Amid reports that several Democrats in Congress have been the targets of death threats, racial and anti-gay epithets, and have had their offices vandalized for their votes on health care reform, several Fox News personalities have been quick to first condemn the threats but then immediately make excuses for the threats. Others have appeared to dismiss the seriousness of the threats.
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Fox News condemns, then dismisses threats
Doocy: "So why are people angry? Maybe because they didn't want this bill?" Teasing a segment about the threats against Democrats, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said: "Meanwhile, some House Democrats getting extra security after a series of death threats and even a little vandalism over their health care votes. So why are people angry? Well, maybe because they didn't want this bill?" [Fox & Friends, 3/25/10]
Kilmeade: "Are Democrats using" threats of violence "to their advantage to marginalize Republican opposition?" On the same episode of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said: "Here's the question, though: Is this a Democratic tactic to take some of the people on the fringe who are clearly out of line, doing things that show violence and threats because they feel as though the vote did not go their way. And are Democrats using that to their advantage to marginalize Republican opposition?" Kilmeade continued: "For example, Tim Kaine just put out an email -- he's a great guest of ours and is always insightful for us -- put out an email saying, look at what's happening out here in America amongst the other party. We're going to need your help, send $5. So, wait a second. How outraged are you if you're looking to raise money off the outrage?" [Fox & Friends, 3/25/10]
Carlson agrees it's "disappointing" that Democrats are making threats so public and says "they should just stop discussing it all together." After Doocy said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) "thinks the Democrat lawmakers are feeding the public's frenzy over the threats by discussing them so openly in the media," Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said: "It's such a political thing, though, guys. I think it would be happening on the other side of the fence, too, that maybe the other political party would try to take advantage of a situation, and that's disappointing. I think it's disappointing -- they should just stop discussing it all together. Just agree on the fact that it's disappointing behavior, no matter who's doing it." Later, after Kilmeade said, "You hurt your own cause when you have racial epithets or have homophobic phrases," Carlson said, "It ruins it for everybody, just like the kid who acts up at the birthday party." [Fox & Friends, 3/25/10]
Fox & Friends airs viewer emails comparing threats against Democrats to American Revolution, William Ayers. After Carlson said, "The most important thing is what you think about all of this, because you are the ones that are going to go to the polls eventually," Fox & Friends aired several emails from viewers that condemned the threats but immediately appeared to defend the actions. One email claimed that Democrats are using the threats "to gain sympathy. Like Rahm Emanuel said, 'you never waste a crisis.'" Another read: "[W]hat did they expect when they basically stole from the...American people. What do they think 1776 was about & wasn't there some violence back then?" A third email said: "I don't like violence & it is wrong. Having said that, why should Democrats be surprised? Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground bombed the Pentagon & now he is a 'respected' speaker of the left. Why should Democrats expect anything different?" [Fox & Friends, 3/25/10] Excerpts from the emails:
Beck: Obama is "poking and prodding" people to commit violence. ... "They need you to be violent. They are begging for it." On his March 24 Fox News show, Glenn Beck referenced the "crazy tea baggers in the streets" and said, "Why would a government continue to poke you and poke you and poke you and poke you? Why would they say these things? Why have these people said these things about good Americans?" Beck later said: "This might be the most dangerous monologue I've ever done, because I am telling you now -- they need you to be violent. They are begging for it. You're being set-up. Do not give them what they want." [Glenn Beck, 3/24/10]
Hannity: "So do you think that this is just an effort to smear conservatives?" During his March 24 Fox News show, Sean Hannity said that Democrats "are trying to make a big deal over the weekend and this is denied by a lot of people. I have not seen the videotape that confirms this yet. If anyone has it, send it to me. I want to see it, of racial slurs, anti-gay slurs being made at the Tea Party movement. Do we have any evidence that corroborates this at all?" Later, he asked: "So do you think that this is just an effort to smear conservatives? Is this a concerted effort to say, you know what? They are all a bunch of racists; they're all a bunch of homophobes?" [Hannity, 3/24/10]
Cupp: Democrats "want us to feel sorry for them that they've gotten a couple of ... angry voicemails." On Hannity, commentator S.E. Cupp said, "You know, Democrats who did this -- who sort of rammed this down our throats regardless of the fact that it actually won't save us any money, it's going to bankrupt us and the American people didn't want it -- want us to feel sorry for them that they've gotten a couple of angry, you know, voicemails. They should read my e-mail. You know, what did they expect? No one condones threats. No one condones the violence, but I'm glad people are angry. I hope they stay angry." Earlier in the show, Cupp had promoted Andrew Breitbart's decision to "combat the Congressional Black Caucus' allegations" by promising to donate $10,000 to the "Black [sic] Negro College Fund" if someone can prove the "n word" was yelled at the congressmen. [Hannity, 3/24/10]
Fox Nation: "Are Threats Really Elevated, or Are Dems Playing Politics?" The Fox Nation displayed a picture of several Democratic congressmen with the headline, "Are Threats Really Elevated, or Are Dems Playing Politics?" The headline linked to a NewsBusters post that claimed there are "no specific examples of alleged threats of violence cited" and that the media and politicians are "trying to construct a meme of conservative violence as we run up to the 2010 elections." From the Fox Nation:
Fox Nation: "Was Tea Party Story a Racial Rant or a Set Up?" The Fox Nation posted an image of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) purportedly holding up a cell phone camera, along with the headline, "Was Tea Party Story a Racial Rant or a Set Up?" The Fox Nation linked to Gateway Pundit, which alleged that the accusation of racial epithets toward Democrats was "a lie" because "[t]here were several cameras filming the democratic representatives as they walked to the Rayburn Office Building. And, the representatives had at least two cameras filming the entire event. (It was almost as if they were expecting something to happen?)" From The Fox Nation:
Charles Krauthammer: "I'm sure a lot of this is trumped up. ... You are always going to have a kook and a nut here and there." On the March 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said of the threats, "I'm sure a lot of this is trumped up the way of the unruliness of some of the crowd on the day of the voting in the House was trumped up. You are always going to have a kook and a nut here and there. It's being used by supporters of ObamaCare to tar opponents with, you know, threats, violence, being un-American in general. I think it ought to be denounced, as the Republicans have. It should be. But it's not reflective of those who oppose the bill."
Stephen Hayes: "This happens all the time," "counterproductive" for GOP to condemn them again. Discussing GOP leaders' condemning the threats on Special Report, Weekly Standard columnist Stephen Hayes said: "They shouldn't continue to do it. They did it. They did it once, and they should never do it again. That's the end. He said we don't approve of this. That's it. If you continue to beat it up, it continues to be a story and it's counterproductive." Later, Hayes said, "This happens all the time, and I could refer to you my own voicemail sometimes after appearances on other programs and other networks where the vitriol level was every bit as harsh as what I heard in Bart Stupak's voicemail." [Special Report, 3/24/10]