Sean Hannity used his Fox News program to promote the fundraising efforts of a paid sponsor of his radio show. Hannity read an advertisement for the Tea Party Patriots (TPP) on his September 8 radio show, and then hosted the group's president on Fox the following day to plug their fundraising website.
At no point during the Fox segment was it disclosed that Hannity and TPP are financial partners.
Fox News previously responded to criticism over ethical issues related to Hannity's relationship with TPP, which has included fundraising emails and live read radio advertisements, by claiming the network is not connected to the sponsorship. TVNewser wrote in February that "Fox News tells us Hannity's involvement with the Tea Party group is for his radio show, and has nothing to do with his FNC show or role with the network."
But as The Washington Post's Erik Wemple noted, Fox's explanation is "a brilliant and meaningless distinction. So Hannity's radio show will have a financial connection to and a rooting interest in the Tea Party Patriots, but presumably 'Hannity' on Fox News will not. When the star commentator moves from radio mic to television camera, his institutional ties to the Tea Party Patriots will go poof in a cloud of media-platform dust."
Fox's ethical problems with Hannity got even worse last night when he helped his radio partner promote their immigration fundraising efforts on Fox just one day after doing an advertisement for them.
Fox News celebrated the Senate primary win of former Fox News contributor Scott Brown by offering him over four minutes of free air time to attack his Democratic opponent and promote his campaign without disclosing his previous affiliation with the network.
Brown clinched the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's Senate seat on September 9 and will now face Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen in the general election. He previously served as a senator for Massachusetts before losing to Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012, and he was hired by Fox News in 2013.
On the September 10 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade told Brown "I wasn't surprised that you won" and lobbed a series of softball questions at him that underlined how Brown had beaten expectations and pushed a message that "resonated" with voters. Kilmeade also vouched for Brown's work ethic, saying "I know when it comes to the endurance, no one is going to outwork you." At the end of the segment, Fox gave Brown a platform to plug his campaign website:
BROWN: People can go to ScottBrown.com. Let's go make Harry Reid the minority leader. Need your help. Thank you.
During Brown's last run for the Senate, the network gave his campaign fawning coverage and repeatedly offered him a platform to promote his views and directed viewers to his website for information on "how to help with donating and volunteering." Fox News contributors pleaded with viewers go online to "help elect" him and pushed arguments like "your 401(k) could do well" if Brown won. Fox hosts even played with a Scott Brown action figure during one segment.
Brown then spent over a year building his profile as a paid Fox contributor, during which time he attacked Shaheen and Senate Democrats over health care and burnished his New Hampshire bona fides after moving there. While Brown was employed at the network, Fox hosts repeatedly asked Brown if he planned to run again and even called it a "terrific" idea. Brown has said that working at Fox "really charged me up to" run for office again.
The network continued to help Brown during his New Hampshire primary. In August, the network aired an anti-Obamacare documentary tailor-made to boost Brown's campaign. Former Sen. Bob Smith, one of Brown's Republican primary opponents, criticized Fox's pro-Brown coverage as "shoddy" and "not fair and balanced."
Other former Fox News employees have benefited from favorable treatment during their runs for office. For instance, Rick Santorum said during his presidential campaign that his former job with Fox had "been big" and "helped folks remember who I am. ... It's a great platform, being able to talk about the current issues of the day."
National Review Online (NRO) attacked State Senator Wendy Davis (D-TX) for speaking out about her own experiences with abortion, calling her description of the abortions -- one of which saved her life -- "convenient," and downplaying the serious health problems that can lead women to choose the procedure.
In her upcoming memoir Forgetting to Be Afraid, Davis disclosed her personal experiences undergoing abortion procedures. Writing about the circumstances that led to her decisions, Davis described a medical abnormality that doctors said "likely was incompatible with life" that led her to terminate a desired pregnancy, and a second procedure following an ectopic pregnancy that threatened her life if it wasn't ended.
In a September 9 post, National Review Online responded to Davis' account by questioning the legitimacy of her story. Calling it "convenient," the post went on to "question the accuracy of her claims related to the abortion." The post challenged Davis to provide proof that her abortions were necessitated for medical reasons and went on to dismiss the medical rationale for these types of abortions (emphasis added):
But not all commentary has been focused on the harm Davis suffered post-abortion. Horne said that "only Ms. Davis knows the truth about her alleged abortions. We simply do not know the circumstances of Wendy Davis's apparent abortions." Horne noted that "it is extremely rare -- if not non-existent -- for a woman to have an abortion because the pregnancy posed a risk to her life. As for fetal anomalies, it simply isn't necessary to abort a child because he or she is sick or has a medical condition."
"It would be disturbing to think that she may be using her abortions as a way to gain political favor with Democratic voters," Horne added.
Horne's analysis matches that of a 2004 Guttmacher Institute survey of women who had abortions. The survey found that only 4 percent said that "their most important reason" for having an abortion was "physical problems with my health," and 3 percent named "possible problems affecting the health of the [baby]."
Maybe she had the abortion, maybe she didn't. Maybe her reasons were as compelling as she claims. But the reasons Davis gives for having had her abortions are unproven and statistically unlikely.
Although few women have late-term procedures, NRO dismisses the very real medical necessity for them to be available. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the majority of serious health conditions that impact both mother and fetus are not discovered until the 20th week of pregnancy or later -- an occurrence that explains why a woman would wait until this point in their pregnancy to undergo the procedure.
National Review Online columnist Mona Charen criticized the Department of Justice's efforts to address potential civil rights violations by the Ferguson Police Department, calling previous investigations in other jurisdictions "heavy on the implied racism" despite statistical evidence of racially biased and unconstitutional policing tactics.
On September 4, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ would investigate the Ferguson Police Department, an overwhelmingly white force with a history of serious misconduct, after one of its officers shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. These types of investigations are not unusual for police departments under suspicion for systemic abuse of authority and civil rights violations, but right-wing media have still accused Holder of playing "the race card" and have called the DOJ's involvement "inherently political" and "absolute garbage."
In a September 9 column, Charen followed the attacks on Holder and questioned the objectivity of the DOJ's investigation. She suggested that it "will be premised on the racist-white-cop-shoots-black-man narrative" because Holder acknowledged he understood the mistrust between the police and the Ferguson community both as the attorney general of the United States and as a black man who has been unfairly racially profiled in the past.
Charen went on to characterize Holder's involvement in Brown's case as another example of the DOJ's "extremely aggressive pattern vis-à-vis local police," and used as her example a recent investigation of the Newark Police Department that showed officers unjustifiably stopped and arrested a disproportionate number of residents of color. As far as Charen is concerned, the number of stops in Newark "might be too low," however, and the statistics "do not come close to proving police wrongdoing":
The Department of Justice recently concluded an investigation into the Newark, N.J., police department, which it found to have repeatedly violated the civil rights of Newark's black residents. The evidence? Justice found that while blacks account for 54 percent of Newark's population, they represent 85 percent of pedestrian stops and 79 percent of arrests.
Police misconduct must always be taken seriously and vigilantly corrected, but these numbers do not come close to proving police wrongdoing, far less denial of Newarkers' civil rights. To know whether 85 percent of pedestrian stops is a reasonable number or not, you need to know how many pedestrians of various races are committing crimes. If 90 percent of pedestrian criminals are black, then 85 percent might be too low. In any case, the relevant measure is the percentage of criminals, not, as the Justice Department explained, whether "officers ... disproportionately stopped black people relative to their representation in Newark's population."
Announcing the DOJ's report, Holder went heavy on the implied racism. "We're taking decisive action to address potential discrimination and end unconstitutional conduct by those who are sworn to serve their fellow citizens," he declaimed. It's possible that Newark police are engaged in wrongdoing, but the DOJ's use of statistics certainly didn't prove it. If the attorney general believes that black and Hispanic officers are stopping and arresting black people out of racial animus, he failed to say so, and if not, he's in effect arguing that all of the misconduct is attributable to the roughly one-third of the force that is white.
The Wyoming State Historical Society honored a book that asserts college student Matthew Shepard wasn't murdered because he was gay, but was instead killed in a drug-related incident - even though the book relies on wild extrapolation and questionable or anonymous sources and has been denounced as "fictional" by lawyers and investigators involved in the case.
On September 6, the society gave Stephen Jimenez's The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard an honorable mention in the nonfiction book category at a Gillette, WY luncheon.
Jimenez's book contends that Shepard's 1998 murder in Laramie was actually the result of Shepard's involvement in the methamphetamine trade - and that, through the meth trade, Shepard knew his attackers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, prior to their encounter at a bar the night they brutally bludgeoned Shepard. What's more, Jimenez claims that Shepard and McKinney were actually secret lovers - a claim McKinney has steadfastly denied and for which there's no evidence besides the word of a few shady Laramie characters. The Book of Matt dismisses strong evidence of McKinney's homophobia - including his use of the epithet "fag" to describe Shepard , his statement that he had "hatred for homosexuals" the night of the attack, and his reference to himself as a "drunk homofobick [sic]" - by blaming such language on McKinney's fondness for rap music.
People familiar with the case - including Henderson's appellate attorney, Albany County Sheriff Dave O'Malley, and Albany County Undersheriff Robert Debree -- condemned Jimenez's book as factually challenged, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation noted that The Book of Matt relied on "rumors and innuendo." Its biggest fans so far have appeared to be right-wing media personalities, who seized on the book to assail the LGBT community.
So why is the Wyoming State Historical Society honoring the book?
Rick Ewig, the society's president, told the Billings Gazette that the award "doesn't mean we accept the interpretation" of the book, suggesting that the society was honoring the book simply because it attempted to investigate part of Wyoming's history:
George Will promoted a "key issue" of a lobbying group in his Washington Post column just two weeks after giving the keynote address at its conference.
Journalism ethicists have recently raised concerns about Will's ethical practices, and have urged greater transparency and disclosure in his Post columns. Will has been criticized for failing to reveal his connections to Wisconsin's conservative Bradley Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a massive political group backed by the industrialist Koch brothers.
Will wrote an August 15 Washington Post column criticizing the "distracting crusade against the minor and sensible business practice called 'inversion,'" in which corporations leave the United States for a country with a lower corporate tax rate. He added that a "sensible corporate tax rate would be zero. This is so because corporations do not pay taxes, they collect them, necessarily passing on the burden as a cost of doing business. And studies suggest that corporations' workers bear a significant portion of the burden."
Will gave the keynote address to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Retail Advocates Summit on July 30 in Washington, D.C. NRF is a trade and lobbying organization that represents "the interests of the retail industry through advocacy, communications and education." The group's annual DC summit brings "retailers who are passionate about policies they believe in can come to Washington to be advocates for change."
The summit listed as one of its "key issues" "Lower business tax rates," writing that "Corporate tax reform would benefit retailers in a number of ways, like allowing companies to make decisions based on business strategies rather than tax implications and increasing investment and job creation by passing along tax reduction to their customers."
NRF states on its website that it "has led the retail industry's push for tax reform and is an original steering committee member of the RATE Coalition, which represents a broad range of industries dedicated to the issue. In the course of dozens of meetings with lawmakers, policy experts and opinion leaders, and through reports and testimony, NRF has emphasized that reform of the existing tax system--not bumper-sticker proposals to abolish the IRS or scrap the tax code--is the proper path to economic prosperity."
The lobbying group posted a July 22 public policy article arguing that inversions are "evidence of the need for the United States to reform its federal tax system" in the form of lower corporate taxes.
Will, who is also a Fox News contributor, is represented by Washington Speakers Bureau, which lists his fee as "$40,001 & up." NRF did not respond to a request for comment.
The Society of Professional Journalists recently updated its Code of Ethics to include new provisions regarding transparency. The group's ethics chair cited Will's AFP disclosure failure as an example of a conflict journalists should attempt to avoid.
When BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, Fox News pundits rushed to the corporation's defense with excuses ranging from pitiful to conspiratorial. But now the ruling is out, exposing the falsities of Fox's defense: BP was to blame for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Fox News pundits pulled out all the stops to deflect blame from BP when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded in 2010, killing 11 workers and causing devastating environmental impacts. They accused environmentalists and the government for "forcing" the company to drill further from shore and touted conspiracy theories. The network berated the Obama administration for "villainiz[ing]" and "demonizing" the corporation and compared Congressional hearings on the disaster to "Soviet-style" trials and "Inca ritual slaughter":
A federal court, however, ruled on September 4 that BP was largely responsible for the disaster -- not the scapegoats that Fox News tried to pin the blame on.
Watch the difference between Fox News' spurious defense and the facts:
A federal judge assigned 67 percent of the blame to BP, concluding that the corporation acted in "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct." The Wall Street Journal reported on several instances where the court found that BP forewent safety measures in the name of profit:
Struggling with a dangerously unstable oil well in April 2010, BP chose to drill an additional 100 feet into a fragile rock formation thousands of feet beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
That decision set in motion a series of failures that led to the deadly Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
"BP's decision to drill the final 100 feet was the initial link in a chain that concluded with the blowout, explosion and oil spill," Judge Carl Barbier wrote. The decision "was dangerous," he added, and "motivated by profit."
Video created by Coleman Lowndes.
Fox & Friends took issue with President Obama's $5 billion counterterrorism fund request to Congress to fight the Islamic State while almost simultaneously criticizing Obama for doing too little to address the threat.
On the September 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman, and Brian Kilmeade discussed President Obama's push for Congress to approve a $5 billion fund he proposed in May as part of a strategy to fight the Islamic State. According to The Hill, the fund "would bolster efforts against ISIS" and "could be expanded to help fund U.S. bombing against ISIS targets":
The United States has launched more than 140 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, and it's possible Obama will announce strikes against the group in Syria on Wednesday.
When the administration first requested the $5 billion fund earlier this summer, it asked for $2.5 billion to train and equip international partners and $1.5 billion for Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq to help with the influx of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. While both amounts would bolster efforts against ISIS, they would not cover additional U.S. military strikes.
The request also included $500 million "to address unforeseen contingencies related to counterterrorism or regional instability," the White House says, and that amount could be expanded to help fund U.S. bombing against ISIS targets in Iraq or Syria.
During the discussion, Doocy claimed that "When you hear the president talk, he still kind of minimizes the threat." The segment ran a clip of Brit Hume accusing Obama of downplaying the Islamic State threat, and Kilmeade criticized the president of not being "definitive" enough:
Later in the program, Kilmeade complained that the fund is "an exorbitant number that nobody agrees on." The segment's chyron read "Blank Check?" and Doocy highlighted criticisms from lawmakers calling the fund "way too much money" and a "slush fund."
But despite their criticisms of Obama for asking for too much, the hosts continued accusing the president of not doing enough to address the Islamic State. Kooiman suggested Obama is "trying to downplay the threat of ISIS so that somebody else will possibly do something about it so it's not the president's problem":
Fox & Friends has repeatedly claimed Obama is not doing enough to act on the Islamic State despite numerous actions taken by the administration, including its request for a counterterrorism fund and air strikes.
Amidst the National Rifle Association's ongoing outreach effort recruiting women, the gun group's radio show ran a segment that dismissed "so many" campus sexual assault cases as "two people being drunk at a party hooking up and then somebody, usually the girl, regretting it the next morning."
Since the re-launch of the NRA Women's Network in 2013, the NRA has greatly increased its outreach to women, a demographic that is far less likely to own guns than men and more likely to support firearm regulations the NRA opposes. Women are also disproportionately targeted by men with gun violence, often in the domestic violence context.
The September 5 edition of the NRA's radio show, Cam & Company, featured a discussion of campus sexual assault that misled on campus sexual assault statistics and suggested women bore some responsibility for being assaulted if they were drinking.
NRA News host Cam Edwards hosted the Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow to discuss a National Public Radio story about men accused of sexual assault on campus who say they did not receive adequate due process during disciplinary proceedings.
The Society of Professional Journalists, the "leading professional association of working journalists," overhauled its Code of Ethics to include new transparency provisions partly in response to 60 Minutes' Benghazi debacle and CNN's failure to disclose Newt Gingrich's political ties, the group's ethics chair said Monday.
He also cited Washington Post columnist George Will's failure to disclose his ties to conservative group Americans for Prosperity as the type of conflict of interest journalists should seek to avoid.
On September 6, SPJ announced the release of its first new Code of Ethics in 18 years, Smith said. The group explained that the "code is voluntarily embraced by thousands of journalists, regardless of place or platform, and is widely used in newsrooms and classrooms as a guide for ethical behavior."
Kevin Smith, outgoing SPJ ethics chair, told Media Matters the revisions were done in part to address the growing problems with transparency, including news outlets failing to disclose clear conflicts of interest.
"I think there is a lot of room to criticize a lot of media today for their lack of transparency," Smith said following the release of the new code on Saturday. "On Fox, I've seen it happen, on CNN, the Wall Street Journal, these conflicts that show up, they do not reveal them in the story."
In the release announcing the changes, SPJ stated:
The idea of transparency makes a debut in this code. Although this code does not abdicate the principle of being independent of conflicts that may compromise integrity or damage credibility, it does note more strongly that when these conflicts can't be avoided, it is imperative that journalists make every effort to be transparent about their actions.
Asked which specific incidents prompted the change, Smith pointed to two major ethical failures that emerged in late 2013.
In October 2013, 60 Minutes aired a since-retracted segment promoting a book written by Dylan Davies, a supposed eyewitness to the 2012 Benghazi attacks whose accounts were later discredited. In its initial segment, CBS failed to disclose that Davies' book was published by Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions, which is owned by CBS Corporation.
"Once they found out [a CBS company] was publishing, wouldn't it make sense there were some internal pressures on Lara Logan to rush that vetting?" Smith said. "I think the book deal is what forced that interview on to TV before it was ready. They could interview him and promote the book."
Smith also cited CNN failing to disclose Crossfire co-host Newt Gingrich's financial contributions -- through his PAC -- to various politicians he had discussed or interviewed on-air. CNN actually changed its ethics policy to make clear that Gingrich's actions were not violations.
"That's problematic, right?" Smith said about CNN. "Don't you believe the audience deserves a full accountability of someone who has benefited financially or contributed their work to a particular candidate?"