REPORT: Fox Promotes Birther Myth In At Least 52 Segments


Following potential Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's embrace of theories regarding President Obama's birthplace, Fox News has significantly ramped up its coverage of birther conspiracies. A Media Matters review of Fox News' opinion programs found that in recent weeks, the network devoted nearly two hours and 20 minutes to the issue, and in the vast majority of the cases, the hosts either espoused birther conspiracies or did not challenge or correct false claims about Obama's birth that aired on their shows. By contrast, when possible GOP presidential candidate and Fox News host Mike Huckabee similarly questioned -- but subsequently walked back -- Obama's origins, Fox devoted just over five minutes of coverage to Huckabee's false claim that Obama was raised in Kenya.

In Recent Weeks, Fox Has Dramatically Increased Its Coverage Of The Birther Conspiracy

As indicated below, in recent weeks, Fox News has significantly increased its coverage of those who falsely claim that President Obama may have been born outside of the United States. In fact, Obama was born in Hawaii -- a fact that has been repeatedly confirmed by official records and Hawaii Department of Health officials. As Media Matters has noted, several Fox News figures have embraced the birther conspiracy theory, while others have repeatedly failed to debunk false claims about Obama's birth. So widespread was Fox's coverage of Trump's embrace of birtherism that some Fox News hosts reported on and joked about the birther conspiracy theory in segments not relating to Trump.

Fox Line Chart graph

For more information about Fox's embrace of the birther conspiracy, SEE HERE.

At Least 84% Of False Claims About Obama's Birth Went Unchallenged

Many of the segments discussing Obama's birth certificate included several falsehoods, such as claims that Obama has never produced a birth certificate; that Obama's grandmother claimed he was born in Kenya; and that Obama spent $2 million in legal funds blocking the release of his birth certificate. In those segments, Media Matters found that the vast majority of the time -- 44 out of 52 total segments in which a false claim was made about Obama's birth certificate -- Fox News hosts did not push back and correct these falsehoods.

Fox Birther Correction bar graph

For more information on falsehoods surrounding Obama's place of birth, SEE HERE.

Fox Follows GOP Candidates' Leads On Covering Questions About Obama's Origins

By contrast, on February 28, Huckabee repeatedly falsely claimed that Obama grew up "in Kenya." Unlike Trump, Huckabee immediately backtracked once audio of his comments was widely highlighted by the media. Similar to its coverage and embrace of Trump's birtherism, in this case, Fox News followed Huckabee's lead and devoted very little coverage to Huckabee's comments: a total of five minutes and 17 seconds, versus the nearly two hours and 20 minutes it spent covering Obama's birth certificate.

Fox time spent on birthers

For more information on Huckabee's comments on Obama being raised in Kenya, SEE HERE.


Media Matters searched Fox News Network transcripts in the Nexis database for "(Birth w/10 certificat!) or Kenya! or Hawai! or Eligibil!" from February 21, 2011, to April 21, 2011. In addition, Media Matters reviewed archived video footage of all Fox & Friends programming, including weekend broadcasts, for the same time period. For purposes of this study, Media Matters only reviewed Fox News' opinion programming, which included the following shows: Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox & Friends Sunday, Justice with Judge Jeanine, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta van Susteren, Glenn Beck, Huckabee, and Your World with Neil Cavuto.

If during the segment either a guest, host, or video clip was aired in which a false claim was made about President Obama's birth certificate, this segment was evaluated to determine whether or not the host debunked the false claim. If the claim was left to stand unchallenged or if the host him or herself was the one making the claim, Media Matters logged this response as "no" pushback. If the claim was corrected by the host, Media Matters recorded this as "yes" to the question of whether the host debunked the falsehood. If several false claims were made in the same segment and the host debunked some but not all of the false claims, this was labeled as "partial."

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.