Fox News' Sean Hannity is increasingly -- and dangerously -- taking on the role of PR agent for a Nevada rancher defying the federal government with violent threats.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has quickly become a darling of right-wing media over his decades-long refusal to pay federal government fees required to allow his cattle to exploit public lands. In July 2013, a federal court ordered the rancher to remove his cattle from the public property or they would be confiscated and sold to pay off the $1 million in fees and trespassing fines Bundy owes. When that confiscation began this month, the rancher took his battle to conservative media, who held him up as a folk hero battling big government invasion into private property rights and states' rights.
Bundy's defiance has been marked by violent and revolutionary rhetoric toward the federal government, hints of a bloody confrontation cheered on by the right-wing fringes who have repeatedly compared the situation to notorious and deadly standoffs like Ruby Ridge and Waco. For example, when Bundy appeared on his radio program, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones posited that if Bundy's supporters confronted federal agents at the auction for Bundy's confiscated cattle, which the rancher encouraged, it "could be how the shot heard round the world happens in this case." Jones warned that "this could turn into 1776 very quickly."
But such dangerous hyperbole isn't confined to the fringes. Increasingly, Sean Hannity's promotion and defense of the rancher's actions and threats is starting to resemble that of far-right extremists.
Hannity interviewed Bundy on his Fox program on April 9, sympathizing with the rancher's claims and arguing that allowing Bundy's cattle to graze on public lands "keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer."
His rhetoric had noticeably escalated two days later when he invited Bundy onto his radio program The Sean Hannity Show. Hannity argued that federal agents have "drawn the wrong line in the sand here," praising Bundy because he "like[s] anybody that's willing to fight."
Right-wing media responded to news that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning by lobbing personal attacks against the secretary and demonizing health care reform.
Desperate to keep its Benghazi hoax alive, Fox News went into overdrive to promote Senate GOP calls for a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks in Libya, an effort replete with debunked myths and conspiracy theories.
Alongside Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Kelly Ayotte (NH), on April 9 Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) demanded a special select committee to answer the trio's so-called "unanswered questions" surrounding the Benghazi attacks.
Right on cue, that evening Fox's Special Report dedicated over 15 minutes out of its hour-long program to the attacks, discussing Benghazi in a news segment, with a panel, and even hosting McCain himself to push debunked myths.
Several times in his interview with McCain, Baier pressed the senator on the need for a select committee to investigate, allowing the senator to claim, "In the Senate we've never done anything [on Benghazi] because of the Democrat majority, but obviously we wish that there had been a select committee":
Later, Fox's On The Record provided Sen. Graham with a platform to continue the push for a select committee investigation.
Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston invoked the ire of Fox News on April 7 by praising the Affordable Care Act during a recent interview, saying President Obama's health care program "is fantastic" because "I don't think basic health care should be a privilege of the rich."
The co-hosts of Fox's The Five were confused by Cranston's support of the law and dismissed it as propaganda. As co-host Greg Gutfeld argued, "How weird is it that a guy who plays a dark, brooding anti-hero is really a puppet to the man. I mean, he just propagandized for President Obama."
Cranston's Breaking Bad character, Walter White, of course, famously resorted to cooking meth after a cancer diagnosis because his sub-par health insurance did not cover his treatment -- a predicament Walt might not have faced had he been covered under the Affordable Care Act.
According to the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, if you just ignore the millions of Americans who have gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act, then it's clear that the law is a huge mess.
Over seven million Americans enrolled in health insurance through the ACA's exchanges by the end of the open enrollment period last week, a number that met the Congressional Budget Office's original sign-up estimate.
But if we "put aside" that success and "step back," Noonan argued in her April 3 column, then it becomes clear that the ACA is a "huge, historic mess." In other words, if you pretend that millions haven't been insured by the ACA, it's obvious that the law is an utter failure.
And trying to repeal this mess is comparable to fighting a "manic" sea creature underwater:
Fox News repeatedly cut away from live coverage of a House Benghazi hearing when Democrats held the floor.
Former deputy CIA director Michael Morell testified on April 2 before the House Intelligence Committee about the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Fox afforded extensive live coverage to the hearing, beginning with opening statements from Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-CA), and Morell.
For nearly an hour, Fox stayed live on the hearings without interruption, airing over 20 minutes of questioning from the Republican chairman. But when Rogers yielded the floor to Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (CA) to question Morell, Fox cut away to hear "analysis" from a network contributor, breaking live footage for the first time.
As the hearing went on, a pattern emerged -- out of the five Democrats who asked questions at the hearing, four saw Fox break live coverage less than a minute into their time, with the network choosing instead to air commentary or go to commercial break. Fox allowed the questioning of only one Democrat, Ruppersberger, to air for over 60 seconds. In contrast, the network aired a majority of Republican congressmen's questions, cutting away from only one Republican, Rep. Joe Heck (NV).
In all, Republicans were granted live coverage for an average of 5 minutes of questioning, while time given to Democrats averaged 3:16 minutes (an average heavily helped by coverage of Ruppersberger's questions).
Fox has repeatedly campaigned for more Benghazi hearings, no matter their efficacy, and celebrated when their demands were answered. It only follows that the network would politicize its coverage of these repetitive hearings as well.
Fox News' newest questions surrounding the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, were already addressed several months ago by the Senate and intelligence community's investigations into the attacks.
Ahead of former deputy CIA director Michael Morell's testimony this week before a Republican-led House committee on Benghazi, conservative media are reviving their accusation that the Obama administration changed talking points after the attack for political reasons. According to the right-wing conspiracy theory, the CIA station chief in Libya told Morell via email that the attacks were not an escalation of protests over an anti-Islam video, yet Morell didn't use that email to delete the talking points' references to demonstrations later used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice on the Sunday news shows.
On April 1, The Washington Times cited anonymous sources to claim that Morell told the White House and State Department that the station chief "had concluded that there was no protest but senior Obama administration and CIA officials in Washington ignored the assessment," an accusation Fox News quickly promoted.
America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer speculated that "if you can prove that" Morell told the White House about the station chief's email, "that would be a strong indictment." Fox contributor John Bolton claimed that "Morell was trying to please his masters in the White House" by allowing references to protests to stay in the talking points.
The conspiracy theory has already been publicly addressed and debunked.
On March 25, Hobby Lobby, a secular, for-profit corporation, plans to wrongly argue before the Supreme Court that emergency contraception, a form of preventive service like birth control that all health insurance policies must cover under the Affordable Care Act, amounts to abortion, and thus violates the corporation's religious liberty. Here's what media should know about the contraception at issue.
In the four years since the signing of the Affordable Care Act, right-wing media has engaged in a campaign to undermine the law in any way possible, frequently resorting to lies, myths, and misinformation. Among the most prominent and long-lasting of these myths are claims that the law amounts to socialized medicine, will harm the economy, provides federal funding for abortions, kills thousands of jobs, and of course, creates death panels.
To find out the truth behind other health care reform myths, visit Media Matters' Mythopedia project.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has been missing since March 8, and the search for its whereabouts has consumed media attention worldwide. But to Fox News, the missing airliner is reminiscent of Benghazi.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to link the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to a variety of unrelated events, often invoking the tragedy to attack President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or to deflect conservatives from scrutiny. Inside the right-wing bubble, the Chris Christie bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, Monday Night Football, and even openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam are all opportunities to invoke Benghazi.
It was only a matter of time before Fox brought the same mentality to its coverage of the missing plane: