Neil Cavuto repeatedly advanced the claim that the DHS report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism targets conservatives simply for holding beliefs contrary to the Obama administration's policies and proposals. In fact, the report does not target conservatives for their beliefs, and Shepard Smith had debunked such claims on Fox News the previous day.
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On the April 16 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto repeatedly advanced the claim that the recently released Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report, which detailed potential increases in right-wing extremism, targets conservatives simply for holding beliefs contrary to the Obama administration's policies and proposals. Cavuto made these claims even though on the April 15 edition of Fox News' Studio B, host Shepard Smith stated that the DHS report "isn't about the tea-party folks." Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge agreed, stating: "[T]he driver in these intelligence assessments is the downturn in the economy. What they say essentially is that when people have less money, they're out of work, they feel disenfranchised, this is fertile ground for groups on the left as well as groups on the right." Smith later added that "it sounds like just regular-old everyday people who are conservative just got, you know -- got their dander up over something that is not like that."
Media Matters for America has documented that numerous Fox News figures -- including Cavuto -- have responded to the DHS report by alleging or suggesting that the Obama administration is targeting Americans simply because of political differences. In fact, while the report addressed potential issues that could spur right-wing extremism, it did not allege that someone is an extremist simply because he or she holds conservative views.
On the April 16 edition of Your World, Cavuto asserted that the report "more or less states the government considers you a terrorist threat if you oppose abortion, speak out against illegal immigration, or you are a returning war veteran." Additionally, after Sirius XM Radio host Andrew Wilkow asked, "Who's not at this point a right-wing extremist?" Cavuto responded, "Everyone at Fox. Everyone at Fox, right?" Cavuto also stated to Wilkow, "So, you think that if it was a left-wing fringe group, it wouldn't be getting this much attention." Later in the program, Cavuto suggested that because Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is "speaking to a big right-to-life group tonight," she could be considered a "radical" or "a Homeland Security target" and asked of the report: "Does that make anyone who is pro-life a radical?"
In fact, the report does not define everyone who opposes abortion as a right-wing extremist. The report states only that right-wing extremism "may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration" and that in the 1990s, extremists "exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members," including abortion:
* (U)Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
(U//FOUO) Paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members. Prominent among these themes were the militia movement's opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists' longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage. During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.
Regarding illegal immigration, the report does not state that "the government considers you a terrorist threat if you ... speak out against illegal immigration," but rather states, "Over the past five years, various rightwing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruiting tool." From the report:
(U) Illegal Immigration
(U//FOUO) Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages. They also opposed free trade agreements, arguing that these arrangements resulted in Americans losing jobs to countries such as Mexico.
(U//FOUO) Over the past five years, various rightwing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruiting tool. Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremist groups' frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence. If such violence were to occur, it likely would be isolated, small-scale, and directed at specific immigration-related targets.
-- (U//FOUO) DHS/I&A notes that prominent civil rights organizations have observed an increase in anti-Hispanic crimes over the past five years.
-- (U) In April 2007, six militia members were arrested for various weapons and explosives violations. Open source reporting alleged that those arrested had discussed and conducted surveillance for a machinegun attack on Hispanics.
-- (U) A militia member in Wyoming was arrested in February 2007 after communicating his plans to travel to the Mexican border to kill immigrants crossing into the United States.
Moreover, the report does not claim that "the government considers you a terrorist threat if you ... are a returning veteran." It concludes that "rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat." In reaching that conclusion, the DHS cited a 2008 FBI report -- authored during the Bush administration -- that stated, in the words of the DHS, that "some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups."
Further, despite Cavuto's suggestion that "a left-wing fringe group wouldn't be getting this much attention," DHS also issued an assessment on January 26 of left-wing extremism, concluding that "a number of emerging trends point to leftwing extremists maturing and expanding their cyber attack capabilities over the next decade with the aim of attacking targets in the United States," as Herridge noted on the April 15 edition of Studio B. Herridge later added, referring to the reports on left-wing and right-wing extremists, "I would point out that both of these assessments, Shep, were commissioned under the Bush administration. It takes some time to do them. They only came out after he had left office."
From the April 16 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CAVUTO: Meanwhile, calls are growing at this hour for the president to slam down the controversial Homeland Security report on so-called right-wing extremists. It more or less states the government considers you a terrorist threat if you oppose abortion, speak out against illegal immigration, or you are a returning war veteran. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologizing today for at least the war-veteran part, but what about the rest? Conservative Andrew Wilkow, host of The Wilkow Majority on Sirius XM Radio, what do you think?
WILKOW: You forgot coffee drinkers, car owners --
CAVTUO: Yeah, where do you draw the line, right?
WILKOW: Who's not at this point a right-wing extremist?
CAVUTO: Everyone at Fox.
WILKOW: Who's --
CAVUTO: Everyone at Fox, right?
WILKOW: [unintelligible] oogedy-boogedy people. It seems like anyone that doesn't worship in front of the White House is an extremist. I mean -- and this coming from a group of people -- my God, for eight years did you hear the stuff they said about President Bush? Come on. This list is getting -- this list is getting a little extreme.
CAVUTO: So, you think that if it was a left-wing fringe group, it wouldn't be getting this much attention.
WILKOW: Well, I don't see anyone torching cars, throwing garbage cans through. I was at the New York City tea party with Newt Gingrich. I spoke right before Newt. Not one person torched a car, threw a bottle, threw a rock, threw a garbage can through a window. Not one act of incivility at all. Everybody was civil. I saw a beach ball. It was a very -- it was almost like a rock-concert environment, lot of fun. And I just don't understand where this comes from. Who's not a -- seriously? At this point, who's not --
CAVUTO: So, you think they deliberately targeted conservatives and lumped them in the same path as crazies.
WILKOW: You know, people on both sides of the aisle will say things -- "Well I'm not that liberal, I'm not that conservative." All of a sudden, people are finding out that they are in a political ideology that they might not have thought of themselves to be lumped in with because of something on that list. I'm -- If you're pro-life, you're an extremist?
CAVUTO: Well, you betcha, she's pro-life. Sara Palin speaking to a big right-to-life group tonight. Should that make her a Homeland Security target? Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty weighs in.
CAVUTO: Well, Sarah Palin is set to address a pro-life group shortly. Does that make her a radical? Governor Tim Pawlenty weighs in on that controversial Homeland Security report.
CAVUTO: Welcome back, everyone. Former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin set to address a pro-life group tonight in Indiana. It follows the release of this report on right-wing extremism, singling out groups opposed to abortion. Does that make anyone who is pro-life a radical? Because that would include my next guest, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Governor, good to have you. What do you make of this?
PAWLENTY: Mr. Cavuto, good to be with you. I think it's absurd. I mean, to suggest that the threat should be characterized in partisan philosophical terms is ridiculous. We had a national convention here in the Twin Cities this past summer, and the groups that were wanting to and in did fact break up the city were, you know, leftists, were anarchists, were people who were opposed to conservative thinking. So, at a minimum, it's unfair, and I think more candidly and bluntly, it's absurd.
CAVUTO: But do you notice that it puts your party in a bit of a box then, because then those who want to remain loyal within the party run way to the right, which, if the Obama folks are right, marginalizes you on the main stage after that?
PAWLENTY: It's quite insidious, Neil, and it's not limited to just the Democrats. There's a kind of a media perspective that if you're conservative, you're somehow, you know, deranged or you're somehow deficient, that if, you know, you were a rational, you know, well-thought-of, intelligent person that you couldn't be a conservative. So, that's embedded I think as a bias in our media culture more broadly. And it's insidious and it's unfair, and I think they should be called on it. And I heard your report earlier that Secretary Napolitano at least partially apologized. They should fully apologize.
CAVUTO: Well, we had a conservative radio host here who all but said, "Look, I see where this is going. If you're on the right, you're wrong and you're a target." Are you?
PAWLENTY: Well, you know, we get the label of "extremists." You know, you saw it early in the earlier decades. They always say, "Well, the religious right." Well, there's also in this country a religious left. And so if you're going to express concerns like that, at least express them fairly. But it's worse than that. I think this is a stigmatizing label. It kind of implies -- in fact, asserts that if you're conservative, you're, you know, dangerous, reckless, deficient. And it's really insulting.