At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air.
The controversial conservative brothers founded the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its 501(c)(3) sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in 2004. David Koch has called AFP the group he feels "most closely attached to and most proud of" and chairs AFPF's board. (The Washington Post notes of the IRS code distinction: "A 501(c)(4) is allowed to do considerably more issue advocacy work than a 501(C)(3), however. Neither group has to disclose the identity of its donors or the amounts of money those contributors have given.")
Politico's Ken Vogel reported that AFP "intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group." The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP "may be America's third-biggest political party." In 2012, "More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds."
AFP and AFPF are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal noted, "It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors' identities -- plus the vast sums of money they move -- that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts."
AFP states that it "mobilizes citizens to effectively make their voices heard in public policy issue campaigns" and "educates citizens about where their elected officials stand on our issues." AFP campaigns have included false attacks about health care reform, clean energy, economic issues, and elected Democrats like President Obama.
Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers' affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.
The Koch/Fox News events are aimed at rallying attendees to support conservative causes and fight progressive initiatives. For example, an invitation for a May event featuring Tucker Carlson stated the rally will "send a message to the Left that we know the truth and support free market solutions." Information for a November 2013 rally with Monica Crowley said participants will "learn how you can fight back against government restrictions, taxes, and out-of-control spending." And an October 2012 event with John Stossel was a "Hands Off My Health Care Rally" which sought "to fully repeal Obama's deeply flawed health care bill."
Media Matters previously documented how numerous Fox News personalities campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
From the June 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox's Dana Perino debunked the right-wing media's attempt to manufacture a scandal around former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's new memoir by claiming that the book reveals that the Obama administration had asked him to lie to the American public.
On May 12 Geithner debuted his new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, detailing his time as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as Treasury Secretary under the Obama administration during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The book's excerpts promptly became fodder for right-wing media outlets, which latched onto two specific anecdotes to declare that the White House had directed Geithner to lie during appearances on the Sunday political talk shows.
At issue is Geithner's description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011 in which then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer asked him to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote how he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute."
Because of these anecdotes, Geithner's book represents a "new bombshell," according to Fox News, one that may show "the White House playing politics with the American people, perhaps." America's Newsroom anchor Martha MacCallum claimed:
MacCALLUM: Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a book. In it -- the excerpts have been released today -- he says that the White House asked him to go a Sunday show and say something that was not completely true, because it worked better for them politically. That is what is being suggested here.
But later the same day, on The Five, co-host Dana Perino, who previously served as press secretary under President George W. Bush, responded to allegations from her co-hosts that the White House had asked Geithner to lie. Perino explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint":
PERINO: I can actually understand the Geithner thing. It's like saying, "Hey, can you not try to say this point about Social Security?" I don't think that is asking Geithner to specifically lie. I can understand from a communications standpoint you're asking the principle and the policy person, "How far can you go to say X,Y, or Z?"
Fox News also quoted from "a source close to Geithner" who pointed out that he "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows":
After the anecdote began to generate attention on Monday, a source close to Geithner clarified to Fox News that the former secretary "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows."
The source said all the former secretary was trying to get across was that Pfeiffer wanted him to "send a signal" to liberals about the president's commitment to not allowing major cuts to Social Security.
Fox News' Dana Perino demonstrated her network's habit of using any story to invoke Benghazi by daring meteorologists who are scheduled to meet with President Obama to ask him about the attack.
On the final segment of The Five, Perino discussed an upcoming event in which national and local TV meteorologists will speak with Obama about climate change issues after the release of the 2014 National Climate Assessment. Perino used the opportunity to reference the Benghazi attacks, saying: "Tomorrow, President Obama is going to do interviews with meteorologists all across the country about a new climate change report. ... I hope they ask him about Benghazi. Like the weatherman from Montana should ask him about Benghazi, that would be great. I dare you."
Perino's line underscores the one common thread behind all of Fox's recent news coverage: invoking Benghazi at every opportunity. After Fox anchors Jon Scott and Jenna Lee cut away from a White House press briefing, promising to return only if Benghazi was being discussed, MSNBC's Steve Benen summed up the network's coverage by pointing out that "Fox has deemed all current events unworthy" unless it pertains to Benghazi:
This is getting a little weird.
By Fox's reasoning, there is only One True News Story. If current events distract from the One True News Story, then current events must be ignored ... while we wait for something to happen with the One True News Story.
That the One True News Story actually happened 20 months ago - it can no longer be accurately characterized as a current event - is a minor detail that should apparently be ignored by real Americans.
Scott added, "Talking about energy efficiency, of all things, right now. But if they get to some questions about this House select committee, how it will work, we will take you back there live."
First, "of all things" is a hilarious phrase in this context. It's as if the Fox host is offended that the White House is addressing an issue that's not the 20-month-old One True News Story - how dare administration officials take energy policy seriously right now, when Fox has deemed all current events unworthy.
On May 2, a Fox host said "we'll go back" to a news conference with Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel only if a reporter asked a question about Benghazi. That day, the network got the formation of the special Benghazi committee it had spent months agitating for. After a Fox correspondent bragged about the role the network played in spurring Republicans to form the committee, the network spent the day pushing Benghazi falsehoods both old and new, and aired a special investigative report about Benghazi.
UPDATE: On the May 6 edition of The Five, Perino responded to coverage of her comment that meteorologists should ask President Obama about Benghazi:
PERINO: When I suggested that the weathermen ask the president about Benghazi, I was joking. So all of you people who have called me the most horrific words today on the left, you can just relax. It was a joke.
Mainstream media distorted Ret. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell's Benghazi testimony to the House Oversight Committee, seizing on a partial remark that "we should have tried" to rescue the victims and ignoring the fact that Lovell later explained that he did not mean the military response was insufficient.
After enabling vicious attacks on gay candidates and elected officials, Fox News has finally found an openly gay politician it can support - congressional candidate Carl DeMaio (R-CA).
Fox's championing of DeMaio started with an April 28 FoxNews.com column written by The Five co-host Dana Perino, who wrote that DeMaio's story epitomizes "what everyone who fights for equality says they've been fighting for." Perino also noted that during his unsuccessful run for San Diego mayor in 2012, an anonymous group of supporters of Democratic candidate Bob Filner ran gay-baiting ads showing DeMaio hugging another man and a photoshopped photo showing DeMaio with a drag queen. Perino couldn't point to any other examples of Democratic attacks on DeMaio's sexuality, but she nonetheless seized on the episode to depict "the left" as hypocritical.
While Perino's column implied that a few "far right social conservatives" had also gay-baited DeMaio, she didn't note that among those conservatives are groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has endorsed DeMaio's Republican primary opponent and gone after DeMaio for "holding the hand of his gay lover."
But Fox's pro-DeMaio campaign was just starting up. The candidate appeared on the network's America's Newsroom to decry his progressive critics. On Fox's The Five, co-hosts attacked progressives for putting DeMaio's sex life "front and center."
And during an interview with DeMaio on the April 28 edition of On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren introduced the candidate by falsely claiming that "it's not social conservatives, but the Democrats" waging anti-gay attacks on his campaign, prompting DeMaio to correct her:
VAN SUSTEREN: Carl DeMaio is a Republican and he is also openly gay, and he says he's coming under attack, not from social conservatives, but from Democrats.
VAN SUSTEREN: You say it's not social conservatives, but the Democrats giving you a hard time. Tell me.
DEMAIO: We do have some social conservatives giving us a hard time, but we're finding a lot more acceptance and tolerance and support from those on the socially conservative side of the spectrum than we are from progressive Democrats. You know, I have an agenda to move our country past social issues. I don't think that we ought to have either political party deciding what happens in the privacy of our bedroom. And, instead, we should demand that Washington refocus its priorities on fixing the national debt, getting our economy going again, and holding government programs accountable for results.
Van Susteren urged DeMaio to describe "how the Democrats have discriminated against you based on your sexual orientation." DeMaio cited the anonymous ads from the 2012 mayoral campaign and proceeded to criticize national gay groups for not supporting his candidacy - echoing Perino's criticism of groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
Led by Sean Hannity, Fox News has devoted 4 hours and 40 minutes of its prime-time programming to cheerleading for a Nevada range war.
Media Matters examined Fox News' weekday programming from 4 p.m. through 11 p.m. ET since it first started covering the story.
Fox News began agitating for a range war on April 9, sympathetically portraying Cliven Bundy as a folk hero based on the Nevada rancher's refusal for two decades to pay the required fees for grazing his cattle on public land. While Nevada reporters have made clear that Bundy is "clearly wrong" and "breaking the law," Fox has waged a PR campaign romanticizing Bundy and the armed militia groups that fled to his ranch and forced a standoff with federal agents who were executing a court order that allowed them to impound his cattle.
Fox Radio hostTodd Starnes fanned the flames by implying that federal agents could be "strung up" for confiscating Bundy's cattle, regardless of a court order. Even after the Bureau of Land Management announced that it would return the cattle to Bundy, Hannity asked Bundy whether he was worried that government agents might kill him.
Hannity has effectively turned his Fox News show into a public-relations firm for Bundy and the militias backing him, dedicating more than 1 1/2 hours of coverage since April 9 to effectively agitating for armed conflict with the federal government.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of Fox News programs from April 5th to April 17th. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Bundy, Nevada, ranch!, cattle, Bureau of Land Management. The search included the Fox programs The Five, Special Report, On the Record with Greta van Susteren, The O'Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity.
From the April 17 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the April 11 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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While defending the Supreme Court's decision to undo decades of precedent and policy in campaign finance law, hosts of Fox News' The Five falsely suggested that unions can donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. In fact, unions are barred from directly donating to candidates and political parties.
In its April 2 decision on McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court decided that overall campaign contribution limits, previously set at $123,200 per individual per two-year election cycle, were unconstitutional. This allows future contributions to be spread among an unlimited number of political candidates, political parties, and PACs.
On April 4, as The Five co-host Bob Beckel criticized the decision and explained that these contribution limits were passed into law following the Watergate scandal, his fellow hosts Dana Perino and Eric Bolling claimed that unions face no limits on contributions, while there were limits on individuals.
But Perino and Bolling are incorrect. While unions, as well as corporations, can as of the 2010 Citizens United decision spend unlimited amounts on elections, they are still barred from direct contributions to candidates or political parties -- which is what the McCutcheon case was about. As USA Today explained:
It's the most important campaign-finance ruling since the high court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts independently to influence elections.
The limits on campaign contributions had stood for nearly 40 years. The high court drew a distinction between those contributions, which it said could lead to corruption, and money spent independently in its landmark 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling. Independent spending was expanded in the Citizens United case to include unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions.
Independent expenditures, which unions are allowed to make, are not the same as direct contributions to political candidates and political parties. A guide to federal election rules from The Campaign Legal Center states: "Corporations and labor unions are prohibited from using treasury funds to make a contribution to candidates, political parties, and many types of PACs."
Fox News' Dana Perino falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act would be responsible for deepening income inequality in the United States and would hurt low-income families.
The co-hosts of Fox News' The Five attacked the ACA on the last day of open enrollment in the law's health care exchanges. Amid reports that a last-minute surge had brought enrollment over 6 million people, Perino declared that the law "exacerbates income inequality" and will "end up hurting low-income people":
PERINO: My big concern from the beginning on this, on the bigger picture Tom that you were talking about, is actually how it exacerbates income inequality. And it actually will end up hurting low-income people a lot more because as we've seen in the last few weeks you have more and more doctors deciding not to take insurance at all and not to take Medicaid patients, and they're not going to be told that they have to.
Perino's claim is absurd for a number of reasons. A January 2014 study by the Brookings Institution found that the Affordable Care Act will boost the incomes of Americans in the second-lowest income decile by more than 5 percent and those in the bottom income decile by more than 7 percent:
Perino's suggestion that the ACA will cause doctors to refuse Medicaid patients is also dubious. The ACA expands Medicaid eligibility for adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson foundation estimated that the expanded eligibility meant that about 15.1 million uninsured adults could gain coverage. The ACA also increases certain payments to health care providers, a change that Wonkblog pointed out could "entice more providers to participate":
That could mean that the states with the highest likelihood of expanding Medicaid might be those with the lower reimbursement rates - and fewer doctors willing to accept these patients by proxy. That could prove true in a state like California, where 1.8 million residents are expected to gain coverage - but fewer than 60 percent of providers accept new patients in the program.
It could also speak to the importance of some of the payment increases in the Affordable Care Act. The law increases Medicaid reimbursements for primary care doctors to match those of Medicare providers. That means that everyone on the right side of this chart will move over to the left. And that could entice more providers to participate. Decker estimates using this data set that it would raise the Medicaid participation rate to 78.6 percent, an 8.6 percent increase from where it stood in 2011.
Right-wing media are working to muddy the significant legal distinction between religious, nonprofit corporations and secular, for-profit corporations in response to recent Supreme Court arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, in which Hobby Lobby argues that secular, for-profit corporations should receive an unprecedented religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act's "contraception mandate."
From the March 19 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the March 11 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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