Right-wing media websites continued to undermine their credibility in 2014 by peddling a number of false, ridiculous, and bigoted smears. Here are the top smears from conservative websites The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and The Washington Free Beacon.
Fox News personalities co-opted a fatal hostage situation in Sydney, Australia to justify torturing terror suspects.
Conservative media celebrated the effectiveness of torture in response to news that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee would release its report on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) detention and interrogation program, attacking the Senate for releasing the report and disputing the report's findings. Military and interrogation experts have emphasized that torture is an ineffective interrogation technique, and human rights groups support the release of the report.
Fox News aired less than 30 seconds of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's press conference following a grand jury decision not to indict a police officer for the choking death of Eric Garner. The speech ran nearly 17 minutes and was aired in full by CNN and MSNBC.
On December 3, a New York City grand jury voted not to bring criminal charges against a police officer accused in the choking death of Garner who died after being arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. An earlier autopsy by New York City's medical examiner ruled that Garner's death "was a homicide resulting from the chokehold and the compression of his chest by police officers."
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the decision during a press conference in Staten Island on December 3. The Mayor's speech, which lasted nearly 17 minutes, attempted to calm racial tensions in the city.
On November 21, the Republican-led House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the findings of its investigation into the September 2012 attacks on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, debunking many right-wing media myths about the attacks. Despite the fact that this is just the latest of several reports that clear Obama administration officials of any wrongdoing, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reappointed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to lead a special committee in furtherance of the right-wing Benghazi hoax.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly undermined months of claims from her network peers when she admitted to guest Jennice Fuentes that President Obama's upcoming executive action does not constitute "amnesty." Kelly, who has herself used the "amnesty" label to discuss the president's coming order, acknowledged that the term is a dog whistle conservative media have exploited to stoke opposition to immigration reform.
Obama is set to announce a new set of executive actions that will allow as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for protection from deportation based on the time they have been in the U.S. and their family ties.
On the November 19 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly acknowledged that the president is not actually pursuing "amnesty," because "amnesty is citizenship and that's not what [Obama] is talking about." Kelly also explained how conservatives purposely misuse the word "amnesty" for political gain: "That's a hot-button term that the right uses to sort of get people upset."
Kelly has invoked amnesty to warn against the action, as recently as July. According to Nexis transcripts of the July 30 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly said that Obama may be preparing to "drop a bomb like amnesty for 5 million illegal immigrants."
KELLY: And we should tell the viewers that this Democratic push saying they're gonna impeach him, they're gonna impeach him is working. They pulled in two million dollars just over the past weekend by these blast e-mail alerts saying impeachment. But the question is, I mean, Boehner came out today and said we're not gonna impeach him. OK? So, just stop that. However, what's true today may not be true tomorrow. And there's a report over the weekend from the Associated Press suggesting the president may be getting ready to use an executive action to basically give amnesty or some sort of massive provision for up to 5 million illegal immigrants in this country. And what would that do?
KELLY: Joining us now with more is Andy McCarthy, author of Faithless Execution, Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment. And let me just start, I want to get to the book and the controversy over the word impeachment and how people circle this back to you in a minute. But the notion that the president would come out, sort of get people -- the Democrats would come out and get people saying, impeachment, that's crazy. What -- that's crazy. Impeachment, come on. And then drop a bomb like amnesty for 5 million illegal immigrants to set the Republicans up to then say, now that's impeachable, but they've already laid the foundation for how crazy the notion of impeachment is. I mean, if that's what's actually happening here, pretty sophisticated political strategy, is it not?
KELLY: So, if the president wants to go ahead, if he's confident now he's not gonna get impeached because of everything we've discussed, what do you think would happen if he granted amnesty for five million people?
For months, Fox has labeled the president's plan amnesty. On November 13, Fox host Bill O'Reilly said Obama's executive action "is essentially an amnesty for millions of people." Earlier in the month, Fox host Sean Hannity said that "immigration law does not allow for the amnesty that the president wants to grant." In early August, Fox co-host Jedediah Bila called Obama's plan "executive amnesty to millions of people."
ABC's World News Tonight pushed the myth that building the Keystone XL pipeline could create up to 40,000 jobs. In fact, the pipeline is expected to create as few as 50 permanent jobs.
During a November 18 report on the failed Senate vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, World News Tonight anchor David Muir stated that "many argued it could have created thousands of American jobs." ABC White House correspondent Jonathan Karl added that "the jobs estimates range from 4,000 to 40,000 jobs. Proponents say it not only creates jobs, but it could lead to energy independence."
But PolitiFact has classified similar claims that the construction of the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs to be "mostly false," because a vast majority of the jobs would be temporary, and it "does not amount to tens of thousands of full-time jobs in the most common sense of employment." According to PolitiFact, "the State Department estimates the operation of the pipeline will only create 35 permanent, full-time jobs and 15 temporary contractors" once construction is complete.
The pipeline would also do little for "energy independence." Much of the oil that would be carried by the pipeline is slated for export, and U.S. imports of oil would be minimally affected by the supply that would flow through the pipeline.
Fox News dishonestly claimed that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber's comment that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "was written in a tortured way" to minimize criticism proves that the law was passed deceitfully. In fact, Congress routinely crafts bills to fit legislative rules and politically acceptable limits, and health care reform was transparently debated for years with input from Republicans.
According to Vox, Fox News "broke the rules for exit polls" in its live coverage of election results, when anchor Martha MacCallum reported on the breakdown of how Independents voted in the New Hampshire Senate race.
Vox argued that Fox's decision to do so ran counter to a binding agreement not to leak results until the polls have closed.
Just after 6 p.m., MacCallum reported that Republican Senate candidate and former Fox News employee Scott Brown needs Independents to vote for him and highlighted exit poll results showing that 50 percent of Independents voted for Brown, while 49 percent voted for incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Here's Vox's explanation as to how Fox violated standards on exit polling: (emphasis original)
The media outlets running the exit poll want to be able to describe who's voting, and who they're voting for, to the public as early as possible. But they don't want to have any influence on who ends up voting -- they don't want anyone deciding not to vote because they've already seen what the exit polls say, and they don't think their vote will matter. (There's some evidence that this happened back in 1980, when some outlets projected that Ronald Reagan would win the presidential election before polls closed on the West Coast.)
In some countries, like the United Kingdom, it's actually illegal for any media outlet to report exit poll results before the polls close. In the US, it's not illegal, but there's a binding agreement among the media outlets that run the exit poll that none of them is allowed to leak any results before the polls have closed.
Fox News has actively promoted Brown's campaign for months. During the past weekend, Fox re-aired a documentary about health care reform in New Hampshire that promoted him. The morning of the election, Fox tried to undercut Brown's opponent with a last-minute bogus conspiracy theory that Shaheen "was involved in [an] IRS scandal." Brown's campaign later promoted the Fox segment, which called the claim "a death sentence" for Shaheen's reelection chances.
UPDATE: Fox News has responded to Vox's charge. In an email to TPM, Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente denied that the network violated an agreement on exit poll results:
Polls didn't officially close in New Hampshire until 8 p.m. and Fox's report came nearly two hours before. So did Fox News break the rules?
Media outlets frequently share driblets from the exit data -- demographic information and questions on voters' mood -- all while dutifully sitting on the ultimate top line until the polls close. In an email to TPM on Tuesday night, Fox News said that's precisely what it did, too.
"According to the National Election Pool (NEP), we are permitted to report exit poll results as long as we don't characterize the outcome of the race which we did not do earlier this evening," Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente said in a statement.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee advised Republicans to "grow a spine" and oppose marriage equality, blasting court rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans as "the betrayal of our Constitution."
During an October 7 interview with the anti-gay American Family Association's radio program, Huckabee said that he's "utterly exasperation with Republicans ... who have abdicated on this issue," and warned that he might leave the Republican Party and become an independent if the GOP stops fighting marriage equality. The former governor of Arkansas is reportedly considering a run for president in 2016.
Huckabee reiterated his criticism in the opening monologue of his October 11 Fox News show. Huckabee denounced the court decisions that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal in several more states, emphasizing that judges overruled "the collective votes of the people themselves" in a "betrayal of our Constitution." He concluded that he is "utterly disgusted" with Republican governors and other officials that complied with the court orders overturning same-sex marriage bans, arguing that they should "[g]row a spine, show a modicum of knowledge about the way we govern ourselves, and lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way."