Fox News And The Sagan Standard

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Famed astrophysicist and skeptic Carl Sagan is well known for popularizing the maxim that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This is apparently not a standard of proof that has reached the Fox News "brain room."

On Sunday, Fox News anchor Shannon Bream cited a "stunning claim in a new fundraising letter sent from the Democratic National Committee. It's asking for support by implying that alleged Republican efforts to suppress voters are worse than Jim Crow-era laws." The network's caption writers helpfully removed Bream's "implying," running throughout the segment the chyron, "DNC Fundraising Letter: GOP Efforts Are Worse Than Jim Crow":

Bream and Priebus

The recently passed statutes are no small thing; according to one estimate, they could make it "significantly harder" for more than 5 million voters to cast a ballot. But of course, it would be absurd for Democrats to claim the restrictions are "worse than Jim Crow," under which racial minorities were effectively banned from voting altogether, with those restrictions enforced by paramilitary campaigns of violence.

One would expect, in claiming that Democrats had made such an absurd claim, that Fox would have read to its audience the portion of the email in which that comparison was made. But that never happened; Bream instead introduced Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who attacked Democrats for their position on voter ID requirements.

The punch line, of course, is that the DNC fundraising email did not claim that the new voting rights restrictions are "worse than Jim Crow." Instead, the email cites the example of an African-American woman who "grew up in a Jim Crow-divided South, and saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965," but has "never had a problem voting -- until this year."

In other words, the appeal cites Jim Crow laws as an historic example of restrictions on the franchise and notes that Republicans are acting to enact restrictive voting laws today. There is no claim that the latter is worse. Fox simply made it up.

Extraordinary claim. No evidence. That's the Fox Standard.

Below the fold, video of the segment and the complete fundraising letter.

Democratic letter

Democratic letter

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Stories/Interests
Voter Fraud and Suppression
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