Commentary Media

CNN Concludes Rachel Maddow Was Right In Gender Pay Gap Debate With Alex Castellanos

Michael Hayne

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and reporter Lisa Sylvester did a thorough fact-check of all the points made in the recent debate between Alex Castellanos and Rachel Maddow on pay inequity and found that... Maddow was right.  

CNN used to be the bland, vanilla network of news that over-compensated for its lack of screaming shrills with really cool but ultimately gratuitous 3-D technology. I mean, who really wants to see a hologram of John Boehner crying. With the hiring of Breitbart spawn, Dana Loesch — whose only qualification is she appears to have an active Twitter account — CNN officially killed off any credibility it might have had left.

Enter Alex Castellanos

Honestly, I had absolutely no idea who this guy was until performing a google search. But what I found was a vomit-inducing mixture of all the smug and smarmy obsequiousness of Tucker Carlson, combined with the condescension and false bravado of Sean Hannity.

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It seems MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow joined a Meet the Press panel to discuss the significance of the women’s vote in the 2012 election, as well as addressing the Republicans’ seemingly never-ending “War on Women.” But when Maddow justifiably attempted to illustrate the obvious disparities in pay between women and men, GOP strategist Castellanos called her out as though she was Kim Kardashian and not Oxford-educated Rachel Maddow; Maddow instinctively found this to be insanely condescending. Being a good right-wing pundit, Castellanos wouldn’t let her speak and interrupted her to claim that no parity exists. Oh, this should be richer than a multimillionaire claiming to be unemployed.

Castellanos argued that not only do men work more hours a week than women, but men tend to go for professions that pay slightly more than women.

Maddow fired back by saying Castellanos operates on a slightly different “factual understanding of the world.” To which Castellanos replied, “I love how passionate you are. I wish you were as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do,” according to Mediaite.

This is where Maddow said Castellanos was being “really condescending” to her, and that her zeal comes from making fact-based argument. Burned!

At any rate, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and reporter Lisa Sylvester evidently did a thorough fact-check of all the points made in the debate and concluded that Maddow was on the right side of the argument.

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Commentary Media

ELECTION 2012: The Night the Right-Wing Media’s Bubble Burst

Sarah Seltzer

The refusal to face facts that the conservative media showed in Election 2012 is nothing new to advocates of reproductive rights, who have the numbers and facts on our side.

Just around 11pm on election night, as the Electoral College begin to appear like it was signed, sealed and delivered for President Obama, the turn of events stunning news anchors and also everyone in my living room who expected an all-night nailbiter, something else rather wild began to happen.

“Turn to Fox News right now,” my brother IM’ed me from Massachusetts. My election-night crew already had spent some time viewing the conservative cable network earlier in the night, to catch an unhappy-looking Sarah Palin—so we complied immediately.

And that’s just when the meltdown heard ‘round the airwaves got going; Karl Rove began to attempt to talk the Fox News “Decision Desk” into reversing their call of Ohio for Obama. The irony of Rove’s interference was that his own SuperPAC had pumped millions of dollars into the very race whose outcome he was “predicting.” So the network, faced with a house divided, made a somewhat sexist, awkward decision, that has probably already been enshrined in bizarre political media history:

With neither side backing down, senior producers had to find a way to split the difference. One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox’s digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. “This is Fox News,” an insider said, “so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.” The decision desk were given a three-minute warning that Kelly would be showing up.

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Watch below, courtesy of TPM:

The Kelly-Rove carnival–which was getting tweaked in realtime by Rachel Maddow and the MSNBC team from another channel—was only the most melodramatic example of a night in which “the bubble,” as Bill Maher calls it, began to get popped for conservative media.

Watch the MSNBC mockery, courtesy of Mediaite:

Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir had one of many excellent analyses of the Fox spectacle:

It was clearly traumatic. As election night moved rapidly from uncertainty to Republican doom, no one felt ready to let go of the robotic dream of a Romney presidency, or any of the talking points that have driven the network’s political coverage for the last couple of years: Obama was a Muslim-apologist weakling who was doomed by economic conditions and had been abandoned by his base, the polls were fatally skewed toward the Democrats, America was fundamentally a “center-right country” eager for ever lower taxes and ever smaller government.

The pre-election polls have been threatening to burst that bubble for weeks, pointing out that Romney, while at times more competitive, had never fully sold the country his bill of goods. We had to witness a conservative campaign to discredit political prognosticator Nate Silver, who had a reputation for accurate predictions by crunching numbers using very specific algorithms. When Silver was proven right and a thousand hunches proven wrong on Tuesday night, the antics on Fox News were one inevitable result.

The ferocity with which ideologues have attacked Silver and his ilk’s statistical approach to the election is notable, as I wrote the other night, because it means not only do we have a sundered moral and political outlook in our country, we also have two sets of facts to back them up. One one side were actual numbers—a lot of them, weighed—on the other, a vague feeling about “passion” disguised as solid evidence.

There’s a notable link between this fact-free approach to electioneering and the Republican party’s approach to actual policy, as Theo Anderson notes at In These Times:

The 2012 election was a referendum on two very different approaches to public policy. One approach is to use the best available empirical evidence. The other is to rely on faith and wishful thinking. As in their campaign coverage, conservatives consistently opt for the latter route—a choice that has often blinded them to the reality in front of their noses. Climate change and the failure of supply-side economics are the most obvious examples.

And reproductive rights, too, I’d add. This hands-in-the-ears “la la la I can’t hear you” approach when confronted with solid facts is nothing new to those of us who have been advocating for reproductive rights or writing about them. Solid studies that debunk mythical scare consequences of abortion and birth control, for instance, are easy to find everywhere but the other side ignores them because these facts intrude rudely upon their arguments about regretful, ill women who have aborted. Anti-choicers continue to lie and say that abortion causes health complications, and ignore studies that point out the highest abortion rates occur in countries where reproductive health services are inaccessible and abortions are criminalized. Instead of treating abortion as a public health and human rights issue, two arenas where numbers and realities on the ground matter, they move it into a nebulous religious and family values realm, which usually means shaming women and resorting to platitudes about the sanctity of life.

The anti-fact model has been surprisingly successful for the right wing—up to a point. We can certainly emulate our opponents by making sure we’re telling a good story, creating a narrative about why our policies work. And certainly, there’s a moral dimension to public policy that is just as important as its practical elements. But we can also learn from Nate Silver by not running away from the facts, and maybe even trumpeting them from the rooftops when they get challenged.

Commentary Abortion

An Open Letter to Rachel Maddow: Stop Calling Opposition to Rape and Incest Abortion Exceptions “Extreme”

Tracy Weitz

From a fundamental human rights perspective denying abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest is just as problematic as denying abortions to women who can’t afford another child, are in unstable relationships, do not want to be a parent, or want to pursue other life opportunities.

Over the last year Rachel Maddow has been one of the few news reporters to cover the efforts of anti-choice politicians to limit access to safe abortion care through draconian state laws. Her outrage is appreciated, but I find myself increasingly concerned about her focus on the Republicans politicians who oppose abortion “even” in cases of rape and incest—a position she deems “extreme.”  Her language seems to suggest that the desire to deny abortions to the vast majority of women with unwanted pregnancies is “mainstream” and only these few outliers are “extreme.” This perspective reinforces the idea that some abortions are more justified than others, that people should innately have more sympathy for women who did not voluntarily participate in the sex act that resulted in the pregnancy. Politicians do not get to a better rating simply because they believe that abortions are justified if women are victims. Mr. Romney is extreme on this issue whether or not he accepts the rape and incest exceptions.

From a fundamental human rights perspective denying abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest is just as problematic as denying abortions to women who can’t afford another child, are in unstable relationships, do not want to be a parent, or want to pursue other life opportunities. The reason a woman decides to have an abortion should be irrelevant to society’s recognition that restricting her decision is unacceptable.

In many ways people opposed to abortion in all cases have a more consistent, and I would say, honest position. For them, either a blastocyst, embryo, or fetus has a right to life, no matter how it was conceived, or a woman doesn’t have the right to terminate a pregnancy, no matter the circumstances. In contrast, the politicians who believe it is within their domain to decide which of women’s reasons for abortion are legitimate, lack a moral core and are using abortion simply as a political tool to mobilize a conservative base while trying not to appear too “extreme.” Unfortunately, it is extreme to oppose the right of any woman to make decisions about the direction of her life, no matter the circumstances under which she finds herself pregnant.

Further damage is done by the focus on rape and incest exceptions on Maddow’s show and in the general public dialogue on this issue. In exalting how incredibly awful it would be for the law to make a woman bare the child of their rapist, you make it seem abnormal that some women might choose not to terminate a pregnancy following a sexual assault. However, women make many different decisions in these circumstances, all of which need to be respected. 

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Several years ago my colleagues and I conducted a study of women obtaining abortions in the Southern Midwest. One of the interviewees told us a story of a pregnancy that had resulted from a rape which she had decided to carry to term. She noted that she believed something good came from a terrible situation. Later in her life, when we met her, she found herself pregnant again and unable to care for another child. This time she decided to have an abortion. In her life, continuing the pregnancy from rape was more tolerable than continuing the one for which she lacked the resources to adequately care for that child. 

During a subsequent study of women’s emotions following abortion, another interviewee discussed her decision to terminate a pregnancy following a sexual assault. She had just left an abusive relationship but knew she loved her children even though she now hated the man with whom she had them. She wondered if this new child might love her, no matter the circumstances of its conception. Her concern was that the pregnancy would be evidence of the rape and she did not want anyone to know about the assault.  She wanted respect for her decision because it was what she needed to do to manager her life not to feel justified in having the abortion because she had been raped. She wanted control over her life, not more pity for being in a bad situation.

There are, of course, many women for whom the idea of a child born from a sexual assault is unbearable, and these women need access to abortion care. They also need social and emotional support for their sexual assault, regardless of whether there is a resulting pregnancy. But as a society we also need to respect women’s decisions to not terminate pregnancies resulting from sexual assault and not to disparage that decision in an effort to paint politicians as extremists. 

So Dr. Maddow, while I appreciate your attention to the unrelenting effort of abortion opponents to eliminate access to abortion, please stop labeling some opponents of abortion rights as “extreme” and others as “mainstream.” Pandering to polling data that suggests that more people support abortion for reasons of rape and incest is short-sighted and harmful to the efforts to ensure that all people have the resources, rights, and respect to make their own sexual and reproductive decisions.  You of all people should understand this.