Despite dedicating numerous segments to comments made by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber about tax credits established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that appear to support a right-wing challenge to their legality, Fox News' programming on weeknights has ignored remarks made by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) that undermine the legal theory behind this upcoming Supreme Court case.
In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the radical attempt to dismantle the ACA based on an extremely literal reading of the law. The challengers in King, and several other identical lawsuits, argue that the IRS is prohibited from providing essential subsidies to insurance consumers who live in states that refused to set up their own health care exchange websites, because the law says that subsidies are unavailable for those who purchased insurance through the default federal exchange. If this interpretation is correct, millions of Americans will be unable to afford their insurance premiums -- a result that seems at odds with a bill with the word "affordable" in its title.
Nevertheless, the legal arguments in King have been hyped regularly by Fox News and right-wing media, especially after a video of Gruber came to light in which he seemed to agree with the King challengers that subsidies were not available to consumers in states who used the federal exchange. According to a search of the Nexis database, Fox News' weeknight programming since November 1 has frequently mentioned Gruber in connection to the King case, airing 25 segments that mentioned Gruber's comments in conjunction with the ACA lawsuit. Many of those segments featured a Fox host, contributor, or guest suggesting that Gruber's remarks were so significant that they would influence the outcome in King. Most notably, host Bill O'Reilly repeatedly claimed that the justices would be swayed by Gruber, stating on his November 18 show, "Believe me, the Supreme Court is taking notes."
Meanwhile, those same shows have ignored a pair of videos that show Walker apparently undermining the legal theory behind King.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is defending his controversial allegation about purported immigrant "no-go zones" in Europe by citing the work of a group headed by Fox News contributor John Bolton. Fox News has helped propagate the myth, and was recently forced to repeatedly apologize for its role in spreading the claims.
During a speech this week in London, Jindal claimed some immigrants are trying "to colonize Western countries because setting up your own enclave and demanding recognition of a no-go zone are exactly that." He also said, according to prepared remarks: "In the West, non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which provided them a new home."
Jindal's remarks echoed a similar falsehood promoted by frequent Fox News guest Steve Emerson. The purported terrorism expert claimed that the English city of Birmingham is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." Emerson and Fox News were subsequently forced to apologize. Fox also previously cited the alleged existence of "no-go zones."
The Washington Post has allowed opinion writer Ed Rogers to advocate for the positions and interests of his lobbying firm's clients in numerous anti-environmental pieces. The Post and Rogers have not disclosed his major conflicts of interest even though his firm received over $1.6 million in fees in 2014 alone from energy and transportation clients like Chevron, Caterpillar, and the National Mining Association.
Rogers is a Republican strategist who chairs and co-founded the BGR Group with former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) in 1991. As the Post itself has reported, the firm is one of the top Washington D.C. lobbying firms, having banked more than $15 million in 2014. The newspaper's reporters have described Rogers as a "Republican mega-lobbyist," "lobbyist extraordinaire," and "a go-to guy for Republicans."
One of BGR's practice areas is energy and transportation, where it professes to having "the industry expertise, Capitol Hill experience and knowledge of government to successfully advocate our clients' public policy goals." Rogers is listed as a group leader for the issue area.
On his Post "Insiders" blog, Rogers frequently advocates for positions favored by his energy and transportation clients. While the Post notes that Rogers is "a political consultant" and "chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group," the publication fails to disclose Rogers' firm's clients and conflicts of interest in his anti-environmental posts. For instance:
Emily Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, told the crowd at a January 19 gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia that the District "is not part of America" and told gun advocates in attendance that she is part of "this fight that we're all in."
Miller was one of several speakers at a rally organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), an extremist gun rights organization. VCDL participates in an annual Lobby Day event held each year at the Virginia State Capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Many of VCDL's supporters attend the event with openly carried handguns and assault weapons, which is legal in Virginia. Advocates for gun safety also hold a separate rally each year.
While flanked by a man armed with an AR-15 style assault weapon and an openly carried handgun, Miller told the crowd, "It's great to be in Virginia, which is part of America where you recognize the Second Amendment. I came from D.C. this morning, which is not part of America, because they don't recognize the Second Amendment."
What happened to the extended victory lap?
Convinced that last year's midterm losses for Democrats signaled the effective end of Barack Obama's presidency and a resounding victory for all-things conservative and Republican ("On Fox News, there were smiles all around"), just three weeks into the new year Fox News is left wondering what happened to the "lamest" of the lame duck presidents. The one Fox News was going to mock for two more years while trying to tarnish his legacy.
Rebounding to approval ratings not seen since 2013, Obama, instead of floundering, is riding a crest of post-midterm successes, while Americans reward him for the country's rebounding economy. The result: Obama's the one quietly circling the victory track.
"You can hardly tell from our NBC/WSJ poll that the Republican Party was the big winner from the midterm elections just two months ago," noted NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann this week. "Somehow, Obama and the Democrats stole the Republicans' post-election honeymoon."
If that didn't sting badly enough, Fox at the same time continues to wrestle with the unfolding crisis over the network's demonstrably false and stunning claim that some parts of Europe, including in France as well as Britain's second largest city, Birmingham, have become Islamic and are "no-go zones" for non-Muslims, including for British law enforcement.
The misstep became an international punch line, with observers in Europe guffawing at Fox News' trademark ignorance. "When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fool's Day," British Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV News. "This guy is clearly a complete idiot," he said, referring to Steve Emerson, who Fox had hosted to discuss recent terror attacks in Paris.
In a rare move for Fox, it apologized repeatedly for its colossal "no-go zone" blunder. Yet the story continues to haunt the network: Paris' mayor, Anne Hidalgo, announced on Tuesday that the city might sue Fox News over the bogus claim that portions of Paris remain cordoned off from non-Muslims. "The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced," Hidalgo told CNN.
Bottom line: It's not even February and Fox News is already having a really bad year.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that he had no role in hyping the myth that Muslim "no-go zones" exist throughout France, just days after Fox News apologized for spreading the fiction. In fact, O'Reilly previously cited the so called "no-go zones" as one of the contributing causes of the Paris terror attacks.
On January 17, Fox correspondent Julie Banderas apologized for the network's coverage "regarding the Muslim population in Europe" in the days following the terrorist attacks in Paris, explaining that there is no credible evidence to support the existence of Muslim "no-go zones." Several other Fox hosts offered additional apologies throughout the day.
On the January 20 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, during a discussion about the Parisian mayor Anne Hildalgo's announcement that she intends to sue Fox News for its "prejudiced" coverage following the attacks, O'Reilly denied that the Fox apology was about the Muslim "no-go zone" myth in France. He insisted that it was only about Steve Emerson's ludicrous claim that the entire English city of Birmingham was Muslim-only and nobody else went to the city. O'Reilly also denied that he had anything to do with the "no-go zones" claim (emphasis added):
O'REILLY: All right, we got a minute. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said she's going to sue Fox News for reporting on so-called no-go zones in Paris. They're dominated by Muslims and police hesitate to go in there -- at least that has been the reportage in some places. I didn't have anything to do with this. But I will point out that the mayor is a socialist.
But on January 9, O'Reilly cited Muslim "no-go zones" in France as a cause behind the terror attacks in Paris (emphasis added):
O'REILLY: France brought a lot of this terrorism on itself. We just talked about the no-go zones that they allow. They allow, 10 percent of the population is Muslim. They are all in there, they're radicalized, they don't assimilate.
UPDATE: O'Reilly also claimed that Fox News "isn't even seen in France, because they block it." But The Washington Post's Erik Wemple reports that a Fox spokesperson confirmed that the network reaches 13,680 homes in France but has a limited reach because it is only available in English and broadcasts on a U.S.-based schedule.
Ahead of President Obama's sixth State of the Union address, Fox News speculated that the president will boast about the nation's improving economy as a way to distract Americans from global unrest. However, pundits on the same network - even the same show - have repeatedly accused Obama of ignoring the economy and distracting voters with topics like national security and the minimum wage.
On the January 20 edition of Happening Now, Fox's White House correspondent Ed Henry reported that Obama would focus a large part of his 2015 State of the Union speech on the rebounding U.S. economy, which has recently logged strong jobs growth and improving public sentiment. But Henry suggested the real reason behind Obama's optimistic economic note is to distract voters from upheaval overseas, especially in Yemen:
HENRY: Remember, it was only a few months ago that the president and his aides were holding up Yemen as a success story on his counter-terror efforts. That has fallen apart, as has the president's claim that al-Qaeda is on the run, so they want to talk a lot more about the economy. Not so much on national security.
In contrast, Fox hosts previously accused the Obama administration of using foreign policy and national security to distract from issues like the economy. In May 2011, just days after the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) "when do we start talking about the economy again?" Personalities on the network also dismissed a historic deal with Iran to limit its nuclear capabilities as a distraction from problems with the Affordable Care Act.
Conservative media figures have also accused Obama of distracting voters from the economy by supporting a minimum wage hike and intervening in the Syrian Islamic State crisis. On Fox's Outnumbered, panelist Dr. Keith Ablow theorized that even the World Cup mania was a distraction concocted to help Obama.
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.
Days after Fox News apologized for promoting an embarrassing falsehood about England having "no-go zones" controlled by Muslim extremists, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) repeated the myth during a speech and on CNN.
Last week, frequent Fox guest Steve Emerson -- part of the network's stable of extremists who lead its conversation about Islam -- provoked international outrage with the false claim that the city of Birmingham is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." (British Prime Minister David Cameron described Emerson as a "complete idiot," for example.)
As the Emerson controversy raged on, another Fox News guest argued that governments should "put razor wire around" the mythical "no-go zones" and catalogue the residents. On Saturday, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro apologized for Emerson's "incorrect" comments, telling viewers, "We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who have been offended."
Despite Fox's retraction, the myth of no-go zones apparently lives on. During a speech in London, Gov. Jindal reportedly alleged that some immigrants are seeking "to colonize western countries, because setting up your own enclave and demanding recognition of a no-go zone are exactly that."
Appearing in an interview from London, Jindal also told CNN correspondent Max Foster that he's heard "from folks here" that "there are neighborhoods where women don't feel comfortable going in without veils" and "where police are less likely to go."
Foster challenged Jindal's assertion, noting that "I've lived here a long time, I don't know of any no-go zones for non-Muslims." In response, Jindal said "the radical left absolutely wants to pretend like this problem's not here."
Appearing on The Bill Press Show, Media Matters senior fellow Karen Finney discussed how Jindal was still repeating the falsehood.
Jindal's repetition of a Fox-fueled myth is representative of the role the network plays in misinforming conservatives. Falsehoods about death panels in health care reform, weapons of mass destruction, economics, and leaders like President Barack Obama, Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Hillary Clinton have all been grist for the mill on Fox and have become a part of conservative folklore.