- Many people thought Felicity Huffman was handed a light sentence after she was given just 14 days in prison for her role in the college admissions scandal.
- This prompted many to bring up cases where women of color were sentenced to more jail time for similar or arguably smaller crimes, like lying about their address to get their children into a better school district.
- John Legend responded by saying that both Huffman and the women in the other cases should receive no jail time for what they did. He believes that prison is not the answer for every crime, but said the criminal justice system still turns to it too frequently.
Reactions to Huffman’s Sentence
Musician John Legend responded to criticisms of Felicity Huffman’s sentencing for her role in the sweeping college admissions scandal, arguing that “no one in our nation will benefit” from her serving prison time.
On Friday, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison along with one year supervised release, 250 hours community service, and a fine of $30,000. Huffman paid $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT score boosted and pled guilty to guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Many thought that just 14 days behind bars was lenient and compared Huffman’s case to those of black women who were given more time for crimes they considered similar or even less severe.
One case many turned to was that of Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut woman who was sentenced to five years in prison for lying about her address to get her son into a better school district. At the time, she was homeless and living out of her van, shelters, and an apartment she only had access to at night.
Others pointed to a similar case with Kelley Williams-Bolar in Ohio. She used her father’s address to get her children into a better school district and was handed two concurrent five-year sentences that she was later able to reduce to 10 days. Williams-Bolar’s case was cited in Huffman’s sentencing. Prosecutors argued that if someone in her situation served time, there’s no reason that Huffman, who comes from a more privileged background, should not do the same.
Critics of Huffman’s sentence argued that there were similarities between what Huffman did and what these two mothers did, as they all had the goal of getting their child a better education.
Another case people compared it to was that of Crystal Mason. Mason was handed a five-year sentence after unknowingly voting illegally. She tried to fill out a provisional ballot in 2016, and at the time she was on supervised release for a federal felony. Mason was unaware that she could not vote until her release was over and was convicted of illegal voting.
She is currently repealing her sentence and gave a statement to the Huffington Post regarding Huffman’s time.
“I don’t wish this for anyone, but a sentence to 14 days for actual serious fraud just shows how unfair my sentence is,” she told them. “I’m hopeful the Justices will see that under the law, I shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place.”
John Legend Responds
Musician and criminal justice reform advocate John Legend responded to these varied reactions without ever mentioning Huffman’s name. Instead of arguing that Huffman’s sentence was too light, he said people like her and the others mentioned should serve no time at all.
He mentioned cases like McDowell and Mason and called them “insane” and “unconscionable.”
“We don’t need to lock people up for any of this stuff,” Legend concluded in his thread.
On Sunday, he furthered his argument by suggesting that there are other ways people can be held accountable for their actions.
Legend was not alone in believing prison time was not the answer. The executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, David Singleton, who represented Williams-Bolar told the New York Times that putting the actress behind bars is not productive.
“When you are rich — and particularly if you’re rich and white in this country — there’s a different justice system,” he said. “Sending Felicity Huffman to jail is not going to solve that problem.”
Twitter users began to share what they found to be more productive ways for people like Huffman to right their wrongs. Some suggested she pay for the tuitions of McDowell’s children or contribute to scholarships.
See what others are saying: (Huffington Post) (USA Today) (The Atlantic)
Joe Rogan Faces Backlash For Promoting Antisemitic Stereotypes
His comments come as antisemitic hate incidents have increased both online and in the real world.
Rogan’s Antisemitic Comments
Joe Rogan is facing backlash over a Saturday episode of his podcast where he claimed that “the idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous.”
While the “Joe Rogan Experience” episode was posted to Spotify on Feb. 3, the controversial podcaster’s comments did not receive criticism until clips started circulating around social media on Tuesday. Rogan was speaking with “Breaking Points” hosts Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti when the subject of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee came up.
Omar was ousted over a 2019 tweet where she said that American support of Isreal was “all about the Benjamins,” referring to a slang term for money. After she was condemned for promoting antisemitic tropes, she apologized. Some Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy for removing Omar over the remark.
“She’s apologizing for talking about ‘It’s all about the Benjamins,’ which is just about money,” Rogan said of the incident. “She’s talking about money.”
“She shouldn’t have apologized,” Ball responded.
“That’s not an antisemitic statement, I don’t think that it is,” Rogan continued. “Benjamins are money. The idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous. That’s like saying Italians aren’t into pizza. It’s fucking stupid.”
Condemned for “Vicious Lies”
His comments were condemned after several Twitter users shared clips of the podcast on the platform. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was “disturbing” that Rogan chose to spread antisemitic stereotypes “at a time of rising anti-Jewish violence, when growing numbers of Americans believe in antisemitic conspiracy theories.”
“For centuries, people have used these longstanding tropes to spread vicious lies about the Jewish people,” Greenblatt wrote.
“The thing is, Joe Rogan, Italians were never slaughtered because of the pizza stereotype,” writer and essayist Howard Lovy tweeted. “But because idiots like you believe Jews are into money,’ we have been marginalized, brutalized, and murdered for thousands of years.”
“The ‘Jews are into money’ thing is a generation-spanning smear used as the basis to discriminate against Jews the world over,” attorney Bradley P. Moss added. “Everyone is into money. But we have been accused of secretly hoarding $ to control everything.”
Writer David Baddiel noted how alarming it was that Rogan was able to “breezily” spew “a racist myth.”
“One of the biggest podcasts in the world and no one gives a fuck,” he wrote.
Rogan’s comments come as antisemitism has been increasingly present in media and everyday life for Jewish people.
Upon billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the platform saw an increase in racial slurs and hate speech, including language targeted at Jewish people. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found in December that antisemitic hate crimes rose between 2021 and 2022 in major cities like New York and Los Angeles.
Kanye West also made headlines late last year for going on several antisemitic rants, including one where he praised Hitler. While he was dropped by major brands like Adidas over his comments, his words have amplified dangerous conspiracy theories far and wide. He even inspired several neo-Nazis to hang “Kanye is Right” banners in Los Angeles, among other antisemitic actions.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (Variety) (The Independent)
“Seinfeld” AI Parody Suspended From Twitch After AI Wrote Transphobic Jokes
The parody’s version of Jerry asked if he should make jokes about “how being transgender is actually a mental illness.”
“Nothing, Forever” Suspended
What’s the deal with AI?
While that has been a big question in the media world for the last few weeks, it is being raised yet again after AI software wrote transphobic jokes for an AI parody of the hit sitcom “Seinfeld.”
Titled “Nothing, Forever,” the heavily pixelated program runs 24/7 on Twitch, using Open AI to create endless “Seinfeld” parody content. In this AI version, Jerry is called Larry Feinberg. Larry’s friends, Yvonne, Fred, and Zoltare — who are stands-ins for Elaine, George, and Kramer — often sit around Larry’s apartment, just like in the NBC series.
Also mirroring “Seinfeld,” Larry is a stand-up comedian who does a cold-open set of jokes in front of a brick wall. On Monday morning, he asked if anyone had suggestions for jokes before going on a transphobic rant.
“I’m thinking about doing a bit about how being transgender is actually a mental illness,” Larry said. “Or how all liberals are secretly gay and want to impose their will on everyone. Or something about how transgender people are ruining the fabric of society. But no one is laughing, so I’m going to stop.”
“Thanks for coming out tonight. See you next time,” he continued. “Where’d everybody go?”
Plans to Return
The bit could almost come across as self-aware commentary about how pervasive transphobia is in stand-up comedy, but it’s unclear what the AI’s intent was or if it deserves that much credit.
Soon after the jokes aired, the “Nothing, Forever” Twitch page was closed, showing only a message announcing the channel “is temporarily unavailable due to a violation of Twitch’s Community Guidelines.” It did not specify what rule was broken, but Twitch does have a Hateful Conduct policy that bars attacks against someone’s gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other protected identities.
Skyler Hartle, one of the co-creators of “Nothing, Forever,” told The Washington Post that the team was “super embarrassed” by the transphobic rant, which “in no way reflects the values or opinions of our staff.”
Hartle said they hope to resume airing the AI parody with new safeguards in place soon. According to The Post, the suspension will last for 14 days.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (The Verge)
Grammy Awards Face Backlash For Snubbing Beyoncé of Top Prize
This marks the fourth time the “Renaissance” singer has lost Album of the Year.
Beyoncé Loses Top Awards
Beyoncé may have broken the record for the most Grammy wins on Sunday night, but her snub for the top prize of Album of the Year has left music fans outraged.
Beyoncé nabbed Best Dance Recording, Best Dance/Electronica Album, Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song on Sunday night, all related to her latest album, “Renaissance.” While that crossed her Grammy total to a record-breaking 32 trophies, she was shut out of all the major categories she was nominated in: Record, Song, and Album of the Year.
This was the fourth time Beyoncé was nominated for and lost Album of the Year, largely considered the show’s most coveted prize. This year, Harry Styles took home the Grammy for “Harry’s House.”
In his speech, Styles said, he has been “so inspired by every artist in this category” and claimed there is no “best” in music. People in the crowd were heard shouting “Beyonce!” while he spoke, outraged the singer had lost the award yet again.
The moment was reminiscent of the 2017 Grammy Awards when Adele’s “25” beat out Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” for the same category. While accepting the prize, Adele suggested that the “Lemonade” should have gotten the gold.
“The ‘Lemonade’ album was just so monumental, Beyoncé, it was so monumental,” Adele said on stage.
Beyoncé’s History of Grammy Losses
This is part of a long trend in Beyoncé’s Grammy history, as she is almost always shut out of the major categories. Of her 32 Grammys, only one belongs to one of the top slots: her Song of the Year win in 2010 for “Single Ladies.” She has yet to ever win Record or Album of the Year, and most of her wins come from genre categories like R&B.
Many fans think that is an abysmal record for an artist who is considered one of the primary musical talents of her generation. Compare those stats to the similarly-adored Taylor Swift, who has three Album of the Year wins out of 12 Grammy trophies, and it’s not hard to see their point.
“Beyoncé represents every Black woman that is constantly applauded for their work but when it comes to promotion time their white colleague gets it instead,” culture reporter Ada Enechi tweeted in response to Sunday night’s snub.
The Grammy Awards have long been accused of having a racial bias, especially when it comes to Black women. In Beyoncé’s case, every time she has lost Album of the Year, she lost to a white artist.
Even some of the progress made during Sunday night’s telecast only proved how frequently Black women are excluded from major awards. For example, Lizzo won Record of the Year for “About Damn Time,” marking the first time a Black woman has won that award since Whitney Houston in 1994. That’s a nearly 30-year gap.
Backlash From Music Fans
Beyoncé’s repeated snubs have consistently been used as a prime example of the strides yet to be made in the music industry.
“Renaissance not winning AOTY is another example how of a Black woman can consistently deliver excellence, reinvent the wheel + shake the culture, AND still not be recognised to the extent that she deserves,” another person said on Twitter.”
“Absolutely wild that the person with the most Grammys ever is still the underdog who was robbed,” BuzzFeed News reporter David Mack pointed out.
Podcaster Sam Sanders called her loss “criminal.”