With the competitive race for the Republican nomination effectively over, the runners-up are expressing their hurt feelings with how they were treated by the press. Traditionally, those barbs have been directed at the so-called liberal media for the way reporters and pundits covered conservatives. This year though, the GOP complaints are raining down on Fox News, with both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich taking shots at their former employer for what the candidates consider to be the channel's unfair and unbalanced primary coverage.
Fox News is biased! So claimed Gingrich this week:
During a meeting with 18 Delaware Tea Party leaders here on Wednesday, Newt Gingrich lambasted FOX News Channel, accusing the cable network of having been in the tank for Mitt Romney from the beginning of the Republican presidential fight.
And so claimed Santorum last month:
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum accused Fox News of "shilling" for GOP front-runner Mitt Romney during a contentious interview Tuesday on the "Kilmeade and Friends" radio show.
"He's had a 10-to-1 money advantage," Santorum said of Romney. "He's had all the organizational advantages. He has Fox News shilling for him every day, no offense Brian, but I see it. And yet, he can't seal the deal because he just doesn't have the goods to be able to motivate the Republican base to win this election."
Like a classroom filled with favorites used to being the center of the teacher's interest, the GOP candidates this season, flattered nonstop for years on Fox, suddenly found themselves competing for the channel's attention and fighting for kingmaker Roger Ailes' affection. Was it inevitable that the incestuous primary process played out on Fox would produce hurt feelings and bruised ego? Yes. Was the spectacle yet another reminder that Fox News has transformed itself into a purely political entity? It was.
From the April 12 edition of Current's Full Court Press with Bill Press:
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From the April 12 edition of Current's Full Court Press With Bill Press:
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From the April 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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During a segment of his Fox News show devoted to attacking the Obama administration for its handling of the Trayvon Martin case, Sean Hannity played clips of racist statements about the case that aired on New Black Panther Radio. Hannity also suggested that President Obama has ties to the New Black Panther Party (NBPP). It's an outrageous claim; after all, the NBPP has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And it's also a totally false claim.
Deneen Borelli, a Daily Caller columnist and Fox contributor, claimed during the segment that "[in] 2007, Obama spoke with the Black Panthers while he was running for election." Hannity responded: "There's a picture of that, by the way, with Malik Zulu Shabazz."
While Hannity did not elaborate on this supposed connection between Obama and the NBPP, Hannity has previously falsely claimed that, in 2007, Obama was "hanging out" with the group.
Last October, Hannity promised to "show a tape" of Obama "hanging out during the campaign" with a member of the NBPP. In fact, the tape actually showed Obama participating in events marking the 42nd anniversary of the 1965 march from Selma, which ended when the civil rights marchers were attacked by law enforcement at Edmund Pettus Bridge. The extent of the connection between Obama and the NBPP was that during the event, both Obama and NBPP leader Malik Zulu Shabazz gave speeches from the same podium, and both were part of the crowd that then marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
From the April 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News' Todd Starnes has never shied away from aligning himself with some of the more extreme and fringe elements of right-wing politics. He's flirted with "birtherism," made inflammatory comments about Muslims and African-Americans, and accused the Obama administration of launching a war against Christianity.
Over the past few months, it appears that Starnes has taken up a new cause – using his position as a Fox News Radio reporter to give a voice to some of the country's worst anti-gay hate groups
Last December, Starnes appeared on the American Family Association's (AFA) "Today's Issues" radio show to promote his Fox News website, ToddStarnes.com. He was joined by Tony Perkins, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-gay "hate group" Family Research Council (FRC). During the segment, Starnes claimed that his website would act as a hub of "culture war stories" that would depict hate groups like FRC and AFA in a positive light:
STARNES: This is sort of a place in the Fox family, the Fox News family, that folks can go and find those culture war stories that we cover.... These are stories that resonate with patriotic, God-fearing, God-loving Americans. And I think when people see the stories in one spot, they really understand what's at stake and how thankful we are that there are organizations like the Family Research Council and American Family Radio that cover these issues. [emphasis added]
Perkins was thrilled, to say the least. He said he was "encouraged" by Starnes' reporting, praising him for "giving voice" to social conservatives who believe that Christianity is under attack:
PERKINS: That's the kind of stuff we like to see. And, this is what I think happens when these issues are talked about. Because in isolation, people think 'oh well, we're all by ourselves" and so they usually back down... But when people realize 'hey, this is a connected effort,' and 'we're not alone,' and people are standing up, it has an encouraging effect to it. And that's why I appreciate the work that you're doing, Todd. I know you're just reporting, but what you're doing is you're giving voice to a lot of Americans out there who are deeply concerned about the direction of this country and in particular this attack on Christianity. And I for one am encouraged by that. [emphasis added]
Starnes was serious about his pledge to mainstream and promote FRC. Since his AFA radio appearance, Starnes has frequently included comments from FRC spokespersons – including Perkins, Peter Sprigg, and Ken Klukowski – in his reporting.
When the Obama administration announced in February that it would require most employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception, right-wing media reacted with an uproar. Many conservative pundits distorted the ruling to claim that "American taxpayers" would be responsible for paying for all women's birth control. For instance, on his March 2 show, Bill O'Reilly said that "we know that we can get the birth control pills for free, because the government is going to send it to us, and that's just the way it is." Watch:
On the April 5 edition of Fox's flagship news show Special Report, correspondent Ed Henry used the same false talking point while reporting on an upcoming women's conference at the White House:
HENRY: [A]ides say Friday's conference will help showcase the president also has a strong wife and two daughters -- and a real record that includes signing pay equity legislation, a health care bill that will give over 20 million women preventive care like mammograms, plus a fight with the Catholic Church that highlighted his support for free contraception.
To protect the $4 billion of annual tax breaks for oil and gas companies, which President Obama has repeatedly proposed eliminating, Fox News has been offering up every conceivable defense, and in the process has completely tied itself in knots.
Fox declares that the tax preferences benefitting oil companies are not "subsidies" since they are not direct payments. But the network previously called tax credits for electric cars "subsidies." (Fox also says that Media Matters is "subsidized" because we are a tax-exempt organization.)
Fox insists we shouldn't cut the tax incentives for oil because they make up only a fraction of our deficit problem. But when it comes to supporting clean tech, they decide we "can't afford it."
And Fox routinely uses the words "free market" when arguing against federal spending on clean energy, but that term is nowhere to be found in its coverage of oil subsidies. Instead, Fox argues that the tax preferences are "wonderful" because they "encourage" the industry to make money, pay shareholders, and hire people. While it may seem backwards to many of us, the fact that the oil industry is already massively profitable (and doesn't need encouragement from the government) is, in the Fox News worldview, an argument in favor of giving them tax breaks.
During a speech yesterday to the Associated Press, President Obama described Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget proposal as a "Trojan Horse" that is using the disguise of a deficit reduction plan, but is actually "an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country." Obama laid out the possible implications of the cuts in the Ryan budget "if the cuts were to be spread out evenly." Soon after, Ryan responded to the speech on his Facebook page suggesting that "the assumption that our budget makes these kinds of indiscriminate cuts is false."
And Fox News has Ryan's back.
On America Live, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle, ostensibly part of Fox's "straight news" division, accused President Obama of using "sleight of hand" when describing the potential cuts under the Ryan budget. He went on to say Obama was "assuming across the boards cuts, but the cuts he mentioned are not part of the Ryan budget." Fox's analysis of Obama's speech is almost identical to Paul Ryan's response.
However, as Fox News contributor Sally Kohn pointed out later in the same show, Obama was filling in the blanks in Ryan's budget, which proposes large cuts in certain areas of federal spending but does not specify which programs should be cut.
On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh likened President Obama to a "thug" and claimed Obama threatened and intimidated the Supreme Court when he said it would be "unprecedented and extraordinary" for the justices to strike down the health care reform law. Today, Fox News endorsed that criticism, continuing its history of approving Limbaugh's talking points.
According to Fox News, Limbaugh's remarks were great analysis.
While Fox avoided Limbaugh's "thug" comments -- it didn't air or mention them -- it included a clip from the same segment (transcript available here) in which Limbaugh ranted about Obama's Supreme Court remarks. On April 2, Obama stated:
And I think it's important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there's not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there's a human element to this. And I hope that's not forgotten in this political debate.
Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we've heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint -- that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I'm pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.
In the clip Fox played, Limbaugh said: "What is this? 'The Court must understand'? That is a threat." Fox News' senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano then stated: "Nobody could say it quite as directly and poignantly as our good friend and colleague Rush." Napolitano echoed Limbaugh, saying that "the Court does not have to listen to the president," adding, "He should not be threatening or admonishing them."
Fox News host Sean Hannity also followed Limbaugh's example and accused Obama of using "Chicago thuggish intimidating tactics."
Limbaugh went on to say that Obama was threatening the justices and claimed that Obama "put a bounty out on the Supreme Court, figuratively speaking."
On his show today, Limbaugh repeated his claim that Obama threatened the Supreme Court, and highlighted the Fox News segment praising him.
During one of their ubiquitous "class warfare" segments with Fox Business host Stuart Varney, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson attacked comments made by Vice President Joe Biden at a recent reception for policemen and first responders, suggesting that Biden encouraged first responders not to respond to wealthy people's emergencies. Biden, of course, did no such thing.
While speaking at the reception, Biden told the first responders that there was an increased need for emergency response positions and pointed out that right-wing resistance to raising revenue for those positions by increasing taxes on the very wealthy was ironic, considering that the rich had more -- and more expensive -- property at risk from theft and fire. From an April 3 report by United Press International:
The vice president said political figures who oppose funding for public safety in difficult fiscal times "walked away because they didn't like the way we were paying for it."
"The first guy who's going to have a problem is the guy whose $3 million home is on fire and you can't get a truck out there," he said. "The first guy that's going to have a problem is the person who has real assets and finds their house burglarized or robbed, or their Porsche is stolen.
"I'm not very subtle; I find it find absolutely beyond my understanding," he said.
"There's one thing we know: the more cops on the street, the fewer cops get killed," he said. "The more firefighters responding to a fire, the fewer injuries to the firefighters, because you have each other's backs."
But while Biden was clearly making a statement about the importance of first responders to the protection of private property, Carlson found something far more nefarious in his comments:
From the April 3 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the April 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Just before the end of Fox's The Five, co-host Dana Perino informed viewers that as of April 2, the United States had the highest corporate income tax rate in the world, and promoted an organization called the RATE Coalition.
PERINO: OK, so I wasn't here Friday, and I think Eric had pointed this out, but today is the actual day that we're number one. But it's not necessarily something to brag about. This is -- these are foam fingers from -- wave 'em [unintelligible] everybody -- the RATE Coalition, which is Reforming America's Taxes Equitably. Today at midnight, America became the number one highest corporate tax rate in the world. They're having a contest on Facebook, and so we really want to get on it. And so check out RATECoalition.com.
On its "About Us" page, the RATE Coalition lists its mission and principles. They can be summarized in five words: Lower the corporate tax rate. The organization is co-chaired by Fox News contributor Jim Pinkerton, a fact that Perino failed to disclose.*
Perino and the rest of the Five crew had a little fun with the foam fingers from the RATE Coalition:
Of course, clever props can't distract from the fact that while our statutory rate may be high by international standards, the vast majority of American corporations pay a far lower rate. From a February article in The Wall Street Journal:
U.S. companies are booking higher profits than ever. But the number crunchers in Washington are puzzling over a phenomenon that has just come into view: Corporate tax receipts as a share of profits are at their lowest level in at least 40 years.
Total corporate federal taxes paid fell to 12.1% of profits earned from activities within the U.S. in fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That's the lowest level since at least 1972. And well below the 25.6% companies paid on average from 1987 to 2008.
*Post has been updated