Fox has repeatedly attacked Teamsters president James Hoffa's statement that union members should "take these son of a bitches out" at a Labor Day rally, suggesting his comments constituted "a call for violence [toward] peaceful tea party members." But Hoffa was not endorsing violence -- he was urging his audience to remove elected officials by voting; furthermore, Fox has a history downplaying explicit threats or violent rhetoric when they are directed at Democrats and progressives.
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Fox Attacks Hoffa's Comments As "A Call For Violence"
Fox & Friends Attack Hoffa's Comments, Hype Claim That They "Amount To A Call For Violence On Peaceful Tea Party Members." On the September 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, after airing video of James Hoffa's remarks at a rally in Detroit, MI, the three co-hosts discussed the comments and suggested Hoffa was calling for violence against tea party members:
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Wait a minute, "take them out." That has a certain connotation that is not good news for members of the tea party.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Right. If you're in the UFC or the WWE, it makes perfect sense.
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Sure.
KILMEADE: Yes, it does. Knock them out.
DOOCY: Or take out for dinner, that would be great. But that's not what he's talking about.
KILMEADE: And a bit of a surprise. And this is something that clearly goes against what the president said to bring an era of decorum to the debate and not make it so personal. Remember? He said that about a year ago, after the tragic shooting of Gabby Giffords.
DOOCY: Well, maybe this guy didn't hear. Neither did Maxine Waters.
DOOCY: And regarding the tea party, the Tea Party Express, the head, Amy Kramer, said, "Hoffa's remarks are inexcusable and amount for a call for violence on peaceful tea party members which include many Teamster members." Remember, there are a lot of members of the teamsters union that are also tea party members. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/6/11]
Fox Guest Blakeman Calls Comments "Thuggery At Its Best," Suggests "Legs Are Going To Get Broken, Somebody's Going To Disappear." On the September 5 edition of Fox News' America Live, an edited version of Hoffa's remarks was aired. Host Megyn Kelly then asked guest and Republican consultant Brad Blakeman to comment on the cropped video. Blakeman called the comments "thuggery at its best," adding, "It's what unions are good at." Blakeman also said the comments were "the kind of remarks you'd expect out of Tony Soprano" and that "when a union president says 'let's take these son of a bitches out,' it usually means someone's legs are going to get broken, somebody's going to disappear." [Fox News, America Live, 9/5/11, via Media Matters]
But Hoffa Urged Audience To Vote Out Elected Officials -- Not Resort To Violence
Hoffa Told Audience: "Everybody Here's Got To Vote ... Let's Take These Son Of A Bitches Out." In his full comments, Hoffa was urging his audience to vote out Republican members of Congress -- not inciting violence. As the unedited version of Hoffa's comments which aired on Fox & Friends' showed, Hoffa said:
HOFFA (video): We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face, the war on workers. And you see it everywhere -- it is the tea party. And you know, there's only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is, we like a good fight. And you know what? They got a war, they got a war with us. And there's only going to be one winner.
President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march.
Everybody here's got to vote. If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let's take these son of a [bitches] out and give America back to America where we belong. Thank you very much! Thank you! Thank you. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/6/11; Media Matters, 9/5/11]
Fox Has Consistently Downplayed Violent Rhetoric And Threats Directed At Democrats, Progressives
Hannity: "So Do You Think That This Is Just An Effort To Smear Conservatives?" During the March 24, 2010, edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity discussed threats made to Democratic lawmakers during debate over health care reform. 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?" [Fox News, Hannity, 3/24/10 via Media Matters]
Doocy: "So Why Are People Angry? Maybe Because They Didn't Want This [Health Care] Bill?" On the March 25, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, while teasing a segment about threats against Democrats, 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 [health care] bill?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/25/10 via Media Matters]
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 that Rep. 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 stated, "It ruins it for everybody, just like the kid who acts up at the birthday party." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/25/10 via Media Matters]
Fox & Friends Airs Viewer Emails Comparing Threats Against Democrats To American Revolution, William Ayers. Later on the March 25, 2010 edition of Fox & Friends, 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 also appeared to defend violent 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?"
Excerpts from the emails:
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/25/10 via Media Matters]
Cupp: Democrats "Want Us To Feel Sorry For Them That They've Gotten A Couple Of ... Angry Voicemails." During the March 24, 2010, edition of Hannity, Fox News contributor S.E. Cupp said, "You know, Democrats who did this -- who sort of rammed this [health care bill] 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." [Fox News, Hannity, 3/24/10 via Media Matters]
Fox Nation: "Are Threats Really Elevated, Or Are Dems Playing Politics?" In March 2010, Fox Nation displayed a picture of several Democratic congressmen alongside the headline, "Are Threats Really Elevated, or Are Dems Playing Politics?" The headline linked to a NewsBusters post that claimed there were "no specific examples of alleged threats of violence [against Democrats] 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 Fox Nation:
[Fox Nation, 3/24/10 via Media Matters]
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, 2010, 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." [Fox News, Special Report, 3/24/10 via Media Matters]
Trotta: "The Left Wing Virtually Invented Violent Dissent" And The Press Is "Wildly Exaggerating And Embroidering" Threats To Members Of Congress. On the March 27, 2010, edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta said: "The left wing virtually invented violent dissent going all the way back to the 1960s. So to hear everybody wildly exaggerating and embroidering what's happened in Washington is really rather laughable. And the media has been suckered into it." [Fox News, America's News HQ, 3/27/10 via Media Matters]