Fox News spent an entire week hyping a supposed "War on Easter," pointing to the decision made by a few school boards to hold "Spring egg hunt[s]" instead of Easter egg hunts. In seven days, Fox devoted 10 segments to what host Bill O'Reilly called the continued "war on Judeo-Christian tradition."
On March 21, O'Reilly lambasted President Obama and the White House for empowering "secular progressives" to pressure school districts around the country to eliminate terms like "Easter bunny" and "Easter egg." O'Reilly complained that "the war on Judeo-Christian tradition continues in some public school districts," citing districts in five states that he said "are having Spring egg events. Moderated by a Spring bunny":
O'REILLY: I know it's stupid. You know it's stupid. But it's happening, and there is a reason why it's happening. Secular progressives are running wild with President Obama in the White House. They feel unchained, liberated and they are trying to diminish any form of religion. The goal is to marginalize religious opposition to secular programs.
In the past week, several Fox shows followed O'Reilly's lead, airing segments that criticized the "P.C. police" and focused on "assaults" that have put Christianity "on the run in this country":
As Fox Business host John Stossel declared America's water pollution problem over, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report found that more than half of America's rivers and streams are in poor condition because of pollution.
Stossel appeared on Tuesday's edition of The O'Reilly Factor to preview an anti-environmental episode called "Green Tyranny," and claimed that the problem of pollution in the U.S. was "largely solved" and no longer worth the use of government funding.
BILL O'REILLY (host): All right. So, that's Stossel jumping in the Hudson River, showing off and all of that. And your point to jump in the Hudson River was?
STOSSEL: That we need some environmental rules. Thank goodness, we've had some when I was a kid. You couldn't open a window in the city because soot would come in.
But they've cleaned up the water. So, it used to go -- 8 million people flushing, used to go straight in the Hudson River.
O'REILLY: All right. It doesn't do that anymore. It's treated and all of that. So, the Hudson -- I mean, I wouldn't be swimming there on a regular basis, Stossel. Your mustache is gonna falll off, all right?
Yeah, you can show up and jump in there for 10 seconds but, come on.
STOSSEL: It's pretty good. My point is that they spent several hundred million dollars.
O'REILLY: Cleaning up the river.
STOSSEL: Cleaning up the river and the air.
O'REILLY: Which was worth it though.
STOSSEL: Which was worth it.
STOSSEL: But stick a fork in it. It's done. They did a great job. The air -- every time somebody buys a new car, the air gets cleaner because the old cars pollute more. But government only grows. So, now, they're spending billions of dollars on --
O'REILLY: Are you saying that the pollution problem in this country is not worth the money they're spending on?
STOSSEL: Yes. I'm saying it's largely solved. And, now, we're giving money to rich movie actors, subsidies to buy $100,000 electric cars.
Despite Stossel's claims, an EPA report released on Tuesday found 55 percent of U.S. rivers and streams to be in "poor biological condition," based on an index that measures various aquatic creatures. The report also found that 23 percent of rivers and streams were in fair condition, and just under 21 percent were in good condition. The assessment was based on "the results of an unprecedented sampling effort undertaken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its state and tribal partners" collected in 2008 and 2009 at 1,924 sites across the country. From the EPA's report:
The EPA's "National Rivers and Streams Assessment" also determined that 9 percent of waterways studied posed a danger to human health. The Associated Press reported:
In 9 percent of rivers and streams, bacteria exceeded thresholds protective of human health. And mercury, which is toxic, was found in fish tissue along 13,000 miles of streams at levels exceeding health-based standards. Mercury occurs naturally but also can enter the environment from coal-burning power plants and from burning hazardous wastes.
The assessment raised red flags particularly in urban areas. According to the EPA, 26.9 percent of the urban sites tested -- 2,970 miles of the 11,002 -- exceed the EPA quality standards for mercury (300 parts per billion in fish tissue), and 11.6% contained concerning levels of PFCs, artificial chemicals used to make used for decades to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. From the EPA assessment:
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson pushed the right-wing media's false claim that an increase in government employment made up the bulk of job growth during the economic recovery. The private sector, however, has added millions of jobs since 2009 while the public sector has shed hundreds of thousands of them.
Fox News hosts absurdly claimed that the opportunity to register to vote while applying for food stamps entrenches voters in a "cycle of dependency." But most food stamp participants remain on the program for limited periods of time, and the voter registration inclusion is a national policy that has been in place for decades.
On March 22, Fox hosts Stuart Varney and Steve Doocy used a discussion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, to forward the Republican myth that the program generates a culture of dependency that locks liberal governments into positions of power. Discussing the use of SNAP benefits in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, both hosts mocked the voter registration option on SNAP applications, ignoring the fact that it has been national policy since 1993 to allow the opportunity to register to vote at state offices that handle public benefits.
DOOCY: Extraordinarily, a third of the people in that entire city, a third, are on food stamps. And what's happened now, the cycle of dependency, first the people were relying on the food stamps and now the businesses rely on the people with the food stamps. So without the food stamps, the businesses would go belly up.
DOOCY: And Stuart, Rhode Island is a very liberal state. We know that, we've talked about that before. [...] You were telling me about when you apply for a SNAP card, what do they do?
VARNEY: Well, the mayor of Woonsocket, this Leo Fontaine, his honor, he held up the food stamp application forms and he went through it, he showed them it; this is what you get when you apply for food stamps. And then he turned to the back of the package of papers, there is a voter registration form.
DOOCY: Of course!
VARNEY: So you sign up to vote at the same time you sign up for food stamps.
VARNEY: And you are encouraged thereby, I believe, to go out and vote for the party, vote for the politician that continues the food stamp program.
DOOCY: Complete circle.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, the SNAP program has proven successful at stabilizing families during tough times, and helps facilitate the transition to self-sufficiency. The USDA also reported that half of all new participants leave the program in under nine months.
Additionally, the USDA has reported that "41 percent of all SNAP participants lived in a household with earnings," and "for most of these households, earnings were the primary source of income." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CPBB), in 2010, more than three times as many SNAP households worked as relied solely on federal benefits for their income. The share of SNAP families with children and an earned income has remained stable during the recession, and the program's number of participants is projected to decline in the coming decade. The SNAP program also includes a special work requirement for adults who are able to work and are without dependents.
A Fox News host dismissed the threat of furloughs from automatic budget cuts known as sequestration as a "convenient excuse" that allows agency heads to exaggerate the effects of the cuts. However, hundreds of workers have already been laid off due to the budget cuts and more are likely to be fired or furloughed if the cuts continue.
ICE director John Morton faced criticism From Republicans during a House hearing on Tuesday where he testified about the budget decisions ICE made to avoid furloughs. Fox & Friends host Alisyn Camerota dismissed Morton's explanation of his difficult choices as a "handy and convenient excuse," and downplayed the threat of furloughs and layoffs:
This is just what you constantly hear now with sequester. It's either this or furlough. It's either this or laying off. We don't want to take money out of the pockets of workers, and that is a handy and convenient excuse when, you know, you end up not cutting something that people think is expendable.
But local reports from around the country demonstrate that many Americans are already dealing with the serious repercussions of sequestration. Thousands of workers face pay cuts as high as 20% as a result of sequester-induced forced time off, or furloughs. Many more have already experienced layoffs. Citing other news reports, the Huffington Post highlighted several examples of layoffs and furloughs around the country:
On Monday, 250 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state received pink slips, while another 2,500 others found out they're facing furloughs. Approximately 9,000 people work at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, and the Associated Press reports that "cleanup is likely to be slowed" because of the budget cuts.
Continental Maritime, a contractor that repairs U.S. Navy ships, expects to lay off 185 employees, effective April 12. Other contractors have issued conditional layoff notices -- meaning that jobs are safe if Congress restores some funding to the Defense Department -- to thousands of employees.
Four-hundred eighteen contract workers tied to the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania are losing their jobs due to sequestration. Two-hundred sixteen people will be dismissed on April 15 and 107 on April 30, the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., reports. The paper noted that the Tobyhanna Army Depot is losing 35 percent -- $309 million -- of its government funding through the end of the fiscal year, and that more than 5,100 of the people who work there are being forced to take 22 furlough days.
At least eight municipal employees in Monterey County, Calif., are losing their jobs as a result of a decrease in the number of military contracts.
In early March, 23 people who work with the parks and recreation and maintenance departments in Tooele County, Utah, were laid off in order to grapple with the federal budget cuts. "I have four kids. This is my livelihood," said Scott Chance, a 12-year employee. "It pays my health insurance. It gives me my house."
Engineering Services Network is an engineering and technology company and one of the top Latino-owned companies in Virginia. President and CEO Raymond Lopez Jr. told NBC Latino that he has "lost about 20 employeesthrough sequestration."
The Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, announced in February that it was cutting 414 jobs -- about 10 percent of its workforce. "I don't know how we're going to make it," Raymond Wyrick, whose last day was scheduled to be March 9, told CNN Money.
Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt misled viewers to believe that the U.S. Postal Service used taxpayer dollars to provide upscale accommodations and activities for a leadership conference, even though the USPS does not receive taxpayer funds for operational costs, and conference attendees have to finance their own entertainment.
In an effort to deal with budget shortfalls, the USPS has used its annual National Postal Forum Conference as "a revenue-generating opportunity," Postal Service spokeswoman Zy Richardson told Government Executive. The agency said that last year's conference brought in about $160 million in revenue from new sales.
But Fox hosts highlighted the conference as a waste of taxpayer dollars, focusing on the supposed extravagance of the event and mocking its stated goal of developing "sales leads":
STEVE DOOCY: Because let's face it, it's so depressing, demoralizing, working at the Postal Service these days. Don't you think those guys should just be able to go out and, you know, blow a bunch of dough, and blow off some steam?
BRIAN KILMEADE: Not really.
EARHARDT: Your money, your tax dollars.
According to the USPS website, the agency does not receive any taxpayer dollars to cover its operational costs. Like other expenses, the National Postal Forum Conference is funded by the agency's $65 billion in annual revenue from the sale of postage, products, and services.
The National Postal Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the responsiveness and efficiency of the U.S. mail system, designed the conference "to find innovative solutions and learn about the latest technologies that are shaping the mailing industry's future." Richardson emphasized that the conference "is a public event that anyone can attend. It's not a secret, internal event."
Doocy's suggestion that the conference's cost covers expensive activities like golf is also incorrect. As Government Executive reported:
[T]he golfing is not included in the registration fees for the conference and any Postal Service employee participating must pay his or her own way to participate.
Fox News fearmongered over reports that suspected terrorist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will be tried in a Manhattan civilian court by downplaying the court's ability to convict terrorist suspects and baselessly advocated for a Guantanamo military trial.
On March 7, the Justice Department released an indictment charging Abu Ghaith with conspiring to kill Americans. Abu Ghaith, who previously served as a spokesman for Al Qaeda and is a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, will face trial at a U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson suggested that a civilian court trial could more likely result in Abu Ghaith's acquittal and possible release "back into our society" than if he were tried "at Gitmo." Co-host Steve Doocy echoed these concerns and cited a 2010 case in which a terrorist suspect faced 282 charges, but was acquitted on most of them, to stoke fears:
What happened? He was convicted. On one charge. And he was acquitted on 281 other counts, which boosts the suggestion and the argument that there's a completely different standard when you're talking about terrorists. They should be tried at Gitmo.
In a later segment on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Erick Erickson expanded on Doocy and Carlson's comments. Erickson suggested:
Now, in Gitmo they have been able to do it quite successfully. There are number of military trials down there and convictions. They've sent others home. There's no reason he couldn't go down there other than there is an ideological opposition to keeping Gitmo open rather than come here.
In their advocacy of military tribunals, Carlson, Doocy and Erickson failed to report the New York courts full record of dealing with terrorist suspects.
Doocy based his disregard of the federal court system on a case that resulted in conviction, which was only one of many convictions to come out of the Manhattan civilian court system. In his focus on the dropped charges, Doocy failed to note that the detainee received a life sentence without parole, "the same maximum sentence... that he would have faced had he been convicted on all counts," according to The New York Times. In fact, the New York court that will be handling the Abu Ghaith trial has a 100 percent conviction rate. CNN reported: "Of the 81 jihadist terrorism suspects who have gone to trial since 9/11 in cases involving an undercover agent or informant, every single one has either been convicted or pleaded guilty."
According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials have said that federal courts "are often a faster and surer way to try suspected terrorists." The Journal additionally noted:
An Obama administration official said national security officials--including those at the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Department of Justice--unanimously agreed that Mr. Abu Ghaith should be prosecuted in federal court.
In contrast, convictions at Guantanamo Bay are rare and have proven "vulnerable on appeal," the Los Angeles Times has reported. Of the thousands of detainees held since 2001, only seven convictions have come out of Guantanamo military tribunal, while "the vast majority have been sent back overseas, either for rehabilitation or continued detention and prosecution," according to an NPR report. Of the seven convictions, five were essentially nullified. The remaining two cases were both overturned by the court of appeals, one in October 2012 and the other in January 2013.
On the same day that Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) high profile filibuster of John Brennan's nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency received widespread media attention, another filibuster that blocked confirmation for one of President Obama's nominees went completely unnoticed by the broadcast networks and cable news channels.
Paul's filibuster, which delved into serious questions about drone policy and national security, touched off a robust debate in the media. Paul's talking filibuster garnered extensive media attention the same day. According to a Nexis search, Paul was featured in at least 20 news segments Wednesday: 9 on CNN, 6 on Fox News, 4 on MSNBC, and 1 on NBC.
By contrast, not a single broadcast network or cable news channel reported on the silent filibuster of Caitlin Halligan's nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
President Obama first nominated Halligan to the DC appellate court in September 2010. Senate Republicans blocked her nomination via filibuster in December 2011. Obama renominated Halligan on January 3, but Republicans again blocked her nomination on Wednesday when 40 Senate Republicans rejected a motion that would allow her confirmation to proceed to an up-or-down vote.
As The Washington Post noted, this GOP obstruction came in the face of widespread support for Halligan in the legal community:
Against the distorted view of Ms. Halligan's record that Republicans have offered stand the endorsements of prominent legal minds both liberal and conservative, a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association and a storied career in public service and private practice.
While Paul's rare example of a talking filibuster attracted widespread media coverage, silent filibusters have become increasingly common tools to block Obama's nominees.
A November 2012 report from the Alliance for Justice illustrated how Senators' use of the filibuster on judicial nominations has increased drastically during the Obama administration:
The strategy comes amid what the Center for American Progress has described as a judicial vacancy crisis in the federal courts system.
The contrast between the media's extensive coverage of Paul's filibuster and the one used to block Halligan rejection is a testimony to how common the silent filibuster is under the Obama administration, and why it's important for the media not to go quiet.
Fox News personalities are hyping fears that a supervised release of undocumented immigrants will lead to more crime. But the immigrants affected by this policy are still subject to deportation and face restrictions such as checking in with authorities and wearing ankle monitoring bracelets.
Fox Business correspondent Nicole Petallides criticized President Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour with an exaggerated claim that ignores the decades-long declining trend in the real value of the minimum wage.
Petallides misleadingly claimed on Fox & Friends that the minimum wage "really has grown exponentially" by citing increases since 2007 and that business owners say raising the minimum wage "would probably hurt business and raise unemployment":
In fact, the minimum wage's purchasing power has seen decades of decline, and despite increases phased in from the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, is still below the value it had in the late 1960s. The New York Times reported that "the federal minimum wage has failed to keep pace with inflation in recent decades." And Bloomberg explained that the value of the federal minimum wage dropped from 1967 through 2010 even as its "nominal figure climbed to $7.25 an hour." The Bloomberg article included the below chart depicting the drop:
The Economic Policy Institute noted in its latest edition of The State of Working America that this decline in the value of the minimum wage meant that "low-wage workers, despite being older and better-educated than in the late 1960s, had a lower wage floor. The weakness of the minimum wage is more apparent when noting that in 2011 it was just 37 percent of the typical worker's hourly wage, while in the late 1960s it averaged about half the typical worker's hourly wage"