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Felicity Huffman Sentenced to 14 Days in Prison

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  • Actress Felicity Huffman was given a sentence of 14 days in prison for paying a college admissions consultant $15,000 to doctor her daughter’s SAT scores. 
  • Huffman will also be required to serve a year of supervised release, complete 250 hours of community service, and pay a fine of $30,000.
  • Huffman is the first of the 34 parents charged in the expansive college admissions scam. Many had viewed her verdict as a test case for future sentences of others involved in the scandal.

Felicity Huffman Sentenced

Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Friday for her role in the infamous college admissions scandal Operation Varsity Blues, making her the first of nearly three dozen parents charged in the scheme.

Huffman had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May after she admitted she had paid admissions consultant Rick Singer $15,000 to have her oldest daughter’s SAT answers corrected by a proctor.

In addition to the brief prison time, the actress’s sentence also includes a year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, and the payment of a $30,000 fine.

Prosecutors had asked that the actress be sentenced to one month in prison, 12 years of supervised release, and pay a $20,000 fine.

Huffman’s lawyers, however, have said that she should not serve any prison time and had asked for one year of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $20,000 fine.

Experts have argued that Huffman’s guilty plea and her numerous apologies encouraged Judge Indira Talwani, who oversaw her case, to lighten her sentence for the conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

During the sentencing Friday, Huffman choked up while reading a prepared statement in court before her sentence was handed down.

“I am deeply ashamed of what I have done,” Huffman said to the judge. “At the end of the day I had a choice to make. I could have said ‘no.’”

Announcing her decision, Talwani said she believes Huffman’s punishment is “the right sentence here.” 

“I think you take your sentence and you move forward,” she told the actress. “You can rebuild your life after this. You’ve paid your dues.”

Huffman also responded to the sentence in a statement.

“I broke the law,” she wrote. “I have admitted that and I pleaded guilty to this crime. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions. Period.”

“I would like to apologize again to my daughter, my husband, my family and the educational community for my actions,” she continued. “And I especially want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children.”

Test Case for Operation Varsity Blues

Many have viewed Huffman’s sentencing as a test case for the other parents who have been indicted in the sweeping Operation Varsity Blues scandal.

Prosecutors have filed charged against 51 parents, coaches, and employees of Singer.

So far 15 of the 34 parents who have been charged have pleaded guilty. The majority of those parents are scheduled to be sentenced in the next few weeks, and most of their cases are set to be overseen by Judge Talwani.

As a result, Talwani’s response to Huffman’s case could be very telling for the other parents. 

However, at the same time, prosecutors in Huffman’s trial asked for a comparatively lighter sentence, citing the fact that she paid less than many other parents and also because she did not include her younger daughter in the admissions fraud.

By contrast, actress Lori Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli have been accused of paying Singer $500,000 to get both of their daughters into the University of Southern California by falsely claiming they were athletes on the university’s crew team.

Both Loughlin and Giannulli plead not guilty in April and were hit with new charges. They now both face up to 40 years in prison.

For some of the other parents who have already pleaded guilty, prosecutors are asking for as much as 15 months of prison time.

Racial Disparities

Huffman’s sentence is also being seen as a litmus test for how wealthy white families are treated in the justice system compared to lower-income, nonwhite individuals convicted of similar crimes.

Like in Huffman’s case, prosecutors have argued that the parents should serve some time in prison to show that wealthy people will be held accountable for cheating the college admissions system.

In court papers, prosecutors referenced a case where public school teachers, principals, and other administrators in Atlanta were convicted of conspiring to cheat on state tests. All of the defendants were black, and some were sentenced to up three years in prison.

In another case, prosecutors cited, a black mother in Ohio named Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to five years of prison for using her father’s address so her children could go to a suburban school district near where she lived.

Her sentence was later suspended to just 10 days in jail, three years of probation, and community service.

The prosecutors used the cases to argue that light sentences for parents involved in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal would prompt accusations of preferential treatment and racial bias.

“Frequently, those cases involved defendants who are members of racial and ethnic minorities and/or from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds,” prosecutors wrote. “A different result in this case, particularly given the history and characteristics of these defendants, would not be appropriate.”

However, some of the lawyers in both the cases cited by the prosecutors told The New York Times that their cases should not be used to argue that Huffman should serve prison time.

David Singleton, the executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, who represented Ms. Williams-Bolar in successfully seeking clemency in her case, said that there were indeed disparities in the justice system.

“Our educators in our cheating scandal in Atlanta were way over-prosecuted and way over-punished,” said Bob Rubin, who represented a former principal involved in the Atlanta case. “My answer is not to give Felicity Huffman more, but to give our clients less.”

“When you are rich — and particularly if you’re rich and white in this country — there’s a different justice system,” said David Singleton, who represented Williams-Bolar. “Sending Felicity Huffman to jail is not going to solve that problem.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (NBC News)

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Gina Rodriguez Issues Second Apology for Singing N-Word in Instagram Post

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  • Actress Gina Rodriguez reignited accusations that she is anti-black when she posted a video to her Instagram story of her singing a song using the n-word. 
  • Her apology was slammed by many as insincere, which prompted her to write and share a second apology.
  • This is the latest incident causing many to call the actress out for her behavior towards black issues.

Rodriguez Uses N-Word

Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez reignited accusations that she is anti-black on Tuesday after posting a video to her Instagram story of her using the n-word. 

In the now-deleted post, Rodriguez, a Chicago native of Puerto Rican descent, rapped along to Lauren Hill’s part on “Ready or Not” by the Fugees. “I can do what you do … believe me. (N-words) give me heebie-jeebies,” she rapped before laughing out loud.

Social Media Users React

Social media users quickly flocked to Twitter with a flood of reactions to the post, with many noting that for years Rodriguez has been criticized for downplaying black issues. In fact, many users celebrated with “gotcha tweets,” and jokes about the fact that Rodriguez gave her critics the fuel they needed to “cancel” her on her own. 

Apology Sparks More Backlash 

Rodriguez eventually deleted the post and uploaded an apology that many found insincere.

“I just wanted to reach out and apologize. I am sorry,” she said in the short Instagram story. But rather than apologizing for using the work directly, Rodriguez said, “I am sorry if I offended anyone by singing along to The Fugees, to a song I love that I grew up on. I love Lauryn Hill. And I really am sorry if I offended you.”

The apology promoted another round of backlash from people who argued she was not directly addressing the issue.  

Second Apology

After likely seeing the intensified outrage after her first response, Rodriguez issues a second apology on Instagram. 

In her notes app apology, she wrote, “In song or in real life, the words that I spoke should not have been spoken.” She went on to say that she thoughtlessly sang along to a song she loved and posted it, adding, “The word I sang, carries with it a legacy of hurt and pain that I cannot even imagine. Whatever consequences I face for my actions today, none will be more hurtful than the personal remorse I feel.”

“Watching my own video playing back at me, has shaken me to my core. It is humiliating that this has to become a public lesson but it is indeed a much deserved lesson. I feel so deeply protective and responsible to the community of color but I have let this community down. I have some serious learning and growing to do and I am deeply sorry for the pain I have caused.”

Past Accusations of Anti-Blackness 

The incident fueled long-running accusations of Rodriguez being anti-black because, in the past, she has seemingly dismissed black issues and put her foot in her mouth when trying to advocate for Latinx inclusion.

In July 2017, Rodriguez faced backlash for a tweet she posted which was widely understood as a response to Marvel’s groundbreaking Black Panther film, which consists of a predominantly black cast.

“Marvel and DC are killing it in inclusion and women but where are the Latinos?! Asking for a friend…” Rodriguez tweeted in a post that has since been deleted. 

Critics slammed her for stepping on a profound cultural moment and many pointed out that both companies do hire Latin actors.

For Marvel specifically, two of its highest-grossing movie franchises feature actresses of Afro-Latino descent. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Gamora is played by Zoe Saldana, who is Dominican and Puerto Rican, while Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok is played by Tessa Thompson, whose father is Afro-Panamanian. Both stars also appeared in the box office smash hit, Avengers: Endgame.

Rodriguez was blasted again in September 2018 during a press junket for the animated film Smallfoot. Rodriguez and her co-star Yara Shahidi spoke with entertainment reporter Blogxila, who said Shahidi was an inspiration to “so many Black women.” 

“So many women,” Rodriguez interjected. Blogxila quickly hit back defending his previous comment saying, “Yeah for women too but for black women, we need people on a whole ‘nother level.”

Many critics interpreted Rodriguez’s comment as an attempt to co-opt a conversation about black identity and erase black issues.

Then in November 2018, during a roundtable discussion about diversity and pay equity in Hollywood, Rodriguez incorrectly stated that Black and Asian actresses are paid more in Hollywood then Latinas. At the time of her claim, the highest-paid actress on television was a Columbian actress, Sofia Vergara, who claimed the top spot for the seventh year in a row. Meanwhile, only one black woman, Scandal’s Kerry Washington, made the list of TV’s highest-paid women.

In response to the flood of hate she received after the discussion aired, Rodriguez appeared on the radio show Sway in the Morning where she called the reaction from the black community “devastating.” She then went on to describe her father as “dark-skinned,” and talked about coming from an Afro-Latin background.

“The black community was the only community I looked towards growing up. We didn’t have many Latino shows, and the black community made me feel like I was seen. To get [called] anti-black is [like] saying I’m anti-family. My father is dark-skinned, he’s Afro-Latino. My cousins — Puerto Ricans are African, Taino, and Spaniard, and it’s in my blood. So that was really devastating to me. And I know my heart. I know what I meant. And I really wish we weren’t living in a culture where we’re clickbait, because I’ve never said anything controversial about anybody.”

Her father, Gino Rodriguez, is a well-known boxing referee, and some found her description of him as “dark-skinned” to be a stretch. Meanwhile, others were frustrated at the fact that she did not admit her wrongs or apologize. 

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (NBC News) (Fox News)

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Mark Ruffalo, Jameela Jamil, Kristin Bell, and Other Celebs at Odds Over Ellen-Bush Friendship

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  • Ellen DeGeneres was spotted laughing with former President George W. Bush at an NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.
  • Critics slammed the apparent friendship online, referencing their opposing political views. Ellen responded on her show Tuesday, telling her viewers to treat everyone with kindness no matter their opinions.
  • Celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon condemned her response while others like Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Bell supported her message.
  • The comedian’s defenders faced their own backlash, including Jameela Jamil who reversed her initial praise.

Bush and DeGeneres Spotted Laughing at NFL Game

Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has prompted a national debate about kindness in the face of political differences after she was seen laughing with former President George W. Bush at an NFL game on Sunday.

DeGeneres, who faced a heavy amount of online criticism following the event, addressed the backlash directly on Tuesday’s episode of Ellen. 

“People were upset. They thought, why is this gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?” she said. “But a lot of people were mad and did what people do when they’re mad: they tweet. But here’s one tweet that I loved. This person says, ‘Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again.” 

Other tweets directed at DeGeneres were less praiseful, with many people taking issue with Bush’s association with the Iraq War and his policies on LGBTQ rights.

“Ellen hanging out with her buddy G.W. Bush the war criminal and guy who called for a ban on same sex marriages…,” one user wrote. “Really, really low standards there Ellen, and pretty pathetic…”

In her response, DeGeneres explained that she didn’t know Bush would be at the game or sitting next to her, but she also said that was beside the point.

“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush,” she said. “In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.” 

DeGeneres then continued, emphasizing her point by saying she didn’t agree with her friends who wear fur but that they were still her friends, another comment that eventually resulted in backlash.

“But just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” she continued. “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean everyone.” 

Celebrities React to Ellen’s Explanation

Even after Ellen addressed the concerns, many still criticized the comedian for boiling down the issue to a difference in opinions.

George Bush, his administration, and his colleagues actively discriminated and worked against the LGBT community, of which you are a member,” one person tweeted.

Some of that criticism even came from fellow celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon.

“Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars—emotional & otherwise—inflicted on our military that served his folly),” Ruffalo said, “we can’t even begin to talk about kindness.”

On the other side of the argument, celebrities such as Kristen Bell and Blake Shelton praised DeGeneres for her commitment to kindness.

“She’s my [Queen]” Bell said in an Instagram post.

Source: kristenanniebell

Reese Witherspoon also thanked DeGeneres, calling her message an important reminder; however, soon after receiving backlash of her own, she deleted her tweet.

Source: Reese Witherspoon

“The privilege reaks,” one person said in response to Witherspoon. “There are thousands of people in the middle east who don’t get to be friends with people with “different views” because they’re dead thanks to [Bush]. And he spent his presidency trying to strip away LGBT rights, so nah. This monologue is pure class privilege.” 

Jameela Jamil Defends DeGeneres

In a somewhat similar situation to Witherspoon, Bell’s The Good Place co-star Jameela Jamil backtracked her praise of DeGeneres after “learning” from criticism directed at her.

“I’ve never seen someone in the public eye handle something like this, in this way,” Jamil, 33, said in the Tuesday tweet. “And use it to make what is actually an incredibly necessary point in our society. It was just very strong and interesting.”

Source: jameelajamil
Source: jameelajamil
Source: jameelajamil

The following morning, Jamil deleted her initial posts and followed up by saying:

“Ooooof learning today about the full extent of Bush’s heinous presidency… we weren’t taught much about him at school, we just heard he was stupid…(we were dealing with our own epic nightmare of a prime minister back then). What a monstrous leader. I now understand the rage..”

Jamil, who is British, still faced backlash following her second tweet, this time from people pointing out that she was 23 when Bush left office. The criticism then prompted Jamil to once again respond. 

“Very interesting to see some pompous responses from people because someone from the other side of the world didn’t learn about a president in your country when they were a teenager,” she said Are you experts on all world leaders from back then? Ridiculing learning and growth is weird.”

“I love learning and growth and massively applaud anyone who says they don’t/didn’t know the answer and seeks it out,” she continued. “I personally think that’s cool and hope that we all feel safe to do that, so we can all evolve together. #progressnotperfection” 

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Fox News) (The Independent)

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BTS Fans Slam Article for Misrepresenting K-Pop

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  • BTS was on the cover of the Hollywood Reporter, and fans were not happy with the article that accompanied it. 
  • Many accused the story of being xenophobic by playing into negative stereotypes about K-pop.
  • They also believe that the story misquoted BTS member RM and were upset that the story mentioned the death of a member of another K-pop band.
  • Some believe this speaks to gaps in the ways Western media covers K-pop.

Fans React to The Hollywood Reporter’s Article

BTS fans are criticizing The Hollywood Reporter after they were upset with the magazine’s representation of K-pop in Wednesday’s highly anticipated cover story. 

Both The Hollywood Reporter and BTS were excitedly teasing the release of the story, which was written by Senior Writer Seth Abramovitch. Once it went live, however, fans were not happy with what they read. 

Twitter users accused the article of painting a xenophobic picture of K-pop by describing it as a cut-throat genre that dehumanizes its artists. Abramovitch compared K-pop to the Hunger Games and said that the artists are kept on “leashes.” Some readers then thought this played into the Western stereotype that K-pop artists are worked to such an excessive degree that they’re being viewed more like robots than people. 

While writing a laundry list of complaints about the story, one user said they were tired of the “narrative of the K-Pop machine, as if the Western world does not also carefully curate talent in an industry peppered with the same issues.”

Another said that the stereotypes don’t just exist about K-pop but Asian culture in general. 

Fans then thought this narrative crossed a line when it brought up the death of artist Jonghyun, a member of the band SHINee. His tragic passing is a sensitive topic among K-pop fans. 

“Only the best of the best wind up in an actual K-pop band — while some don’t survive at all,” the article reads. “In 2017, the industry drew intense scrutiny after a member of SHINee, another popular K-pop band, took his own life, writing in his suicide note that he felt ‘broken on the inside.’”

Many were frustrated his death was used as an example to fuel the narrative that the K-pop industry is toxic. Some noted that his death was connected mainly to his depression, not just his work.

Others called it xenophobic to paint K-pop in an incriminating light, something they claim writers often do intentionally.

Fans Accuse THR of Misquoting

Their criticism of the story did not stop there. Many fans also believe that BTS member Kim Nam-joon, also known as RM, was falsely quoted or that his quotes may have been misinterpreted or taken out of context.

“We have to consider ourselves not just better [than other K-pop acts], but the best,” RM is quoted saying in the story. “When we’re out there on that stage, we’re there to conquer. We think we’re the ones.”

Many fans believe RM would not say something so confident or cocky in a major interview because in past interviews, he has been humble about BTS’ success. In one clip he said, “We are not the kings of pop.”

While there is no audio recording or tangible proof that he was misquoted, fans think that presenting this quote plays into yet another stereotype about K-pop as a genre. They believe it makes the artists look arrogant and smug. Some thought the band had grounds to sue for defamation. 

Journalists Respond

Fans were not alone in their critiques of the piece. Some journalists also took to Twitter to express their frustrations with the article. 

“Imagine wrangling dream access — dinner! soju! — with the biggest band in the world to write………..that,” said Senior Writer at Vulture, E. Alex Chung. 

He also joked about the trend of reporters who don’t speak Korean being sent to cover Korean bands like BTS.

Jae-Ha Kim, who has written for the Los Angeles Times, Variety, and various other outlets said it was clear the writer did not know enough about K-pop, BTS, or Korean culture and that this often shows when Western reporters cover K-pop stars. She specifically referred to a line in the article that says “maknae” is a K-pop term used to refer to the baby of the band and adds that this is not fully true. 

“It is an actual Korean word that predates K-pop,” she said. 

“There’s something to be said for getting a fresh perspective, but offer Korean artists the same respect you would a Western artist,” she added. “Would you fly a reporter who doesn’t know anything about Adele to England to interview her?”

Abramovich has not responded to the backlash, though, not all BTS fans were upset with his story. 

“What was inaccurate? What was offensive? What is the problem?” one fan asked.

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