Using the unfolding Ebola health crisis as vehicle for their constant attacks on the federal government, Fox News talkers are leading the right-wing media charge (with some assistance from Beltway pundits) in insisting Americans have lost faith in the government's ability to deal the infectious disease, as well as other challenges facing the country.
Pointing to what they claim to be previous bouts of Obama administration clumsiness, such as the terror attack in Benghazi, Secret Service woes, and the so-called IRS scandal, conservative commentators, as part of an increasingly unbalanced response to the Ebola story, claim Americans see the Obama administration as filled with utterly inept players who are unable to provide citizens with basic protections.
"The overriding impression is of disarray, confusion, bad management, failed communication, anomie, disillusion, corruption, and secrecy," announced Matthew Continetti at Washington Free Beacon.
The Ebola threat "is containable if government is still remotely competent," claimed the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which signaled its doubts by suggesting "these days government competence is all too often exposed as a fragile veneer."
And appearing on Fox News yesterday, Donald Trump agreed:
I think very few people trust our government as being competent," Trump told the hosts. "Let's not kid ourselves. I mean with the five billion dollar website for Obamacare, which is still not working frankly and it's a disaster. And so many other things: Benghazi, wars... IRS."
But a new Pew Research poll undercuts all of that:
The findings, released on Monday, indicate a majority of Americans, including 48 percent of Republicans, have faith that the federal government can deal effectively with the Ebola situation, and that only a small percentage of people are "very worried" about their well being.
Conservative media have rallied around calls to enforce travel bans from countries in West Africa affected by the Ebola epidemic, despite the fact that medical and military experts have repeatedly noted that travel bans would hamper relief efforts and impede workers' ability to properly address the outbreak.
Media criticism of the Obama administration for taking steps to secure the release of captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ignores the fact that the military has committed to "use every practical means" to free prisoners of war.
When St. Louis Rams draft Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend in celebration of his historic selection as the first openly gay active NFL player, there were predictable protests of homophobic disgust on social media.
The kiss also raised the ire of Fox News, where commentators condemned the kiss as "in your face" and "over affectionate." It's a reaction that highlights the way that modern homophobia can manifest in dishonest calls for "appropriate" behavior.
Commenting on Sam's selection on the May 12 edition of Fox & Friends, Donald Trump essentially set the tone for the network's response, noting that many people thought Sam's kiss was "inappropriate" and stating that he personally thought it was "out there a little bit":
The show's hosts didn't ask Trump to weigh in on this sports-related kiss.
On the May 12 edition of The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros criticized Sam for being "overly affectionate on camera," but avowed that she doesn't like to see public displays of affection by anyone. Bill O'Reilly sounded the same theme on his show that night, saying that "there's no kissing in football" - nobody tell Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen - and affirming that he opposes public displays of affection between straight people, too.
O'Reilly argued Sam's "gay thing" was "way overplayed," "annoying," and "in your face." "Do I really need to see that?" O'Reilly asked. Fox contributor Juan Williams agreed, stating that he, too, found Sam's kiss to be a little too "in your face."
Perhaps the least self-aware reaction came from Fox News Latino contributor Rick Sanchez, who penned a May 13 column asserting that, while he supports gay rights, Sam's kiss "set back the cause of the LGBT movement." Dubbing the kiss a "cake suck," Sanchez falsely claimed that Sam "lick[ed]" cake off his boyfriend's face in a flagrant "affront to the NFL's culture":
Right-wing media have criticized the Obama administration's participation in the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, claiming that "hashtag diplomacy" is not enough. But these allegations ignore the fact that the administration has offered Nigeria assistance from the start, and has sent a team of specialists to aid the search.
Fox News is worried about an NFL player who was disciplined for posting anti-gay tweets about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted.
On May 10, Sam made history by becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafted to the National Football League, when he was selected as the 249th draft pick by the St. Louis Rams. Sam, who had previously weathered a storm of right-wing criticism when he spoke out about his sexual orientation in February, was shown on television kissing his boyfriend after receiving news that he had been drafted.
The kiss sparked homophobic attacks online -- Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was disciplined for tweeting "omg" and "horrible" in response to Sam's celebration. Jones later apologized for his tweets after the team announced that he would be fined and temporarily excused from team activities.
Fox News appeared to side with Jones. The May 12 edition of Fox & Friends discussed Jones' tweet and compared the story to former NFL player Tim Tebow, suggesting Tebow was "mocked" for being a Christian while Michael Sam is "praised." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck worried that the NFL's attempts to curb anti-gay attacks on Sam could "offend" players like Jones and stoked fears that such efforts could lead to a slippery slope toward civility:
HASSELBECK: When you look at what the NFL is saying though, now, this is a strong message. They are going on the offense against any sort of offensive comments out there. But does it offend those with their free speech and their opinions to voice them? Certainly when it comes on the field. Will they then go after what is said in the huddle, in a tackle, on the bottom of a pile? Because if you have those times mic'd, you're going to be hearing a lot of comments which would be deemed offensive. Where does this go from here?
Later in the show, Fox regular Donald Trump said the footage of Sam celebrating with his boyfriend "looked pretty out there to me." Of Jones' punishment for mocking Sam, Trump claimed, "We've become so politically correct in this country that the country is going to hell."
From the January 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Donald Trump baselessly speculated that he was being personally targeted by President Obama through a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general over allegations that Trump University has engaged in illegal business practices.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a civil lawsuit August 24 "accusing Trump University, Donald J. Trump's for-profit investment school, of engaging in illegal business practices," according to The New York Times. The lawsuit accuses Trump of running the school as an "unlicensed education institution" and making false claims about the classes offered.
Fox & Friends hosted Trump to discuss the suit on August 26 where he baselessly speculated that President Obama was using the lawsuit to politically target him, noting that Schneiderman and Obama met two days before the suit was filed and saying, "Maybe this is a mini IRS." Co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy agreed with Trump that the president may have been involved, noting, "The president hasn't liked you for a while."
In fact, Schneiderman has been investigating Trump's for-profit university for years. In May 2011, the Times reported that the attorney general had launched an investigation "prompted by about a dozen complaints concerning the Trump school" that he had found to be "credible" and "serious." The inquiry was part of a broader investigation into at least five for-profit educational companies.
The Times also noted that Trump University had faced "a string of consumer complaints, reprimands from state regulators and a lawsuit from dissatisfied former students." The school received a D-minus rating from the Better Business Bureau, and changed its name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative in 2010 following complaints from New York and Maryland that using "university" in its title violated state education laws.
From the August 20 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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After much public spectacle and uncountable hours wasted, the reelection of Barack Obama kindled a small, wonderful hope that maybe we were done talking about birth certificates and presidential eligibility. Unfortunately, that discussion has now engulfed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): U.S. citizen, presumed presidential aspirant, and accidental Canadian. A few fringe actors have questioned whether Cruz is eligible to occupy the White House, and Fox News' Sean Hannity, who countenanced the high-profile conservative/Republican birther crusade to force Obama to release his birth certificate, is outraged.
Cruz was born in Calgary 42 years ago to an American mother and a Cuban father. The Constitution requires that the president be a "natural-born citizen," though it does not define the term and the Supreme Court has never specifically defined it either. But Cruz has been a U.S. citizen since birth and there's no real reason to think he can't run for president should he so choose and hold that office if elected. Being born in Alberta, however, means that Cruz is, or was a some point, also a citizen of Canada. Presumably seeking to nip the eligibility question in the bud, Cruz released his birth certificate on August 18 and announced that he would renounce any formal ties he still retains to our northern neighbor.
Hannity said during his August 19 Fox program that Cruz's actions "put this so-called controversy to rest," and went on to attack "the left" for "flirting with birtherism," asking whether it means liberals are "racist against a Hispanic":
In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl this weekend, Donald Trump was asked for one word to describe himself. His response? "Smart." (At least he didn't say "humble.")
In terms of press savvy, Trump is smart enough to once again fool the media into another few years of conversations about whether he'll run for president.
It's clear there is a significant constituency of individuals in the Republican Party that would like to see Trump run -- and not just for the laughs. He strikes a tone that perfectly captures the essence of the modern conservative movement: He is smart enough to be dumb.
Ignorance is not a state of mind but, rather, a potent political strategy of the right. Mother Jones reported last week on a new study on media coverage of climate change published in the journal Public Understanding of Science that found "watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh both increase one's level of distrust of these scientific experts. Or as the paper puts it, '[C]onservative media use decreases trust in scientists.' "
On This Week ABC's Karl, his voice elevating in pitch as he traveled down the rabbit hole of rationality, asked Trump: "But you don't still question [Barack Obama] was born in the United States, do you?"
"I have no idea," Trump replied. "Was there a birth certificate? You tell me. You know, some people say that was not his birth certificate. I'm saying I don't know. Nobody knows and you don't know either, Jonathan."
In its online post of the interview, ABC felt compelled to label Trump's birtherism "a conspiracy theory that has been proven false."
ABC News is scheduled to host Donald Trump on this Sunday's edition of This Week to discuss whether he plans "to run for president." If ABC wants to waste airtime on Trump, will the network challenge the reality show star about his baseless conspiracy theories, and habit of using the false promise of running for president as a vehicle for self-promotion?
ABC promoted Trump's appearance with a tweet asking, "Is @realDonaldTrump planning to run for president in 2016? We ask him Sunday on #ThisWeek." But as ABC has itself reported, Trump has previously floated the prospect of a presidential run in order to promote himself and his related business ventures.
Trump insists he's serious, but experts in branding and politics are dubious, saying the art of this deal for The Donald is simple: gaining favorable exposure.
It's not that he needs fame. Trump already is one of the most well-known people on the planet. Rather, they said, flirting with an idea of a presidential campaign helps to burnish the Trump name, the foundation of his business.
Trump is unlikely to be an actual candidate in this election or any other, and never has been- why would ABC News allow itself to be used for yet another round of promotional appearances for a charlatan?
In anticipation of President Barack Obama's announcement of measures to reduce carbon emissions, conservative media outlets are once again attempting to cast doubt on the science behind climate change. But despite their claims, a substantial majority of scientists acknowledge the evidence that the earth is warming largely due to human activity.
From the June 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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A new poll showing that more than four in ten registered Republican voters believe an "armed revolution" may be necessary in the next few years echoes rhetoric employed by Fox News personalities.
The poll, released on May 1 by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind, found that 29 percent of Americans, including 44 percent of Republicans, agreed with the statement, "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties." From Talking Points Memo:
The survey, aimed at measuring public attitudes toward gun issues, found that 29 percent of Americans agree with the statement, "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties." An additional five percent were unsure.
Eighteen percent of Democrats said an armed revolt "might be necessary," as compared to 27 percent of independents and 44 percent of Republicans. Support levels were similar among males and females but higher among less educated voters.
The belief that armed rebellion may be necessary is reminiscent of rhetoric heard from Fox figures, who have agitated for and invoked revolution over President Obama and his administration's policies.