Former Obama administration official Cass Sunstein writes that he received death threats and hate mail at his unlisted home address after Fox News launched a smear campaign against him. After Sunstein's nomination and confirmation in 2009, then-Fox host Glenn Beck attacked him and his work for years, invoking mass murderers, totalitarianism and conspiracy theories in conjunction with his name.
Sunstein served as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the first Obama administration from September 2009 to August 2012.
As Mother Jones notes, Sunstein writes in his upcoming book, Simpler: The Future of Government, that Beck "developed what appeared to be a kind of an obsession with me." Sunstein compares Beck's attacks to the "Two Minutes Hate" from the classic novel 1984, where citizens were forced to watch films depicting enemies of the totalitarian party.
Sunstein also notes that he "began to receive a lot of hate mail, including death threats, at my unlisted home address. One of them stated, 'If I were you I would resign immediately. A well-paid individual, who is armed, knows where you live.'"
From the February 26 edition of Fox News' Fox and Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly speculated that the government will invade personal privacy as a result of President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity, ignoring the fact that the order merely provides optional help for companies running critical infrastructure to combat cyber threats.
President Obama announced Tuesday during the State of the Union address that he had signed an executive order to improve cybersecurity for critical infrastructure that impacts national security, the national economy, and public health and safety."
On Fox & Friends, Napolitano said the order "goes too far," making the accusation that the order will allow the government to read personal emails and eventually punish and restrict individuals for what they say on the internet, claiming that "your freedom of expression will shrink."
But as The New York Times reported, the order has nothing to do with the Internet use of individuals, and instead introduces an entirely voluntary program to help specific companies combat cyber threats:
The order will allow companies that oversee infrastructure like dams, electrical grids and financial institutions to join an experimental program that has provided government contractors with real-time reports about cyberthreats.
It will also put together recommendations that companies should follow to prevent attacks, and it will more clearly define the responsibilities for different parts of the government that play a role in cybersecurity.
The Times further noted that according to industry experts, the most important measures needed to protect against cyberattacks still require congressional approval. Senate Republicans twice rejected cybersecurity legislation last year.
And the American Civil Liberties Union has approved of the privacy measures included in the executive order. The Hill's technology blog reported:
The executive order also makes clear that agencies are required to implement privacy and civil liberties protections into their cyber activities, according to existing privacy principles and frameworks. Agencies are also required review the privacy and civil liberties impact of their work and publicly release those assessments.
Those privacy-focused measures won approval from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"The president's executive order rightly focuses on cybersecurity solutions that don't negatively impact civil liberties," Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the ACLU, in a statement. "For example, greasing the wheels of information sharing from the government to the private sector is a privacy-neutral way to distribute critical cyber information."
Multiple Fox News personalities have suggested the Justice Department's lawsuit against Standard & Poor's is 'political retribution,' either papering over or outright ignoring the facts behind the suit. However, the S&P investigation began well before U.S. credit was downgraded, and a raft of internal emails suggest the company may have knowingly inflated securities ratings.
The Wall Street Journal recently joined Fox News in attempting to rewrite a radical and unprecedented federal appellate court opinion to fit their caricature of a "lawless" President Obama. But even as a WSJ editorial picks up Fox News' misrepresentation of the appellate court's sweeping decision on the constitutional legitimacy of presidential recess appointments as a narrow swipe at Obama, the Fox-fueled version is starting to unravel.
On January 29, the WSJ published an editorial that claimed "the latest disdain for the Constitution's checks and balances" was the Obama administration's response to a recent outlier opinion of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. This decision broke with centuries of practice and case law by holding presidents can only make recess appointments when both a vacancy and appointment occur in-between congressional sessions. Specifically, the WSJ was offended that the National Labor Relations Board accurately pointed out the opinion was technically limited to the party that brought the case - despite its serious implications for all other similarly situated plaintiffs - and not only was it not currently in effect, it might be overturned on appeal. From the WSJ editorial, which accused the NLRB of planning to "ignore" the opinion:
So, let's see. First, President Obama bypasses the Senate's advice and consent power by making "recess" appointments while the Senate was in pro-forma session specifically to prevent recess appointments. Then when a federal court rules the recess appointments illegal, the NLRB declares that it will keep doing business as if nothing happened.
Without Mr. Obama's illegal appointments, the board would have been without a quorum and unable to decide a single case. That lawless behavior means more than 200 of the NLRB's rulings in the past year are in limbo. It's bad enough to force those 200 litigants to appeal rulings that are sure to be overturned. But the board wants to keep issuing new rulings though it now knows that a unanimous appeals court has declared them illegal, pending a Supreme Court review that may never happen.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly debunked the right-wing media myth that President Obama will require doctors to ask their patients if they have guns -- a myth pushed by her Fox colleague Andrew Napolitano. In fact, as Kelly noted, Obama's provision simply reiterates that doctors may legally ask patients about a potential lack of gun safety in their homes.
On The O'Reilly Factor Thursday, host Bill O'Reilly discussed Obama's recent executive orders on guns, claiming that the "most controversial part of the president's vision" is a directive clarifying that doctors are not prohibited from asking patients about firearms. After airing clips of Obama and NRA president David Keene speaking about the directive, O'Reilly said that "if it's true that doctors and nurses are being directed by the federal government to make inquiries about guns in some cases, that's troubling."
Guest and Fox News host Megyn Kelly agreed that such a requirement would be troubling if it existed, but explained that "it's not true." Kelly went on to say that Obama's executive order only clarifies that "Obamacare does not prohibit the doctors from asking [patients] about guns" "if they want to ask." She further noted that during the passage of health care reform, the NRA successfully lobbied to ensure the bill contained a provision "saying patients don't have to answer if they are asked by their doctor whether they have a gun."
Kelly is right: Obama only announced that he would "[c]larify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes."
Once again the right-wing media is pushing a falsehood based on their misrepresentation of whether a Democratic proposal involving doctors is mandatory.
The right-wing media is falsely claiming that President Obama is requiring doctors to ask their patients if they have guns, a claim that echoes their 2009 freak-out about supposed "death panels" in a proposed health care bill. In fact, as was the case with the end-of-life counseling provision in the health care bill, Obama's policies related to doctors and guns are voluntary.
In July 2009, shortly after a Democratic health care bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey claimed that a provision of the bill would "absolutely require" seniors to "submit" to regular counseling sessions "that will tell them how to end their life sooner." This was false: the provision would have actually ensured that voluntary advanced care planning session where doctors and patients could discuss options like living wills were covered by Medicare - a proposal that had previously been supported by Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
Nonetheless, after McCaughey offered up her false claim regarding the provision, the right-wing media - led by Rush Limbaugh -- was quick to trumpet it. And the falsehood took on an even greater intensity after Sarah Palin claimed that under the proposal, "my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel,'" an absurd statement that was quickly adopted by Fox News.
Meanwhile, mainstream outlets repeatedly debunked the claim - more than 40 times in the month after McCaughey offered her initial claim. But in spite of the media's effort to debunk the right-wing's claims, the provision was dropped from the Senate's health care bill, and did not become law with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
A similar pattern is unfolding with regard to a policy on guns and doctors President Obama's unveiled during his January 16 announcement regarding gun violence prevention policies he supports. Among a variety of other proposals, the White House announced that the administration would "issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not ban doctors from asking patients "about firearms in their patients' homes and safe storage of those firearms."
While nothing in the White House proposal suggests that this is a mandatory requirement that doctors ask patients if they have firearms in the home, right-wing media quickly began suggesting that the proposal did just that.
On his January 16 broadcast, Limbaugh claimed that under that policy:
So now doctors are being ordered, instructed to talk to patients and get information from them about gun ownership, where they are in their house, who has access to them, where the ammunition is kept.
He later added: "The doctors are now under the thumb of Obamacare. They had better comply. This is not a choice." Fox News' Andrew Napolitano also fearmongered over the provision.
From the January 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
From the January 15 edition of Fox News' America Live:
Loading the player reg...
What is it about President Obama's inaugurations that bring out the craziest of the right-wing crazies?
Four years ago, Obama's historic swearing-in sparked months' worth of teeth-chattering paranoia, trumpeted by the conservative media, about how the new Democratic president posed a mortal threat to America and that drastic action might need to be taken.
In 2009, a far-right Newsmax columnist determined that a "military coup "to resolve the 'Obama problem'" was not "unrealistic." That's about the same time Glenn Beck used his then-new program on Fox News to game out bloody scenarios for the coming civil war against the Obama-led tyranny. Note that the armed rebellion rhetoric was uncorked just weeks after Obama's first cabinet had been confirmed.
Now, four years later as Obama's second swearing-in approaches, the same misguided insurrectionist pageantry is back on display. (The fringe John Birch Society is probing the likelihood of "armed resistance" against the government -- "an unlikely prospect, for now at least.") And this time, Adolf Hitler stars in a leading role.
In fact, there's a disturbing collision now underway featuring two signature, conservative paranoid fantasies. One holds that Obama is like Hitler; that he's a tyrant ready to undo democracy at home. The other is that Americans need access to an unregulated supply of assault weapons in order to fight their looming insurrectionist war with the government.
In the last week we've heard more and more conservatives try to tie the two wild tales together: Obama's allegedly pending gun grab will prove he's just like Hitler, which will demonstrate the need for citizens to declare war on the government.
Ignoring nearly 250 years of our democratic history, conservative voices across the media landscape have been nodding their heads in agreement suggesting it's only a matter of time before the United States resembles a tyrannical dictatorship that will be either fascistic or Stalinist in nature (or both, if the rhetorician feels no obligation to historical accuracy).
So much for the notion of American exceptionalism -- "the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history" -- that conservatives love to preach.
Fox figures used part of a 1995 speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to press the conservative narrative that the administration plans to launch an assault on gun owners and the Second Amendment. In fact, in that 1995 speech, Holder addressed efforts to teach young residents of the District of Columbia that it was "not hip to carry a gun anymore." At that time, Holder was serving as the District's U.S. Attorney and it was then illegal to own a handgun in the city.
On Thursday's edition of The Five, the co-hosts discussed a series of meetings Vice President Joe Biden is holding with gun owners' groups, including the National Rifle Association, as part of the White House's review of gun laws. During the discussion, co-host Andrea Tantaros introduced Holder's 1995 comments as "the reason why, I think, people are slightly nervous."
After playing video of Holder's speech, Tantaros said to co-host Eric Bolling, "He's saying that smoking used to be cool. But when was it ever cool to commit a crime or to shoot somebody?" Bolling responded by saying that Holder's speech was an example of the Obama administration "mentality" of "brainwash[ing] the people who don't agree with what our administration stands for."
Likewise on his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity cited Holder's speech as proof of the administration's "anti-gun" values, claiming that "they're now advocating brainwashing to get their way." He went on to accuse the administration of "forcible indoctrination" and "persuasion by propaganda," adding: "We have to deal with a liberated, more radical, the real Obama, ambitious Obama, and he meant it when he said he wanted to transform America. That's why we have got to save America."
From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
Loading the player reg...
Following reports that President Obama was considering proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws, right-wing media figures likened the Obama administration to Nazi Germany and compared Obama to dictators like Hitler and Stalin.
Echoing their analysis from 2011, conservative media outlets have advised Republicans against raising the debt ceiling. The commitment to this narrative shows that the economic realities of the past debt ceiling debacle are being completely ignored by the right-wing media.
From the January 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...