Fox News' Andrew Napolitano defended Jack Hunter, an aide to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), by downplaying his history of "neo-Confederate" and "pro-secessionist" views as speaking "favorably on states' rights."
After conservative blog Free Beacon revealed that Hunter "spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist," Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano defended Hunter in a post on his blog, calling him a "brilliant" and "gifted aide" who "possesses profound intellectual honesty." Napolitano claimed that Hunter's only "sin" was "having spoken favorably of states' rights:
Jack's sin in their eyes was having spoken favorably of states' rights, and negatively of Lincoln. They can't seem to recognize that states' rights--even secession--does not equal racism; it constitutes a brake on the feds' march to totalitarianism. Most modern day states' rights advocates recognize the sovereignty of the states and their inherent ability to nullify and avoid federal violations of the Constitution in order to protect life and liberty from an overgrown, intrusive federal leviathan that literally now interferes in or spies on every facet of our lives. And most historians and legal scholars who appreciate personal liberty and limited government recognize that the history of Lincoln's assaults on civil liberties is a topic capable of divergent views and worthy of exposure.
The Free Beacon reported that Hunter, who also worked as a South Carolina radio host for more than a decade and called himself the "Southern Avenger," often wore a mask emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag during public appearances. According to the Free Beacon, he has chaired the secessionist group League of the South, advocated white pride, disparaged Hispanic immigration to the United States, and supported the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth.
Napolitano has hosted Hunter on the Fox Business program Freedom Watch to discuss Senator Paul without acknowledging that Hunter worked for Paul.
Hunter has been featured in other right-wing media outlets as well. He has written more than 50 articles for The Daily Caller, regularly appeared on Fox Business, and helped author books with then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Paul.
Napolitano has defended extreme positions in the past, including 9-11 truther conspiracies, once claiming on Alex Jones' radio show, it's "hard for me to believe that" World Trade Center Building 7 "came down by itself."
From the June 27 edition of Fox Business' Stossel:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing media marked the Supreme Court's devastating Shelby County v. Holder decision by ignoring, trivializing, and downright misrepresenting its dire consequences for one of the most effective civil rights laws of all time, as well as for millions of American voters.
Tossing aside history, legal precedent, and congressional intent, the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 in Shelby County, a sharply split 5-4 opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts. In a twisted reading of this crown jewel of civil rights law, the conservative majority invalidated the provision within the VRA that prevents states and local jurisdictions from enacting racially discriminatory election practices, reasoning that this vital protection against voter suppression is instead an impermissible restriction on the highly dubious "equal sovereignty" of southern states.
Rather than acknowledge the documented voter suppression that the VRA has effectively and consistently kept at bay from the voting rights struggles of the civil rights era through the 2012 elections, right-wing media are echoing the Supreme Court's blow to the VRA, misrepresenting Shelby County as something other than an attack on the American right to vote.
Fox News host Jon Scott, in a Happening Now segment leading off Fox's coverage of the decision, chose to trivialize and confuse the radical decision as "the president took another shot you might say, a bit of a smackdown" by the Supreme Court. The consequences stretch much further than that.
Contrary to this horserace description, the VRA has never been a political manifestation of the executive. The VRA is rather Congress' chosen bipartisan method to effectuate the right to vote in the Fifteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, repeatedly updated and reauthorized because of incessant and ongoing voter suppression, and upheld as constitutional four separate times by the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, later in the day, Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano continued in the vein of his colleague by astonishingly asserting "nobody is seriously claiming today...that there is systematic efforts on the part of the government in the south to keep people of color from voting."
Instead, right-wing media figures like Rush Limbaugh chose to tout the decision as a victory against people who allegedly discriminate against whites, such as the "civil rights community" that wants "perpetual discrimination."
Fox's Andrew Napolitano ignored the Voting Rights Act's recent history of protecting voters from racially discriminatory measures to celebrate the Supreme Court's decision to strike down one of the Act's key provisions.
On the June 25 edition of Fox News' America Live, Fox senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano discussed a Supreme Court decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The section established a flexible formula for demonstrating voter suppression among jurisdictions that then required those areas to "pre-clear" changes to voting laws with the Department of Justice. Napolitano applauded the decision, citing the Court's opinion that the section "worked so well" that "the procedure is not necessary anymore. The conditions that caused Congress to create that procedure have been eradicated by the procedure." When host Megyn Kelly pointed out criticism from civil rights leaders to the decision, Napolitano responded, "It would have been a major setback had this been invalidated in 1965 when it was enacted, but no one is seriously complaining today":
Despite Napolitano's claims to the contrary, the Voting Rights Act has continued to protect voters from discriminatory voting changes. Legal analyst Andrew Cohen criticized the decision in a post at The Atlantic, noting that Section 4 was "invoked more than 700 times between 1982 and 2006 to block racially discrimination [sic] voting measures." A Mother Jones article quoted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, in her dissent to the decision, pointed out "eight examples of race-based voter discrimination in recent history" such as:
Right-wing media are repeating the wildly inaccurate claims of a political advertisement opposing a new police reform bill under consideration in New York City that attempts to bring the city's stop-and-frisk policy into constitutional compliance.
The captains union for the New York Police Department (NYPD) is currently promoting a ludicrous ad in opposition to the proposed Community Safety Act of the City Council of the City of New York. Upon release, the ad was immediately used as the June 19 front page of the New York Post, which dedicated an "exclusive" to the union's false claims that the police reform bill would "ban cops from identifying a suspect's age, gender, color or disability."
In fact, this bill would re-affirm the existing ban on illegal racial profiling by police, expand the class of protected groups, and provide previously unavailable avenues to litigation for civil rights abuses in state court. What the bill by its own terms explicitly would not do - contrary to the ad's depiction of a blindfolded police officer - is prohibit police from continuing to use race or any of the other protected group characteristics as part of a suspect's description. Rather, race and these other criteria cannot be the sole "determinative" factor proffered for a police stop of an individual, consistent with existing law. Absent other reasonable suspicion for the encounter, utilizing race alone as the reason for the police stop has long been illegal.
Following in the footsteps of the New York Post and CNN, however, right-wing media seemingly have not bothered to read the bill - or otherwise research the issue - and instead continue to base their entire analysis on the false ad.
Incorrectly describing the bill's rationale to be "identifying people by their identifying marks is offensive," the National Review Online quoted the Post's write-up of the ad and sarcastically wondered:
So, if a white male in his mid-thirties with a beard and a limp is wanted on suspicion of a crime, the police will be unable to broadcast that fact. Instead, they would have to say that they're looking for a person of undefined age, race, ability, and pogonic status -- and then describe his clothes. In a city of 7 million people, this will presumably work out perfectly, and it certainly won't lead to an increase in the frisking that the bill aims to reduce.
Fox News also repeated this blatant lie as straight news.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney baselessly suggested non-citizens will now be compelled to vote as the "end result" of the Supreme Court's decision that Arizona cannot trump federal election law and make it harder for its citizens to register to vote.
In its 7-2 decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the Supreme Court rejected Arizona's argument that its state registration law is immune to the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, an "open and shut" decision authored by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia that was handed down only three months after oral arguments.
Varney, however, responded to the breaking news that the Court had struck down yet another unconstitutional Arizona law by claiming the decision would not only allow non-citizens to vote, they will now go forth and do so. His guest, Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, while admitting Arizona has a terrible record at enacting constitutional legislation, added to the misinformation by incorrectly asserting "the states decide what the standards are for voting." From the June 17 edition of Varney & Company:
From the May 28 edition of Fox News' America Live:
Loading the player reg...
Right-wing media figures argued that Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights at a congressional hearing by declaring her innocence before invoking those rights. By contrast, legal experts say Lerner's statement did not negate her constitutional protections.
Fox News pushed the myth that increased access to emergency contraceptives encourages sex among teenagers. In fact, research shows access to these drugs does not increase teens' sexual activity.
Matt Drudge, owner and operator of right-wing content aggregator The Drudge Report, tweeted on April 23 that he "privately told friends" that 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." This comes as Drudge linked to Jones' Infowars website at least 50 times so far in 2013 and 244 times in the past two years.
But as we've noted, Drudge is not the only right-wing figure to bolster Jones' fringe reporting. In fact, two of his biggest advocates recently teamed up when frequent Jones guest and Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is also a 9/11 truther, was named a board member of frequent Jones guest and former Texas congressman Ron Paul's think tank, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
Here's a sampling of Napolitano's contribution to the national conversation:
Following the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, radio host Alex Jones was quick to suggest the attacks may have been a "false flag" operation staged by the U.S. government. Jones' reaction is far from surprising; he has made a career out of pushing outlandish conspiracy theories.
Among other conspiracies, Jones has blamed the U.S. government for perpetrating, coordinating, or otherwise being involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. But despite Jones' well-known history, he is regularly validated by conservative media figures, politicians, and prominent activists that frequent his program, as well as by right-wing websites that promote his work and mainstream outlets that host him on their networks.
In recent years, former Rep. Ron Paul and current Sen. Rand Paul; Fox News figures Lou Dobbs and Andrew Napolitano; gun activists Ted Nugent and Larry Pratt; and climate misinformer Marc Morano have all repeatedly appeared on Jones' show. His immensely popular website Infowars is also frequently promoted by conservative websites like The Drudge Report.
Shortly following the April 15 Boston attacks, Jones tweeted that "our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed," but added that "this thing stinks to high heaven" and suggested it was a "false flag" operation.
On a special webcast of his show that aired the night of April 15, Jones elaborated on his suggestion, saying, "You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
As Jones uses yet another national tragedy to push baseless, absurd conspiracy theories, it's worth asking whether there's anything he can say or do to lead media figures, politicians and activists to stop validating him.
In this report:
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano wrongly asserted that the Obama administration's decision to not defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies same-sex couples more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections, is unprecedented, as previous administrations have also declined to defend statutes they considered unconstitutional.
On March 27, the same day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Windsor v. United States, the challenge to DOMA, Napolitano said on Fox's Happening Now:
The president has taken an oath to uphold the law. All the laws, whether he agrees with them or not. But he has forbidden the Justice Department from defending this law.
That's the question, because the government can't write a law for no reason. Every law has to have a rational basis. It has to have some reason. Any reason that makes sense. So the government would have to argue, here's the reason for the law. But the government is not in the courtroom. In fact, President Obama dispatched the government lawyers to argue against this law, which is truly unheard of in my experience.
In fact, there is precedent for refusing to defend a statute. In a letter to Congress explaining the administration's position that DOMA is unconstitutional, Attorney General Eric Holder explained:
[T]he Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because the Department does not consider every plausible argument to be a "reasonable" one. "[D]ifferent cases can raise very different issues with respect to statutes of doubtful constitutional validity," and thus there are "a variety of factors that bear on whether the Department will defend the constitutionality of a statute." Letter to Hon. Orrin G. Hatch from Assistant Attorney General Andrew Fois at 7 (Mar. 22, 1996). This is the rare case where the proper course is to forgo the defense of this statute. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute "in cases in which it is manifest that the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional," as is the case here. Seth P. Waxman, Defending Congress, 79 N.C. L.Rev. 1073, 1083 (2001).
In fact, the George W. Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Reagan administrations all have declined to defend statutes they concluded were unconstitutional.
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."