"Kill the bill": Fox's year-long open activism against health care reform
Research ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI
During the debate over health care reform, Fox News openly advocated against the Democrats' efforts. In addition to routinely misinforming viewers, Fox News hosts, reporters, and contributors announced their opposition to reform; urged viewers to tell congressmembers to "vote no"; pushed anti-reform protests; and solicited donations for ads opposing reform and for Republicans opposing pro-reform Democrats.
"Don't do it!": Fox News openly opposed reform
Fox News employees -- from both the purported "news" and "opinion" sides -- openly expressed opposition to the Democrats' "awful," "pretty bad," and "unconstitutional" health care reform efforts.
Hosts Beck, Hannity and Huckabee led efforts against health care reform. Fox News hosts Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee have openly advocated against health care reform and implored their viewers to defeat Democratic efforts. Beck called the health care bill "the end of America as you know it," while Hannity said it is "the most irresponsible piece of domestic legislation in our lifetime."
Fox & Friends on health care reform: "Don't Do It!" On March 18, Fox & Friends -- a program that frequently misinforms on health care -- aired the following caption while teasing a segment on health care reform:
Ingraham: "Let's kill the bill!" On March 18, Fox News contributor and frequent guest host Laura Ingraham posted the following message on her Twitter account: "I'll be hosting the O'Reilly Factor on Friday, 8pm eastern. Let's kill the bill!"
Gasparino: I'd vote against health care bill. On March 8, Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charles Gasparino told Bill O'Reilly that he'd vote against the health care bill if he were a member of Congress and added, "Who would?"
O'Reilly on reform: The "risk is not worth taking." On March 4, Bill O'Reilly claimed that "Obama sincerely believes that health care reform will make America stronger. The man really believes that. Just as President Bush sincerely believed Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world." O'Reilly added: "The president must know Obamacare is a huge risk for the country, and at this point, I believe the risk is not worth taking."
Napolitano: Unconstitutional reform a stop on the road to socialism. Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano frequently argued against reform, claiming that it is unconstitutional and "when the train is going full-blast towards socialism, the best thing" that "the Republicans can do is be the party of no and to stop that train."
Jarrett: I agree with the GOP that the health care bill is unconstitutional. On the January 4 broadcast of America's Newsroom -- one of Fox's purported "news" hours -- substitute anchor Gregg Jarrett agreed with former Republican official Ken Blackwell's criticisms that the health care bill is unconstitutional. Jarrett concluded the segment by telling Blackwell: "They're all good ones ... they're great arguments, and I happen to agree with them."
Cavuto: I oppose this "awful" health care bill. On November 2, 2009, Your World host and senior VP of business news Neil Cavuto announced his opposition to the Democrats' health care bill, stating: "This is pretty bad. ... It's an awful bill."
Johnson Jr. spent five minutes urging "reject[ion]" of "Democratic partisan trajectory." On August 31, 2009, Fox News contributor and frequent guest host Peter Johnson Jr. -- who also contributes purported "Prescription for Truth" health care segments -- spent five minutes urging a rejection of the Democrats' health care reform efforts. Johnson Jr. has frequently fear-mongered and misinformed about health care reform.
Fox Nation declared "Victory!" over Democratic setbacks. Fox News' purportedly "fair and balanced" website Fox Nation has repeatedly declared "Victory!" over Democratic setbacks on health care reform. Fox Nation has run the following headlines:
- "Fox Nation Victory! Senate Removes 'End of Life' Provision"
- "Fox Nation Victory! Obama Backs Down From Gov't-Run Health Care!"
- "Fox Nation Victory! Congress delays health care rationing bill"
Fox Nation also directed readers to sign the conservative group FreedomWorks' petition demanding "No Healthcare Reconciliation."
Siegel to doctors: Quit AMA over health care reform. In a November 12, 2009, New York Post column, Fox News "Medical A Team" member Marc Siegel urged "fellow doctors to quit [the American Medical Association] in protest" because the AMA is "spineless when it comes to the health reforms now before Congress." Siegel has repeatedly misled Fox viewers about Democratic health care reform. Fox News became more critical of the "misguided" AMA after it backed the Democrats' health care plan.
Fox urged viewers to contact Congress and "tell them no"
In at least two dozen instances, Fox News urged viewers to contact Congress to oppose health care reform. Fox News personalities claimed their campaigns influenced members of Congress and jammed the capitol switchboard.
Fox Nation ran Limbaugh's urging to call Congress. On March 19, Fox Nation ran the purportedly "breaking news" that Rush Limbaugh urged "America to Keep Calling Congress." Fox Nation embedded Limbaugh's criticisms of reform and included the number for the congressional switchboard.
Beck backed Limbaugh's call congress campaign: "He's right." On March 17, Beck told his viewers (accessed from Nexis): "Rush Limbaugh, for only the second time in his career, told his audience yesterday to flood the switchboards of Congress and, boy, did they ever. He's right. He said yesterday that this is the end-game. This is it. The fundamental transformation of America is here, America."
Huckabee repeatedly urged viewers to "call, email, write" Congress to oppose health care reform bill. On the March 13 and March 20 editions of his show, Mike Huckabee promoted his website "callcongressnow.com," which states: "Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are attempting to ram their massive health care bill through Congress. ... We must stop this bill." Huckabee urged his viewers to "call, email, write" Congress over the health care bill. Huckabee again promoted the website during Fox News' March 20 special coverage and the March 19 edition of Your World. Neil Cavuto credited Huckabee and Rush Limbaugh for helping jam Congress' phone lines. On March 19, Fox ran on-screen text stating, "Huckabee: Call Congress; tell them vote no on health care":
Fox Nation posted Ingraham's "Vote No!" call list. On March 16, Fox Nation directed readers to Laura "Ingraham's Obamacare Call List: Tell These Congressman to Vote No!" Fox Nation reprinted Ingraham's list of targets in Congress (along with phone numbers) that people should call and encourage to vote against reform.
Fox Nation directed readers to Levin's "VOTE NO ON OBAMACARE!" campaign. On March 6, Fox Nation directed readers to conservative radio host Mark Levin's effort to pressure members of Congress to vote against reform.
Morris repeatedly implored viewers to call Congress. During the health care debate, Fox News "political analyst" Dick Morris frequently implored viewers to call Congress against health care reform. In doing so, Morris routinely directed viewers to his website, DickMorris.com, which contains a list of swing votes. In February and March alone, Morris made at least 13 on-air appeals.* Morris claimed his efforts deluged members of Congress and could help defeat the bill.
Beck: Call "on the fence" senators to remind them of consequences of voting for reform. On November 16, 2009, Beck told his viewers: "Some members of Congress are on the fence, including Senators Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu. Call 'em, only if you live in their districts. Call them, ask them, what is it that you have been promised, what is in it for you? Remind them that you will be listening and watching, and if they come out for this, they really should have a really good explanation, because if they lived in my district, I would -- I would swear if -- I mean, if even I was dead, I would come back as a ghost and campaign against them."
Beck: Call Congress, White House and "demand answers." While discussing health care protests on August 10, 2009 (retrieved from Nexis), Beck implored viewers to "call your congressman" and call the White House to demand answers to "questions":
BECK: America, you call your congressman. You call just -- the congressman that represents you. You call your senator right now. Is that -- there is the house switchboard right there.
You call them right now. You tell them we'd like to chat. You call them in your own local area.
But you know what? While we're talking to you, Congressman, while we're talking to you, Senator, we're going to demand some things that I think are pretty reasonable. For instance, number one, we demand that you read the bills that you vote on!
And then you have the courage to tell us exactly where you stand on the bill -- none of this, well, I can't tell you how where he stands of -- he hasn't made his -- bull crap! You people know exactly what you're going to do. Have the courage of your convictions.
And you know what? We're not going to give up. Know that we're not angry mobs, but know this: you're a servant to the people. Maybe you should start acting like it.
And then, America, when you're done with that phone call, you make another phone call. Put the White House -- there it is -- there is the White House switchboard number for you. You call them up, and in all cases, always -- always be polite. Have respect for the office.
You demand that the president address these questions: If it's un- American to speak out at town halls, like Nancy Pelosi has charged. Is it un-American? Should Nancy Pelosi have maybe somebody at the bully pulpit of the White House say, "Excuse me, it's not un-American"? Just like I defended who -- the people who I believe are pinheads back in Hollywood, back four years ago.
While Beck spoke, Fox News aired captions featuring numbers for viewers to call:
Following McCaughey, Beck urged viewers to "call the clowns." During the February 10, 2009, edition of Glenn Beck, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey advanced the false claim that provisions in the economic recovery act would permit the government to later control health care. In response, Beck urged viewers to "call the clowns up" to tell them to remove the act's health provisions.
"Let's get loud": Fox is anti-reform protest central
Fox promotes "Voight's Call to Arms - Come to DC Sat. to Oppose Obamacare." On March 18, Fox Nation posted an "Alert" to readers about "Jon Voight's Call to Arms - Come to DC Sat. to Oppose Obamacare." The link directed readers to Voight's call to "all of you freedom-loving Americans to come once again to Washington D.C. to gather on the Capitol steps on Saturday [March 20], at 12 o'clock noon."
Fox & Friends: "Let's get loud." On the March 16 edition of Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy promoted protests "across this country" such as a "honk no" event in Austin, TX, a Code Red Rally, and a tea party protest at the Capitol. While Doocy spoke, on-screen text read: "Let's get loud: Group plans noisy protest of health plan." From Fox & Friends:
Beck: "[C]amp out if you have to" for rally opposing reform. On the March 18 edition of his Fox News show (accessed from Nexis), Beck told Rep. Steve King (R-IA): "I have to tell you, I hope people show up on Saturday at noon there at the Capitol and plan on just staying there. I mean, you know, camp out if you have to." On his radio program, Beck similarly urged his listeners to attend, stating that it would be "an iconic moment" to have "one hundred thousand people there on the Mall in Washington, surrounding the Capitol, that is a bold moment that will be remembered." He added: "The history books will record if there was a hundred-plus-thousand people at the Capitol, because that would change things. It would scare these people to the core."
Fox News promoted anti-health care "Code Red" rally. Fox News personalities such as Steve Doocy and Michelle Malkin as well as The Fox Nation promoted the December 15, 2009, anti-health care reform "Code Red" rally, which featured a speech by Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham. Fox's "news" hours, in turn, gave the protest live coverage.
Hannity helped Bachmann start anti-reform protest. During the October 30, 2009, edition of Hannity, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) announced what was dubbed a "House Call on Washington" protest for "the people" to "tell their Representatives to vote no" on reform. Bachmann invited Fox News viewers to participate, adding, "You can go to MicheleBachmann.com for more information." Along with Hannity, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich, Beck, the hosts of Fox & Friends, Andrew Napolitano, and the Fox Nation promoted the protest in the days leading up to November 5. Additionally, Fox News provided significant coverage for the protest on the day of the event. Fox News.com hosted a live stream of the protest as well. Bachmann repeatedly credited Fox News for helping start her protest. Fox & Friends also credited Hannity for providing a forum to start the protest.
Fox promoted anti-health care reform disruptions of town halls. Following the August 2, 2009, disruption of a town hall event hosted by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Fox News personalities repeatedly lauded such protesters and urged viewers to take similar action. Fox & Friends guest co-host Peter Johnson Jr. said to protesters, "[W]e thank you for representing Americans, and we hope that other Americans get out there." Additionally, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked viewers: "Are you gonna call" your member of Congress "or are you gonna go to one of these receptions where they're actually there?" Co-host Steve Doocy similarly said: "If you want to contact your congress members and sound off, go to FoxNation.com." Fox & Friends also ran the on-screen text, "Hold Congress accountable! Now is the time to speak your mind." Hannity also said of town hall protests: "That's a pretty good way to fight back."
Fox heavily promotes tea parties, which now protest reform. Fox News is the leader in promoting and advocating for the tea parties, which have recently protested Democratic efforts at health care reform.
"We are going to defeat them": Fox pushes GOP over pro-reform Dems
Perino: I hope that Boehner becomes House speaker. During the March 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, after discussing health care reform, Fox News contributor and guest host Dana Perino expressed her "hope" that guest Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) would become the House Speaker in the near future.
Bolling: Elect a Republican president so we can rescind reform. On the March 17 edition of Fox Business Network's Happy Hour, in response to a viewer's question about how to "save our democracy," co-host Eric Bollling offered the idea: "Vote 'em out ... 2012, put a Republican in there" who won't "veto a rescinding of the health care."
Fox News campaigned for Brown. In early 2010, Fox News offered support to Scott Brown's campaign for the Senate. Brown ran, in part, on a rejection of Democratic health care reform. Fox hosted Brown several times and provided him with a forum to raise funds; Dick Morris explicitly asked viewers to "please, please help" elect Brown. Newt Gingrich later credited Fox News for helping elect Brown.
Fox News: "How GOP Can Capitalize on Democrats' Health Care Reform Battle." On November 11, 2009, Hannity aired Fox News contributor and pollster Frank Luntz's prospective anti-health care reform ad for 2010 candidates. The ad stated:
LUNTZ: The Democrats in Congress created a trillion-dollar health care bureaucracy last year. It's now a year later. So tell me. Are your premiums any less today than they were a year ago? Is your health care quality any better than it was a year ago? Did your taxes go down or your benefits go up in the past year?
Did the Democrats even let you read the legislation? Sure, the Democrats gave America the single biggest government bureaucracy in the history of this country, but what exactly did they give you?
Remember that on Tax Day and send them a message on Election Day. I'm Frank Luntz. And I approve this message.
FoxNews.com posted the transcript of the segment under the heading, "How GOP Can Capitalize on Democrats' Health Care Reform Battle."
Fox-fueled PAC solicited donations to boot pro-reform Democrats. A Media Matters employee who signed Huckabee's petition at balancecutsave.com -- a website that was promoted on Fox -- has subsequently received several emails from HuckPAC soliciting political activism on the part of the recipient. For instance, a November 9, 2009, email from HuckPAC solicited donations for campaigns against Democrats who voted for health care reform. The email said: "I urge you to make a donation of $25 or more towards our efforts to vote these Democrats out of office." A November 1, 2009, email from HuckPAC asked people to participate in a phone bank for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, Republican congressional candidate David Harmer, and Conservative Party congressional candidate Doug Hoffman. The email said that "[w]e need to help get each of these fine men elected" and asked recipients to "take a moment now to make phone calls to voters."
Fox-backed Tea Party Express targeting pro-reform Democrats. Fox News has heavily promoted and backed the Tea Party Express, which is now campaigning against pro-reform Democrats. In a March 21 email, the Tea Party Express wrote:
We here at the Tea Party Express have a message for Congress today: you vote for this healthcare bill, and we won't vote for you in November.
Not only will we not vote for those Members of Congress who support this slide towards socialism, we will work actively to ensure your defeat.
Don't believe us - ask Harry Reid. We here at the Tea Party Express have spent nearly $500,000 so far in our efforts against Reid's re-election, and he has some of the worst poll numbers for an incumbent Senator right now.
Morris repeatedly implored viewers to donate for ads. In addition to urging viewers to contact Congress, Dick Morris frequently implored people to "donate for ads" against Democrats and reform. In doing so, Morris directed viewers to his website, which contains contribution links for the League of American Voters; Morris is the chief strategist for the LAV and crafts the group's ad campaigns. Morris' website, while discussing health care or not, is heavily promoted on Fox News -- according to a Nexis search of available transcripts, DickMorris.com has been mentioned on Fox News in at least 88 segments in the past year. In just February and March, Morris solicited donations for ads on Fox at least 10 times.**
In 2010, Morris boasted of raising $200,000 in three days for anti-reform ads. In a February 26 email to DickMorris.com subscribers, Morris wrote that LAV "raised $200,000 in the past three days" to run ads in the districts of "marginal Democrats who voted for healthcare last time."
In 2009, Morris boasted of raising $2.5 million for ads. As he did in 2010, Morris regularly solicited funds for 2009 LAV ad campaigns. On the October 19, 2009, edition of Hannity, Morris claimed that "at DickMorris.com, we've raised now two and a half million dollars to run ads" against health care reform through LAV. On September 21, 2009, Morris stated: "[O]n my website, DickMorris.com, I'll tell you how to contribute to 10-second ads we are now running." His website featured an LAV ad and solicited donations for "The New Ad Campaign Against Obamacare."
Morris: Democrats who previously voted no and switched to yes are "traitors" and "we are going to defeat them." On Mike Huckabee's March 20 program, Morris named House Democrats who switched their health care vote from no to yes and labeled them "traitors." Morris concluded, to applause, that "we are going to defeat them" in November.
In addition to openly advocating against health care reform, Fox News hosts, reporters and contributors have pushed misinformation and falsehoods about Democratic efforts in dozens of instances. Fox News has misinformed on such health care issues as "death panels," euthanasia, deficit explosions, the public option, constitutionality, rationing, abortion, special deals, the CBO score, doctors and socialized medicine.
* Morris made appeals to contact Congress on the March 19, March 17, March 10, March 3, and February 24 broadcasts of The O'Reilly Factor; the March 15, March 8 and February 22 broadcasts of Hannity; the March 15 edition of Fox Business Network's America's Nightly Scoreboard; the March 11 and March 4 editions of On the Record; and the March 11 and February 24 editions of Fox & Friends.
** Morris made ad appeals on the March 19, March 17, and March 3 broadcasts of The O'Reilly Factor; the March 15, March 8 and February 22 broadcasts of Hannity; the March 15 edition of Fox Business Network's America's Nightly Scoreboard; the March 11 and March 4 editions of On the Record; and the February 24 edition of Fox & Friends.