The Hill legitimized Republican claims that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to delay its vote on net neutrality to give the public time to review the idea, ignoring the fact that the agency received nearly 4 million comments -- which overwhelmingly favored net neutrality -- during an open-comment period in 2014.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson distorted President Obama's explanation that U.S. ground troops are not necessary to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in order to claim Obama believes it's not in our national interest to defeat the terrorist group.
In his February 11 request to Congress for an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, Obama stated that "our core objective is to destroy ISIL." He emphasized his opposition to engaging in "another prolonged ground war in the Middle East," which he said is "not in our national security interest." He explained further that a ground campaign is "not necessary for us to defeat ISIL." From a transcript of his remarks (emphasis added):
THE PRESIDENT: This resolution reflects our core objective to destroy ISIL. It supports the comprehensive strategy that we have been pursuing with our allies and partners: A systemic and sustained campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Support and training for local forces on the ground, including the moderate Syrian opposition. Preventing ISIL attacks, in the region and beyond, including by foreign terrorist fighters who try to threaten our countries. Regional and international support for an inclusive Iraqi government that unites the Iraqi people and strengthens Iraqi forces against ISIL. Humanitarian assistance for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Syria, who are suffering so terribly under ISIL's reign of horror.
The resolution we've submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases -- and, yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment. But they do not have a combat mission. They are focused on training Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces.
As I've said before, I'm convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That's not in our national security interest and it's not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL -- and that's what they're doing.
But Fox viewers heard a much different description of Obama's sentiment the next day on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. According to Carlson, "The president said we have no national security interest in this fight." After airing a short video depicting a portion of his remarks (but omitting Obama's statement about destroying ISIS), Carlson asked Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), "What did President Obama mean yesterday when he said that it's not in our interest to defeat ISIL? Huh?"
Playing word games with Obama's remarks is one of Fox News' favorite pastimes. The network often feigns outrage over distorted or selectively cropped comments, setting up easy attacks on their fictionalized version of the president.
ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham scoffed at the "Like A Girl" Super Bowl commercial promoting girls' self-esteem, calling its empowerment message "a non-issue" written by the "PC police."
During Super Bowl XLIX, Always aired its "Like A Girl" commercial, intended to "reclaim a phrase that's been used to police gender roles and stereotypes that are harmful." In the commercial, adults, young boys, and young girls are asked to demonstrate "what it looks like to run like a girl" or "throw like a girl." While adults and young boys treated the phrase as a pejorative, flailing about and acting weak, young girls responded in earnest, saying to "run like a girl" means to "run as fast as you can."
The next day on her radio program, Laura Ingraham mocked the ad's message, and in the process demonstrated the very bias the ad meant to expose. Ingraham bragged, "I was a tomboy growing up. No one ever said I threw like a girl ... Maybe I just don't have empathy."
Dismissing the ad's empowerment message, Ingraham stated, "This is PC police," and went on to suggest that girls' self-esteem is a "non-issue":
INGRAHAM: It's such a non-issue. First of all, boys are the ones who need more help in school these days. Boys are the ones who are falling behind girls. Boys are the ones who are seeing their sports programs cut because of Title IX because we have to have everything balanced. Boys are the ones who need additional help today. So, 'throw like a girl,' 'kick like a boy,' I mean, 'do pull-ups like a girl,' 'do pull-ups like a boy.' Honestly.
CNN contributor Newt Gingrich revived a debunked claim about Boko Haram's designation as a terror group in order to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to attendees at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Gingrich claimed that the Obama administration, currently and during Clinton's tenure at the State Department, is not doing enough to confront terrorism threats. As evidence, Gingrich pointed to Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group based in Nigeria, saying, "Boko Haram has ten thousand fighters, and last year Boko Haram killed more people than Ebola. But the State Department for years, under Secretary Clinton, wouldn't even list them as a terrorist group."
The implicit argument of Gingrich's attack is dishonest -- experts, including a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria appointed by President Bush, opposed designating Boko Haram a terror group out of concern it would empower the extremist group. Instead, in 2012 the State Department under Clinton designated the individual leaders of Boko Haram as "foreign terrorists." Reuters reported that the move was historic, noting it was the "first time [State] has blacklisted members of the Islamist group." Boko Harm went on to receive designation as a terrorist group in 2013.
Gingrich's smear was right out of the conservative media playbook. Fox News and other right-wing outlets spent considerable time suggesting Clinton and the Obama administration tried to appease Boko Haram, even suggesting the administration was partially responsible for the failure to save 300 young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.
Rush Limbaugh complained that low gasoline prices are a sure sign the U.S. economy is "in the tank," a stark turnaround for a radio host who previously told listeners that high gas prices were part of President Obama's plan to inflict "economic suffering" on the American people.
Limbaugh opened the January 20 edition of his radio program by purporting to let listeners in on the "dirty little secret" behind these low oil prices -- a struggling economy. Limbaugh charged, "One of the leading, or primary, reasons why the price of oil is down, and gasoline, is demand. Demand is down. And the demand is down because the U.S. economy's in the tank." The reason "you won't find very many experts acknowledge this," he went on, is "because it contradicts the idea that the economy is roaring back."
Limbaugh's theories stand in stark contrast to those he offers when gas prices are high. He's spent years accusing President Obama of desiring high gas prices in order to hurt the economy and Republican voters, pushing for high prices to be a central economic criticism of Obama's first term.
Before the 2012 election, Limbaugh theorized that Obama wanted high gasoline specifically to cause economic suffering (emphasis added):
LIMBAUGH: I'm just telling you the bottom line: Rising gas prices, that's [Obama's] plan. Economic suffering is the plan. Old Chester's got too many cars: Two. He doesn't deserve them. He's not entitled to that many cars. It doesn't matter if he works hard and got the money to pay for them himself. It's not fair. He shouldn't have that many cars. Nobody "needs" that many cars. Particularly when there are people that only have one. Or, in some cases, don't have any. It's just not right.
In 2011, he speculated that media were ignoring rising gas prices to protect Obama from criticism over the economy in the run up to his reelection, asking, "Will the media ignoring the rise in gas prices be able to keep that from becoming a major factor in people's minds over the economy and Obama's role in it?" He applauded those who did report on rising prices:
LIMBAUGH: Another very, very, very, very, very, very worried about rising gasoline prices now, Washington Post and New York Times, I think on Sunday both had stories, "Uh-oh, no, rising gas prices, could it possibly be damaging to Obama's campaign?" New York Times, Washington Post both concerned about rising gasoline prices. Do you realize gasoline prices have never been higher at this time of year than they are right now?
The price of gasoline's up 90% since when Obama took office, folks. They're right to be concerned about it.
As far back as 2008, Limbaugh lamented that high gasoline prices "hurt primarily Republican, middle-class, suburban voters," and accused Democrats of reveling in higher prices to hurt GOP supporters:
LIMBAUGH: May I take you back to last week, where I postulated the theory that one of the reasons that these high gasoline prices are found attractive by the left is who they hurt?
They hurt primarily Republican, middle-class, suburban voters. If you look at a map of the country and the red and blue versions, versus who lives where and how they voted, you find that most large Democrat cities already have some type of mass transit.
Limbaugh's hypocrisy on gasoline prices is shared by his conservative media colleagues. Fox News spent years blaming Obama for high gas prices only to respond to falling gas prices in 2012 by asking if the drop was bad for the country. As recently as October, the network was busy speculating that low gas may hurt the economy.
Fox News has ever-shifting standards for how the Obama administration should respond to terrorist attacks -- a strategic moving of the goalposts that was clearly on display during the network's coverage of the deadly Paris shooting.
On January 7, three gunmen opened fire at the office of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo, an attack that left 12 dead and 11 others wounded. That morning, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told CNN that based on the information the White House had at the time, the attack "does seem like" terrorism and that it "would condemn that in the strongest possible terms" if it were confirmed. Merely 30 minutes later, Earnest appeared on Fox News and declared, "This is an act of terror," a designation echoed by President Obama from the Oval Office. Obama expressed his "deepest sympathies to the people of Paris and the people of France for the terrible terrorist attack that took place earlier today," condemned the actions of "these terrorists [who] fear freedom," and noted the United States' cooperation with France on counterterrorism.
But to Fox News, describing the attack as terrorism wasn't enough. The network spent the day of the attack in Paris moving the goalposts for how the administration should have responded to the shooting.
Fox initially attempted to portray the change in the White House's characterization as scandalous. During Earnest's appearance on America's Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer took issue with the fact that Earnest used the term "act of terror" when earlier he'd used the phrase "act of violence." Hemmer repeatedly insisted that Earnest justify the change:
The demand soon grew. Claiming that it's insufficient to call the attack terrorism, Fox figures argued the White House "has to say 'Islamist terror.'" According to these personalities, the failure to say "Islamic," coupled with the White House's "reluctan[ce]" to say terrorism, evidences Obama's soft approach to fighting terrorism.
Moving the goalposts on the proper response to terrorism is a standard chapter in the Fox News playbook. The network obsessively claimed Obama failed to label the 2012 Benghazi attacks an act of terror, despite the fact that he did so from the Rose Garden the day after the attacks. When a gunman opened fire at Canada's War Memorial in October, Fox criticized Obama for refusing to acknowledge the attack was terrorism (despite the fact that he had). And after the Pakistani Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, in December, Obama condemned the terrorists, but Fox wondered why he failed to mention "the Taliban" by name.
Right-wing media are using the Paris terrorist attack to falsely claim Hillary Clinton has encouraged empathizing with terrorists like the ones who carried out the attack. But conservatives' attacks on Clinton are badly distorting remarks she made during a December speech in which she emphasized the value of understanding one's enemy, and she has repeatedly stated her opposition to negotiating with violent ideological groups.
Nothing captures the absurdity and insincerity of conservative media quite like Comedy Central's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Media Matters takes a look back at Stewart and Colbert's best takedowns of 2014.
As a polar vortex entombed much of the nation in freezing temperatures in January, right-wing media went into high gear trying to exploit the weather event as evidence that global warming is a myth. Scientists disagree with this claim, and as Time's Bryan Walsh noted, "not only does the cold spell not disprove climate change, it may well be that global warming could be making the occasional bout of extreme cold weather in the U.S. even more likely."
Jon Stewart nipped the narrative in the bud on the January 6 edition of The Daily Show.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed President Obama before the NFL's Super Bowl XLVIII and used the opportunity to rattle through a series of questions about the many phony scandals ginned up by his network over the previous months.
On the February 4 edition of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart defended Obama's combative response to some of O'Reilly's questions, noting that it's true that Fox News promotes and generates scandals for the sole purpose of undermining his presidency.
"That is exactly what Fox does every day," said Stewart. "With the exception of the one hour every two weeks where John Stossel exposes how homeless people are scamming the system."
In late February, Bill O'Reilly joined a chorus of conservative media figures launching sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton, suggesting her gender would somehow disqualify her from serving as President of the United States. "There's got to be some downside to having a woman president, right?" asked O'Reilly.
Stephen Colbert agreed on the March 5 edition of The Colbert Report, satirically noting that the election of a female president like Clinton would almost inevitably spark a chain of global reactions culminating in an Afghan invasion of America, shark attacks and the complete demise of the nation.
Right-wing media turned its attention to Nevada in April, when rancher Cliven Bundy orchestrated an armed stand-off with federal law enforcement officials trying to enforce millions of dollars in court judgments against him. Sean Hannity and others ran to the rancher's defense, holding him up as a champion against big government.
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart tried to wrap his head around the movement, noting that Bundy was in violation of the law and Hannity in particular purports to be a vigilant advocate for the rule of law -- when it suits him.
Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch joined aspiring Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) at the Kentucky Derby in May, prompting questions about the influence Murdoch's media empire -- including Fox News -- could play in boosting Paul's political aspirations.
On the May 6 edition of The Colbert Report, Colbert congratulated Paul on catching Murdoch's eye, but warned that the mogul might still be "playing the field" when it comes to 2016.
In June, the Obama administration negotiated the release of America's last remaining U.S. service member being held behind enemy lines -- Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Conservatives rushed to scandalize the event and smear Bergdahl as a deserter, going so far as to suggest his father's long beard made him look like a Muslim, and thus in their minds was more likely to share a hatred for America with his son.
On the June 9 edition of The Daily Show, Stewart lambasted Fox News' obsession with the beard, pointing out the obvious -- "Not all Muslims have beards, and not all people with beards are Muslims."
In July, the influx of undocumented minors fleeing violence in Central America by way of the U.S.-Mexico border had grown into a humanitarian crisis. Right-wing media used the problem to criticize Obama anytime he was seen enjoying a leisure activity. One of the loudest complaints was that the president was photographed playing pool in Colorado when he should have been, according to conservatives, touring the Texas border.
His actions were even worse than previously attempts to destroy America, Colbert explained on July 15. Obama was now "slacking off at destroying America." Colbert went on: "It's clear what's going on here. The president has senioritis."
On August 9, unarmed teenager Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson, MO police officer. His death sparked outrage and protests across the country against police brutality and systemic discrimination against young, black men. Yet conservative media leaped to demonize Brown, blaming him for his death and staunchly denying the fact that law enforcement treats African-Americans with any less respect than they do whites.
Stewart called them out on The Daily Show, asking "Do you not understand that life in this country is inherently different for white people and black people?" Citing the fact that white Fox hosts expressed more outrage over the imaginary 'War on Christmas' than they have over the existence of racism, Stewart argued: "Imagine that if instead of having to suffer the indignity of [the War on Christmas], imagine that instead of that, on a pretty consistent basis, you can't get a cab, even though you're a neurosurgeon, because you're black."
Footage of Obama saluting Marines with a cup in his hand as he exited Marine One elicited horror from right-wing media, who feigned shock at the "disrespectful" and "degrading" salute. Hannity accused Obama of having "complete disrespect for the men in women in uniform" and asked, "Would President Bush ever do that?"
Of course, several photos exist of Bush saluting troops while cradling his Scottish Terrier, Barney, in his arms. Stewart blasted Hannity for his "cognitive dissonance" on September 25, answering his question about Bush: "Would President Bush ever salute the troops with a cup of coffee in his hand? And the answer is no. Because his hands were too filled with dog."
Conservative media stood up as defenders of street harassment in October, building off their frequent denial of gender inequality to lecture women on being appreciative of catcalling and harassment. Fox's The Five, for instance, justified catcalls by arguing that men "mean it in a nice way" or in admiration of a woman's youth.
The Daily Show exposed the ridiculousness of such mentality on October 2, imaging a world where women gush over "competing in a beauty pageant on the way to work every day."
In November, Obama took executive action to prioritize the deportations of dangerous undocumented immigrants and grant certain other immigrants the right to stay and work in the U.S. The plan was met with cries of "tyranny" and "Emperor Obama" from right-wing media figures, who accused the president of issuing "executive amnesty."
Colbert mocked the hyperbole on the November 20 edition of The Colbert Report, playing Halloween horror music and declaring, "My great grandfather did not come here from Ireland to see this country overrun by immigrants":
When Eric Garner was killed after Staten Island police placed him in a chokehold, medical examiners ruled his death a homicide. But in December, a grand jury declined to indict the officer who killed him, reigniting protests around the country over racial discrimination in law enforcement. Garner's last words, "I Can't Breathe," became a rallying cry for justice -- and a target for conservative media. Fox News went to great lengths to defend the police and criminalize Garner, accusing those who highlighted systemic racism as disrespectful to law enforcement.
Stewart went on the offensive following the grand jury decision, refuting conservative's refrain that the criminal justice system is applied equally to all races:
Fox News hosts criticized a distorted version of Hillary Clinton's congressional testimony on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, falsely suggesting that the former secretary of state had been indifferent to the cause of the attack.
On December 10, the hosts of Outnumbered recalled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's January 2013 congressional testimony in a discussion on the day's hearing of the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi. Co-host Andrea Tantaros alleged Clinton said, "It doesn't really make a difference what happened on that night" of the attack, and continued, "whether it was men out for a walk." Co-host Kennedy agreed, suggesting Clinton's "strange and insulting line of reflection" evidenced indifference to the lives lost in the attacks. Kennedy went on, "[I]t actually makes a very big difference. If you've got a systemic problem with Al Qaeda who's ready to attack a vulnerable U.S. embassy, then yeah, that's vastly different than a couple people that just get together with some incendiary devices."
That's an egregious stretch of Clinton's remarks.
During her congressional testimony, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked Clinton about the State Department's role in editing Obama administration talking points to remove a reference to the Benghazi attackers' motive. In response, she dismissed the relevance of debating who edited a government memo, saying, "[T]he fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?" She emphasized, "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."
Fox figures have tirelessly attempted to scandalize Clinton's innocuous response, even jumping off the remarks to imagine her hypothetical assassination. The distortion has proved too egregious even for other members of the right-wing media -- Weekly Standard writer (and Fox contributor) Stephen Hayes called out his fellow conservatives for misrepresenting her remarks, saying Clinton's critics have "badly mischaracterized the now infamous question." According to Hayes, Clinton's "question, which came in the middle of a heated back-and-forth with U.S. senator Ron Johnson, was not so much a declaration of indifference as it was an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future."
The hosts of Fox & Friends were incensed that President Obama quoted scripture in a primetime address detailing his upcoming executive action on immigration, challenging him to a "scripture-showdown" and claiming it's "repugnant" for Obama to "lecture us on Christian faith." But just 48 hours earlier, the Fox hosts were lamenting that Obama doesn't make public expressions of his Christian faith often enough.
Obama quoted lines from the Bible in a November 20 address, explaining the nation's responsibility to reform unfair immigration enforcement policies. He declared, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too."
His use of scripture did not sit well with the hosts of Fox & Friends the next day. Co-host Tucker Carlson called it "repugnant" and argued, "For this guy specifically, the president who spent his career defending late-term abortion, among other things, lecturing us on Christian faith? That's too much. That is too much." Elisabeth Hasselbeck attempted to rebut the scripture Obama used with scripture of her own, quoting verses from Proverbs and saying she is "going to get into a scripture-showdown." According to Hasselbeck, Obama used the Bible to guilt people into supporting his executive action, and that's "not what the scholars behind the Bible would interpret as proper use, perhaps."
It was only 48 hours prior to their November 21 broadcast that Fox & Friends criticized Obama for not espousing Christian values often enough.
On November 19, the hosts promoted a "fiery" online op-ed penned by Chuck Norris, echoing his outrage that Obama had not publicly opposed a local school district's decision to remove references to religious holidays on the schools' calendars. The hosts then aired video of former President Ronald Reagan talking about Christmas and his Christian faith, saying, "Chuck Norris' point was, remember the time when American presidents weren't afraid to talk about traditional values, as Ronald Reagan did back in 1981." Hasselbeck remarked that Reagan's religious rhetoric gave her goosebumps.