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April 25 2017 11:21 PM

Fox News Hit With New Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Widespread Racial Discrimination

Bill O’Reilly might be gone, but Fox News got a fresh round of workplace trouble on Tuesday, when 11 current and former employees, including a black anchor and reporter, filed a class action suit against the network alleging “abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination.” The suit, which was initially filed by two black employees in March, is based on accusations of outlandishly racist behavior by company comptroller Judith Slater, as well as the company’s alleged failure to address repeated employee complaints before Slater was fired in February. The suit contends top Fox News lawyer Dianne Brandi knew of the racist allegations made against Slater as far back as 2008.

In the class-action lawsuit—which names Ms. Slater, Ms. Brandi, Fox News and 21st Century Fox as defendants — the 11 current and former employees said that Ms. Brandi and Denise Collins, a human resources executive at Fox News, were aware of complaints about Ms. Slater’s racist behavior but told black employees that “nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives,” including Roger E. Ailes, the company’s former chief executive; Mark Kranz, the chief financial officer; and Mr. O’Reilly…
Among the plaintiffs is Kelly Wright, a current Fox News anchor and former co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend.” He said Mr. O’Reilly refused to allow him on his show to discuss racial conciliation and instead suggested he should call Mr. Ailes and Bill Shine, one of the network’s presidents, and “offer to sing the national anthem at the Fox News Town Halls,” according to the suit. The suit also contends that Ms. Slater demanded that minority employees arm-wrestle white female supervisors for her own “entertainment and amusement.”
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The charges of racism are both institutional and specific, citing not just Bill O’Reilly’s behavior, but former network chief Roger Ailes. Slater, Brandi, and the network have denied the charges, but Fox News’ culture continues to be under assault, portrayed as workplace rife with sexist and racist behavior from some of its biggest names down to the rank-and-file.

April 25 2017 9:37 PM

Ivanka Trump’s Clothing Line Is Made in a Chinese Factory Where Workers Earn $1 an Hour

Donald Trump and his offspring—now that they’re in and around the White House—like to say they’re champions of the American worker, preferably coal. This sleight of hand from the Trump gene pool comes despite having lived lives, over the course of decades, relentlessly focused on enriching themselves at the expense of others—often workers, contractors, investors, taxpayers, you name it. The latest example of the family’s me-first priorities, reported Tuesday by the Washington Post, is that the fashion line of Ivanka Trump—self-styled champion of working women—is manufactured in China at a factory where workers are forced to work beyond the legal limit of allowable overtime in the country for what could be less than minimum wage. (The location of the factory was not disclosed in the audit, so it is not clear if local minimum wage laws were broken.)

“Workers at a factory in China used by the company that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and other brands worked nearly 60 hours a week to earn wages of little more than $62 a week, according to a factory audit released Monday,” the Post reports. “The factory’s 80 workers knit clothes for the contractor, G-III Apparel Group, which has held the exclusive license to make the Ivanka Trump brand’s $158 dresses, $79 blouses and other clothes since 2012.”

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The October 2016 inspection of the G-III factory—carried out by an industry self-monitoring collective, the Fair Labor Association, which includes companies like Nike—found two-dozen violations of international labor standards as determined by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization. The G-III factory also produces clothing for other brands, including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

From the Post:

Workers at the G-III factory in China were required to work 57 hours a week “on a regular basis” to hit production targets, inspectors found. Though Chinese law sets the limit for overtime at 36 hours per month, workers in all of the factory’s departments exceeded that limit, working up to 82 hours of overtime a month between September 2015 and August 2016. The factory’s workers made between 1,879 and 2,088 yuan a month, or roughly $255 to $283, which would be below minimum wage in some parts of China. The average manufacturing employee in urban China made twice as much money as the factory’s workers, or roughly 4,280 yuan a month, according to national data from 2014.
Fewer than a third of the factory’s workers were offered legally mandated coverage under China’s “social insurance” benefits, including a pension and medical, maternity, unemployment and work-related injury insurance, inspectors found. The factory also did not contribute, as legally required, to a fund designed to help workers afford housing, inspectors said. Workers earned five days of leave a year, though a small fraction of experienced employees were eligible for more …
Inspectors also cited the factory for a number of workplace safety concerns.

G-III has been the exclusive supplier of Ivanka’s clothing line since 2012 and contracts out the production of the products mostly in China. “The factory pledged to make some progress to improve training, assess hazards, hire more workers and reduce overtime demands,” according to the Post. “But it did not commit to increasing worker pay and at times pushed back against recommendations that could improve workplace safety.”

April 25 2017 5:34 PM

Today in Conservative Media: The Persecution of Sean Hannity

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Last week, anti-Muslim blogger Debbie Schlussel accused Fox News host Sean Hannity of asking her back to his hotel room before and after an event. In his Monday night monologue, the Fox News host spoke out against what he called “attempts by liberal fascists to silence conservative voices.” In what followed, he obliquely discussed Schlussel’s sexual harassment allegations. Quoting at length from his own official statement, Hannity described Schlussel herself as a “serial harasser,” but never named her.

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While few conservative publications covered Schlussel’s initial allegations, which she made on a talk radio show, many took up Hannity’s line of attack. Breitbart republished a full transcript of his monologue and LifeZette—whose editor-in-chief is Fox personality Laura Ingraham—credulously repeated his suggestion that supporting Trump had “made him a target.” While some sites, including the Blaze, noted that Schlussel subsequently “denied that these were accusations of sexual harassment, saying that it was merely ‘creepy’ on his part,” few acknowledged that she herself has generally espoused conservative views.

Conservative sites took notice of other apparent attacks on their work as well. The Gateway Pundit ran a post titled, “Politico Publishes Hit Piece on Conservative News With Special Hostility Reserved for Gateway Pundit.” Calling out Politico for its own supposed inaccuracies, Gateway Pundit wrote, “Any news site accusing Gateway Pundit of running ‘National Enquirer-style headlines[’] while pushing Putin conspiracies on a daily basis has a lot of nerve.”

Meanwhile, Independent Journal Review covered a slight hiccough for Breitbart, reporting, “The Senate Press Gallery’s Standing Committee of Correspondents chose to deny permanent Hill credentials to Breitbart News on Tuesday morning.” Breitbart itself published a short post on the matter, quoting Sen. Chuck Schumer’s observation that “if … Breitbart News and The New York Times are regarded with equal credibility, you worry about this democracy.” Though it was only two paragraphs long, that post drew almost 5,000 comments from Breitbart’s readers and sat near the top of its list of most-read posts for much of Tuesday.

In other news:

Some conservative outlets offered appraisals of what Gateway Pundit called “the most successful first 100 days of any president in the last 100 years.”

Washington Examiner’s Byron York acknowledged that Trump had “over-promised for his first 100 days,” but “[t]he bottom line is that Trump has been a 100 day success when it comes to exercising the executive powers of the presidency.” An article on Fox News’ website meanwhile, held, “President Trump’s first 100 days in office had all the hallmarks of a chief executive’s approach: Busy, brash and bold,” though that post’s headline called the results of his efforts “mixed.” John Roberts, the channel’s chief White House correspondent, noted on air that while the president “got off to a swift start … unlike his recent predecessors, the president so far has no legislative accomplishments to point to.”

Other publications focused on specific issues: Breitbart wrote, “President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have steered a course during the administration’s first 100 days that anti-abortion activists have been dreaming about for decades.” And a Daily Caller opinion piece by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell praised steps the president had taken toward “Securing America.” Blackwell wrote, “Unlike his predecessor, President Trump doesn’t spend much time on the golf course. He’s busy issuing executive orders, appointing strong conservatives, bombing Islamist terrorists, and safeguarding our borders.”

Fox News’ new primetime roundtable show The Five took another approach, focusing on “100 Days of Liberals Losing Their Minds.”

On Facebook, posts about former President Barack Obama’s speaking fees spread widely from conservative pages:

April 25 2017 5:18 PM

Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush Are Going to Own a Major League Baseball Team Together

 

Former Yankee star Derek Jeter and frequent joke subject Jeb Bush are now business partners, and their business is baseball:

A group led by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter has won the auction for the Miami Marlins baseball team with a $1.3 billion bid, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.
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One of the groups the pair beat out included Tagg Romney (one of Mitt’s sons) and former star major league pitcher Tom Glavine. Earlier, reports suggested that Jared Kushner’s brother and brother-in-law were close to buying the team, only for that deal to fall apart when it was also reported that the Trump administration was considering nominating current Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to be the U.S.’s ambassador to France. Which created the appearance of a quid pro quo, and admittedly a very appealing one: “We’ll pay you to live in Paris if you also let us pay you $1 billion for your mediocre baseball team” would have been a pretty solid deal for Loria.

Anyway, congratulations to Derek Jeter! Finally a lucky break for that guy.

April 25 2017 4:31 PM

Report: Donald Trump Will Propose Enormous, Enormous Tax Cut for People Like Donald Trump

The Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump's tax "reform" plan will involve a proposal to cut the top tax rate on "pass-through" businesses—such as the Trump Organization—from 39.6 percent to 15 percent.

Here's how Slate budget and economics enthusiast Jordan Weissmann explained the dealio with "pass-through" companies when this same idea came up during the 2016 campaign (edited slightly for clarity):

Pass-through entities don't pay the corporate rate, which currently tops out at 35 percent. Instead, their profits are distributed directly to their owners, who then pay taxes on them as normal income. A lot of truly small businesses are set up this way. But so are hedge funds, private equity firms, real estate developers, and major law firms, whose partners often pay a top rate of 39.6 percent on their earnings.
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Jordan Weissmann—what a nerd! But also, wow, what a hugemongous tax cut this could theoretically be for Donald Trump, who did not divest himself at all from his highly active real estate and brand-licensing company before taking office. (His children also have ownership stakes in the Trump Org.)

Of course, we don't know how much of a tax break it would actually be for Trump because he's never released his tax returns, which is part of the reason why this proposal will likely be a political liability for him and the rest of the Republican party. Another reason is that it would increase the federal deficit by an estimated $150 billion per year. Which would be a lot—the federal deficit in the 2016 fiscal year was $587 billion total—and unless it's paired with big spending cuts, would mean it can't be passed under Congressional "reconciliation" rules and would thus require Democratic votes to get through the Senate.

But still, wow!

April 25 2017 12:36 PM

Minnesota Native Running for Governor in Virginia Really, Really Wants You to Know He Loves Confederate Statues

 

Corey Stewart is a 48-year-old lawyer who was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. Naturally, he has now become the nation's most prominent defender of the white supremacist monument that was taken down in New Orleans on Monday. (The monument commemorated an 1874 attack against the city's integrated police force by a white paramilitary group and literally included an inscription praising the restoration of "white supremacy" to the South.) That's because Stewart is running for governor as a Trump-style Republican in Virginia, which is a state that's involved in its own Confederate-monument controversies, and boy is he really, really trying to make some hay out of this defending-the-Confederacy thing. I don't have room to print all his tweets about the subject—counting retweets, he's sent 17 of them in the last 15 hours—but here are some of the highlights:

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(New Orleans' move was proposed by its mayor and approved 6-1 by its city council.)

(New Orelans also plans to take down statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard.)

Washington and Jefferson, of course, were Virginians, and the question of how to address their support for the slave trade is a pressing one at their estate museums in Monticello and Mount Vernon.

Here's another ISIS thing with a helpful graphic for social media sharing:

I liked this one especially:

Yeah, this defense of Robert E. Lee could really cost you among the Trump supporters you are trying to court in a Southern-state Republican primary. Truly a profile in courage!

I'm Corey Stewart, and I approved this message about wishing I could build a time machine so I could hug and kiss Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

April 25 2017 11:51 AM

Why Is Trump Bashing Canada All of a Sudden?

Mexico, President Trump’s usual favorite punching bag, isn’t the only U.S. neighbor on the receiving end of the president’s ire this week.

That tweet comes a day after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a new 20 percent tariff on Canadian softwood lumber imports, a move denounced by Canada as “unfair and unwarranted.”  Why are we so mad at Canada all of a sudden?

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The dairy dispute is fairly wonky, though undoubtedly important to farmers on both sides of the border. Basically, Canadian dairy farmers were upset that ultra-filtered milk from the U.S., used to make cheese and other products, was being imported to Canada in the same category as milk powder, which has low tariffs. So last summer, the Canadian government reclassified ultra-filtered milk as regular milk, which is heavily taxed. Some U.S. politicians, notably New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, have accused the Canadian government of protectionism—trying to box out American dairy farmers so that Canadian dairy farmers can sell more at home. Canada says the U.S. is producing too much milk, flooding the global market.

It seems like Trump became aware of the issue last week while visiting Wisconsin, where a local processor recently told farmers it was canceling its contract with them because it had lost its Canadian business. In a speech at a factory in Kenosha, Trump said:

"We're going to get together and we're going to call Canada. And we're going to say, 'What happened?' And they might give us an answer but we're going to get the solution, not just the answer."

As for the lumber dispute, the issue there is that U.S. manufacturers argue that Canadian producers receive an effective government subsidy because their timber is grown on public land, as opposed to the U.S. where the land is mostly private. So now the U.S. is going to charge Canadian lumber more on its way into the U.S.

Canada is the second-largest U.S. trading partner, and these are the sorts of issues that come up, though usually not via the president’s Twitter account. What’s interesting is that the administration seems to be taking on these disputes piecemeal, rather than focusing on renegotiating NAFTA, a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign. Ross, the administration’s point-person on NAFTA, has expressed frustration at Congress dragging its feet in granting the president authority to renegotiate the treaty and confirming a new U.S. Trade Representative.

So, for now, the president appears to just be trying to make political hay over individual trade disputes. This presents a tricky political challenge to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For all that he has been presented at the dynamic and tolerant anti-Trump, Trudeau has also been doing his best to win the favor of the administration, backing Trump on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and signaling his willingness to renegotiate NAFTA. It’s going to be harder to strike that balance if Canada continues to find itself on the receiving end of Trump’s Twitter tirades.

April 24 2017 9:41 PM

Guards Who Left a Prisoner to Die of Dehydration, After Water Was Cut for Seven Days, Could Face Charges

Prosecutors on Monday laid out details of the desperate final week of life for Terrill Thomas, an inmate at a Milwaukee County jail, who last April died of dehydration in solitary confinement a week after prison officials turned off the water to his cell. Country prosecutors are now looking into whether the prison guards committed a crime in the death of the 38-year-old Thomas; the preliminary hearing into the guards' conduct began Monday.

“Through an opening statement and testimony from several witnesses, prosecutors laid out how the confluence of the violation of a sheriff's office policy, an unusual jail practice, Thomas' mental illness and inattentiveness by corrections officers led to Thomas' death,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. “Thomas was in jail following an arrest on charges that he shot a man, drove to the Potawatomi casino and fired two rounds inside the building. Family members said he was in the throes of a mental breakdown.”

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From the Journal Sentinel:

Terrill Thomas spent seven straight days holed up in a solitary confinement cell with no running water, slowly withering away… Thomas started the weeklong stretch at the Milwaukee County Jail belligerent and loud, the result of an untreated mental illness, prosecutors said. But as the days wore on, he grew weak and dehydrated. He lost nearly 35 pounds and turned quiet, never asking for or receiving medical attention. Barely two hours into his eighth day in solitary, jail staff found Thomas, 38, dead on his jail cell floor, the result of profound dehydration…
… In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley said surveillance videos show three corrections officers cut off the water in Thomas' cell—a disciplinary measure after Thomas flooded another cell—and never turned it back on. The same officers never documented the water cutoff or notified supervisors, leaving fellow corrections officers in the dark… In theory, Thomas could have caused a commotion over his lack of water. But Benkley said the evidence will show Thomas' bipolar disorder—which the jail's staff knew about—  made it apparent he "was unable to tell people about his basic needs."

There were at least 20 guards on the solitary confinement wing over the course of the week Thomas was held there; it’s unclear how many knew Thomas’ water had been shut off and to what extent they knew of his mental illness. The administration of the jail falls under the purview of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a high-profile supporter of Donald Trump’s campaign, whose cowboy hat and tough-on-crime bravado made him popular ally for Trump’s “American carnage” claims and elevated the sheriff to such an extent that he was under consideration, at one point, to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

April 24 2017 8:16 PM

Bill O’Reilly Just Put Out a Podcast—and He Sounded a Lot Like Donald Trump

Bill O’Reilly is back. No, not on the Fox News Channel. No, not settling more sexual harassment lawsuits. (Well, maybe soon settling more sexual harassment lawsuits.) But O’Reilly returned to his website for his No Spin News podcast on Monday, less than a week after being dismissed from the Fox News Channel. There had been intense speculation about what exactly O’Reilly would say, and whether he would discuss the abrupt end to his career as the top-rated host on cable news. He did briefly address the allegations against him, and lay out a little bit of what his future holds. But more than anything else, what he showed—and not for the first time—is that he and Donald Trump are working from the same playbook.

O’Reilly opened by announcing that the podcast, which he has hosted since 2009, would now turn into “a genuine news program.” It’s not clear precisely what that means, but Monday’s episode proved again that O’Reilly can talk ad nauseam in his compellingly demagogic manner. The beginning of the show was largely about his recent troubles—or rather the “trouble” he has placed himself in by allegedly terrorizing his former co-workers. O’Reilly stated that he couldn't “say a lot” and that he was “sad” about the situation. But he was at his Trumpiest, too, saying, “I’m very confident the truth will come out, and when it does, I don’t know if you’re going to be surprised—but I think you’re going to be shaken, as I am. There’s a lot of stuff involved here. Now, I can’t say any more, because I just don’t want to influence the flow of the information. I don’t want the media to take what I say and misconstrue it.” There you have it: a little conspiracy-mongering, vague hints of menace, cursory media-bashing, and the prediction that people will be shocked when the supposedly real information comes out. (Perhaps Barack Obama’s nefarious wiretapping scheme will be uncovered on the same day.)

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The rest of the program was classic O’Reilly. He briefly touched on a number of issues, from France (largely just noting the threat it faces from French Muslims), to Ann Coulter’s troubles speaking at the University of California–Berkeley, which allowed him to take some shots at PC culture and squeeze in a subtle plug for his new book. (Ever the expert at using even bad publicity to his advantage, O’Reilly is offering this week’s episodes of his podcast free; in the future it will be for “premium members” of his website.) When he talked about Trump, he said precisely the same thing that the president did, via Twitter over the weekend, about Trump’s approval ratings. (Both quasi-acknowledged the historically low approval ratings; both said it didn’t really count, because the media was so biased.)

The only really awkward part of the podcast—O’Reilly remains an immensely skilled broadcaster—came near the end, when he was answering viewer questions. One was about O’Reilly and Fox News, and whether he still had positive feelings toward the network. “We made history,” O'Reilly began. “That vehicle was fabulous for me.” He wasn’t speaking particularly smoothly, and he seemed unsure—either because he was attempting to control his volcanic rage, or because he was dancing around a nondisclosure agreement—what to say. Eventually, he asked rhetorically, “Why wouldn’t I wish them the best?” He sounded like he wanted to add more, but didn’t. Fortunately there was another viewer email to turn his attention to, and within seconds he was ranting about the evils of socialism. Trump may be unpopular with the general public, but he still has support from his base; something tells me that O’Reilly, too, will have no trouble keeping his.

April 24 2017 8:03 PM

State Department Removes Blog Post Promoting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Update: The ShareAmerica blog post touting Mar-a-Lago has been taken down from the State Department-run website. "The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the President has been hosting world leaders," a short statement on the original page now reads. "We regret any misperception and have removed the post."

***

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Original post, April 24, 2017, 3:17 p.m.: Donald Trump has done his best to rebrand his Mar-a-Lago club as the “Winter White House” in a not-so-subtle attempt to raise the stature of the private Palm Beach resort and possibly to offer an excuse for why he goes there so often. The president has spent seven of the 14 weekends he has been in office at the club, and he—and his staff—have made sure to use his preferred nomenclature whenever possible. But Trump’s rebranding effort has also gotten an unexpected and less-noticed push from elsewhere within the federal government: via the State Department’s foreign outreach program.

As spotted Monday by journalist Amy Westervelt, the Department-run news site ShareAmerica ran a story earlier this month that read an awful lot like a press release for the Trump-owned club. A snippet, which ran under the subhead “A dream deferred”:

Upon her death in 1973, [Marjorie Merriweather Post] willed the estate to the U.S. government, intending it to be used as a winter White House for the U.S. president to entertain visiting foreign dignitaries. Her plan didn’t work, however. Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter never used the property. And in 1981 the government returned the estate to the Post Foundation because it was costing too much money to maintain.
That opened the way for Trump, a real-estate magnate, to purchase the property in 1985. When he acquired the house, Trump also bought the decorations and furnishings that Post had collected over the years, preserving Mar-a-Lago’s style and taste. … Post’s dream of a winter White House came true with Trump’s election in 2016. Trump regularly works out of the house he maintains at Mar-a-Lago and uses the club to host foreign dignitaries.

The post was also reblogged on the website of the U.S. embassy in the United Kingdom and shared on the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Albania. The fact that government-funded websites are promoting the president’s for-profit venture drew an immediate complaint from Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics czar under Obama and a frequent critic of the current president, as well as Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat:

ShareAmerica is run by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, and describes itself as a “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.” Its current homepage features a mishmash of stories, ranging from one on the donation of one of the world's largest private collections of insects to a U.S. university, to one on the global economic damage caused by counterfeit smartphones and pirated music. A request for comment from the bureau concerning the Mar-a-Lago story and the decision to publish it was not immediately returned.

It’s also not the first time that this administration has put out what amounts to a press release for a private entity with ties to a high-ranking official. Last month, the White House issued a release touting a new domestic investment by Exxon Mobil that borrowed heavily from the one put out by the oil company itself. Exxon was previously led by current secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who under an ethics agreement with the federal government has until May 2 to sell off his remaining shares in the company he used to run.

In the grand scheme of Trump-themed conflicts of interest, this appears to be a small one. The president, after all, continues to blur the line between his own personal interests and those of the United States—as do his eldest sons every time they travel the globe flanked by Secret Service details that double as government-sanctioned sales props for the family business. Nonetheless, the ShareAmerica post suggests that Trump’s ethics—or more specifically, lack thereof—are spreading out from the White House into other sectors of the government.

Know anything about a potential conflict of interest in the Trump administration? DM Josh Voorhees on Twitter, or email him at josh.voorhees@slate.com.

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