Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes is falsely warning that the USDA is bullying Christian organizations that distribute food to low-income individuals into "choos[ing] between Jesus and cheese," ignoring that religious organizations are allowed to provide social services as long as they comply with federal law.
In a September 9 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes said that the USDA threatened to revoke federal financial assistance from the Christian Service Center, a Christian ministry in Florida, unless the group "removed portraits of Christ, the Ten Commandments, a banner that read 'Jesus is Lord' and stop[ped] giving Bibles to the needy." The sensationalist claim is already being repeated by other right-wing media outlets. From FoxNews.com:
For the past 31 years, the Christian ministry has been providing food to the hungry in Lake City, Fla. without any problems. But all that changed when they said a state government worker showed up to negotiate a new contract.
"The (person) told us there was a slight change in the contract," [Christian Service Center Executive Director Kay] Daly told me. "They said we could no longer have religious information where the USDA food is being distributed. They told us we had to take that stuff down."
Daly said it's no secret that the Christian Service Center is a Christian ministry.
"We've got pictures of Christ on more than one wall," she said. "It's very clear we are not social services. We are a Christian ministry."
[T]he Christian Service Center had a choice: choose God or the government cheese.
So in a spirit of Christian love and fellowship, Daly politely told the government what they could do with their cheese.
"We decided to eliminate the USDA food and we're going to trust God to provide," she told me. "If God can multiply fish and loaves for 10,000 people, he can certainly bring in food for our food pantry so we can continue to feed the hungry."
But Starnes is setting up a false choice and one that the ministry is not facing.
Conservatives are still turning to British tabloids for their climate science, most recently treating a single year's Arctic sea ice -- which is still far below previous and long-term averages -- to claim that the region is not melting.
The latest instance of tabloid-reviewed science began when the The Mail on Sunday -- a sister newspaper to serial climate misinformer the Daily Mail* -- published an article titled "And now it's global COOLING!" suggesting that an increase in Arctic sea ice cover between September 2012 and August 2013 is among "mounting evidence that Arctic ice levels are cyclical." The story was summarily picked up by other British tabloids and a variety of conservative outlets, all to cast doubt on climate change. Notably, Rush Limbaugh used the report to claim "the Arctic ice sheet is at a record size for this time of year. They told us the ice was melting in the Arctic Ice Sheet. It's not."
Actually, Arctic sea ice is nowhere near "a record size." A graph from the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) illustrates that 2013 Arctic sea ice extent minimum (beige line), while not as low as last year's record (dotted line), is still tracking well below the 1979-2000 average (as have the minimum extents of every year since 1997). It is on track to be the sixth-lowest in satellite annals:
As 2012 was a record low, it is not terribly surprising that 2013 looks like it will be higher. This is due to a phenomenon known as regression to the mean, eloquently illustrated by this Skeptical Science graphic:
Fox News security analyst K.T. McFarland attacked President Obama as "egoistical but incompetent" and claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for throwing "Obama a lifeline" on Syria.
In a September 10 column on FoxNews.com, McFarland credited Putin with offering Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry "a way out of the mess they'd created" for the proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. MacFarland went on to say "the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize" for saving "the world from near-certain disaster":
The fact is Obama seemed headed for an attack on Syria that no one wanted and few thought would succeed. Most thought it would only end in disaster, either with the U.S. drawn into an attack/retaliation cycle of escalation that could go on for years and spread into a regional war, or result in the overthrow of President Assad by an Al Qaeda affiliated rebels.
While the Russians may have toyed with the idea of letting American get bogged down in yet another losing Middle East war, they didn't want to risk a war that might pull them in, or lose control of the Assad government to radical Sunni jihadists.
So Putin stepped in and threw Obama a lifeline.
The Washington press corps will no doubt believe him, as usual, and lavish their usual praise.
But the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes blasted "militant homosexuals" for opposing businesses that discriminate against gay customers, baselessly attacking anti-discrimination laws as assaults on First Amendment rights.
Willamette Week, an alternative weekly based in Portland, Oregon, reported on September 1 that Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a local bakery that came under fire in February for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, closed its storefront and will instead operate out of an "in home bakery." The move comes after the couple at the center of the controversy filed a complaint against the bakery for violating the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Starnes did not take kindly to the news. In a September 3 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes condemned the "vicious boycott by militant homosexual activists" for "forc[ing]" the business to close its storefront. Even as the bakery owners decried the "sin" of homosexuality and lamented the "LGBT attacks" against their discriminatory business practices, Starnes uncritically noted their assertion that they have "nothing against homosexuals." Starnes then argued that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against gay people, as "God's law" should trump "man's law":
[Co-owner Aaron] Klein tells me he has nothing against homosexuals -- but because of their religious faith, the family simply cannot take part in gay wedding events.
"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman," he said. "I don't want to help somebody celebrate a commitment to a lifetime of sin."
Commissioner Brad Avakian told The Oregonian that he was committed to a fair and thorough investigation to determine whether the bakery discriminated against the lesbians.
"Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn't mean that folks have the right to discriminate," he told the newspaper. "The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon."
In other words, Christians who live and work in Oregon must follow man's law instead of God's law. But in a show of benevolence, the state is willing to rehabilitate and reeducate Christian business owners like the Kleins.
Klein said it's becoming clear that Christians do not have the "right to believe what we believe."
In other words, gay rights trump religious rights.
From the August 14 edition of FoxNews.com's DEFCON 3:
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Right-wing media have baselessly smeared the White House's new Behavioral Insights Team, labeling it "propaganda," "mind control," and "Orwellian." In reality, the Behavioral Insights Team is modeled off a similar unit in Britain that has proven effective in encouraging timely tax payment and reducing energy bills and consumption.
Conservative media seized on White House plans to create a Behavioral Insights Team on July 30, when FoxNews.com obtained a document describing the program and its search for behavioral scientists.
Breitbart.com quickly jumped on the story, suggesting that the Obama administration will use the program to push a social agenda: "The Obama administration has not been shy about attempting to use its influence - or taxpayer money - to push enthusiasm for its agenda, including Obamacare, nutrition, and gay rights."
Fox stoked fears by hyping the program on multiple shows with little mention of its benefits. On the July 30 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs commented on FoxNews.com's report on the program, saying, "To many, that sounds purely like propaganda and mind control."
Continuing Fox News' long tradition of transphobia, a FoxNews.com article on transgender protections in a California school district relied on quotations from rabidly transphobic activists and repeatedly misidentified the gender of the student at the center of the story.
In a July 27 article, Fox News' Michael Roppolo examined a recent federal civil rights settlement with a suburban Los Angeles school district, where a transgender male student sought to use facilities that corresponded to his gender identity. Roppolo promoted the claim that the settlement shows how civil rights protections have gone too far:
The U.S. Department of Justice's latest cause - fighting for a transgendered California ninth-grader's right to use the boy's room at school - has conservative groups wondering just how far Washington will go in the name of civil rights.
Roppolo's story proceeded to quote no fewer than four anti-transgender activists and spokespersons. While he included one quotation from a school district official defending the settlement, Roppolo did not quote a single spokesperson from a transgender rights organization. The result was a story framed by hyperbolic and medically ignorant transphobic arguments.
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes revived the right-wing canard that churches will face lawsuits and even criminal charges unless they begin performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.
In a July 15 column for FoxNews.com, Starnes continued his push to frame LGBT rights as a dire threat to religious liberty, quoting a pastor who warns that "it's just a matter of time" before it's a crime to preach that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage should only be between a man and a woman:
Joe Carr believes a day is fast approaching when pastors will be charged with hate crimes for preaching that homosexuality is a sin and churches will face lawsuits for refusing to host same-sex weddings.
"It's just a matter of time," said Carr, the pastor of Waynesville Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia. "What's happening in Europe - we're going to see happen here and we're going to see it happen sooner rather than later I'm afraid."
Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas has joined the chorus of right-wing commentators proclaiming national doom in the wake of the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decisions last week.
In a July 1 column for FoxNews.com, Thomas condemned the high court for its rulings striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and dismissing the Proposition 8 case on the grounds that its supporters lacked standing. Like his Fox colleague Todd Starnes - who tweeted that the Supreme Court had "overrule[d] God" - Thomas accused the Court of poking its finger in the eye of the Almighty
The Supreme Court has narrowly, but effectively, removed another standard on the way to full acceptance of its right to redefine marriage and raise itself to a level higher than the Creator.
What or who is to stop them? Various religious-political groups formed over many years to confront cultural erosion are in retreat and increasingly ineffective.
Thomas then proceeded to reprise his claim that a nation that embraces marriage equality will soon condone polygamy and pedophilia:
Polygamist groups have made it known they wish to be next in line to enjoy full constitutional protection for their lifestyle. Utah was forced to outlaw polygamy before admission to the Union. Can it, should it, revert to its previous practice and who has the authority to say "no"?
There are people who favor sex and marriage between adults and children. On what basis should they be denied their "right to happiness"?
Today's "that goes too far" easily becomes tomorrow's "right" with a morally vacuous media leading the charge and a morally exhausted people who are afraid to say "stop," for fear they'll be labeled "bigots."
Among the developments Thomas cites as the basis for the nation descending a slippery slope into accepting polygamy and pedophilia: "The New York Times recently editorialized in favor of transgender rights."
In Thomas' estimation, the advance of equal rights for LGBT citizens will lead to nothing less than civilizational collapse: "History is full of examples of empires that collapsed from within before they were conquered from without."
While Fox's relatively tame reaction to the Court's rulings suggested that the network was wary of leading a crusade against marriage equality, its willingness to grant moral scolds like Thomas a platform indicates that bigotry and anti-gay misinformation still enjoy an outlet there.
Fox News' Keith Ablow wrote that serial killer Ted Kaczynski's crimes were "reprehensible" but promoted claims made in Kaczynski's manifesto that liberals are "psychologically disordered."
In a June 26 FoxNews.com column, Ablow claimed that while Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, committed "reprehensible" crimes, he was "precisely correct in many of his ideas." Ablow went on to claim that Kaczynski "must wonder what it will take for Americans to wake up" after "what constitutes the core of a human life" was being threatened by "technology and leftist political leaders." Ablow concluded by promoting Kaczynski's manifesto, claiming "it is time for people to read 'Industrial Society and its Future,' by convicted serial killer Ted Kaczynski" [emphasis original]:
He saw the political "left" as embracing these technologies with special fervor, because they were in keeping with the "leftist" ideology that centralized power was the way to govern men.
He saw these "leftists" as psychologically disordered--seeking to compensate for deep feelings of personal disempowerment by banding together and seeking extraordinary means of control in society.
Well, Kaczynski, while reprehensible for murdering and maiming people, was precisely correct in many of his ideas.
And having seen Barack Obama elected, in part, by mastering the use of the Internet as a campaign tool, then watching his administration preside over eavesdropping on the American public, monitoring their emails and tapping their phones, denying them their due process and privacy, and making a play to disarm them, Kaczynski, must wonder what it will take for Americans to wake up to the fact that their individuality and autonomy--indeed, what constitutes the core of a human life--is under siege (by the very forces he predicted--technology and leftist political leaders).
What the Unabomber did was reprehensible. And he was wrong: Killing people to bring attention to his ideas ended up making most people lock up his ideas, along with him. They became unmentionable, for politically correct folks.
Well, I would rather be correct, than politically correct. And it is time for people to read "Industrial Society and its Future," by convicted serial killer Ted Kaczynski. His work, despite his deeds, deserves a place alongside "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley, and "1984," by George Orwell.
Fox News continued its campaign to demonize welfare benefits, this time hyping improper payments made by a Massachusetts program even though those payments made up only a minimal amount of all benefits paid by the state.
On Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne hyped a report that Massachusetts welfare agencies had improperly continued to provide a total of $2.39 million in assistance to 1,164 deceased recipients, calling the figures "ugly." On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade mocked the report, claiming, "More than 2 million dollars. That's the amount of welfare benefits paid out recently to nearly 1200 dead people in Massachusetts. They could not be reached for comment." A FoxNews.com article called the audit of the agencies "damning."
But according to the audit, improper payments to deceased individuals made up only a tiny amount of total assistance payments made by the state. Massachusetts' Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) spent more than $1.7 billion in benefits in fiscal year 2012 alone for a variety of financial assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP, or food stamps) and emergency aid to people with disabilities and children. The audit found only $2.39 million dollars improperly paid to deceased recipients for the entire time period from July 2010 to December 2012.
Furthermore, the audit found that Massachusetts has already taken steps to reduce the small number of improper payments in these programs, and according to the official press release, the auditor was "encouraged" by DTA's actions.
Fox News has a history of attacking programs for Americans in need. Fox News hosts have tied government assistance programs to the terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon, mocked food stamps as a diet plan, claimed all individuals who receive government disability benefits are faking their disabilities, and even asked whether children should have to work in exchange for free school meals.
Fox News trumpeted the false claim that immigrants who receive provisional status under the immigration reform proposal would get a "tax amnesty" because the bill does not mandate they pay back taxes. In fact, the bill requires that immigrants -- at least three quarters of who already pay payroll taxes -- pay a tax liability before they can qualify for provisional legal status and ensure they pay taxes before they can renew their legal status.
In a FoxNews.com op-ed, Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform, accused the bipartisan group of senators behind the bill of giving a "tax amnesty" to undocumented immigrants because the bill does not contain language addressing "back taxes" and does not explicitly explain how taxes will be assessed. He wrote that "taxes assessed" are different from "taxes owed" and there is no proof that the proposal would require immigrants to pay anything:
While this sounds good at first blush, "taxes assessed" is not the same as "taxes owed." A tax assessment occurs when the IRS officially records that a person owes money because an individual files a tax return, or the IRS audits an individual - whether or not he has filed a return - and records how much the person owes.
The bill requires aliens to only pay taxes that the IRS has assessed at the time they apply for ["registered provisional immigrant"] RPI status.
If the IRS had no knowledge that the individual had been working here, there would obviously be no tax liability assessed and the alien has nothing to satisfy for the purpose of getting RPI status.
In fact, immigrants who apply for provisional legal status would have to pay taxes. The bill states that immigrants may not receive provisional status until any federal tax liability is satisfied in accordance with regulations to be established by the Secretary of the Treasury. This gives the IRS the discretion to decide how a tax liability will be administered to immigrants seeking the legal status. If an immigrant is granted legal status they would still be required to pay taxes during that period as well.
Fox News largely underreported the news of the first openly gay male athlete in major American sports, while one Fox News contributor resorted to mocking the player's decision to publicly identify as gay.
On April 29, NBA center Jason Collins became the first professional athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay, writing in a story for Sports Illustrated:
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
The announcement was a major development in the sports community following months of debate and speculation about if and when a male professional athlete in one of the major American sports would identify as gay.
Despite the significance of Collins' announcement, Fox News barely covered the story, dedicating less than ten minutes on April 29 to the story - significantly less time than coverage on CNN (48 minutes) and MSNBC (29 minutes) - according to a Media Matters analysis:
Fox's underreporting wasn't limited to its on-air coverage. While most major news websites prominently displayed Collins' announcement on their home page, the story barely earned a hyperlink on FoxNews.com:
Never one to miss an opportunity to attack LGBT Americans, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes mocked Collins' announcement, tweeting "the NBA is turning into GLEE":
*Media Matters searched news transcripts provided by Snapstream for the terms "gay" and "Collins" on April 29. Reruns and teases for upcoming segments were excluded.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote a FoxNews.com piece on the Boston bombings that attacked Islam as a religion that "cannot ... peacefully coexist with other religions" and suggested "multiculturalism" helped lead to the bombings.
In his piece, Erickson wrote, "In the past decade we have seen that not all Muslims are terrorists, but just about every terrorist has been a Muslim." He also claimed that "contrary to the political correct," "[c]ompared to all other religions in the Twentieth and Twenty-first century, only Islam seems to generate people willing to kill for their religion."
Erickson suggested that societal emphasis on "multiculturalism" led the Boston bombing suspects to turn to radical Islam because immigrants aren't expected to "assimilate into American society." In a tweet linking to his piece, Erickson said:
Erickson has a long history of inflammatory remarks: he has endorsed white-men-only scholarships, defended Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments, and has said "violence" is "extremely common ... within much of Islam."
Fox News and Fox News Latino are again reporting the same story using different lenses to appeal to both their conservative audience and a growing Latino culture.
The Associated Press announced this week that it would no longer refer to undocumented immigrants as "illegal immigrants," saying:
The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term "illegal immigrant" or the use of "illegal" to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that "illegal" should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
Explaining the change, AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll stated that the wire service was "ridding the Stylebook of labels" in other areas and to be consistent, the term "illegal immigrant" will no longer be used. The new entry reads in part: "illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegallyor without legal permission."
Carroll further said that the term "ends up pigeonholing people or creating long descriptive titles where you use some main event in someone's life to become the modifier before their name."
In an article reporting the AP's move, Fox News Latino featured a photo of a woman holding up a sign that read, "No human being is illegal":
The Fox News Latino article, headlined " 'Illegal Immigrant' Dropped From Associated Press Stylebook," referred to the term "illegal immigrant" as "controversial" and included quotes from racial justice organization The Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.org.
By contrast, FoxNews.com highlighted the story on its front page with a picture of what appeared to be immigrants climbing over a border fence. The headline on the photo read: "AP Rules: Don't Call Him an... 'ILLEGAL?'"