Fox dumped Glenn Beck after his bizarre conspiracy theories and rhetoric reportedly caused the network's advertisers to balk. Now Fox appears to be clinging to one of his classic distortions, characterizing a government effort utilizing behavioral psychology to reduce fraud, error and debt as "mind control."
FoxNews.com reported that it obtained a document outlining plans for the government to hire a "Behavioral Insights Team" that "will look for ways to subtly influence people's behavior." The United Kingdom has implemented several related initiatives. In one instance the U.K. government sent out reminder letters to late taxpayers, leading to increased tax revenue.
The ideas behind this type of initiative were laid out in Professor Cass Sunstein's book, Nudge. When Sunstein joined the Obama administration as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Beck launched a campaign to demonize him and his ideas.
Right-wing media have baselessly smeared the White House's new Behavioral Insights Team, labeling it "propaganda," "mind control," and "Orwellian." In reality, the Behavioral Insights Team is modeled off a similar unit in Britain that has proven effective in encouraging timely tax payment and reducing energy bills and consumption.
Conservative media seized on White House plans to create a Behavioral Insights Team on July 30, when FoxNews.com obtained a document describing the program and its search for behavioral scientists.
Breitbart.com quickly jumped on the story, suggesting that the Obama administration will use the program to push a social agenda: "The Obama administration has not been shy about attempting to use its influence - or taxpayer money - to push enthusiasm for its agenda, including Obamacare, nutrition, and gay rights."
Fox stoked fears by hyping the program on multiple shows with little mention of its benefits. On the July 30 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs commented on FoxNews.com's report on the program, saying, "To many, that sounds purely like propaganda and mind control."
Fox News hosted conservative activist and media critic Brent Bozell to defend a widely criticized interview by Fox's Lauren Green and continue the right-wing media's attack on Muslim scholar Reza Aslan.
During an interview with writer and scholar Reza Aslan, Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green ignored the content of his book and his academic credentials, instead repeatedly questioning the motivation and propriety of a Muslim writing a book about Jesus, suggesting a religious bias.
Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, defended Green during the America Live segment, saying: "I'll be the first one to stand up and applaud Lauren Green for the question that she asked. It was the exact, correct question that needed to be asked." He went on to criticize Aslan's response to Green's suggestion of religious bias -- that he's a scholar of religions, that it's his job to write about religion -- calling it arrogant and further claiming that if Aslan was indeed writing without bias, then "he's not a very good Muslim."
Green has come under widespread criticism for the interview. As Media Matters pointed out, Green failed to meet her own standards since she, a Christian, has reported on Muslims in the past. Aslan responded to his interview with Green by pointing out Fox's "inherent anti-Muslim bias."
Green's interview has since been described by critics as "atrocious." Abe Levy, a religion writer for the San Antonio Express-News wrote: "anyone can scrutinize a particular faith if they have studied it, you don't have to be of that particular faith. In my line of work, you want to have a deep respect for a particular religion, even if it is not your own, but you don't have to be of a particular faith to cover it." A former writer for Christianity Today magazine said: "when it comes to the author, she could have looked at his credentials, she was trying to get at a controversy and wasn't sure what the controversy was."
The interview first gained attention after Buzzfeed posted it under the headline "Is This The Most Embarrasing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?" The segment was also described by Slate as "the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News."
From the July 30 edition of Fox News' America Live:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News declined to air President Obama's economic speech, despite offering a pre-rebuttal of his agenda.
On July 30, President Obama was scheduled to address his agenda for sustainable economic growth and recovery at an Amazon shipping facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On the July 30 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Shannon Bream and guest Dana Perino chastised the president's previous economic proposals as a preview to his upcoming speech. Perino stated that the Obama administration's "speeches end up being like cotton candy, you know what, melts on contact? So I give them a C minus when it comes to the content of their speeches."
Shortly thereafter, Bream informed viewers that those interested in the speech could follow it on Foxnews.com.
As the speech started, rather than airing the president's remarks, Fox brought on guest Chris Stirewalt to continue the network's general attack on his policy proposals without any context from the actual speech. Stirewalt explained that the speech offered little pragmatic solutions, and was solely based around the president's alleged desire to show he is willing to compromise.
Earlier in the day, Bream questioned on Twitter whether anyone was "still listening" to the president on the economy.
Fox News offered Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a platform to promote his petition to defund President Obama's health care law, an effort that has been repeatedly pushed by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
On the July 29 edition of Fox News' America Live, guest host Shannon Bream hosted Cruz to promote his petition to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During the interview, Bream praised Cruz's background, saying, "The first time I met you was when you argued a case at the Supreme Court. You seem very familiar with the Constitution." Cruz appealed to Fox viewers, declaring that "the only way" to stop funding of health care reform is if Americans "go to dontfundit.com, we sign a national petition, and every one of us picks up the phone, calls our elected officials and says, 'Talk is cheap. Stand up, use the constitutional power of the purse and defund Obamacare now.' If we stand together, we can win this fight."
Bream is not the first Fox News host to hype the right-wing campaign to defund the ACA. On his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity has repeatedly threatened Republicans to support defunding, even to the point of threatening primary challenges to those who don't comply. After Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) threatened to shut down the government if the health care law was not defunded, Hannity hosted Lee on his show, saying:
This is an interesting moment -- I think -- and a test for the Republican Party. Are they going to be the conservative alternative? How many members of the House and Senate ran on repealing Obamacare? Now they can vote symbolically or they can take this stand, is what you're telling them to do. I'm supporting you. I think they ought to just put their foot down, stand on principal and stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here. Fund the rest of the government, but just defund Obamacare. And then if the Democrats want to shut down the government, then let them shut it down.
After President Obama acknowledged the fact that language in the Vietnamese declaration of independence was inspired by its American counterpart, Fox News attacked Obama's remarks as "stupid" and wondered whether he had offended Vietnam War veterans -- an attempt by Fox to manufacture yet another phony scandal.
On July 25, President Obama met with Vietnam's president, Truong Tan Sang, in hopes of strengthening trade ties and military cooperation. During the press conference that followed, the president acknowledged the fact that the Vietnamese declaration of independence used language inspired by America's declaration in an effort to stress the long, if troubled history between the two nations.
Fox analysts Ralph Peters and Oliver North agreed that Obama's statements were "stupid." Peters accused the president of being uneducated, saying, "This guy doesn't know our past." In a previous segment, Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt theorized that the President Obama "may not have studied that or been aware of," our history with Vietnam, or perhaps got "carried away rhetorically in trying to make his guest feel at home."
All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
After initially misreporting and downplaying the damage done to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by a recent Supreme Court decision, Fox News almost completely ignored the law until the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated it will once again be enforced.
As was expected by election law experts, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the DOJ will once again enforce the VRA against Texas' recent changes to its election practices, which federal courts have already blocked as racially discriminatory. Because these previous injunctions were based on the "preclearance" powers of Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA -- now nullified by the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling June 25 in Shelby County v. Holder that Section 4 was outdated -- the DOJ is bringing its new lawsuit under a different provision, Section 3.
Despite host Shannon Bream's promise to keep her panel "straight," a segment on the July 25 edition of Fox News' America Live featuring conservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen inaccurately explained the new VRA action and repeated long-debunked GOP talking points on voter ID.
Thiessen's claim that voter ID laws "don't disenfranchise anybody" because there are ID requirements for other government services that are not fundamental constitutional rights is not only a silly comparison, it's sloppy.
After calling today's presidential address on the economy "a case of political déjà vu," America Live guest host Shannon Bream claimed that the economy has "mostly struggled" since Obama took office, despite evidence to the contrary.
The July 24 edition of Fox News' America Live opened with a preview of President Obama's economic speech taking place at Knox College in Illinois. Bream immediately framed Obama's economic record negatively, saying, "Critics argue, they think it's just going to be more of the same, returning to themes of higher taxes and higher spending, leaving some thinking he's just out of ideas. President Obama took office, since then the economy has mostly struggled." She then asked, "If the critics are right and there's nothing new here, what is the speech really all about?"
But in fact, housing prices have consistently risen, the Dow Jones Industrial average, also on the rise, has posted record highs, and private sector job growth has steadily increased since February 2010:
Although the economy has improved, Republican obstructionism "has blocked pro-growth policy and backed job-killing austerity," Guardian columnist Michael Cohen argued. Economic experts have argued that lowering public sector spending has held the economy back and government spending cuts have consistently lowered GDP growth in recent years, but Bream made no mention of Republican plans to gut the president's proposals to remedy this.
From the July 24 edition of Fox News' America Live:
Loading the player reg...
After airing President Obama's economic speech live for approximately eight minutes, Fox News cut away to commercial break, promising that interested parties could watch the remainder of his remarks on Fox Business Network.
When America Live returned from commercial, guest host Shannon Bream announced the newly given name of the royal baby and then launched into a segment attacking Obama's newest judicial nominee, Cornelia Pillard.
During this same time, CNN and MSNBC aired continual live footage of Obama's speech.
Fox has a habit of cutting away early from the president's speeches -- the network left Obama's live remarks in Berlin to cover tea party protests, cut away from Obama's recent climate change speech in order to host a climate change denier, and cut short live coverage of Obama's reaction to the Senate's vote on gun control legislation.
Over the past three months, Fox has amplified the voices of two anti-immigrant guests, Michael Cutler and Dennis Michael Lynch, hosting them at least 13 times to rail against immigration reform and bash immigrants. Cutler, a former immigration officer, has an extensive history of associating with anti-immigrant, nativist organizations. Lynch is a documentary filmmaker whose expertise on immigration seems to stem only from directing two anti-immigrant films that have been heavily promoted by nativist organizations.
Reacting to Detroit's recently announced bankruptcy, Fox News' Gregg Jarrett and Chris Stirewalt repeatedly conflated Detroit automakers with the City of Detroit in order to attack President Obama for breaking a campaign promise to not "let Detroit go bankrupt." However, the President's statement was clearly in reference to the Detroit automakers that received government assistance, not the city itself.
According to The New York Times, "Detroit, the cradle of America's automobile industry and once the nation's fourth-most-populous city, filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the largest American city ever to take such a course." After it was reported that the White House did not plan to offer financial assistance to the City of Detroit, Jarrett and Stirewalt questioned whether President Obama had gone back on a statement he made in October 2012 when he said, "We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt." Jarrett asserted, "The president did vow, 'I will not let Detroit go bankrupt.' But you know, he did, didn't he?"
But, as CBS News reported at the time, Obama's statement was in reference to an op-ed written by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in which Romney said, "Let Detroit go bankrupt." According to CBS, the president was responding to that op-ed by pointing to the success of his administration's bailout of the auto-industry."
OBAMA: Just a few years ago, the auto industry wasn't just struggling - it was flatlining. GM and Chrysler were on the verge of collapse. Suppliers and distributors were at risk of going under. More than a million jobs across the country were on the line - and not just auto jobs, but the jobs of teachers, small business owners, and everyone in communities that depend on this great American industry.
But we refused to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt.
As Slate's Matthew Yglesias wrote, President Obama and others often used the term "Detroit" to refer to the auto industry. According to Yglesias, "If you or someone you love is going around and finding old quotes in which the words 'Detroit' and 'bankruptcy' appear but it's absolutely clear from context that 'Detroit' is being used as metonymy for auto companies rather than as a way of referring to the municipality then please stop."
Fox News host Gregg Jarrett falsely claimed that "Stand Your Ground had nothing whatsoever to do in the [George] Zimmerman case" as a means to attack July 19 remarks made by President Obama on the controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman's subsequent acquittal. Despite convincing evidence that Stand Your Ground was influential in the trial's outcome, Jarrett said that Obama was either "oblivious" or "simply trying to bring on more acrimony over a controversial subject" by discussing the law.
From the July 19 edition of America Live:
Jarrett's claim that Stand Your Ground (also called "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will") had no bearing on the Zimmerman case is contradicted by the statements of a Zimmerman juror who said the law, in part, provided a legal justification for Zimmerman's actions. The juror's statement was no surprise, as the text of Stand Your Ground was included in instructions to the jury explaining Zimmerman's possible defenses.
From the July 17 edition of Fox News' America Live:
Loading the player reg...