Last week, Glenn Beck unfurled an elaborate, nonsensical conspiracy theory purporting to explain the uprisings in Egypt.
As we documented, over the course of the week, he connected the events in Egypt to the AFL-CIO, Code Pink, the Tides Foundation's Drummond Pike, Frances Fox Piven, Marxist communists (not to be confused with Islamic socialists, who are also involved), ACORN co-founder Wade Rathke, the Muslim Brotherhood, food prices, and Bill Ayers. (Last night, Beck confirmed that our description of his theory was accurate, though he protested that it's "not a conspiracy.")
Much of his theory revolved around how people on the left are supposedly working with Islamists who want to install a caliphate in the Middle East.
For a brief sampling, here's a segment from Beck's show from last Monday, where he laid out part of his caliphate theory.
In response to Beck's attempt to explain what's going on in Egypt, Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol wrote that Beck has been "marginalizing himself" through his "hysteria," and said that his rantings recall Robert Welch and the John Birch Society.:
Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it's a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.
But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He's marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s. [The Weekly Standard, 2/14/11]
Unsurprisingly, Beck and his co-hosts responded by lashing out at Kristol, suggesting that he hasn't done "a minute of research" into the issue and joking about "dumbing it down" for Kristol's benefit.
As their feud continues, several conservative commentators are picking sides. Salon's Alex Pareene got the ball rolling on trying to separate commentators into "Team Beck" and "Team Kristol" - or, as he put it, the "crazy right-wingers against merely nutty."
Here's how things are shaping up so far.
Conservatives have spent the last several years trying to cast doubt on President Obama's Christianity, often by suggesting he is a secret Muslim or claiming that he is a non-believer pretending to be Christian for political benefit. Sadly, their smear campaign has been effective - Pew reported last year that only 34 percent of Americans believe Obama is Christian (compared to nearly 18 percent who think he is Muslim.)
You might think it would be difficult for conservative smear merchants to continue to cast doubt on Obama's faith when he calls Jesus Christ "my lord and Savior," like he did at yesterday's annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.. But, as "news" outlets like Fox Nation have shown time and again, they have absolutely no standards and are willing to manufacture scandals out of thin air when reality doesn't coincide with their chosen narrative.
If you visit Fox Nation right now, you are greeted by the following story on their front page:
If you follow the link, you are taken to a page on Fox Nation that claims Obama "misquoted a familiar Bible verse" during his address yesterday:
President Obama misquoted a familiar Bible verse during a faith-based address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
"Those who wait on the Lord will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and not faint," the president said during a speech to several thousand people at the breakfast.
But the actual passage, from Isaiah 40:31, states: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Somewhat ironically, while Fox Nation appears to be positioning themselves as the arbiters of authentic Christianity, they seem unfamiliar with the fact that there is more than one version of the Bible.
This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.
Most likely, they won't bother to correct their story, and their goal will be accomplished: the readers that trust them will remember the time Obama "misquoted" the Bible, some more people will question the authenticity of Obama's faith, and the smear machine will move on.
Some readers have correctly pointed out that while the New International Version is closer to what Obama said than the King James passage Fox Nation used is, Obama didn't quote word-for-word from the NIV either.
The NIV says: "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Other versions of the Bible are also pretty close to what Obama said.
Here's the Holman Christian Standard Bible, for example: "but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint."
So while Fox's criticism of Obama is still wrong, I should not have asserted that Obama was directly quoting from the NIV.
Last night during his State of the Union address, in addition to calling for investment in infrastructure and education, President Obama called for our government to end subsidies to oil companies and instead invest in clean energy technologies:
OBAMA: We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all - and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
Today on his radio program, Glenn Beck responded to Obama's call for government investment, and tried to draw a contrast between the type of government-funded innovation Obama was calling for, and what Beck thinks entrepreneurs like Bill Gates would prescribe:
So, according to Beck, it's "guaranteed" that innovators like Gates would say to Obama: "The first thing I need is the federal government to get out of my face."
Rather than try to read Gates' mind, Beck would have been better served by looking into what Gates has been up to lately. Bill Gates is a member of the American Energy Innovation Council, which has, very publicly, called for the government to drastically increase its investments in "accelerating energy innovation."
Fox Nation is a profoundly ridiculous website.
When it first launched, Fox VP Joel Cheatwood described it as a place that was not "going to be limited to die-hard Fox News fans." Ads touting the site announced that it was "Time to Say NO to Biased Media and Say YES to Fair Play and Free Speech."
In the intervening 22 months, Fox Nation has revealed itself as a site with even lower standards than its parent network. Fox Nation regularly hosts egregious falsehoods, openly roots for the GOP (see this subtle reporting on the House vote to repeal health care reform last week, for example) and frequently promotes birtherism, much to the delight of their commenters.
Often, it seems that the site exists solely highlight whatever nonsense Jim Hoft and NewsBusters are complaining about on any given day.
Despite their utter lack of standards, they somehow still manage to surprise me with some of the petty, inane "stories" they put on their website. For example, here is today's "Pic of the Day,"asking if Obama was given a "waiver" to kiss Jill Biden in front of Michelle. Why? I don't know.
Fox News president Roger Ailes is big on loyalty. In the wake of criticism of Glenn Beck by members of the Fox News staff, Ailes told Howard Kurtz that it was "the first time in our 14 years we've had people apparently shooting in the tent, from within the tent." He added that "We prefer people in the tent not dumping on other people in the tent."
Ailes' message of unity has apparently been received by his staff. It's why, for example, Fox News host Andrew Napolitano can reveal himself to be a 9-11 truther and not a single Fox News staffer makes a peep (even after they had spent years enthusiastically attacking truthers as "mentally ill" "idiots.")
When Fox employees are confronted publicly with any of a wide variety of things their colleagues have done that should cause the network embarrassment, their response is often to obfuscate and defend their kin at all costs.
Last week, America Live host Megyn Kelly responded to the (inarguably correct) allegation that Fox's opinion hosts regularly traffic in Nazi analogies by claiming she watches the network "every night" and never hears anything like that. And, just as the news division covers for the "opinion" division, Fox's nighttime hosts are happy to return the favor.
On his radio show today, during a lecture to MSNBC and CNN about why their ratings aren't higher, Glenn Beck said that Fox's "news department doesn't have any opinion."
This is often the canard you hear from Fox execs when they are trying to distance people like Bret Baier and Chris Wallace from Beck's nightly fantastical conspiracy-mongering. Beck is clearly happy to play along in order to insulate his colleagues.
But no matter how many times Fox News personalities repeat variations of "our news is straight down the middle," it won't be true. In addition to their news programming regularly echoing the falsehoods and distortions from Fox's opinion shows (including following Beck's lead on stories), Fox's DC News Bureau is run by Bill Sammon.
The New York Times recently reported that frequent Glenn Beck target Frances Fox Piven has been receiving death threats. The threats against Piven are the latest in a growing series of threats and incidents of violence linked to Beck's extremist rhetoric.
Fox News' 2010 featured the network's hosts and contributors aggressively campaigning and fundraising for the GOP, trafficking in over-the-top rhetoric, and hyping an unending cavalcade of manufactured scandals (like Obama supposedly giving a major chunk of Arizona back to Mexico).
2010 also marked the network's hiring of Sarah Palin, their continued employment of serial misinformer Glenn Beck, and the revelation that Fox execs are deliberately slanting the network's news coverage.
In likely related news, Public Policy Polling released their second annual TV News Trust Poll, which found that, in contrast to a year ago, a plurality of Americans now distrust Fox News.
As they explain in their blog post about the poll's findings, this loss of support comes mostly from moderates and liberals. Trust among conservatives has fallen slightly:
A year ago a plurality of Americans said they trusted Fox News. Now a plurality of them don't. Conservatives haven't moved all that much- 75% said they trusted it last year and 72% still do this time around. But moderates and liberals have both had a strong increase in their level of distrust for the network- a 12 point gain from 48% to 60% for moderates and a 16 point gain from 66% to 82% for liberals. Voters between left and center tend to be more trusting of the media across the board, which is why a fair number of them were still rating Fox favorably even a year ago at this time. But it looks like with a lot of those folks it has finally crossed the line to being too political to trust.
Here's PPP's graph showing the highest net trust for networks to the worst:
It seems Newt Gingrich has some advice for fellow Fox News employee and potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Huffington Post reported:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took to morning television Tuesday to offer advice to fellow potential 2012 GOP presidential contender Sarah Palin, telling the former Alaska Governor to "slow down" and be more cautious in the wake of her response to criticism following the shooting in Arizona.
"I think that she's got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she's saying and how's she's saying it. There's no question that she's become more controversial," Gingrich said on ABC News's "Good Morning America." "But she is still a phenomenon. I don't know anybody else in American politics who can put something on Twitter or put something on Facebook and automatically have it become a national story. So she remains, I think, a very formidable person in her own right."
It's probably not a good sign when the guy who once told Bill O'Reilly that there is a "gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us" thinks you need to tone it down.
Here's the video, via Think Progress:
In one of the most cynical displays in recent memory, following the lead of Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, several conservative websites - including Fox Nation and MRC arm CNS News - suggested that President Obama lied last night when he said that Rep. Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after his Wednesday night visit to the hospital.
In a recently-completed press conference, Giffords' doctor Peter Rhee explained that what Obama said last night about Giffords opening her eyes was "true."
In response to a question from a reporter about previous statements that Giffords could open her eyes, Rhee and Dr. B Michael Lemole, Section Chief of Neurosurgery at University Medical Center in Tuscon, explained the important distinction. Namely, Giffords previously opened her eyes in response to "stimulus," and yesterday she opened them spontaneously, which represented a "major milestone" in her recovery.
Watch the full press conference:
While it's depressing to have to parse this -- rather than simply be happy about the good news -- such is the state of the conservative media, where absolutely everything Obama says is fodder for their attacks. Instead of chalking up any potential discrepancy between what Obama said and previous statements by doctors to the complex nature of medicine, conservatives went ahead and accused the president of lying. It's as despicable as it is predictable.
Expect Jim Hoft to accuse Giffords' doctors of being in on the conspiracy shortly.
Giffords' doctors explained today that what Obama said was "true" and that while Giffords had previously opened her eyes in response to stimulus, yesterday she opened them spontaneously, which represented a "major milestone" in her recovery.
Last night during his speech in Arizona, President Obama revealed that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords "opened her eyes for the first time" shortly after Obama's visit to her hospital room, in the presence of Giffords' husband, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and other friends. The Arizona Republic, which described Obama's speech as a "a stirring tribute to the fallen and the living," labeled the revelation that Giffords had opened her eyes "the most emotional moment" during Obama's address.
But Gateway Pundit and Breitbart blogger Jim Hoft had a different take.
This morning, showing his steadfast commitment to smearing the president based on flimsy or manufactured "evidence," Hoft announced that it "Looks Like Obama Fibbed About Giffords 'Opening Her Eyes for the First Time" in his speech last night. Hoft wrote that it was a "very emotional moment" but "unfortunately it was not true." His evidence?
A blog post by a website called The Sonoran Chronicle -- which even Hoft acknowledged had since been taken down (he's linking to the Google cache) -- that reported that at a press conference on Sunday, Giffords' doctor Peter Rhee said that she can open her eyes. Unfortunately for Hoft, this is a complete misquote of what Rhee actually said in his press conference (emphasis added):
QUESTION: Has she -- you said it has been simple commands. Has she verbalized at all? And we were also told that there was a reviewing of sorts with her husband last night? And she did recognize him. Can you talk about that?
RHEE: No, we can't get into too much more detail than what we already have. But I can tell you right now with the type of surgery, her eyes, she can't open her eyes at this point, mechanical standpoints, and she's also on the ventilator, so she can't speak at this time.
Now, perhaps it should have given Hoft pause that the website he is sourcing has since pulled down the post. It also might have occurred to anyone with an iota of journalistic responsibility to go back and check the transcript of Rhee's press conference, or look for a single other media outlet reporting this information other than a blog that has since deleted their post.
But Jim Hoft doesn't care about accuracy. He has shown, time and again, that he is far more committed to smearing liberals and Democrats than he is in conveying accurate information to his readers. He's the worst kind of partisan hack.
Earlier this week, Hoft embarrassed himself by falling for an obviously fake Facebook profile for Jared Loughner in order to claim he was a "typical leftist nut" that "idolized Obama." Hoft sourced this information to a random Examiner.com blog post, whose only source was a commenter on the fringe message board Free Republic. (He later pulled the post from his website and lamented that the "Soros-funded" Media Matters took screenshots.)
How many times does Hoft have to do something like this before he is no longer treated as a reliable source of information in the conservative blogosphere? We're still counting.
PS: Before you pull your post, Jim, I took screenshots again.