Fox News promoted a conspiracy theory that the racist fringe group known as the New Black Panthers is the secret driving force behind legal action taken against George Zimmerman, the man who killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin.
Conservative race-baiting activist J. Christian Adams, who gained conservative fame after Fox adopted his false smear that the Justice Department dropped charges against a black defendant accused of voter intimidation due to racial bias, appeared on Fox & Friends on July 15 to comment on Zimmerman's not guilty verdict.
Adams quickly demonstrated his New Black Panther fabulist tendencies. He baselessly claimed that the NAACP has "teamed up with" the New Black Panthers after the NAACP urged the Justice Department to pursue civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Adams then claimed that the New Black Panthers "were the spark behind" the investigation into Trayvon Martin's death after local police failed to arrest Zimmerman for weeks, adding that "the Justice Department responded to their demands." After Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked why it seems that "the Department of Justice is taking their marching orders from the New Black Panther Party," Adams recited a litany of cases in which the Justice Department intervened where minorities may have been adversely affected and claimed that they demonstrate "a radical racial agenda" from Attorney General Eric Holder. Adams concluded by asking if Holder "will listen to the New Black Panthers" when deciding whether to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Despite Adams' paranoid conspiracy theories that found a home on Fox News, the New Black Panther Party is nothing but a small racist fringe group. The Anti-Defamation League calls the organization "the largest organized anti-Semitic and racist black militant group in America," but notes that the group's attempts to do large-scale action have fizzled. The Southern Poverty Law Center has similarly labeled the group "a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization."
From the July 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media are repeating the wildly inaccurate claims of a political advertisement opposing a new police reform bill under consideration in New York City that attempts to bring the city's stop-and-frisk policy into constitutional compliance.
The captains union for the New York Police Department (NYPD) is currently promoting a ludicrous ad in opposition to the proposed Community Safety Act of the City Council of the City of New York. Upon release, the ad was immediately used as the June 19 front page of the New York Post, which dedicated an "exclusive" to the union's false claims that the police reform bill would "ban cops from identifying a suspect's age, gender, color or disability."
In fact, this bill would re-affirm the existing ban on illegal racial profiling by police, expand the class of protected groups, and provide previously unavailable avenues to litigation for civil rights abuses in state court. What the bill by its own terms explicitly would not do - contrary to the ad's depiction of a blindfolded police officer - is prohibit police from continuing to use race or any of the other protected group characteristics as part of a suspect's description. Rather, race and these other criteria cannot be the sole "determinative" factor proffered for a police stop of an individual, consistent with existing law. Absent other reasonable suspicion for the encounter, utilizing race alone as the reason for the police stop has long been illegal.
Following in the footsteps of the New York Post and CNN, however, right-wing media seemingly have not bothered to read the bill - or otherwise research the issue - and instead continue to base their entire analysis on the false ad.
Incorrectly describing the bill's rationale to be "identifying people by their identifying marks is offensive," the National Review Online quoted the Post's write-up of the ad and sarcastically wondered:
So, if a white male in his mid-thirties with a beard and a limp is wanted on suspicion of a crime, the police will be unable to broadcast that fact. Instead, they would have to say that they're looking for a person of undefined age, race, ability, and pogonic status -- and then describe his clothes. In a city of 7 million people, this will presumably work out perfectly, and it certainly won't lead to an increase in the frisking that the bill aims to reduce.
Fox News also repeated this blatant lie as straight news.
Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg railed against long-standing employment discrimination law, mangling a civil rights doctrine to incorrectly claim the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seeking to prevent companies from screening job applicants for misdemeanor or felony convictions.
The EEOC recently filed complaints against a BMW facility in South Carolina and the retailer chain Dollar General because they allegedly conducted improper background checks that disproportionately affected workers and applicants of color, a possible violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This type of racial discrimination has been held to be impermissible by the Supreme Court since 1971 and was most recently acknowledged to be good law by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2010.
Goldberg, however, attacked the complaints, claiming "to most regular folks out there listening to us, this has to sound crazy, because there is no racial discrimination in any traditional sense." From the June 18 edition of America Live:
As mentioned by Goldberg, EEOC is using the disparate impact enforcement approach of Title VII, which can prohibit employment policies that have a disproportionate effect on the basis of race without an acceptable employer justification. Not only has the Supreme Court affirmed this antidiscrimination enforcement under Title VII since 1971, Congress explicitly codified the doctrine in 1991. Nevertheless, right-wing media continue to pretend this type of statistical analysis is improper and have repeatedly smeared the Department of Justice for utilizing this area of civil rights law.
CNN's morning program New Day aired a troubling report on allegations that celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was the victim of domestic abuse, describing her as "subservient" and quoting critics on Twitter saying her subsequent silence on the apparent assault "makes her look weak."
British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband, Charles Saatchi, were photographed this week during what appeared to be a domestic assault. Multiple photographs show Saatchi's hand grasping Lawson's neck during an argument. He later admitted to assault.
Neil Sean, whom CNN identified as an "entertainment reporter," appeared in New Day's packaged report saying the photos showed Lawson being "sort of subservient":
SEAN: She's always portrayed as a very powerful woman, a woman in control. So for her to be so sort of subservient, I think, is a rather telling story.
Later, CNN's Pamela Brown highlighted criticisms from unidentified people on Twitter who are charging Lawson's subsequent silence on the alleged attack "makes her look weak":
BROWN: Of course, we still don't know the full story. But a lot of people waiting for Nigella to come out and say something. People are taking to Twitter saying she needs to come out and address this. That she's this powerful figure, and this makes her look weak, according to some people, that she's not - but this is all a matter of opinion.
Fox News seized on a recent claim that IRS agents were training with assault weapons to mainstream anti-government fears while downplaying the dangerous nature of working in law enforcement with the IRS -- officers routinely face death threats, and investigate cases ranging from drug trafficking to counter-terrorism. Fox contributor Monica Crowley even attempted to link the IRS to a widely debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory.
While investigating a debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory about the Department of Homeland Security, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) reported that IRS law enforcement agents were training with AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles. Fox host Martha MacCallum and Crowley used this report to stoke fears about the motives of the IRS, with Crowley stating, "why IRS agents, which are basically number crunchers ... would need to have weapon is a really outstanding question." Emphasis added:
MACCALLUM: And now we're learning that they're training, some of them, and there is a, we should point out, a law enforcement arm or section of the IRS so that, they, you know, they have that. But really? Semi-automatic weapons necessary to deal with taxes?
CROWLEY: Right. I mean, just when you hear -- think you've heard it all, Martha, something more outrageous comes at us here. I mean, why IRS agents, which are basically number crunchers and dealing with the public, dealing with the taxpayers, why they would need to have weapons is a really outstanding question. You mentioned that there's a law enforcement arm to the IRS, and that's true. But another outstanding question here is how widespread this is going to be in terms of is your local IRS agent going to be packing heat when you go in for your audit? We don't know. And I think when you get this news on the heels of the severe abuse of power that we've been talking about with the IRS in addition to the Department of Homeland Security also amassing massive numbers of weapons and ammunition, you have to wonder what are these domestic agencies doing with this, these kinds weapons and ammo?
MACCALLUM: And you would think local police would, you know, provide backup if necessary. We realize sometimes they go into some tough situations. We did a little research on this. No IRS enforcer has ever been killed in the line of duty, but they have been -- they've had to use those weapons eight times and accidentally fired the weapons eleven times over the last couple years, Doug, so that's not too reassuring.
But Duncan's report references the IRS' enforcement division, not, as Crowley speculated, civilian IRS employees. IRS' law enforcement officers are more than just "number crunchers." In fact, according to Politico, IRS investigations have resulted in "convictions of crimes ranging from offshore bank accounts, to Medicare fraud, to money laundering and drug trafficking operations." They also investigate crimes related to counter-terrorism. By virtue of working with the IRS, agents also receive a growing number of death threats, and have been targeted repeatedly by members of the violent "Tax Protest" movement, who have committed multiple attempted bombings, arsons, attempted kidnappings, and attempted murders. MacCallum's claim that no IRS "enforcer" has ever been killed in the line of duty is also false. IRS Agent Michael Dillon was shot and killed while attempting to collect a settlement made by the IRS with James F. Bradley.
Crowley then mentioned that this comes, "in addition to the Department of Homeland Security also amassing massive numbers of weapons and ammunition..." Her claim references a debunked conspiracy theory popularized by Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist with influence in right wing media, who recently claimed the government may have used a "weather weapon" to create the tornado that devastated Moore, OK.
Fox has routinely pushed conspiracy theories, including those of Alex Jones, while ignoring its own role in perpetuating these falsehoods. Fox's tendency to hype anti-government conspiracy theories continued recently when its president, Roger Ailes, pushed another widely debunked claim that, "the federal government is about to hire 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce healthcare."
A Wall Street Journal op-ed advocated for police around the country to use New York City's "stop-and-frisk" policy as a model, which has no proven evidence of reducing crime rates and has historically targeted racial minorities.
Stop-and-frisk, the controversial policy which allows police officers to stop and search individuals they consider to be suspicious, is currently under review in the case Floyd v. New York. The New York Police Department has conducted more than four million stops since 2002, and according to a New York Times editorial, a federal judge "noted that nearly 90 percent of the time the police found no criminal behavior." The suit charges the NYPD with illegally detaining these individuals "not because of suspicious behavior but because of their race."
In her Journal op-ed, Heather Mac Donald disputed these charges, claiming that stop-and-frisk policies in New York have "helped the city achieve an astonishing drop in violent crime" and should be New York's "most valued export" along with other NYPD policies to the rest of the nation. She claimed that stop-and-frisks overwhelmingly targeted blacks and Hispanics because "the preponderance of crime perpetrators, and victims, in New York are also minorities," and concluded the crime rate would increase nationwide if the policy were overturned.
But there is no evidence that stop-and-frisk has decreased crime in New York City. New York Magazine noted that while stop-and-frisks have "skyrocketed" in the past decade, non-fatal shootings in the city have remained steady. Stop-and-frisk has done little to identify illegal firearms, as a New York Times editorial noted, as "guns were seized in only 0.15 percent of all stops." And the New York Civil Liberties Union similarly explained that while total violent crime fell in New York City by 29 percent from 2001 to 2010, cities that did not have stop-and-frisk policies saw even larger violent crime declines in the same time period, by as much as "59 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in New Orleans, 49 percent in Dallas, and 37 percent in Baltimore."
In fact, the drop in violence in New York City is part of a trend that preceded widespread use of stop-and-frisk. As the Times reported, New York's sharpest drop in homicides came before 2002, the year stop-and-frisks started rising in New York. Forbes magazine provided the following graph, showing that "the number of murders decreased sharply between 1990 and 1998," while then remaining relatively steady during the period that stop-and-frisks increased dramatically:
While highlighting violent crime among minority groups, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly promoted the controversial practice of "stop-and-frisk," a policy that has not stopped crime but has raised significant constitutional concerns.
On The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly argued that violence among minorities has decreased thanks to a program called "stop-and-frisk." The policy, which has been featured most prominently in New York City, allows law enforcement officers to stop and search anyone they consider to be suspicious. The New York Times reported that "the approach led to close to 700,000 stops in 2011 alone." On his show, O'Reilly described the program by saying "the police take the guns and they pat down people," adding, "Stats aside, it's a fact that if you take stop-and-frisk away, more black Americans and more Hispanic Americans are going to die":
But, as Fox News contributor Alan Colmes pointed out, there is no evidence that stop-and-frisk has decreased crime. New York magazine pointed out that shootings have actually increased in New York City as incidents of stop-and-frisk soared:
From the May 28 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the May 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Since Kermit Gosnell's conviction of the murder of three infants, right-wing media have dismissed existing laws and the context of Gosnell's case as part of their ongoing campaign to connect his horrific crimes to legal abortion procedures.
From the May 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Daily Caller gave a platform to Robert Zimmerman Jr. to criticize the NAACP for getting involved in the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin -- whom Zimmerman's brother, George, is accused of killing -- despite his sending racially insensitive tweets to the NAACP earlier this year.
In a May 7 Daily Caller op-ed, Zimmerman Jr. asserted that the NAACP "thrives off racially divisive controversies." He also claimed that the NAACP failed to step up when George Zimmerman asked for help when assisting Sherman Ware, an African American man who had been beaten in Sanford, Florida, but the organization pounced on the murder of Martin by "spewing fabrications laced with racial innuendo":
In the wake of the NAACP's strange attempt to exploit the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I thought back to my discussion with [NAACP president Ben] Jealous about racial equality and my brother's rebuffed effort to enlist the NAACP to help Sherman Ware. Maybe Jealous' insistence that there will never be racial equality has something to do with the fact that his organization thrives off racially divisive controversies. After all, the NAACP had helped Ware, but only after his case had garnered significant media attention. Perhaps the NAACP can learn a few things from George. He acted when the NAACP wouldn't.
The Daily Caller failed to note Zimmerman's string of racially charged tweets made March 24 and directed at the NAACP, director Michael Moore, the NRA, and Breitbart.com. In one tweet, he attempted to draw comparisons between Martin and Georgia teen De'Marquise Elkins, who is charged with killing an infant. These tweets included one, since deleted, that included side-by-side photos showing Martin and Elkins with their middle fingers flipped up toward the camera with the following: "A picture speaks a thousand words... Any questions?"
He later tweeted reported quotes from Elkins and Martin:
Fox News figures are dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they're being used and exploited by Democrats, discounting the efforts they have made to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws.
On April 11, the Senate overcame a Republican-led filibuster that tried to block the beginning of debate on stronger gun laws with a 68-31 vote. The impetus for the new gun proposals was driven by the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 victims dead, most of them young children. President Obama had been urging Congress to act to strengthen guns laws in response to the shooting for some time.
According to several Fox News figures, Obama has been using the families of the Newtown shooting victims as props for a political agenda.
On April 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity called the effort to strengthen gun laws "naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families," while his guest Ann Coulter said that Democrats are "play[ing] with these victims." The previous night, Hannity stated that the president "is once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his April 11 radio show that Obama is "using the Newtown families to push for background checks." Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry similarly said on April 9 that "for the second straight day, the White House used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." On his April 9 radio show, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that taking some of the relatives of the Newtown shooting victims to Washington, DC on Air Force One to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
Such an attitude does a disservice to the many Newtown families that want tougher gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Several of the families appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes on April 7 to discuss what kind of gun violence prevention measures they would like to see signed into law, saying that universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines were important. After the vote that broke the GOP's threatened filibuster, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing those who tried block an up-or-down vote on new gun legislation, saying that "[t]he senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy."