Since George Zimmerman was arrested earlier this week for allegedly threatening his girlfriend with a shotgun, many of his defenders have gone silent or turned tail. Speaking on Fox News after Zimmerman's Tuesday arraignment, Geraldo Rivera, a former Zimmerman booster, went so far as to call him "borderline psychotic."
But Zimmerman's neighbor and de facto spokesman, Frank Taaffe, has pressed ahead with the media crusade he began in the runup to Zimmerman's trial on charges of murdering unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. And despite revelations that Taaffe is a convicted criminal and unabashed racist who hosts a white-power podcast, cable news networks have continued giving him a platform.
Most recently, Taaffe appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight and argued that Zimmerman was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Morgan asked Taaffe what Zimmerman—who faces charges of aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic violence battery, and criminal mischief—was doing in a house full of guns. "Boys will have their toys," Taaffe replied. He also called Zimmerman's girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, and his ex-wife, Shellie (who has alleged that Zimmerman threatened her and her father with a gun, too) "opportunistic."
Earlier this week, Taaffe appeared on HLN's Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew On Call. "George is being oppressed by the press," he told an incredulous Grace, who asked: "So according to you, what is it? A conspiracy between the...the ATF officer, the girlfriend in 2006, the wife in September 2013, and me, I guess?"
"No," Taaffe said. "He's allying himself with these women that he shouldn't be with."
Here is the Nancy Grace segment:
Here's a segment from Dr. Drew On Call:
In media interviews during Zimmerman's trial, Taaffe made similar personal attacks on Martin and posted virulently racist comments on Twitter—one read "the only time a black life is validated is when a white person kills them."
Taaffe himself has been arrested (though never convicted) repeatedly on stalking and domestic violence charges, and he served nine months in jail for trespassing in his ex-wife's home. But there was no mention of his criminal record on CNN or HLN, both of which have given him ample airtime in the past. As Mother Jones reported in August:
CNN and its sister network, HLN, have repeatedly invited Taaffe to weigh in on legal and technical aspects of the Zimmerman case, from the implications of witness testimony to the meaning of forensic evidence….When Valerie Rao, Jacksonville, Florida's chief medical examiner, testified during the trial that Zimmerman's injuries were minor enough to be treated with Band-Aids—an assertion that cast doubt on Zimmerman's claims that Martin had bashed his head repeatedly on the sidewalk—Taaffe appeared on the Nancy Grace show and argued that Rao was wrong.
When Taaffe made these appearances, some still made the case that Zimmerman was a community-minded neighborhood watch volunteer who perceived Martin as a genuine threat. But this version of events seems far less plausible in light of his recent actions. And giving Taaffe a platform to bash Zimmerman's alleged victims is that much less defensible.
60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan apologized on Sunday for her discredited October 27 report, which hinged on a bogus "eyewitness" account of the attacks on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi. The mea culpa followed revelations that Logan's main source, security consultant Dylan Davies—who claimed that he had scaled the compound's 12-foot wall and battled terrorists—wasn't on the scene at all, according to an account he gave the FBI. He'd also told his then-employer, the British security contractor Blue Mountain, that he had never reached the compound. Nonetheless, he somehow persuaded Logan and CBS News to accept his alternate version of heroics.
As it turns out, Davies also recounted his supposed interactions with the FBI in his recent book, The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account of the Libyan Embassy Siege by the Soldier Who Was There, which he coauthored under the pen name Morgan Jones and published with Threshold Editions, an imprint of the CBS-owned company Simon & Schuster. The tome hit shelves two days after the 60 Minutes segment ran, though the publisher dropped it on Friday and urged retailers to yank the title from their inventories.
The US Supreme Court has decided not to weigh in on the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law limiting access to abortion drugs.
The court had tentatively agreed to hear a challenge to the 2011 statute, which bars doctors from prescribing abortion pills, except as outlined on the FDA label. Before proceeding, however, it asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify the breadth of the law. Last Tuesday, the state court ruled that the bill effectively bans all abortion drugs, including those used to treat life-threatening ectopic pregnancies, and found that it was unconstitutional.
Update (11/6/2013): David Barton announced Wednesday that he won't run for Congress, despite prodding from tea part activists. "I am deeply honored and humbled by the heartfelt efforts of thousands of people encouraging me to run for the U.S. Senate," he wrote in a statement. "But as important as one seat in the U. S. Senate is, we also have generations of citizens that need to know our constitutional principles and rich heritage. Such education will result in the election of many more constitutionally-minded common-sense patriots in coming years....I will continue to work side-by-side with you in the trenches to educate the nation, while also recruiting, training, and electing a new generation of conservative leaders."
In one of the starkest signs yet of the tea party's take-no-prisoners war on the Republican establishment, conservative activists are pressing controversial historian David Barton to challenge the Senate's No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn (R-Texas). Glenn Beck touted Barton's would-be candidacy and taunted Cornryn on his show last Thursday, saying, "You should quiver in your boots and hide, John."
One of Barton's closest advisors, Rick Green, recently told the National Review Online that more than 1,000 Republican and tea party leaders had asked the historian to enter the race. Green added that Barton would seriously consider running "if the people of Texas speak loud enough," and urged backers to show their support by liking the new "Draft David Barton for Senate" Facebook page. JoAnn Fleming, the executive director of Grassroots America We The People, a Texas tea party group, also weighed in, telling NRO that tea party activists were planning a conference call with Barton in the next week to discuss his possible candidacy. "We need a Constitutional conservative in that seat," she said. "We believe that Senator Cornyn has become part of the establishment and we don't believe that his priorities reflect the priorities of the people of Texas any longer."
Can a state ban a type of abortion, entirely? That's the question the US Supreme Court is now weighing.
In June, the court agreed to hear a challenge to a 2011 Oklahoma law that bars doctors from prescribing abortion drugs, unless they follow the FDA label. Supporters of the bill argue the goal is to protect women's health. "Oklahoma has acted to regulate a dangerous off-label use of a drug regimen that is tied to the deaths of at least eight women," says Mailee Smith, a lawyer for Americans United for Life, which drafted the legislation. But critics maintain the language is so broad it would block access to all abortion drugs—including those used to treat life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. And the Oklahoma Supreme Court agrees. In response to a query from the US Supreme Court, on Tuesday the state court ruled that the bill effectively "bans all medication abortions" and thus is unconstitutional.
It may seem counterintuitive that following the FDA labeling would hamper access. But two of the three most commonly used abortion drugs, misoprostol and methotrexate, were initially approved to treat other conditions. The World Health Organization and independent researchers have since found that they are a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy, and doctors routinely prescribe them for this purpose. But the drugs' manufacturers never went through the costly process of updating their FDA labels. This is not unusual. Once a drug is approved, the FDA normally doesn't change the label unless new risks come to light. But doctors are free to tailor treatments to reflect the latest research, which is one reason that roughly 20 percent of all outpatient prescriptions are off label.
A state-by-state LOOK AT abortion drug restrictions
Hover over a state to see a breakdown of restrictions in place there. Source: Guttmacher Institute.