Right-wing media rushed to exploit the deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. But this is just the latest in right-wing media's long history of politicizing tragedy to push political objectives.
Fox News has ever-shifting standards for how the Obama administration should respond to terrorist attacks -- a strategic moving of the goalposts that was clearly on display during the network's coverage of the deadly Paris shooting.
On January 7, three gunmen opened fire at the office of the satirical weekly paper Charlie Hebdo, an attack that left 12 dead and 11 others wounded. That morning, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told CNN that based on the information the White House had at the time, the attack "does seem like" terrorism and that it "would condemn that in the strongest possible terms" if it were confirmed. Merely 30 minutes later, Earnest appeared on Fox News and declared, "This is an act of terror," a designation echoed by President Obama from the Oval Office. Obama expressed his "deepest sympathies to the people of Paris and the people of France for the terrible terrorist attack that took place earlier today," condemned the actions of "these terrorists [who] fear freedom," and noted the United States' cooperation with France on counterterrorism.
But to Fox News, describing the attack as terrorism wasn't enough. The network spent the day of the attack in Paris moving the goalposts for how the administration should have responded to the shooting.
Fox initially attempted to portray the change in the White House's characterization as scandalous. During Earnest's appearance on America's Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer took issue with the fact that Earnest used the term "act of terror" when earlier he'd used the phrase "act of violence." Hemmer repeatedly insisted that Earnest justify the change:
The demand soon grew. Claiming that it's insufficient to call the attack terrorism, Fox figures argued the White House "has to say 'Islamist terror.'" According to these personalities, the failure to say "Islamic," coupled with the White House's "reluctan[ce]" to say terrorism, evidences Obama's soft approach to fighting terrorism.
Moving the goalposts on the proper response to terrorism is a standard chapter in the Fox News playbook. The network obsessively claimed Obama failed to label the 2012 Benghazi attacks an act of terror, despite the fact that he did so from the Rose Garden the day after the attacks. When a gunman opened fire at Canada's War Memorial in October, Fox criticized Obama for refusing to acknowledge the attack was terrorism (despite the fact that he had). And after the Pakistani Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, in December, Obama condemned the terrorists, but Fox wondered why he failed to mention "the Taliban" by name.
As the newly GOP-controlled Senate attempts to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, the long-debunked myth that the pipeline would create 42,000 jobs continues to pervade in the media -- despite the fact that it will create only 35 permanent jobs:
For many years conservative media and the the GOP have framed the Keystone XL pipeline -- which would transport highly greenhouse gas-intensive Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico for export to the global oil market -- as a job creation policy, often claiming that the project would create 42,000 new jobs.
Over time, that message has made its way into mainstream media -- even after being debunked by studies and outlets such as Politifact, the Washington Post Fact Checker, and more -- by both Republican Senators who tout misleading job benefits without being corrected and by media pundits themselves.
But an exhaustive study by the State Department concluded that the Keystone XL project will result in just 50 jobs, including "35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors." Further, the report stated that spending on the project would support only 3,900 temporary construction jobs if construction lasted one year and just 1,950 temporary construction jobs if construction lasted two years. The report also states that a majority of potential other jobs supported by the project would come from "indirect and induced spending," yet a recent Washington Post article detailed how the "indirect" job estimates themselves don't hold up, as some have already been created in anticipation of the pipeline, and most would last for less than a year:
"42,000 new jobs" is going too far. Most of those jobs are far from the construction site, and it's hard to argue they are new. Moreover, under State's accounting, they only last for a year. For some workers, it would be a good but brief payday.
Fox figures have falsely suggested the Muslim community has not condemned the terror attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France despite the fact that Muslim leaders, advocacy groups and organizations, and leaders of Arab states have roundly denounced the attacks -- a fact that Fox reported on its website, but left off air.
Fox News contributor and Republican strategist Karl Rove attempted to deflect attention from the latest ethical controversy facing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by reviving a false smear of Hillary Clinton that was debunked years ago.
Christie's appearance at a Dallas Cowboys game as a guest of owner Jerry Jones in his personal suite is "proving to be controversial." As reported by The Washington Post Christie flew to Dallas and accepted the ticket to the game at the expense of the Cowboys' owner, who just so happens to have a business relationship with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey." Christie's NFL experience may have been worth more than $100,000, and "his acceptance of a gift from a business owner with ties to the Port Authority" raises concerns about possible conflicts of interest in the governor's private and political life.
As The Wall Street Journal reported, Jones is a direct investor in a deal with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey worth $875 million. Jones is a partial owner of Legends Hospitality, the company recently selected to operate the observation deck of the One World Trade Center, operated by the Port Authority which is jointly controlled by Christie. As David Sirota of the International Business Times, points out, the deal is linked to support from Governor Christie:
Less than two years before Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones paid for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's tickets and travel to NFL games, government documents show Christie personally pushed the Port Authority to approve a lucrative contract for a firm part-owned by Jones. Christie nonetheless accepted the gifts from Jones, despite New Jersey ethics rules barring gifts to public officials from persons or entities that those officials "deal with, contact, or regulate in the course of official business."
On March 19, 2013, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a press release announcing their selection of Legends Hospitality LLC to operate the observation deck on the top floor of One World Trade Center. The next day, the Port Authority board - which is appointed by Christie and Cuomo -- specifically cited the governors' announcement in voting to approve the contract for the company, which is jointly owned by the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and Checketts Partners Investment Fund.
On the January 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum asked Rove whether he believed the incident to be a "problem" for the governor. Dismissing the incident as "a minor thing," Rove downgraded the scandal to a simple issue of what team Christie was rooting for, which he then contrasted with Hillary Clinton, whom Rove falsely claimed "became a New York Yankees fan when she was running for the Senate in New York." Christie, Rove claimed, "has been a lifelong fan of the Cowboys."
The claim that Clinton was not a Yankees fan until her campaign for the United States Senate is not supported by the evidence. In fact, Clinton's 2003 autobiography, "Living History," contains a photograph of her wearing a Yankees cap in 1992 -- eight years before she ran for the Senate. And a September 12, 1994 Washington Post article outlined Clinton's lifelong affinity for the New York baseball team.
Fox News falsely claimed that California's new program to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants amounted to "back door to citizenship" that would increase identity theft. But the program requires a stringent background check and shares the support of law enforcement and public officials who point to studies that show the program will lead to increased safety and transparency for citizens.
Media figures are criticizing President Obama for the current diplomatic re-engagement with Cuba by falsely suggesting that taking executive action to ease some travel and trade restrictions is legally questionable. In reality, the embargo is a result of decades of executive actions under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and Congress has explicitly reaffirmed executive discretion of the type the president is taking to modify U.S. relations with Cuba.
Conservative media outlets attacked President Obama's proposed plan for $263 million in funding for police training and body cameras following the police shooting of Michael Brown, accusing Obama of blaming police instead of focusing on issues affecting the black community. But research has shown that the use of body cameras has decreased civilian complaints and the use of force by police.
Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume accused President Obama and civil rights leaders of not speaking out on "black-on-black" violence and crime in Chicago. But Obama has repeatedly spoken out on these issues and acted to address them, as have civil rights groups.
Right-wing media outlets hyped widely discredited research from the Heritage Foundation to push the myth that President Obama's executive actions on immigration will cost the U.S. economy more than $2 trillion in federal benefits paid to those undocumented immigrants whose deportations are deferred. But Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion on behalf of certain undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents does not confer federal means-tested benefits and economists report that allowing more immigrants to legally work will raise revenues and boost the economy.
From the November 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Right-wing media are claiming that former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attikisson was "targeted" by the Obama administration because a Department of Justice press aide complained to CBS about an article Attkisson wrote about Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, the story DOJ was criticizing inaccurately accused Attorney General Eric Holder of lying to Congress.
On November 20, conservative website PJ Media first reported on October 2011 emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Judicial Watch. The emails contain a conversation between then-DOJ office of public affairs director Tracy Schmaler and White House communications aide Eric Schultz criticizing a CBSNews.com piece written by Attkisson.
Schmaler wrote that she was going to contact Attkisson's editor and CBS's Bob Schieffer and called Attkisson "out of control." In a later email, Schmaler wrote that the contention of Attkisson's article was "bullshit."
PJ Media characterized the exchange as a "bombshell" that "provides smoking gun proof that the Obama White House and the Eric Holder Justice Department colluded to get CBS News to block reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
Conservative blogs ran with PJ Media's article, which was eventually picked up by the Drudge Report. Attkisson reacted to PJ Media's article on Glenn Beck's radio show, saying, "If you dare to go after them, they will target you, try to assassinate your character, they'll call your bosses, they'll email. We know all of this is going on, but we now have emails that they've been withholding under executive privilege that refer to this."
The story also quickly made its way to Fox News, where America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer reported the development as "more bombshell emails revealing how the White House targeted former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
That the Obama administration would complain about Attkisson's reporting is unremarkable -- the central contention of the article they were complaining about was in fact inaccurate, as later confirmed by a 2012 independent investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.
Media figures are touting the Keystone XL pipeline as an "environmentally safe" alternative to truck and rail transportation, uncritically citing a State Department report on the environmental impact of building Keystone XL. But experts and subsequent studies have determined that the report is based on faulty conclusions and grossly underestimates greenhouse gas emissions caused by Keystone.
Right-wing media resurrected the myth that increased immigration hurts American workers in response to President Obama's plans for executive action on immigration. In fact, studies consistently find that immigration does not lead to higher unemployment or lower American wages and that it actually helps the economy.
President Obama is expected to announce immigration orders that build upon the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and provide temporary administrative relief for certain undocumented immigrants, an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that right-wing media have attacked as "lawless." But experts across the political spectrum acknowledge that this type of executive action has long been practiced and authorized under federal immigration law.