, long after we published our piece.

Aside from failing to turn up something that probably wasn't there when he began writing the post, Andrew Kirell got the story right.

 (h/t stand-up comic and Mediaite reader Andy Kindler)

Monday, September 16, 2013

CNN's Carol Costello Unfairly Drudge-d For 'Forgetting' Fort Hood Shooting

Breaking news events like Monday's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard produce, as a by-product, copious amounts of media criticism, some fair, and some not. In the latter category, CNN's Carol Costello is now the subject of a scornful headline on The Drudge Report, which accuses Costello's network thusly: "CNN forgets Fort Hood: 'I've Never Heard of Such a Thing Happening'..."

Drudge then links to a Mediaite piece with the less-accusatory, less-definitive headline "‘I’ve Never Heard of Such a Thing Happening’: CNN Anchor Blanks on Ft. Hood Shooting?"

In case you missed it, here's how Mediaite's Noah Rothman described the key exchange in the clip:

 “I used to work in Washington, live in Washington. This seems so unusual to me that a gunman could create this kind of havoc at a U.S. military facility,” Costello asked her producer, Brian Todd. “Have you ever heard of this happening before, Brian?”
 “I was just saying that this is so unusual, because this is such a heavily-secured military facility. I’ve worked in Washington for many years, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening,” she asked. 
 “Well, we haven’t either in this area, Carol,” Todd replied. “This is the first time we’ve seen something like this, at least in many, many years. Now you remember the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, where that was a member of the service who was convicted eventually of doing that shooting.”
There is a difference between asking if Costello momentarily "blanked" on the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, and declaring that she, and her entire network, "forgot" about it, but a fair reading of what Costello said indicates that neither is true. Mediaite's Noah Rothman even noted, in his reporting, the possibility that "she was referring specifically to bases in the Washington D.C. area."

 Drudge's take on that article could be seen as a sap to conservatives, who glory in any chance to attack the legitimacy of mainstream journalism, but it could as easily be a function of point of view. Noah is correct that Costello was referring to Washington, DC-area incidents, the main subtle clue to that being that she said so, twice.

 “I used to work in Washington, live in Washington. This seems so unusual to me that a gunman could create this kind of havoc at a U.S. military facility,” Costello said.

 "Yes," Todd agreed.

 When he missed the last part of her question, she asked it again, and again made it clear she was referring specifically to Washington. "I’ve worked in Washington for many years, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening,” she said.

 Now, I know Matt Drudge is based in Los Angeles, so maybe he just doesn't have the frame of reference to understand what Costello was talking about, but anyone who has lived or worked in Washington, DC for any significant period of time knows that one of the city's defining features is the level of security around government facilities in town. It goes beyond what you would see in other cities, and into territory that can best be described as unnerving.

 Depending on where you are in official Washington, there are multiple law enforcement agencies responsible for securing a given location, or responding to emergencies, as well as omnipresent security details for elected officials, diplomats, and others. For every security measure that's apparent to the general public, there are others that they can't see. In order to carry out an attack of this magnitude, the suspects would need to evade, not just the specific security measures in place at their target facility, but the scrutiny of an entire city that lives on high alert.

It is this dynamic to which Costello was clearly referring. There will be some on the right who take an "all's fair" attitude toward this, citing liberal accusations that conservative figures like Dana Perino, Rudy Giuliani, and Eric Bolling "forgot" about 9/11, but this is not that. The distasteful score-settling is there, but Carol Costello did not make a definitively inaccurate statement. She made a clear point about the security environment in our nation's capital, one which is simply being misunderstood, willfully or not.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Majority of Black Cable News Prime Time Viewers Watch MSNBC


With the month’s end come the cable news networks’ press releases, each trying to shape the same numbers into good news for themselves, and bad news for the other guys. In August, Fox News retained its perennial spot ahead of competitors CNN, MSNBC, and HLN, while CNNboasted improvements over last August’s numbers, and MSNBC emerged from a months-long slide into third place to retake the number two spot for the month (thanks to Phil Griffin‘spartial adherence to my plan). Included in MSNBC’s press release, though, was a bit of news about one area in which they completely dominate: black viewership.
Cable news ratings press releases are always an amusing exercise in spin, and August’s were no exception. While Fox News doesn’t have to do much polishing to burnish their 140 consecutive months at number one, CNN is fending off a nascent comeback by MSNBC, so their press release highlighted CNN’s improvement over last August’s ratings, and found whatever the opposite of a silver lining is for its competitors (from a CNN press release, via email):
MSNBC experienced major ratings declines in August losing almost one half of its M-F primetime audience, while registering its lowest total viewer delivery since December 2007, and its lowest among P25-54 since August 2006. MSNBC, fueled this month by the strong performance of the network’s doc series “MSNBC Investigates” (Lock Up) and “MSNBC Specials” (Caught on Camera) also posted its lowest M-Su prime delivery among total viewers since December 2007.
This month, FXNC has posted some of its lowest ratings in over a decade, registering its lowest delivery in total day and M-F/M-Su primetime since August 2001 in the key demo 25-54 rating. FXNC also saw its lowest primetime delivery since July 2008 in total viewers.
Of course, MSNBC boasted about their emergence from third place, and engaged in a little bit of knife-twisting at the expense of CNN’s new morning program, New Day (from an MSNBC press release, via email):
“Morning Joe” continues to top CNN’s “New Day” among total viewers and A25-54. Despite highly promoted exclusive bookings including President Obama, Prince William and Mark Zuckerberg, “New Day” hit a new weekly ratings low week for August 19th with 78,000 A25-54. “New Day” is also down -23% among A25-54 from July 2013, the show’s first full month on the air.
Also included in MSNBC’s press release was this blurb:
MSNBC is #1 in delivering total African American viewers for the 43rd month among M-Su Prime
Earlier this year, we reported on MSNBC’s massive 60% increase in black viewership in 2012, and according to the Nielsen Company’s August ratings, that domination has continued. Between 8pm and 11 pm, Monday-Friday, MSNBC was #1 with African-American viewers, who made up 38% of their audience. In that same time period, 23 percent of CNN’s audience was African-American, versus 3 percent for Fox News.
A full 51% of all black cable news viewers were watching MSNBC in that time period, versus 28% for CNN, 14% for HLN, and 7% for Fox News.
MSNBC also ranked #1 among Hispanic viewers in weekday prime time for August, the first month since December 2012 that the network has ranked #1 in this demographic. Hispanic viewers accounted for 15% of MSNBC’s audience in the time period, versus 8 % for CNN, and 6% for Fox News. Among all Hispanic viewers watching cable news in prime time, MSNBC had 40%, Fox News had 30%, CNN 19%, and HLN 11%.
Race has figured heavily in the progressive politics that are MSNBC’s bread and butter in recent news cycles, but a Pew survey a few months ago indicates that black news consumers are more engaged than whites on a broad range of issues. Whatever MSNBC is doing right, the other networks could use to figure out a way to compete for this audience.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Black Florida Man Shot By Cops While Not Saying N-Word Or Sagging His Pants

Sometimes, the universe is trying to tell you something, if you'll just listen to it. On the very same day that CNN anchor Don Lemon laid out his 5-point plan to "solve the problem" of black people scaring Bill O'Reilly, an unarmed 60 year-old Florida man named Roy Middleton was shot down by police in his own driveway, even though there was no evidence he had violated any of Lemon's tenets. Lucky for Middleton, the cops who responded were so panicked by him, they only hit him with two of the fifteen shots they fired at him. Here's how Mr. Middleton, who was shot twice in the leg, says it went down:
Middleton, 60, of the 200 block of Shadow Lawn Lane in Warrington, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home. A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call. Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, “Get your hands where I can see them.” He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway. He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire. “It was like a firing squad,” he said. “Bullets were flying everywhere.”
Of course, there are two sides to every story. While I'm inclined to believe Mr. Middleton, who didn't get to be 60 years old by not knowing how to act around police, even if you take the cops at their word, backed up by the neighbor who called them in the first place, this is still a ridiculous story, redeemed only by Middleton's miraculous survival:
(Escambia County Sheriff David) Morgan said the deputies reported that, after they'd made multiple commands to Middleton to show his hands, he eventually lunged out of the car and spun toward them, causing them to "fear for their safety." "As much as we are trained and as much as officers -- which have Type A personalities -- like to say we are in control, we are not," Morgan said at the conference.
Unfortunately, no video of the incident is available, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the terrifying "lunge" maneuver, here's a visual aid that might help:
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan held a surreal press conference on Monday, which included his assertion that Middleton (to whom he referred as the "suspect, or victim) didn't show both of his hands even after the deputies shot him, because nothing improves your ability to respond to commands like being shot twice. When Morgan explained that Middleton said he thought it was a neighbor playing a joke on him, he added "I don't know why," omitting the end of the sentence "maybe because he was in his own driveway doing nothing wrong?" But the best (or worst) part of the press conference was when Morgan inexplicably tried to challenge Middleton's claim that he didn't know they were cops right away by observing that the deputies were "dressed as law enforcement officers," and were "illuminated," and plainly visible to the neighbor who was looking at them, and to Middleton after he had exited the car. A reporter asked Morgan if it's possible that when the deputies first began shouting at Middleton, while he was in the car and had his back to them, that he didn't see them. "Anything's possible," Morgan replied. Cue Rod Serling.
There are many questions that remain in this case, such as how the deputies managed to show up before Roy Middleton could even find his cigarette. If this had happened in Detroit, he could have died of cancer before the cops showed up. But the real burning issue here is what the black community, or black culture, did to get Roy Middleton shot. He's 60 years old, so he doesn't pass the Mark Omara/Washington Post/Geraldo Rivera "young black man" test, no matter how good he looks for his age. I'm not sure if he was wearing a hoodie or sagging pants, but surely that glaring red flag would have made it somewhere into the reporting. The reports don't say if Middleton was born out of wedlock, but even so, 60 years is an awful long time for that chicken to come home to roost. Roy Middleton himself, however, is described as a "married father of two," so surely he gets some credit for that. He doesn't appear to have used the n-word, or been listening to any rap music at the time of the shooting, although the deputies were apparently engaged in a performance art rendition of 911 Is A Joke. He was inside his mother's car, so the only littering that occurred was the deputies' discharge of 15 shell casings, which I'm sure they picked up after. In fact, Roy Middleton didn't even live in a black community. The 15,000-member Warrington community he belongs to is 72% white, just like America. Maybe that was his mistake? The deputies who shot Roy Middleton have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, so we'll see if that "lunging" defense holds up, but the fact is that it doesn't matter how slowly, deliberately, or unarmedly a black man gets out of a car, all a cop has to do is think (or say) he "lunged." Roy Middleton said he thought a neighbor was playing a joke on him, and although he wasn't that far off the mark, it's not a "ha-ha"-funny joke. The neighbor who called the police on him had lived in the neighborhood for about a month, according to Sheriff Morgan, but in the end, it was Roy Middleton who was judged not to belong there. That's the joke, that whether you live in a black community or a white one, whether you engage in all that black culture pant-sagging and n-word-using and Skittle-buying or not, if you're black in America, there are people with guns who will think you don't belong, and you can die for that.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rover-Compensating: Don Lemon And Ted Nugent Compare Black People To Dogs

CNN anchor Don Lemon incurred the wrath of many people when he not only agreed with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's indictment of "black culture," but asserted it hadn't gone far enough. It's an interesting coincidence, then, that both Lemon and Ted Nugent, another member of the growing cadre of media figures attempting to normalize racial profiling in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing, have recently employed canine metaphors to describe the black community.

The reaction to Lemon's commentary was swift, and at times brutal, but rather than respond to the concerns raised by critics, Lemon put together a panel segment with people who agreed with him, and mischaracterized the backlash as a reaction to common sense fashion and linguistic advice. He failed to acknowledge the laundry list of legitimate criticisms of what he said, and how he said it.

 The main thrust of the criticism has been that Lemon's rant was simplistic, ignoring the root causes of the symptoms his advice was meant to treat (like the effects of arrest and sentencing disparities, or employment discrimination, or being murdered, on families), and was made in the context of agreement with a segment of white America that explicitly promotes the legitimacy of the racial profiling that cost Trayvon Martin his life. Even on a topic on which many, myself included, would philosophically agree with Lemon, he fails to recognize that if black people had a nickel for every time a black person used the n-word, it would be because white people gave the other 95 cents to iTunes. He also claimed that white people don't litter, which is some bullsh*t.

In order to promote his upcoming segment on criticisms that no one actually made of him, however, Lemon tweeted this tease:
Ever heard the expression 'a hit dog will holler?' I'll discuss 5-7pET tonight on #CNN #NoTalkingPoints
Lemon's tweet, although divergent in intent, bears an illustrative similarity to remarks made by Ted Nugent last week, during a Nick Cannon podcast that Media Matters flagged. Like Bill O'Reilly, Nugent has been arguing that racial profiling is not only reasonable, but essential, due to a "mindless tendency to violence" in the black community. In making this argument to entertainer Nick Cannon, Nugent went to the dogs.

 Earlier in the show, Nugent repeated his boast that he has been "fighting racism" for years by generously thanking the black artists he and the rest of white rock ripped off, and by employing a black bassist. He then addressed remarks that President Obama made, in Nugent's imagination, about white ladies on "helicopters" clutching their purses, before getting to racial profiling.

"I think when you use the word profile, if a Dalmatian has been biting the children in the neighborhood, I think we're going to look for a black and white dog," he told Cannon, later adding that "over and over again I watch the news and here's a rape and here's a burglary and here's a murder in Chicago. 29 shot. 29 blacks shot by 29 blacks. At some point you got to be afraid of black and white dogs if the Dalmatian's doing the biting."

 Media Matters cuts their clip off a little too early, though, because rather than pointing out that racial profiling necessarily entails treating the innocent (including the victims) as offenders, Nick Cannon tries to argue the effects of poverty, but ends up detouring into arguing that black people have no choice but to become "vicious animals."

"Obviously, this is just a reaction to the way society has... our place in society," Cannon said, "and expressing years and years of not being treated properly by the establishment, or the white community, especially in impoverished...you're from Detroit, you know when a city is downtrodden, of course there's gonna be violence, there's gonna be frustration, there's gonna be anger, and if all you, to use your analogy, if you have two dalmatians in a cage, and all they have is each other to go after, that's what they're gonna do, they're just gonna become a victim of their circumstance. No one's giving them that opportunity to step up, or given them the alternative to operate, then they're gonna become a vicious animal, as you call it."
It's worth noting that Nick Cannon is not a respected journalist on a prestigious cable news network, but one of the many problems with Cannon's response is, of course, that the vast majority of black people aren't "going after each other," or anyone else. Hadiya Pendleton wasn't going after anyone, she was minding her business, but the "black-on-black crime" narrative insists that her death is her problem, as a member of the black community. Don't talk about racism, talk about how these people are bringing it all on themselves. These screeds about black crime and out-of-wedlock births are all presented, explicitly, as critiques of "the black community," and so was Don Lemon's rant.

Neither of these men actually thinks of black people as dogs, but their shared use od the metaphor is instructive. In Lemon's case, it was a way to dismiss the legitimate, well-reasoned disagreement of #blacktwitter as so much reflexive, mindless howling, while Nugent used it to dismiss the humanity of people whom he sees as legitimate targets of suspicion. That bit of common ground should give at least one of these guys paws.

Original Version: The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore Is Wrong, Bill O’Reilly Is Not ‘An Asshole’

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has been taking a lot of heat lately over his assessments of the black community in the wake of President Obama's Trayvon Martin speech. One standout among the anti-O'Reilly barrage was Daily Show Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore's judgment of O'Reilly as "an asshole," but despite my own criticisms of O'Reilly, I've come around to the notion that Larry was wrong, Bill O'Reilly is not an asshole.

It's true that Bill O'Reilly has spent this week using the same statistical arguments to demonize black people that are used by more overtly racist people, and explicitly argued that people are right to suspect young black men like Trayvon Martin because they belong to such a violence-prone community. In O'Reilly's defense, he is not alone in this trend toward normalizing racial profiling, which has made the species jump to mainstream American conversation.

It's also true that, even within his blame-the blacks frame, O'Reilly has been all over the place. This week, it's black girls who are to blame for black crime, a pivot from his weeks-ago position that it was young black men, but he has been consistent about blaming black leaders like Jesse Jackson for ignoring "black-on-black crime," a common refrain from those seeking to ignore the racial issues embedded in the story of Trayvon Martin's killing.

However, Bill O'Reilly is nothing if not a man. In February, Rev. Jesse Jackson led a march in Chicago to protest the death of 15 year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed the week after she performed at President Obama‘s inauguration. Despite 13-degree weather in Chicago that day, Rev. Jackson was joined by dozens of marchers, who went from the school that Hadiya attended, to the park in which she was shot and killed. Rev. Jackson demanded action from President Obama to stem the tide of violence in the city.

Bill O'Reilly could have simply ignored Rev. Jesse Jackson's march because it didn't fit his narrative. It's not as if Hadiya Pendleton's death was a frequent subject on The O'Reilly Factor, where Bill only mentioned her twice since her death. But Bill O'Reilly, man that he is, actually did cover that Rev. Jesse Jackson-led march on The O'Reilly Factor, and doubtless praised the civil rights leader for caring about the thing that O'Reilly accuses him of ignoring:




"Few attended."

Larry Wilmore is wrong, Bill O'Reilly isn't an asshoole. He's a fucking asshole.