During a discussion about the role of political operatives who also appear as television pundits, Howard Kurtz highlighted Karl Rove's role in "pushing an agenda" for Republicans in his role as a political analyst Fox News while raising millions to back GOP candidates.
On the September 8 edition of Fox News' #MediaBuzz, Kurtz and his panel discussed a recent White House meeting on Syria with former White House staffers including Stephanie Cutter, Robert Gibbs, and David Axelrod, who currently appear as pundits on CNN and MSNBC.
Australians will head to the polls tomorrow to decide whether or not to reelect Labor Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Rudd was not only forced to run against Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party, but also faced an avalanche of attacks from Rupert Murdoch, who used his newspapers to manipulate the election in such a heavy-handed way that even Roger Ailes and the Fox News editorial staff would blush.
The Hollywood Reporter noted:
Murdoch-owned papers, which control about 70 percent of the local market, have run covers featuring Rudd as a Nazi, as Col. Klink from Hogan's Heroes and as Mr. Rude from the Mr. Men kids books. News Corp's Daily Telegraph in Sydney has dropped all pretense of impartiality, publishing a picture of Rudd under the headline, "Let's Kick This Mob Out!"
The election was so important to Murdoch that, according to Australian media, he decamped Col Allan from the New York Post halfway around the world to inject some of the metropolitan tabloid's hard edge into his Oz publications.
Murdoch's behavior was so over the top that the head of the Australian Press Council felt the need to step in. "Newspapers that profess to inform the community about its political and social affairs are under an obligation to present to the public a reasonably comprehensive and accurate account of public issues," said the group's chair Julian Disney. "As a result, the Council believes that it is essential that a clear distinction be drawn between reporting the facts and stating opinion. A paper's editorial viewpoints and its advocacy of them must be kept separate from its news columns."
Murdoch's power was so vast that when Getup.org, one of Australia's largest progressive grassroots organizations, decided to run an ad criticizing the mogul, it was banned from all major television networks in the country.
GetUp was told directly by some of the networks that "they're not running the ad because they don't want to criticize Rupert Murdoch."
The events happening halfway around the world should be at the forefront of our thoughts. With rumors swirling of Rupert Murdoch's desire to buy more large media properties in the United States, News Corp's interference in the Australian election serves as a reminder of the damage Murdoch could wreck in the U.S. as well. Fox News' abhorrent behavior in 2010 and 2012 is benign when compared to the pressure exerted in this year's Australian election.
Harvard University's Shorenstein Center just released an exhaustive report by CNN political reporter Peter Hamby dissecting the performance of the political news media during the 2012 presidential campaign through the case study of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It deals primarily with the rise of rapid-fire online journalism and how hyper-aggressive reporters seeking to meet demands for content and make names for themselves caused problems for Romney team as they strove to stay on message. Romney's campaign, Hamby wrote, was particularly vulnerable to this dynamic and was constantly looking for ways to get its message out without having to deal with the "frenzy" of reporters and their interminable questions.
That's where Fox News came in.
Hamby talked to Eric Fehrnstrom, political consultant and senior adviser to Romney, about how the Romney campaign approached the media. Per Fehrnstrom, the strategy was to limit access to the group of reporters traveling with Romney whenever possible, and instead make the candidate available for interviews on Fox News, because with Fox the campaign knew which questions were coming and knew that Romney wouldn't get hit with too many follow-up queries:
He said the campaign would rather sit the candidate down for an interview with Fox News than take questions from his press corps. At Fox, he said, the candidate could safely explain himself without being pressed by a crowd of news-starved reporters.
"We'd much rather go on a Fox program where we know the question is going to come up and Mitt can give his answer and it's not going to a frenzy of questioning," Fehrnstrom said. "He will be able to give his response. There may be a follow up or two, and then that's it. The frenzy is not something that you would willingly do if you had other options. It's like here you can either do this frenzied news conference, or we can do a more sedate studio appearance with Sean Hannity. I'd take the sedate over the frenzy any day."
That's a fairly amazing statement. Fox has become so integral to national Republican politics that senior campaign staffers freely talk about its unique role in campaign strategy. Presumably other cable or broadcast networks could also provide a comparatively "sedate" environment for a candidate looking to escape the "frenzy" of the traveling press, but they chose Fox for a reason. For candidates like Romney, Fox is a sanctuary from the rest of the media where the candidate's message can get out there without anyone challenging it. "There may be a follow up or two, and then that's it."
Fox News hosted discredited right-wing activist Hans von Spakovsky to misleadingly claim that a voter ID law in Texas would make voting easier, despite a federal court's findings that the law was racially discriminatory and placed a high burden on low-income Americans.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced August 22 that it will sue to block Texas' attempt to reinstate a voter ID law that was previously voided on the grounds that it was racially discriminatory, explaining that it violates the Constitution and "was adopted with the purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group."
Fox & Friends guest co-host Anna Kooiman interviewed von Spakovsky on August 30 to attack the DOJ's decision, during which von Spakovsky claimed that high minority voter turnout in the 2012 election proved that voter ID laws did not suppress the vote and that the DOJ "lost" when it attempted to fight a voter ID law in South Carolina. Kooiman pointed to von Spakovksy's assertion that voter ID cards actually "speeds up" the voting process, which he claimed is "exactly right."
Kooiman then implied that voter ID laws are not racially discriminatory in Texas because more white individuals in total are in poverty than Hispanics and blacks -- ignoring that fact that whites make up 80 percent of Texas' population, and so of course have more total individuals in poverty.
Von Spakovsky is a right-wing voter ID activist who has been exposed as resorting to shady tactics in his quest to limit voter participation, and his research on this topic has been thoroughly discredited. As Justin Levitt, previously of the Brennan Center, explained, von Spakovsky's misleading claim that high voter turnout means voter ID laws don't suppress voters is a "correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who's had statistics for a week can talk to you about it." And von Spakovsky's claim that South Carolina offered a good model for Texas to fight the DOJ's challenge hid the fact that the court explicitly agreed with the DOJ's concerns that the South Carolina law could be racially discriminatory as enacted, and warned it would be blocked in the future if that occurred.
Furthermore, his claim that the use of state-issued identification cards to vote "speeds up" the process ignores the fact that this law disenfranchises American citizens. As MSNBC.com reporter Zachary Roth noted, according to Texas's data, "anywhere from 605,000 to 795,000 registered voters--between 4% and 6% of all registered voters in the state--lack the required form of ID."
And acquiring the qualifying identification in order to cast a regular ballot comes with a high cost, placing a burden on low-income voters -- a burden which falls "disproportionately" on African Americans and Hispanics living in Texas. The federal court that struck down Texas' law in 2012 found the "evidence conclusively shows that the implicit costs of obtaining [a] qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty."
As The Nation's Ari Berman noted, according to the DOJ's 2012 objection to the Texas law, "Hispanic voters [were] between 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely than whites to not have the new voter ID" in Texas.
From the August 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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CNN is using 21-year-old footage of Newt Gingrich attacking Hillary Clinton to promote the return of Crossfire, which Gingrich will co-host, and promising that the show will fixate on Clinton for the next several years.
CNN plans to relaunch the franchise in September and is running promotions for the show leading up to its September 16 premiere. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Gingrich will be "the marquee attraction" on the show.
And if a promo running at CNN.com is any indication, Gingrich will use his perch to renew his decades-long campaign demonizing Hillary Clinton. The promo, billed as a return to "Classic Crossfire," opens with the former Speaker of the House claiming: "The new Crossfire is going to bring a lot of new things to television, but it's also going to bring some that have been on a long time."
From wildly offensive treatment of civil rights history to routine mendacity on voter ID, Fox chose to mark the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington by smearing the ongoing struggle for voting rights.
Over the past week leading up to President Barack Obama's commemoration of the anniversary on August 28, Fox News has been at the forefront of right-wing media attempts to discredit links between the progressive community and the civil rights legacy of the March on Washington. Voting rights, in particular, have attracted a significant amount of misinformation and ignorance, some of it quite shocking.
On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers, a Battle of Normandy veteran and the NAACP's first field secretary for the state of Mississippi, was assassinated in his driveway. Shot in the back, his murder was the culmination of an extensive white supremacist terror campaign against the voting rights and desegregation advocacy of the NAACP, a cause that President John F. Kennedy championed the very night of Evers' death as both a moral and constitutional issue to ensure "American citizens of any color [can] register and  vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal."
Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, was invited to speak at the original March on Washington that took place two months later, an invitation that she was finally able to accept this past weekend at the 50th anniversary events. She warned about ongoing "efforts to turn back the clock" on the civil rights movement.
Congressman John Lewis, another veteran of the voting rights struggles, was more explicit. Also the victim of brutal violence due to his efforts to protect the right to vote, Lewis referenced the infamous Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision and told the crowd, "I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama, for the right to vote. I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us...We must say to the Congress, fix the Voting Rights Act."
On the August 26 edition of her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham chose to follow up a recording of Lewis' call to Congress to both fix the Voting Rights Act and pass immigration reform with a gunshot sound effect. As Joan Walsh of Salon observed, even "[a]fter the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, after the gunning down of so many civil rights workers over the years, Ingraham thought it was funny, or clever, or provocative, to 'symbolically' cut off Lewis' speech with the sound of a gun."
Fox News downplayed Colin Powell's objections to strict voter ID laws and ignored the fact that Texas not only has a long history of illegal racial discrimination in its election practices, a federal court already found its voter ID measures to be impermissible voter suppression.
On the August 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News host Martha MacCullum and correspondent Mike Emanuel reported on the Department of Justice's new legal challenge to the voter ID law Texas immediately enacted after the Supreme Court struck down a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in Shelby County v. Holder:
Fox News failed to mention, however, that Texas is being accused of illegally suppressing the vote through a voter ID law that has already been found to be racially discriminatory by a federal court.
Writing for a three-judge panel in 2012, a circuit judge dismissed Texas' evidence that its voter ID law was not impermissibly discriminatory as "unpersuasive, invalid, or both." As explained by the Constitutional Accountability Center's Doug Kendall:
[I]n Texas v. Holder, a three-judge court unanimously blocked Texas' new voter identification statute, the most stringent in the nation, finding that the statute would inevitably disenfranchise low-income Texas citizens, who are disproportionately African American and Hispanic. The court explained that, unlike Indiana, whose voter identification law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, Texas had gone to great lengths to suppress the vote in poor and minority communities, strictly limiting the types of photo identifications available - a license to carry a concealed firearm is a valid ID under the law, but not a student or Medicare ID card - and making it costly to obtain a so-called "free" election ID for use at the polls. For those without one of the five permitted photo identifications, the court found that the law was tantamount to a poll tax, "imposing an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot." The "very point" of the Voting Rights Act, the court explained, was to deny "states an end-run around the Fifteenth Amendment's prohibition on racial discrimination in voting."
Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon who criticized President Obama over health care policy at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, was heavily promoted by Fox News for his conservative views before flaming out following controversial statements regarding gay marriage. But after news broke that a political action committee (PAC) had been formed to draft him to run for president, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren invited Carson on and asked him the "best reason" he should be president. Carson responded with what sounded suspiciously like a stump speech.
On August 22, Politico reported that a PAC had been registered as the "National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee." According to Politico, the group was formed to urge "the neurosurgeon and Obamacare critic to throw his hat into the ring for 2016." That night, Fox's Greta Van Susteren hosted Carson to get his reaction. But first, Van Susteren asked Carson to "tell us, what would be the best reason for Dr. Ben Carson to be president and what would be the not-so best idea." Carson responded by mentioning several times how he has traveled the country and spoken to "enormous" crowds about how America needs "common sense" and "somebody who can create a vision."
Carson insisted that he was reluctant to run for president, an act which itself has become a signal of presidential ambitions. Speculation about Carson's plans are even stronger when placed in context of his 2012 book, recent speaking engagements, and television appearances.
Carson was widely promoted by Fox News as a new conservative leader and possible 2016 contender after he criticized President Obama during his keynote address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where Carson made conservative arguments about health care, tax policy, and the national debt. The hosts of Fox & Friends attempted to recruit him to run for president. Sean Hannity asked Carson directly if he would run for president, before declaring, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." Hannity even devoted an hour-long show to promoting Ben Carson as the man who is "saving America." This campaign for Carson eventually prompted Fox's Eric Bolling to criticize conservatives for "desperately" pushing him to run.
While Fox has often attempted to rehabilitate conservative candidates and media figures -- most recently former Fox employee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), Carson may be unique in that the comments that got him in trouble came out of his frequent Fox appearances. While making the rounds on the network, Carson stumbled into controversy when he compared marriage equality advocates to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality, later both apologizing and attacking his critics. Carson's own colleagues at Johns Hopkins University called his remarks "nasty, petty, and ill-informed," and he was ultimately forced to step down as a 2013 commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins.
Fox has a history of heavily promoting its own hand-picked candidates. The network has advocated at various points for the election of Sarah Palin, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Scott Brown, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff Paul Babeu.
NRA News promoted an ad targeting Colorado Senate President John Morse, who is facing a recall election over his support for stronger gun laws, that baselessly suggested Morse used taxpayer money for haircuts and golf outings. The allegations in the ad stem from a 2011 ethics complaint filed against Morse that was unanimously dismissed by a bipartisan ethics panel, a fact the ad does not disclose.
The ad features Laura Carno, the founder of pro-recall group I Am Created Equal, claiming that Morse "charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing" while a graphic stated, "Tell John Morse Don't Golf And Get Haircuts On Our Dime." From the August 21 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, the media arm of the National Rifle Association:
CARNO: Senator Morse, the ethics investigation against you wasn't trivial. When you reimburse yourself with our money, it should be for work you do on our behalf. But Senator Morse, you charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing. We didn't elect you to be king, Senator Morse. Every dollar you spend comes out of our pockets. And Senator Morse we don't want to pay for your haircuts and golf games.
Tellingly the ad featured a quote from an April 12, 2011, Associated Press article, ignoring that the article was about the complaint being dismissed:
After much public spectacle and uncountable hours wasted, the reelection of Barack Obama kindled a small, wonderful hope that maybe we were done talking about birth certificates and presidential eligibility. Unfortunately, that discussion has now engulfed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): U.S. citizen, presumed presidential aspirant, and accidental Canadian. A few fringe actors have questioned whether Cruz is eligible to occupy the White House, and Fox News' Sean Hannity, who countenanced the high-profile conservative/Republican birther crusade to force Obama to release his birth certificate, is outraged.
Cruz was born in Calgary 42 years ago to an American mother and a Cuban father. The Constitution requires that the president be a "natural-born citizen," though it does not define the term and the Supreme Court has never specifically defined it either. But Cruz has been a U.S. citizen since birth and there's no real reason to think he can't run for president should he so choose and hold that office if elected. Being born in Alberta, however, means that Cruz is, or was a some point, also a citizen of Canada. Presumably seeking to nip the eligibility question in the bud, Cruz released his birth certificate on August 18 and announced that he would renounce any formal ties he still retains to our northern neighbor.
Hannity said during his August 19 Fox program that Cruz's actions "put this so-called controversy to rest," and went on to attack "the left" for "flirting with birtherism," asking whether it means liberals are "racist against a Hispanic":
Right-wing media repeatedly argue that increased turnout of voters of color demonstrates that strict voter ID requirements do not cause voter suppression, a relationship that experts note is a basic confusion of correlation with causation.
The Wall Street Journal relied on logical fallacies and misleading characterizations to defend restrictive election laws and attack Hillary Clinton for playing "racial politics" by pushing for expanded voting rights and access
An August 18 Journal editorial attacked Clinton for a speech she delivered to the American Bar Association criticizing a Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The editorial supported the decision by downplaying its effects, claiming, "all it did was eliminate a section that had forced such states as Mississippi to meet higher legal burdens for election laws than other states with a worse current record of minority voter participation." The editorial went on to falsely claim minority voting turnout rates prove that critics such as Clinton are "playing racial politics" and pushing for "a racially polarized electorate."
The Journal has used voter turnout to defend restrictive voting measures before, an argument that relies upon the "correlation-causation" fallacy. As Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt pointed out, "turnout studies don't show great impact but that's because they can't ... you can't draw any real conclusions about that":
New reports indicate that Fox News' sister company is no longer in talks to produce a controversial miniseries on Hillary Clinton, a move that takes pressure off the Republican Party as it moved to boycott NBC and CNN -- but not Fox -- for their involvement with Clinton-related projects.
Last month NBC Entertainment and CNN Films each announced intentions to produce biopics on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton timed to precede the 2016 presidential race. Though both outlets claim their network's news division will not be involved in the effort, the proposed specials have raised concerns about the obvious conflicts of interest for NBC's and CNN's parent companies, and their news divisions' ability to report objectively in the event of a 2016 Clinton presidential campaign. Journalists from both NBC News and CNN News have publicly worried that the specials will damage their news divisions' reputations, and both Media Matters founder David Brock and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called on the outlets to cancel the plans.
Priebus even threatened to ban NBC and CNN from hosting GOP primary debates during the 2016 presidential election cycle -- a threat the RNC ultimately fulfilled when it voted this week to exclude the networks if they "continue to move forward" with their Clinton projects. Priebus explained his thinking to Fox News on August 6, saying it's "ridiculous" to allow "moderators who are not serving the best interests of the candidates."
Given that Preibus wants moderators who serve the "best interest" of the GOP, it was unsurprising that days later when the New York Times reported Fox News sister company Fox Television Studios might produce NBC's Clinton biopic, Priebus refused to extend his boycott threat to Fox News. Responding to State of the Union host Candy Crowley's question as to whether Fox's news division will "be subject to the same kind of scrutiny" he applied to CNN and NBC news divisions over the plans of their sister companies, Priebus claimed he was only "going to boycott the company that puts the miniseries and the documentaries on the air for the American people to view."
The Republican National Committee voted this morning to ban NBC News and CNN from hosting GOP primary debates in 2016. On paper, the vote was to protest plans by NBC and CNN to produce, respectively, a miniseries and a documentary on Hillary Clinton. But there's a whole lot more undergirding this move to exclude these outlets from the Republican debates. The long-standing animus toward the "liberal media" among conservatives has morphed into outright paranoia, and it came to a head during the 2012 campaign when George Stephanopoulos asked a debate question about contraception.
Here's what happened. Rick Santorum talked about contraception a lot during his 2012 presidential campaign. He railed against "the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea" in an October 2011 interview with an evangelical blog. He told NBC's Today on December 29 that contraception "leads to lot of sexually transmitted diseases, it leads to a lot of unplanned pregnancies." On January 2, 2012, just a few days before participating in a Republican debate co-hosted by ABC News, Santorum was asked by then-ABC reporter Jake Tapper about his belief that states should be able to ban contraception. "The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that," Santorum said.
Then, at the ABC/Yahoo News debate on January 7, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Mitt Romney if he shared Santorum's belief "that states have the right to ban contraception." Romney responded: "George, this is an unusual topic that you're raising. States have a right to ban contraception? I can't imagine a state banning contraception." Shortly afterward, all hell broke loose.
From all corners of the conservative media came accusations that George Stephanopoulos, in asking about contraception, had "coordinated" with Team Obama to lure the Republican candidates into some sort of trap on birth control. Much of the speculation was driven by Dick Morris, which should have been a pretty big red flag in terms of reliability. The theory rested on the assumption that the contraception issue just came out of nowhere, which, of course, is not true -- Santorum was asked about it just five days before the debate by one of Stephanopoulos' colleagues.