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.
Fox News promoted an effort to ban Isabel Allende's award-winning novel The House of The Spirits, thanking a North Carolina mother for a "keeping up the good fight" and using her campaign to lob yet another off-base attack at the Common Core educational standards.
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck reported that "parents are outraged over a new book being assigned to their high school students containing references to abortion and prostitution," and was quick to tie the book to the Common Core educational standards -- falsely labeling them the "Common Core classroom curriculum." She welcomed North Carolina mother Chastity Lesesne on to discuss:
The campaign to censor The House of The Spirits in North Carolina's Watauga County school district has sparked national scrutiny in recent weeks. As Michael Keegan, president of the free speech advocacy organization People for The American Way noted, Lesesne's censorship attempt ignores that "The House of Spirits is an internationally renowned work that is taught in high school Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs throughout the country." Chris Brook, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union-NC Legal Foundation, also warned of the "the slippery slope of banning books that promote critical thinking and classroom dialogue" and urged district officials to vote "in favor of the freedom to read."
Promoting censorship is an unusual position for Fox given that the network has previously cited First Amendment concerns as reasons to reject anti-bullying policies, allow anti-gay discrimination, contest a private company's decisions, and even offer a pro-fracking film undeserved awards.
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.
Fox News attacked Vice President Joe Biden for accurately explaining how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps free women from job lock and grants them greater independence and choice.
On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and guest Crystal Wright from ConservativeBlackChick.com launched a scathing attack on Biden, calling his remarks on the ACA and women "ridiculous" and "demeaning." Wright argued that Biden "put women in stereotypes," while claiming that Republicans "give women a choice ... you can be a career woman, you can be a stay-at-home mom."
But even the clip of Biden's statement made on the February 25 edition of ABC's The View played during the Fox & Friends segment accurately demonstrated that his remarks referred to women's increased ability to choose their employment status because the ACA will reduce job lock. Biden noted that this will give women the ability, if they choose, to leave their jobs for other opportunities because they will not be dependent on the health care provided by that job:
BIDEN: This is about freedom. How many of you are single women, with children, in a dead-end job, you're there because of your health insurance? You would rather have the opportunity to spend the next couple years with your child until they get -- if that was your choice -- until they get into primary school. You're now trapped in that job because if you leave, you lose your health insurance. Now, you'll be able to do -- make an independent choice. Do you want to stay in that job and still have health insurance? Or do you want to stay in that job even though you can get health insurance absent that job? And it gives women a great deal more freedom.
The New York Times explains that job lock occurs "when people stay in jobs they dislike, or don't want, solely to keep their health coverage. A Harvard Business School study in 2008 estimated that 11 million workers are affected by this dilemma. Other studies show that when people don't have to worry about health insurance, they are up to 25 percent more likely to change jobs."
Though Hasselbeck contended that women don't "just work for the free health insurance," this ignores the 11 million workers who do, in fact, face this dilemma. The reduction in job lock enabled by the health care law will allow greater freedom and choice not only for women but for everyone in the labor force.
While Fox has repeatedly derided the reduction of job lock due to the ACA, economists praise the benefits; as The New York Times noted, the labor force can now "allocate itself more efficiently," and reducing job lock will help spur entrepreneurship. The Congressional Budget Office also reported that the reduction of job lock will increase short-term opportunity for the unemployed, and will help stimulate economic growth.
Right-wing media figures, led by Fox News, have launched a campaign against the Girl Scouts accusing the group of indoctrinating young girls into liberal politics. The accusation has been propped up by misleading claims, ludicrous oversimplifications, and frequently repeated myths about the organization, which focuses on empowering girls.
Fox News has spent the last several months championing anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers - depicting efforts to prevent discrimination as threats to religious liberty. Now, with several states debating bills that would legalize homophobic discrimination in business and employment, Fox News is now defending the extreme, anti-gay segregation policies it helped to create.
The push to legalize anti-gay discrimination first came to public attention on February 12, when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing individuals and businesses to refuse any services "related to, or related to the celebration of" any union - effectively allowing blanket protection for the denial of services to gay couples. After a storm of negative publicity, the State Senate has shelved the bill.
Similar bills have recently died in Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but the Arizona legislature has sent its own license to discriminate measure to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
The wave of anti-gay segregation measures is the culmination of a concerted right-wing strategy, bolstered by Fox News, to cast anti-gay discrimination as an integral part of religious freedom.
Long before the public outcry over Kansas' license to discriminate bill, Fox threw its weight behind businesses whose owners refuse, ostensibly on religious grounds, to serve gay and lesbian couples - precisely the form of discrimination that conservative state legislators have sought to legalize.
As part of Fox's continued conflation of homophobia and Christianity, the network has repeatedly defended discrimination by anti-gay business owners as an essential part of religious liberty.
On December 10, Fox & Friends hosted Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his extremist Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney to discuss a court ruling that Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple. The segment featured a graphic proclaiming "The Death Of Free Enterprise," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he thought he shouldn't have to discard his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck."
Economists are encouraged by reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase job flexibility by allowing workers to maintain health coverage outside employment, calling the impact good for workers and the economy. But to Fox News, increased flexibility just means increased laziness.
Fox News' idea for a debate on whether Disney should create a plus-size princess centered around the notion that such a princess might encourage obesity.
On February 6, Fox News' Fox & Friends discussed a Change.org petition for Disney to create a plus-size Disney princess. High school student Jewel Moore, who started the petition, envisions that such a princess would be a role model for "women who struggle with confidence and need a positivie [sic] plus-size character in the media."
Fox took the story and used it to entertain the notion that a plus-size Disney princess might encourage obesity and diabetes.
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked, "Move over Cinderella. Disney under pressure to create a plus-size princess. Should they? We're going to debate that," before inviting on Emme, a plus-size supermodel, and Meme Roth, a self-described obesity expert. Roth declared that such a Disney princess would "glorify obesity." She speculated as to whether the teen petitioning Disney is obese and argued that "If you're going to do a storyline with obesity, then you need to do Princess Diabetes, Princess Cancer, Princess Fertility Problems." To Roth, the petition was "like mob mentality." When Hasselbeck asked, "Is plus-size fat?" Roth responded, "It's unhealthy. If you like cancer and diabetes, if you want fertility problems, then plus-size is beautiful."
Fox treated Roth's invective as credible. As she ranted against Emme, a proponent of the petition, an on-screen graphic wondered, "Who's right?"
Presenting Roth as an expert on body-image issues and entertaining her vitriolic remarks is merely a continuation of Fox & Friends' complicity with body-shaming.
The program has previously given a fitness model and mother who shamed other mothers about their bodies a platform to unapologetically defend her position.
It is unclear why Fox presented Roth as qualified to speak on the plus-size Disney princess issue -- she does not appear to have degrees in the nutrition or medical field, but instead is known for body-shaming through her National Action Against Obesity website and personal blog which carries the tag-line "MeMe Roth: Reporting From FATOPOLIS." She has compared obese people to sex criminals and advocated for nutrition plans that sound a lot like anorexia.
It is important to note that obesity is not the equivalent of plus-size. PLUS Model magazine reports that plus-size models are on average between the sizes of 6-14.
Fox News deflected from its role manufacturing scandals about the Benghazi attack by complaining that President Obama pointed to the network as a source of misinformation during a Super Bowl interview with Bill O'Reilly.
On February 2, Fox New host Bill O'Reilly conducted a live interview with President Barack Obama which aired before Super bowl XLVIII. During the interview, Obama responded to O'Reilly's claim that "your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign didn't want that out" by pointing out that "they believe it because folks like you are telling them that," later noting "these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them."
During the February 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade attacked Obama for pointing to Fox's role in pushing the manufactured scandal, complaining that the president "actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes":
HASSELBECK: When Bill O'reilly, yesterday, sat down with the president, he asked him some tough questions and he said 'look let's go over some game tape here, you know, there have been some mistakes like Benghazi, the IRS scandals that's been bugging you.
HASSELBECK: Let's maybe review the tape and see what's wrong. Now most coaches would say this happened or the defense failed. No. He actually went on to blame Fox News for all the mistakes.
Later, Kilmeade likened this to other administrations claiming, "Bill Clinton didn't blame the New York Times for his scandal. George Bush didn't blame every media outlet for running down the war or for Katrina. Why attack the people who are asking you questions?"
But Obama was right, Fox led the charge in misinforming about every aspect of the Benghazi attack, including the false claim that Obama refused to call the attack an act of terror. In a May 13, 2012, press conference, Obama responded to an AP reporter's question by saying "The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism." In the days following the attack, Obama repeatedly called it an "act of terror."
Fox has repeatedly dodged the facts on Benghazi, hyped supposed "lingering questions" while ignoring the transcripts that answer them, and used its own Benghazi trutherism as a way to avoid discussing issues that could damage Republicans.
Fox News is attempting to revive the myth that the Affordable Care Act includes a secret fee to cover abortions to support the GOP's misleadingly titled "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."
On January 27, FoxNews.com highlighted an article from right-wing website Watchdog.org that was originally posted under the headline "Secret abortion fees hidden in Obamacare premiums." The post promoted the claims of "congressional leaders" who claimed "Insurance companies working under the Obamacare umbrella have secretly added a surcharge to cover the cost of abortions" and claimed the Republicans' proposed "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would resolve the problem. The claim appeared again during the January 28 edition of Fox & Friends when co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham if it was "true that there's a hidden fee to cover abortions under Obamacare":
The right-wing media's "hidden abortion fee" myth is rooted in the original Senate version of the health care law. In 2009, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner posted a blog claiming "Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee." Boehner's claim was picked up by right-wing media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, who read the press release verbatim on his show. The myth reappeared in 2012 when right-wing media figures claimed everyone under the ACA "will be forced to pay a dollar a month to cover abortion on your insurance policy."
The myth has always been built on a misrepresentation of how the ACA handles abortion coverage. In fact, despite the title of the GOP's bill, the provision that the right-wing media is hyping is an effort to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion. The ACA requires states to offer at least one health plan that does not cover abortions. Plans that do cover abortion, however, contain a surcharge that is assessed on consumers who opt in to that plan in order to prevent federal funds from being used, a violation of the Hyde amendment that prevents federal funding from paying for abortion except in case of rape, incest, or the woman's life being in danger. In a March 21, 2012, post, PolitiFact explained:
Fox News erased the devastating impact of a cut to unemployment insurance in North Carolina, citing a questionable University of Oslo study and pushing the North Carolina approach as a way to remove people from an unemployment "trap." In reality, North Carolina's jobless benefits cut pushed many job-seekers out of the employment search and into 8-hour long food bank lines.
Fox News spread fears that new military instructions that grant commanders the discretion to accommodate service members' religious practices and physical appearance will threaten the core military values and cohesion of the troops despite the fact that the Pentagon requires these accommodations be made on an individual basis in consideration to the health and safety needs of each unit.
On January 22, the Department of Defense released new instructions on accommodations for religious expression -- instructions which they believe will reduce discrimination "toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command." The Washington Post reports the new instructions will ensure "rights of religious-minority service members to display their beliefs outwardly -- such as wearing a turban, scarf or beard -- as long as the practices do not interfere with military discipline, order or readiness."
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade turned to Fox's go-to anti-Muslim activist, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser who attacked the rule change as a threat to military readiness. Jasser argued that the rule change might be manipulated by "pseudo-civil rights groups that are really trying to weaken our unit cohesion, weaken mission readiness, and ultimately tee up the football for litigation Jihad or people like -- monsters like -- Nidal Hasan who want to wear a beard." Kilmeade agreed, adding "if your religion conflicts with what the rules are in the military, do something else."
Later in the show, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck invoked the story of former army officer, Nidal Hasan, convicted of killing 13 people on a military base in Fort Hood, Texas to stoke fears that the new policy might hurt safety and unit cohesion:
HASSELBECK: You can't help but think, I mean, people are harkening back to Nidal Hasan asking to maintain and grow a beard while a trial was going on. I think it definitely brings up concerns, both for safety, unified front, and just cohesion.
But the new instructions came after a long struggle on the part of religious minority groups like Sikh, Jewish, and Muslim Americans who have previously been barred from serving in the military due to the strict dress and personal appearance standards. The new instructions will allow military departments to accommodate individual religious expression, but each individual will still have to be granted permission from his or her unit to assure that physical appearances "do not interfere with good order and discipline."
The Washington Post further clarified that these new accommodations will not be allowed to affect safety or military readiness:
According to the Pentagon, requests for such religious accommodation will still be decided on an individual basis but will generally be denied only if the item impairs the safe use of military equipment; poses a health or safety hazard; interferes with wearing a uniform, a helmet or other military gear; or "impairs the accomplishment of the military mission."
Fox News thinks it's "heartbreaking" that a "one-sided" pro-fracking film was rejected from a film festival in Minnesota, questioning the right to "freedom of speech." But the screening was canceled simply because it did not live up to the festival's standards.
On January 23, Fox and Friends hosted Phelim McAleer, director of the pro-fracking film called FrackNation, to complain about the film's cancellation from the Frozen River Film Festival. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck lamented that the cancellation "has to just be heartbreaking," that Ireland-native McAleer came to America "to express [his] freedom of thought [and] expression." In McAleer's eyes, the festival organizers "don't want the people of Minnesota to be exposed to an alternative point of view." Co-host Steve Doocy ended the segment by asking, "Freedom of speech? You be the judge."
Doocy has previously answered his own question, acknowledging that "a private company can do anything they want" and it's "not [a] free speech [issue]."
A chyron during the segment stated that "MCALEER REJECTED INDUSTRY FINANCING FOR FILM." However, a review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that "scores of energy industry associates" donated to the film's Kickstarter campaign, which was promoted by several pro-industry lobbying groups. What's more, McAleer and his co-director Ann McElhinney previously produced two anti-environment films openly funded by the fossil fuel industry. They are both listed as "experts" on the Heartland Institute's website, an organization infamous for climate change denial. It's no wonder that the San Francisco Chronicle previously dubbed McAleer "climate denial's Michael Moore" for his misleading film portraying global warming as "junk science."
The festival organizers cited the film's industry ties as one reason that they decided to cancel it, following in the footsteps of the Sundance Film Festival and Telluride's Mountian Film Festival (Frozen River's partner festival).
While Fox News noted that the film was called "methodically researched" by the New York Times, other movie reviewers have panned it. A Los Angeles Times review called it a "one-sided attack piece" that "doesn't add much to the conversation." The New York Daily News gave it a whopping one-star review, and wrote, "the accuracy of this crowd-sourced documentary -- funded by small donations on Kickstarter -- seems as reliable as a Wikipedia entry."
A new right-wing media narrative is brandishing out-of-context statistics on inherited wealth to argue that lower-income Americans are disproportionately benefiting from inherited wealth transfers, unlike the wealthiest Americans who earn their wealth with hard work.
As a national dialogue heats up over the problem of global and domestic income inequality, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others are rushing to the defense of the wealthiest Americans by claiming that low-income Americans simply don't work as hard as their wealthy peers. As evidence, the conservative outlets are pointing to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study showing top income brackets inherit a smaller percentage of their wealth than do lower income Americans, a finding that, according to National Review's Kevin Williamson, proves that rich Americans "work more -- a lot more."
The January 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted Williamson to discuss his theory, and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced his segment by saying, "It's easy to assume that the rich inherit their money without earning it. But in reality, under 15 percent of top income earners inherit their wealth, while more than 40 percent of lower income earners inherit theirs." Fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade added, "So how does the rich really make their money? ... By hard work! That's the conclusion. Wealthy households tend to have four times the amount of full-time workers than poorer households."
Rush Limbaugh read from the National Review post on the January 21 edition of his radio show, stating that "The middle class and the poor, a greater percentage of their assets come from inheritance than from working, rich Americans. The country would be far better off if more people actually lived the way the top 20 percent do. If they actually worked like the top 20 percent do."
Ignoring the fact that Limbaugh, Friends, and National Review are attacking a straw man -- they never identify anyone who is arguing that wealthy Americans don't work hard -- their argument omits an important statistic from the BLS study they cite: The average value of "wealth transfers" (of which inheritances are a large percentage) to low-income Americans versus those to wealthier Americans.
BLS did indeed find that among the households in the highest income brackets, transfers accounted for only 12.6 percent of net worth. What Fox and the like omit is the fact that the average value of wealth transfers received by the top 1 percent of U.S. households was a whopping $1,045,200 in 2007. That's twenty-five times the average value of inheritances for households in the lowest income bracket, whose average inheritance was $42,000 the same year. For lower-income earners, 42 grand is a large chunk of their total wealth. But the average wealth of households in the top 1 percent isaround $16,439,400 -- so a million dollar inheritance is not as impactful.