Journalism veterans and ethics experts are criticizing Fox News' Bret Baier for treating as credible the false claim that President Barack Obama might not have been born in the United States, with one experienced news person calling his recent coverage of the issue "a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility."
Baier, often viewed as among the more credible news people at Fox News, reported in a news brief Monday night that Arizona Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett threatened to remove Obama's name from the Arizona ballot if Hawaii officials didn't prove to his satisfaction that Obama was born in Hawaii.
Baier stated: "Bennett says he is not, quote 'a birther' but wants to clear up the issue for concerned Arizonans." But Baier failed to "clear up the issue" for Fox's viewers by stating outright that President Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii, as indicated by his birth certificate and a contemporaneous newspaper announcement of his birth.
This marked at least the third time this year that Baier reported on developments in the debunked 'birther' movement without providing this crucial context.
By contrast, Fox News' own Shepard Smith stated in 2011: "Well, he has produced a birth certificate. It shows his mother gave birth to him in Hawaii. It is stamped and sealed by the state of Hawaii. It is confirmed, and Fox News can confirm the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States, period."
In a radio interview Tuesday Bennett stated he had withdrawn the threat and told listeners: "If I embarrassed the state, I apologize." The Arizona Republic reported that a "Hawaii official sent Bennett's office verification of birth for President Obama on Tuesday, according to both Bennett and Hawaii officials."
Baier did not respond to several requests for comment.
Several veteran journalists and media critics criticized Baier for his reporting on the subject.
"Whatever the motivation of Arizona's secretary of state it is a complete abandonment of integrity and responsibility for any news gatherer or disseminator not to ask the questions necessary to put a report on the secretary of state's actions in a context that would allow the reader or viewer of the report to make a decision on how he or she can use the information," said Bill Kovach, co-founder of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and former Washington, D.C. bureau chief of The New York Times. "In this case there is a rich history on the subject that raises deep and serious question about the motivation of anyone questioning President Obama's qualification for holding office including his citizenship and matters surround the time and place of his birth. To ignore this rich history of facts is irresponsible."
Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former executive editor of The Miami Herald, cited Baier's error of omission.
"An error of omission is the more insidious error because it typically escapes being corrected," Fiedler said in an email. "Nothing in his report is inaccurate. The problem lies in Baier's failure to include one additional fact: that, in due regard for the laws of Hawaii, the president has released an official copy of his birth certificate stating as legal fact that his mother gave birth to him in Honolulu. The state of Hawaii accepts this. The U.S. State Department accepts this."
In response to President Obama's declaration of support for marriage equality this afternoon, Fox Nation ran the following headline:
Fox Nation's post linked to a Yahoo News article on Obama's announcement, which ran the headline "Obama declares support for gay marriage."
Update: Within an hour of posting its original headline, Fox Nation removed the "war on marriage" language from its post:
From the July 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
In a New York Times article, Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote that President Obama "never served in the military and campaigned as an antiwar candidate." In fact, Obama did not campaign as "an antiwar candidate"; Obama has repeatedly said that he doesn't "oppose all wars" but is opposed to "a dumb war" or "a rash war."
The New York Times' Maureen Dowd falsely claimed that President Obama is not "liv[ing] up to his own no-earmark pledge from the campaign," echoing a Times article false claim that Obama made "campaign promises to put an end to the practice" of earmarks and Sen. John McCain's accusation that Obama has gone back on a promise to "work to eliminate ... earmarks." In fact, Obama promised to reform the earmark process and cut wasteful spending.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller falsely suggested President Obama supported California's Proposition 8. After Miller described a call to his radio show in which the caller suggested that "had [Obama] been a California resident," he "would have voted for Proposition 8," O'Reilly stated that the caller "probably listened to The Radio Factor and then called you because we had said that." In fact, Obama opposed Proposition 8.
Loading the player reg...
Guest-hosting The Lee Rodgers Show, Brian Sussman said: "I'm noticing this -- pictures of Sarah Palin. No getting around it: She's a babe. She really is an attractive woman. And the left loathes her for that." Sussman later challenged co-host Tom Benner to "show me one liberal, female politician who is a babe." Benner responded, "Yeah, I can't. I can't do it. I mean, all I think of is a frowsy -- frowning, annoyed, downturned." Sussman later called Rep. Barney Frank a "queen."
On Hannity & Colmes, Ann Coulter announced that she will appear on the January 6, 2009, edition of NBC's Today show to promote the release of her new book. NBC has repeatedly provided Coulter a platform to spew her inflammatory rhetoric even as NBC-affiliated hosts and anchors have expressed disapproval of Coulter's statements or criticized the media for promoting her.
On his radio show, Bill Cunningham advanced baseless speculation that President-elect Barack Obama will not be inaugurated because of the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Also, accusing the media of "latch[ing] on" to evidence undermining any suggestion of wrongdoing by Obama, Cunningham falsely claimed that "parts" of the criminal complaint against Blagojevich "clearly indicate that Obama is up to his eyeballs in fraud." But as U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made clear, the complaint indicates nothing of the sort.
Loading the player reg...
Sean Hannity falsely asserted that President-elect Barack Obama "talked about in the campaign cutting tens of millions of dollars in defense spending" when, in fact, Obama said he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending." Hannity also asserted that Obama said "[h]e's not gonna weaponize space, slow development of Future Combat Systems" and that he would "set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons" without noting that former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and other prominent GOP figures have advocated similar positions.
On his radio show, Michael Savage said, "I am telling you that there's gonna be a wholesale firing of competent white men in the United States government up and down the line, in police departments, in fire departments. Everywhere in America, you're going to see an exchange that you've never seen in history, and it's not gonna be necessarily for the betterment of this country."
The Drudge Report linked to a Washington Examiner article under the headline, "Obama Inaugural Could Bankrupt DC," but in the article, the Examiner did not report that the inauguration "could bankrupt" the city.
In a Newsweek article headlined "Is Obama the Antichrist?" senior editor Lisa Miller treated as newsworthy purported debate among some "conservative Christians" over whether President-elect Barack Obama is "the Antichrist." In doing so, she gave credibility to the views of RaptureReady.com editor and founder Todd Strandberg, who has, among other things, smeared gays and lesbians, Islam, progressives, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity and Hugh Hewitt rehashed the discredited claim that President-elect Barack Obama is to blame for recent declines in the stock market. In fact, analysts have cited economic data on dropping retail sales, increasing unemployment, and other significant factors to explain recent stock-market declines.