Right-wing media are parroting local Republican officials and criticizing voter registration drives in Ferguson, Missouri, the site of intense protests after the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Voting rights advocates argue that registering the electorate is crucial for the community to hold their government accountable, but right-wing media condemn these efforts as "liberal activism."
Fox News deceptively edited a clip of President Obama's statement on demonstrations following the shooting death of Michael Brown to suggest Obama is "choosing sides" and has "set an atmosphere" for discord and violence. In fact, Obama emphasized the importance of both "a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest."
Obama addressed the tense protests that followed the death of Brown -- an unarmed teen who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri -- in an August 15 statement that called for "healing," "peace and calm."
The August 15 edition of Fox & Friends promptly suggested Obama may have gone too far by noting that there is "no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters." In a teasing segment, an on-air graphic asked if the president was "choosing sides." Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. later argued that Obama "may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force." Though Johnson acknowledged that Obama "did to some extent" invoke reason, he concluded that "the shadings in his statements ... set an atmosphere -- unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community":
JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if he jumped in too quickly. He may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force and with regard to the police being an assaultive force on protesters. What I expect, and I think a lot of Americans expect, is the president to invoke the rule of law, to invoke reason. He did to some extent. But if you look at the shadings in his statements, he's clearly made a statement that the police were acting in an excessive way, that they were violating rights not only of the protesters, but of reporters on the scene. So when you do so, you set a scene and you set an atmosphere --unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community.
But the portion of Obama's statement that Fox & Friends aired during the segment was deceptively clipped to hide the fact that Obama also condemned "violence against police" as well as "excessive force against peaceful protests." Fox spliced together the Obama's comments that "I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting" and "There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests," skipping over the portion of his statement that condemned violence against police (the portions Fox aired are in bold):
Now, second, I want to address something that's been in the news over the last couple of days and that's the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting. Today, I'd like us all to take a step back and think about how we're going to be moving forward.
There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.
I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That's part of our democracy. But let's remember that we're all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.
So now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.
Even Fox News' Geraldo Rivera disagreed with this assessment. In a later segment, he pushed back against a similar suggestion from Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, noting that Obama "tried his best to do a measured presentation."
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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To right-wing media, commencement speeches observing the anniversary of the desegregation of U.S. schools is no time to talk about race in America.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder each gave commencement addresses this month marking the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, when the Supreme Court ruled that state-mandated racial segregation of schools violated the U.S. Constitution.
Speaking to graduating high school seniors in Topeka, Kansas, the first lady referenced racial segregation that still exists today, according to The Kansas City Star:
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated schools, Obama reminded the city where the case originated that the country is still racially divided -- although much more subtly than in the 1950s.
"Our laws may no longer separate us based on our skin color, but there's nothing in our constitution that says we have to eat together in the lunchroom or live together in the same neighborhoods," Obama told a full house at the 8,000-seat Kansas Expocentre.
At Morgan State University's commencement, Holder called on graduates to "take account of racial inequality, especially in its less obvious forms, and actively discuss ways to combat it."
Fox contributor and radio host Laura Ingraham attacked Obama's remarks as a "negative, cynical speech" that told kids their family members "were probably racists." Ingraham concluded that Obama was really just "projecting" her own racist beliefs.
From the May 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:
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Fox News tackled what it called the growing "problem" of female breadwinners, apparently jumping off a May 2013 Pew Research study finding a quarter of women outearn their husbands.
"Are female breadwinners a problem?" the network asked during the May 4 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, promising "a debate about alpha women." Co-host Clayton Morris emphasized that he understood the "cultural argument" against female breadwinners, and expressed concern that the problem is rooted in the deeper, "biological, innate need for men to be the caveman":
MORRIS: Is there a problem with men earning less than women in the household, and do you think that it could throw off -- that it actually could cause big marital problems?
I get the cultural argument, guys. I mean, I can see how -- we can all weave our way through cultural issues. But isn't there some sort of biological, innate need for men to be the caveman? Go out and bring home the dinner and actually go out -- Is it emasculating if we don't do it?
Morris went on to ask Miss New York USA 2013 Joanne Nosuchinsky if she would "lose respect" for a male partner who stayed at home taking care of kids and "doing the laundry."
It's a topic the network has tackled before, much to the chagrin of its own female anchors.
Fox figures praised armed supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy as good, patriotic, hard-working Americans, ignoring their threats of violence against Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents and indications that they were willing to put women in children in the line of fire.
From the April 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Following its protracted campaign to smear Hillary Clinton as a dishonest and untrustworthy leader, Fox News is working overtime to explain away its own polling revealing that the American people trust the former Secretary of State more than the Republican Party and the slew of potential GOP presidential candidates.
According to Fox News' most recent poll data, 54 percent of registered voters consider Hillary Clinton "honest and trustworthy," a higher percentage than potential Republican 2016 presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Christie Christie received. At 49 percent, her favorability rating is higher than that of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and all GOP 2016 contenders.
Fox hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy addressed Clinton's poll numbers on the April 17 edition of Fox & Friends by blaming liberal bias in the mainstream media. Doocy complained that Clinton was viewed as more trustworthy than Christie because the "mainstream media [...] beat the drum" against Christie rather than report on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, in an effort to "take him out." According to Hasselbeck, the poll could be due to a perception bias that favors women:
DOOCY: You know what's interesting about that poll is -- remember it wasn't too long before the whole bridge thing hit the mainstream media fan where Chris Christie was actually leading Hillary Clinton. But then the mainstream media -- and some cynics on the right would say, well they were just trying to take Chris Christie out because he posed the greatest threat for Hillary Clinton -- nonstop coverage on all the channels about that Bridgegate thing.
And when you think about the two potential candidates, you've got Chris Christie who, you know, a while back was involved, his administration put up 25 traffic cones in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and generated hundreds of hours of mainstream media Bridgegate television. And then far screen right you've got Hillary Clinton who ran the State Department which denied extra security for Libya and four Americans wind up dying. I mean that is quite a contrast. You've got 25 orange cones versus four dead Americans -- but you've got the mainstream media and they beat the drum for Chris Christie, against him, and nobody on the other side of the channel is really covering Benghazi, unless us.
HASSELBECK: Well, perception and reality are two different things. I think it is. In the past women have polled better in terms of trust when it comes to politics. But again, as you mentioned, you know, this is a woman who has been ridden with scandal in the past particularly recently when we talk about Benghazi and four Americans dead. She is still found to be more trustworthy at this point. Go figure.
It's understandable that Fox would prefer to discount these findings. The network has put a significant amount of effort into skewing public opinion of Clinton, pushing repeatedly debunked myths in an attempt to tarnish her image in expectation of a presidential bid in 2016. These efforts are in stark contrast with Fox's willingness to hide information that could hurt potential GOP presidential candidates like Christie, whom Fox personalities have previously showered with praise.
Fox News' Benghazi coverage has sunk to relying on Roger Stone, the head of the now-defunct anti-Hillary Clinton group Citizens United Not Timid -- designed by Stone for its acronym -- as a source to continue pushing distortions surrounding the attacks.
The March 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends provided Stone with the platform to promote his new book The Benghazi Report. Together with co-host Clayton Morris, Stone recounted some of Fox's favorite Benghazi hoaxes, under the pretense that the myths will harm former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should she run for president in 2016. According to Stone, "There's no question Hillary lied and people died":
Fox selected the right guest to forward its effort to make the Benghazi tragedy into a scandal, as Stone has a long history of directing extreme and sexist attacks at Clinton. In 2008, Stone established an anti-Hillary Clinton political organization named Citizens United Not Timid - The organization frequently went by C.U.N.T., an acronym Stone settled on after reportedly failing to find an appropriate name to match the acronym B.I.T.C.H. In a January 28, 2008 Weekly Standard article, senior writer Matt Labash called Stone "a professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks" before quoting him on the goals of Citizens United Not Timid: "[I]t's one-word education. That's our mission. No issues. No policy groups. No position papers. This is a simple committee with an unfortunate acronym."
Stone's group purported to "educate the American public about what Hillary Clinton really is":
Stone has never been known as an honest political actor. The New York Times has reported that, as a teenager, Stone hired a political mole, and the Washington Post documented Stone employing deceptive campaign tactics as far back as the 1970s. According to the Times, Stone was forced to resign from the campaign of New York state Sen. Joseph Bruno in August 2007 after "allegations that he left a threatening telephone message at the office of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's father."
Fox News is blasting Attorney General Eric Holder for allegedly telling state attorneys general that they don't have to enforce their states' gay marriage bans. In reality, Holder merely instructed the attorneys general that they don't have to defend such bans in court if they deem the laws unconstitutional.
It's unclear if Fox is misreading or simply willfully distorting what Holder actually said, but either way, the network is wrong.
Addressing the National Association of Attorneys General on February 25, Holder stated that if state attorneys general conclude that their gay marriage bans violate core constitutional principles like equal protection under the law, they're not obligated to defend those bans in court. Holder also explicitly stated that attorneys general shouldn't base such decisions on "policy or political disagreements" and should stick to legal analysis of the bans' constitutionality.
Holder's guidance doesn't mean that marriage equality bans won't be enforced while they're still in effect. However, an attorney general does have the option of refusing to defend laws that he or she believes won't survive judicial scrutiny. In such circumstances, other parties may then intervene to defend a law on the state's behalf. That's precisely what's currently happening in the court battle over Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban.
This isn't Fox News' first baseless attack on Holder when it comes to the defense of anti-gay marriage laws. It was only three years ago that Megyn Kelly asserted Holder had decided not to enforce the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) after the Obama administration dropped its defense of the law in court. But the administration kept enforcing DOMA as the law of the land until the Supreme Court struck down its core provision last summer.
Three years later, it appears that Fox remains unable - or unwilling - to get its facts right.
In recent months, conservative media figures have undermined efforts by labor groups to organize across the United States, demonizing labor unions in the process. These anti-union attacks are largely reliant on myths alleging negative side-effects of union participation.
Following criticism over insensitive comments about Facebook's new gender options, Fox News host Clayton Morris gave a heartfelt apology to the intersex community, stating that he regretted his "stupid" remarks.
During the February 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Clayton Morris joined a number of his Fox News colleagues in mocking Facebook's decision to offer its users a variety of new terms to identify their gender, including "transgender" and "cisgender."
Following a brief mention of Facebook's announcement, Morris joked that he had changed his gender identification to "intersex," describing people who are born with a physical anatomy that does not appear to fit typical definitions of male or female:
During the March 1 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Morris and his fellow co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Mike Jerrick discussed a high school considering making all of its graduation gowns one color in order to be inclusive of all students. Though the segment was framed by a chyron that asked "Over-Sensitive Society?", Morris quickly shifted gears to make an impassioned plea for understanding of transgender and intersex people (emphasis added):
MORRIS: There are millions of Americans and children who are born with the sexual organs who are not there or are not fully developed and therefore don't define themselves by a particular gender. I mean, that's a fact. It's not as black and white as we would like to make it. Just pick whatever color gown you want. Imagine being a parent and your daughter is born a specific way where her sexual organs are not developed. Then as a parent you have to be sensitive to the fact that your daughter doesn't identify with a particular gender.
KOOIMAN: And we've done news stories too about bathrooms and some schools, middle schools and high schools, considering having unisex bathrooms, so that these people who fit into this category won't have to pick the boys or the girls. But then you think about these young teenagers who are going through puberty, if you're a mom or a dad, do you want your daughter in the bathroom with a boy, potentially?
JERRICK: My goodness, are we overthinking this? It's just the color of a garment.
MORRIS: Just put yourself in the shoes of those children, though, who have to deal with that. Look, I made a pretty ignorant statement a few weeks ago, we were talking about the Facebook story where they added the bunch of different gender-identifying things. And I made sort of an offhanded comment and I regretted it later because now, 'Wait a second. There are people who are actually dealing with this and I'm an idiot for saying something stupid like that.' So before you open your mouth, just think about it a little bit.
Morris' comments are extremely uncharacteristic for Fox News, which has never missed an opportunity to mock and demean people with different gender identities. Morris demonstrated a degree of empathy and willingness to accept criticism rarely seen on his network. He deserves to be commended, and his colleagues who have yet to apologize could do a lot of good by following his lead.
Fox News' misleading attempt to downplay the involvement of right-wing groups in the prominence of anti-Obamacare advertisements fell apart after a later segment on Fox revealed the heavy involvement of conservative special interest groups in promoting the campaign ads.
On the February 27 edition of Fox's Fox and Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Clayton Morris, and Brian Kilmeade attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for pointing to conservative special interest groups as the origin of Obamacare attack ads. Hasselback asked viewers to "actually look at the facts" before running a graphic to show that political donations from the Koch brothers came in at 59th in overall political donations:
Fox's narrative that conservative groups are not heavily involved in the political process was debunked a short time later on Fox News itself. On America's Newsroom, Peter Doocy admitted that the Obamacare horror story advertisements heavily promoted on the network have, in fact, been funded by right-leaning organizations, calling groups like Americans for Prosperity "very involved" in pushing campaign ads:
MACALLUM: Peter, how involved are these outside groups really in the early ad campaigns we're seeing?
DOOCY: Very involved, Martha. Especially the right-leaning Americans for Prosperity who has already spent to $30 million since late summer to introduce America to people they say are victims of obamacare.
Reid was correct in tying these advertisements to right-leaning groups. The Washington Post's Fact Checker notes that the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity "has run about 50 anti-Obamacare ads since July."
Another Washington Post article quotes Tim Phillips, the president of American for Prosperity, saying that the health care law "has been the predominant focus of both our grass roots and our advertising efforts." This is evidenced by the $30 million the group has put forth on attack advertisements, 95% of which has gone towards ads that specifically target the Affordable Care Act. The article also noted that Americans for Prosperity is not the only conservative group creating these ads:
In Senate races, where control of the chamber is on the line, all but $240,000 of the $21.2 million that super PACs are spending on television advertising has gone into attacks centered on the health-care law, said Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The exceptions were ad buys in three states that criticized Democratic senators for supporting President Obama's judicial nominees.
Fox News distorted comments by Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink about the need for immigration reform, completely misinterpreting the meaning of her remarks to cast them as outrageous and beyond the pale. In fact, as the Miami Herald noted, Republican lawmakers have made similar comments in the past without the hint of the conservative outrage Sink's comments have received. Moreover, the comments broadcast by Fox were not Sink's full remarks on the topic.
During a candidate forum in Florida hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Sink addressed the need for immigration reform by stressing the fact that coastal communities rely heavily on immigrant labor and that without reform, employers are put "in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers":
SINK: Immigration reform is important in our country. It's one of the main agenda items of the beaches' Chamber Of Commerce for obvious reasons. Because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? And we don't need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.
Discussing those comments on Fox & Friends, guest host Clayton Morris twisted the meaning of those words, claiming what Sink really said was "we need immigration reform so we can have illegal immigrants doing landscaping and cleaning hotels." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck added: "Because what would we do without that, she's saying." Morris continued: "How would our hotels be cleaned?"
Co-host Brian Kilmeade also stated: "She was winning by 2 points prior to those remarks. I don't know if this is going to send her numbers south."
In fact, Sink was making the opposite point: We need immigration reform so that employers, particularly those in high-growth areas like coastal communities, don't resort to hiring unauthorized labor. For a network that has been stridently opposed to immigration reform because of the impact such labor has on the workforce, Sink's comments should have been greeted favorably.