Over the last two weeks, Fox has repeatedly promoted the claim that voter fraud is indicated by records showing that more than 900 South Carolina residents were recorded as casting a vote after their reported death date. Lou Dobbs, Bill Hemmer, and Neil Cavuto all gave state Attorney General Alan Wilson a platform to offer up this assertion, and on Monday Bret Baier reported that Wilson had notified the Justice Department of this "potential voter fraud."
These claims were always shaky, and have now completely dissolved.
On January 11, state Department of Motor Vehicles director Kevin Schwedo testified before the state legislature that his analysts had compared state Election Commission records with data from the Department of Vital Statistics and the Social Security Administration and found 957 people who could have voted after they had died. He subsequently turned the data over to law enforcement.
But the Columbia Free-Times' Corey Hutchins reports that the Election Commission has examined six names from the list -- the only six names Wilson's office had turned over. At a hearing this morning, the agency revealed that none of those cases involved a ballot actually being cast in a deceased person's name:
In a news release election agency spokesman Chris Whitmire handed out prior to the hearing, the agency disputed the claim that dead people had voted. One allegedly dead voter on the DMV's list cast an absentee ballot before dying; another was the result of a poll worker mistakenly marking the voter as his deceased father; two were clerical errors resulting from stray marks on voter registration lists detected by a scanner; two others resulted from poll managers incorrectly marking the name of the voter in question instead of the voter above or below on the list.
The attorney general's office had only given the State Election Commission six names off its list of 957 names to examine. The agency found every one of them to be alive and otherwise eligible to vote, except for the one who had voted before dying.
This was entirely predictable.
Fox News has repeatedly promoted South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson's claim that voter fraud is indicated by records showing that more than 900 state residents were recorded as casting a vote after their reported death date. But the official who first publicized that figure reportedly said that the discrepancy could be explained by voters casting absentee ballots before their deaths or by data errors.
On Fox & Friends this morning, Peter Johnson Jr. decried those who "pretend" to be a "newsperson" but engage in activism, politics, and propaganda, leading to what he called "an unfair portrayal of the news to the American people."
JOHNSON: If you're a commentator and an analyst -- and I'm a commentator and analyst -- say you're a commentator and analyst. If you're an activist, say you're an activist. But to pretend that you're a newsperson, to pretend that you're giving a fair and balanced view of things -- when, in fact, you have no credentials to do that and your only history is to engage in activism, is to engage in politics, is to engage in propaganda -- then that's an unfair portrayal of the news to the American people.
It's no secret that many of Fox News' opinion show hosts openly advocate for Republicans and conservative policies. But Fox News "straight news" hosts also routinely engage in the activism, politics, and propaganda that Johnson decried -- often by pushing Republican positions, parroting GOP talking points and research, and promoting phony scandals pushed by right-wing activists.
Teasing a segment with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Fox News' Bill Hemmer described Ohio as "one of the few states to see a drop in unemployment" and asked, "So what are they doing right?" In fact, the unemployment rate fell in 43 states in November.
Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer again trumpeted an email that Justice Elena Kagan wrote in March 2010 to further Fox News' efforts to have Kagan disqualified from hearing a case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the email, written on the day the House passed the ACA, Kagan wrote: "I hear they have the votes!! ... Simply amazing." What Hemmer failed to note however is that experts on judicial ethics, as well as his own Fox News colleagues, have rejected the idea that Kagan needs to recuse herself from the case.
On America's Newsroom, Hemmer stated: "There are two big court decisions due this spring: immigration and health care. And Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself of Arizona's immigration law but she has not done so when it comes to the president's health care law. Should she?" He later suggested that Kagan's email was "enough to build an argument that suggests that she is not neutral on this topic."
In fact, it is misleading to equate Kagan's substantive role in the Arizona immigration case with her lack of such a role in health care reform. As guest Jay Sekulow noted, in the Arizona immigration case, Kagan "was involved in the litigation" during her time as solicitor general in the Obama administration. But on health care reform, Kagan has said she was not involved in any substantive discussions of the health care reform law, the constitutionality of the law, or litigation involving the law. And with regard to the email, as Sekulow noted, while Kagan "expressed her pleasure with the legislation," she "didn't express her opinion on the constitutionality of it."
Hemmer's colleagues at Fox News also don't agree that Kagan should recuse herself from hearing health care cases: for example, the Special Report panel has rejected calls that Kagan is unfit to rule, as well as host Megyn Kelly. Judicial ethics experts also agree.
Fox News is amplifying a Rick Perry attack ad claiming that President Obama has launched a "war on religion" -- a claim that Politico has called "one of the most audible dog whistles so far this cycle about President Obama."
From the December 8 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Over the last six months, Fox News has repeatedly hyped Arizona's efforts to raise private funds to build a fence along the state's border with Mexico. However, such a fence would cost millions of dollars per mile and its effectiveness at increasing border security is unproven.
From the November 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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This week, the right-wing media began its annual fake "War on Christmas" campaign, freaking out about a bogus Obama "Christmas tree tax." Here's what to expect from right-wing media during the next six weeks.
One of the myths that Fox uses to prop up its credibility as a news-gathering operation is that it has "straight news" shows that possess the same integrity as those on any other channel.
It's a helpful argument for them, made all the more believable because these shows really look like news. Fox makes use of television conventions to convince its audience that what they are seeing is "news."
But anyone who closely watches these purportedly straight-news shows knows that, in fact, they're unlike any other news on television.
Actress Ellen Barkin recently made this point in an interview with the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Discussing "the enormous success that has killed us in terms of Fox News," Barkin said:
The blatant lying that passes itself off as journalism. I don't even need to get there to go mental. Can you imagine a legitimate newsperson -- Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw -- just lying on the news?
This earned her a jab in Bill O'Reilly's daily briefing*. (The instinct to defame critics, rather than engage them, is one of the qualities that separates Fox from legitimate news operations -- see here, for instance.)
The evidence that Fox disregards journalistic ethics, including outright "lying on the news," is extensive.
Imagine this: A news anchor uses talking points cribbed from a document released by a political party and presents them as his own news outlet's research. So faithfully, in fact, that the outlet reproduces a typo in the original document. When pressured on the issue, the anchor apologizes ... for the typo.
Jon Scott, co-anchor of one of Fox's daytime straight-news shows, Happening Now, did exactly that on Fox News. Plenty of other Fox straight-news shows have presented Republican Party research as their own.
Fox News is falsely claiming that McKinsey & Co. has released a new survey this week estimating that a large number of employers will drop health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. However, in an email to Media Matters, McKinsey stated that it has not released any new research on the topic in months.
It all started on October 27, when Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by House Republican Darrell Issa, issued a report critical of health care reform. The report cited research that McKinsey had released in June that stoked fears that "more than 30 percent of employers overall, and 28 percent of large ones, say they will definitely or probably drop coverage after 2014."
On Wednesday, just days after Issa's report cited McKinsey's June research, America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer claimed that McKinsey itself was responsible for "a survey out this week." On Monday, Happening Now co-host Jenna Lee claimed that "a new survey conducted by an independent research firm finds that 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering company-sponsored health coverage once the new health-care law kicks in." Lee did not make clear what "new survey" was the source of her claim.
When Media Matters contacted McKinsey & Company to obtain a copy of the new survey, the organization told Media Matters via email that it has not released one on this topic since June. From the email:
We did not release any other survey on this topic. The Fox News piece is based on the survey that was conducted in February of this year and published in June. All the information about that survey is available on our website: http://www.mckinsey.com/en/Features/US_employer_healthcare_survey.aspx.
In June, Fox had aggressively promoted the McKinsey survey to warn that 30 percent of employers would drop health coverage once the Affordable Care Act was implemented, forcing 78 million Americans out of their current health insurance. Fox trumpeted the survey results as "blockbuster" research that undermined efforts to reform the health care system.
Those claims fell apart after McKinsey was forced to acknowledge that the survey was not intended to be a predictive economic analysis.
This is not the first time Fox News has served as a mouthpiece for GOP research.
From the November 2 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona, a prominent anti-immigration advocate who recently formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for Congress, is a frequent guest on Fox News, and has used his platform to promote and fundraise for his potential congressional bid. Babeu is just the latest in a long line of Republican candidates that Fox News has enthusiastically promoted.
Yesterday on Imus in the Morning, Imus and his guest, America's Newsroom co-anchor Martha MacCallum, rehashed the usual argument Fox employees trot out when they want to insulate the network's supposed "journalists" (like MacCallum) from accusations of partisanship -- that there exists a firm line between the network's "news" and "opinion" programming.
During the discussion, Imus praised MacCallum and her co-host Bill Hemmer, saying that there is "no editorializing at all" on their show. While attacking the partisanship of other networks, MacCallum said, "a lot of people are sort of brainwashed into believing that line of thinking that we're not fair and balanced, and everybody else is."
MacCallum explained that "during the daytime, we try to shoot as straight we possibly can. Everybody is a human being -- there's going to be times when your feelings about something enter a discussion."
MacCallum's claim echoed comments made by Bill Hemmer last year, when he told TVNewser that the opinions of Fox's right-wing primetime hosts don't carry over into America's Newsroom because "our broadcast, with Martha MacCallum and me, we shoot it down the middle."
Setting aside the larger problems with Fox's supposedly unimpeachable "news hours" -- complicated by things like having a Washington managing editor that orders network journalists to routinely cast doubt on climate science -- America's Newsroom often resembles Fox's "opinion" shows. While MacCallum suggests her and Hemmer's "feelings about something" only occasionally enter the discussion, they both have a record of echoing GOP talking points, and MacCallum has even flatly endorsed conservative policies.