Viewers who spent 2013 absorbed in Fox News might be under the impression that an all-out race war has erupted across the nation this year, thanks to the network's coverage of everything from voter fraud to Santa Claus echoing one common theme: white folks are being victimized in Obama's America.
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN ON TRIAL
Fox became obsessed with black crime rates in the summer of 2013, when Floridian George Zimmerman went on trial for the 2012 murder of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, whom Zimmerman shot and killed while he was walking home from a convenience store. Zimmerman, identified as white Hispanic, alleged that he shot Martin in self-defense, and was not subsequently arrested or charged with any crime until a significant public outcry made the story national news.
Fox immediately began running defense for Zimmerman in what became a red meat story for the network -- an opportunity to justify right-wing gun culture and stand your ground laws, stoke fears about the dangers of black youth, and paint white-on-black crime as exceedingly rare and usually justified while black crime is exploding.
In 2012, a year before Zimmerman's trial, Fox's Sean Hannity was already trying to connect the case to the New Black Panther Party, while Geraldo Rivera blamed Martin for his own death because Martin was wearing a hoodie. But it was after Zimmerman was found not guilty in 2013 -- and after President Obama weighed in on that outcome -- that Fox's race-baiting sunk to new lows.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace spent an entire segment pushing misleading black crime statistics in order to ask whether Obama's remarks about Trayvon Martin were deflecting from the real problem -- black violence. Popular host Bill O'Reilly echoed the deceptive statistics, prompting MSNBC's Chris Hayes to observe that everything O'Reilly was saying on race is "easily debunked with about 20 minutes of Googling."
Weeks later, O'Reilly would revisit the Trayvon Martin tragedy, saying Martin died because he looked "how gangstas look."
"TRAYVON MARTIN IN REVERSE": CHRISTOPHER LANE SHOT DEAD IN OKLAHOMA
In August of 2013, three teens -- one white, two black -- shot and killed Christopher Lane, a white Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.
There was no evidence that the murder was anything but cold-hearted and random - officials investigating and prosecuting the homicide repeatedly rejected suggestions that race played a factor in the crime.
Nevertheless, conservative media immediately began covering the story with a racial lens. Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the murder, "Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse," and imagined that the teenagers "got bored and said, 'Let's go shoot a white guy!'"
Fox News followed suit. On the Record host van Susteren invited regular Fox guest Pat Buchanan -- who frequently espouses white nationalist ideology -- onto her show to discuss the murder. Buchanan baselessly opined, "My guess ... is that it is racial." Over on The Five, host Eric Bolling channeled this sentiment, saying the murder was "likely motivated by race." Other Fox News segments in the following days questioned why the mainstream media was "ignoring the race issue" in the story, and pundits repeatedly asked why civil rights leaders weren't publicly weighing in on the murder -- a not-so-subtle attempt to tie the crime thematically to the racially-charged killing of Trayvon Martin.
But it was Buchanan who followed up his conjecture with an illustration of where the baseless speculation about racial motivations in crime can lead -- a manipulation of crime statistics to fit preconceived stereotypes about race and crime. Buchanan argued that Lane's death was just the latest symptom of a "black on white" crime spree in America, a conclusion that activist Tim Wise noted was "beyond the scope of the rational mind to comprehend."
SMEARING THE STRUGGLE FOR VOTING RIGHTS
When Fox wasn't fear mongering about black crime, it was busy supporting laws that disenfranchise minorities.
At least one Catholic organization is denouncing Rush Limbaugh's remarks after the radio host chastised Pope Francis for his recent criticisms of global inequalities of wealth.
Pope Francis struck a chord with Catholics and non-Catholics alike when he issued his first apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel," a commentary on his "vision of the Church" and his thoughts on the state of modern capitalism and global economic inequality. Among his comments was a specific criticism of "trickle down" economics -- which Francis declared has not been proven to work and reveals a "naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."
On his November 27 radio show, Rush Limbaugh attacked the pope's message, claiming that it was "pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope":
LIMBAUGH: I came across last night -- I mean, it totally befuddled me. If it weren't for capitalism, I don't know where the Catholic Church would be. Now, as I mentioned before, I'm not Catholic. I admire it profoundly, and I've been tempted a number of times to delve deeper into it. But the pope here has now gone beyond Catholicism here, and this is pure political. Now, I want to share with you some of this stuff.
"Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as 'a new tyranny.' He beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. In it, Pope Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the 'idolatry of money.' "
I've gotta be very caref-- I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn't exist without tons of money. But, regardless, what this is -- somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. There's no such -- "unfettered capitalism"? That doesn't exist anywhere.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) issued a response on November 27 and began a petition denouncing Limbaugh on December 2. In a statement, the group's representative Christopher Hale indicated that Catholics "of all political stripes are disturbed by Rush Limbaugh's incendiary comments." The full statement read as follows:
"Catholics of all political stripes are disturbed by Rush Limbaugh's incendiary comments this afternoon about Pope Francis. To call the Holy Father a proponent of "pure marxism" is both mean spirited and naive. Francis's critique of unrestrained capitalism is in line with the Church's social teaching. His particular criticism of "trickle down economics" strengthens what Church authorities have said for decades: any economic system which deprives the poor of their dignity has no place within a just society.
Contrary to what Mr. Limbaugh suggests, the Catholic Church isn't built on money, but on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.
We call on Mr. Limbaugh to apologize and retract his remarks. We urge other Church organizations and leaders--both ordained and lay--to also condemn Mr. Limbaugh's comments.
We proudly stand with Pope Francis as he provides prophetic leadership for the Catholic Church and the entire world."
Fox News repeatedly conflated the emergency contraceptive Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill) with abortion while covering two Supreme Court cases brought by companies that object to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control coverage benefits. However, experts agree that the morning-after pill is not abortion -- it prevents pregnancy but cannot stop pregnancy after fertilization takes place.
Climate change discussions in the aftermath of a record-shattering deadly typhoon serve as "an excuse" to avoid helping people living in the storm's path, according Fox host Dana Perino, who argued that instead of taking action on climate change, we should provide developing nations with "more fossil fuels." Perino's concern for affordable electricity starkly contrasts with the network's usually dismissive attitude toward those living in poverty and ignores the fact that fighting climate change and keeping energy prices in check for low-income families are attainable and confluent goals.
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the island nation of the Philippines last week. The storm may be the most powerful typhoon in recorded history, and the death toll left in its wake is still rising, estimated to be between 2,300 and 10,000.
On the November 14 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino attacked environmentalists who express concern that manmade global warming could impact the strength of major storms like the super typhoon that devastated the Philippines. Perino argued that discussing global warming "is the perfect excuse not to do anything for people living in the Third World." Perino later doubled down, saying, "it's an excuse to not help people in poverty."
Instead of focusing on global warming, Perino's solution to help those vulnerable to the impacts of climate change would be to "help provide affordable electricity to people that are living there, so that they could've had more information so that they could've gotten out of harm's way. With more affordable electricity that is steady, you have better education, you have better health care, you have better well-being and you have the possibility of trade, which will actually help everybody." Perino concluded, "What we should be doing is providing them with more fossil fuels."
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly continued a pattern of transphobic commentary when he said that bringing a 12-year old boy to Hooters was comparable to allowing transgender students to use appropriate locker rooms or restrooms -- a right that O'Reilly believes will be exploited by mischievous adolescents who want to spy on the opposite sex -- noting the difference between bringing a 12 year old to Hooters and allowing a "guy who thinks he's a girl" into a women's locker room is that Hooters has chicken wings.
On the November 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, the eponymous host opened a segment with a story about a middle school football coach who made the controversial decision to bring his 12-15 year old players to a Hooters restaurant to celebrate a win. When liberal contributor Alan Colmes expressed opposition to bringing children of that age to Hooters, O'Reilly inexplicably began comparing the Hooters trip to allowing transgendered students into the locker rooms and school bathrooms that comport with their gender identity.
O'Reilly was incredulous after Colmes rejected the comparison, saying, "The transsexual in the locker room, in the bathroom, and all of that, you're fine with that. But you won't take the kid to Hooters." He then prescribed his "way to deal with" transgendered students, saying, "The way to deal with it is basically, look, if you're born a boy you stay in the boys locker room," but once "you're an adult you can go where you want."
The Veterans Day edition of Fox News' Hannity spent twice as much time discussing the so-called "War On Christmas" than the actual wars whose veterans we honor on that holiday.
On the November 11 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted Sarah Palin to discuss her newly released book about the "War On Christmas." While Hannity wrung his hands about the latest "unbridled and seemingly unprecedented" attacks on Christmas, Palin opined that "angry atheists" armed with attorneys "want to tell us, they want to tell patriots, they want to tell traditional Americans, that no longer can you acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season."
The "War On Christmas" segment lasted only two minutes, but that was twice the amount of airtime Hannity devoted to covering Veterans Day. Only a brief "Veterans Day edition of our video of the day" segment at the end of Hannity's show made any mention of the nation's veterans and the conflicts they braved as part of their service.
Fox News hosts often cover the "War On Christmas" more extensively than they do real wars. During the last holiday season, Fox's Bill O'Reilly dedicated nearly an hour to segments defending Christmas from its alleged assailants, while spending a mere fifteen minutes covering military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Gaza.
The latest strange and ugly conspiracy theory to make its way from Alex Jones' Infowars.com to Fox News contended that the pregnant, diabetic woman who nearly fainted during a White House Rose Garden speech was faking her poor health at the behest of President Obama in order to improve his image.
On October 21, Obama took to the Rose Garden to address the status of a glitch-ridden HealthCare.gov. During the speech, a woman standing behind the president, Karmel Allison, nearly fainted. The president and others turned to help Allison, who was later revealed to be a Type 1 diabetic and pregnant -- conditions that may have contributed to her unsteadiness.
Shortly thereafter, Alex Jones and his website Infowars.com pounced on the incident, baselessly claiming that Allison faked her fainting spell. Not only that, the website claimed that Allison is just the latest in a long line of Obama's fake fainters. In an article titled, "Was Fainting Woman at Obamacare Speech Staged?," Infowars.com reporter Steve Watson wrote that the "President has used the fainting woman spiel many times before to play crowds":
[T]his is not the first time this has happened... or the second time... or the third time... or the fourth time... It happens ALL THE TIME. He pretty much has a prepared speech that he repeats.
Commentators have previously claimed that this could also be part an effort to appear like a kind of quasi-religious or Messianic figure.
At the very least, if these incidents are not staged, they serve to highlight how Obama routinely seizes on them to uphold his public image as a "great guy".
Other fringe outlets amplified the conspiracy theory. The following day, Lady-Patriots.com published a piece by founder Dr. Sharon Scheutz, in which Scheutz claimed the fainting was "phony":
I couldn't believe how phony it was. As soon as I watched it I went to youtube to check it out from different directions. It was just as fake from any of them.
For some strange reason, Obama has to have props around him when he does one of his con-jobs in the Rose Garden, or wherever he chooses to receive his worshipers. This was no different, except that he had animated props this time. Although it was well staged there were enough holes in this little scene to drive the proverbial truck through.
Scheutz, it should be noted, is not a credible source of information. In addition to being a fainting truther, Scheutz has compared the Obama administration to Nazi Germany and just weeks ago wrote that the president was a Muslim:
If America survives Barack Obama's presidency and if history tells the truth, one word used to describe him will be LIAR. Yes, he's a Muslim. Yes, he's a Socialist/Communist. Yes, he's even a moron, and he's evil. But everything associated with him since he has been in office can best be described by one word: LIAR.
A new study of public opinion regarding voter ID laws found that viewers of Fox News are much more likely to support those measures than other media consumers, and that individuals who wrongly believe voter fraud is common are more likely to support voter ID laws. These two groups have one thing in common -- exposure to right-wing misinformation about voter fraud.
In recent years, GOP-controlled state legislatures have been passing a series of measures ostensibly designed to protect the integrity of elections -- laws that, for example, require voters to present a government-issued photo id when attempting to cast a ballot. Given the absence of any significant voter fraud crisis in America and the fact that such laws negatively and disproportionately affect the ability of traditionally Democratic-voting demographics to cast a ballot, many have argued that these laws are meant only to stifle political opposition to the Republican party by making it harder for Democrats to get elected -- even Republicans have admitted as much.
On October 4, Public Opinion Quarterly published a study conducted by two professors at the University of Delaware titled, "The Foundations of Public Opinion on Voter ID Laws." The study found that "perceptions of voting fraud as 'common' are associated with support for voter ID laws." The study also found that Fox News viewers "are particularly likely to support voter ID laws, though no other forms of media use are significantly related to support."
Voter fraud is not common. As the study noted, a state-by-state analysis of voting fraud conducted by the Carnegie Corporation of New York found "there were 2,068 cases of reported fraud among the millions of votes cast from 2000 to 2011. Over half of these cases of fraud involved problems with absentee ballots, which require no identification." A study by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found in-person voter fraud to be "more rare than death by lightning," and a New York Times investigation found "virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections."
Additionally, voter ID laws can disenfranchise voters -- particularly minorities, students, and the elderly. The Brennan Center conducted a poll which found that 11 percent of Americans say they do not possess government-issued photo identification, and this number includes "25 percent of African Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of persons aged 65 and older."
Although the study does not determine a causal relationship between exposure to Fox News and the false belief that voter fraud is common, this effect would not be surprising. Fox News frequently misinforms viewers about voter ID laws and the threat of voter fraud. Below is just a sample of the kind of slanted coverage Fox presents.
The University of Delaware study notes that so far, many Americans remain relatively unfamiliar with voter ID laws. According to the authors, this suggests that "support for voter ID laws is susceptible to political communication effects." Fox News, which often functions as the communications arm of the Republican Party, has not been shy about exploiting this vulnerability.
Sean Hannity hosted the Media Research Center's (MRC) Brent Bozell on his Fox program Hannity, and together the pair weaved a distorted caricature of the ongoing government shutdown and the media coverage surrounding it. From their seats on one of the nation's largest news networks, Hannity and Bozell complained that liberal media bias was to blame for the public's low opinion of congressional Republicans' role in the shutdown, supporting their façade with a series of lies, omissions, and a dose of their own bias.
On October 1, the federal government shut down when congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).
On the October 3 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity and Bozell discussed media coverage of the shutdown, reflecting on "all the ways the mainstream media puts their liberal spin on the news," as Hannity put it. He proceeded to open the segment with his own conservative spin on the news, accusing President Obama of refusing to talk to Republicans about the shutdown and absolving Republicans of responsibility. But in fact, the president has called and met with Republican leadership, who are holding fast to their ACA demands.
Bozell stepped in to agree that media's focus on Republicans is inappropriate, complaining that, "In the media coverage -- 21 stories blaming Republicans, not one story blaming Democrats." Bozell's MRC study focused on network evening news stories, ignoring the multitude of Fox News segments blaming Democrats for the shutdown.
Bozell's study in fact confirms that network news is providing reality-based coverage of the shutdown, which persists because of a Republican refusal to extricate its opposition to the ACA from the nation's budget. Bozell fails to acknowledge this fact, and his complaints amount to little more than an argument in favor of journalistic "false equivalency."
Fox News is accusing President Obama of intentionally inflicting pain upon World War II veterans who were initially unable to visit the memorial to their legacy after it was closed in the wake of a government shutdown. Fox figures, many of whom have been advocating for this very shutdown, compared the memorial's closing to the cancellation of White House tours during sequester -- a move conservatives originally claimed was made for no reason other than to inflict pain upon the American people for political purposes.
On October 1, the federal government shut down when Congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). As a result of this shutdown, national parks and museums -- including the nation's monuments -- were forced to close.
One of the shuttered monuments was the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The closing initially prevented busloads of veterans from accessing the site. As media attention focused on their plight, members of Congress -- many of whom are vocal advocates of the shutdown in the first place -- aided the visiting vets in removing barriers in order to "storm" the monument. National Park officials eventually opened the site to veterans, who are now considered as participating in a First Amendment protest.
Right-wing media, particularly the pundits at Fox News, rushed to accuse President Obama of unnecessarily closing the monument in order to cause "some sort of pain" against the American people. On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino said the administration "wanted to insert some sort of pain, so that as they screw down the nut, and then you'll start to feel like 'oh, my gosh, we have to compromise.'"
Perino went on to characterize the closing as "the Washington Monument strategy" -- a political strategy that, according to The Washington Post, "involves fighting against budget cuts by focusing...cuts to the most popular and visible services an agency provides." Co-host Eric Bolling concurred, likening the closing of the World War II memorial to the cancellation of White House tours in the aftermath of sequestration.
On Fox Business Network, host Lou Dobbs said that in March, the president was "trying to make the sequester as painful as possible ... and that's what they're doing now." He followed up, saying, "There's just one conclusion as to why they did block the wide open space in the first place -- the administration wanted to."
The war memorial, as well as the other parks and museums under the purview of the National Park Service (NPS), are deemed non-essential services under a shutdown of the federal government, and NPS employees, including park personnel, face a requisite furlough. The NPS shutdown contingency plan requires the suspension of "all activities except those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."