With the nation's attention turned toward the growing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, media figures have called on President Obama to speak out more forcefully on the situation and race relations in America. But Obama's past statements on race have been met with attacks from conservative commentators, blasting Obama for "promoting racial division" and "exacerbating racial tensions."
Voices currently urging the nation's first black president to say more on race ignore the marked history of conservative media figures' accusations of race-baiting in response to Obama's previous remarks:
In The Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) disavowed the offensive narrative pushed by conservative media which labels needy Americans as "takers" versus more economically-prosperous "makers." However, Ryan's proposed anti-poverty policies still rely on the right-wing media myth that blames poverty on poor individuals' personal life choices.
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It's been a confusing week for professional Obama critics. Suddenly confronted with the topic of impeachment and busy issuing not-quite-believable denials that trying to drive the Democratic president from office has ever been a serious pursuit of the Republican Party or its most aggressive boosters, many members of the far-right press seemed caught off guard by recent developments.
Angered by the fact the White House is highlighting the GOP's ongoing embrace of impeachment and suggesting Republicans might act on the idea if they win control of the U.S. Senate, conservatives have tried to quiet their own crowd, apparently concerned about optics.
But the fever swamp has never been about optics. It's about whipping as many people as possible into a state of narrow-minded outrage on a daily basis. And if that means dipping into the impeachment pool, then so be it.
Now press partisans are caught in no-man's land. Seeing the fundraising success Democrats have had off impeachment, conservative critics angrily deny that Republicans have any interest in impeachment. Yet at the same time they're part of a media movement that thinks Obama should be impeached. (He's a lawless tyrant, in case you hadn't heard.) The contradiction has led to a week of confusion and missteps as the conservative media struggle with how transparent they should be in their loathing of the president, especially if there are indications Democrats are using that rage to their advantage, both politically and financially.
So almost overnight there's been a movement to hush the most strident critics; to urge everyone to take it down a notch because it just doesn't look good.
On Fox News, The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld dismissed impeachment as a "stunt" that's "tossed out by people addicted to [the] splash those stunts make." What kind of people? "Bloggers" and "talking heads," he said. Co-host Andrea Tantaros agreed, bemoaning the fact "There's a movement in talk radio and on the right to profiteer from these wild ideas." (Note that Tantaros still thinks Obama might do something "worthy of impeachment" just to bait Republicans into it.") And colleague Eric Bolling insisted even talk radio hosts had "backed off" the topic because they realized it "sounded a little bit crazy."
But nobody puts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin in the corner, so the angry talkers haven't backed down from the impeachment charge. (Levin: "Here's the dead truth -- Obama should be impeached.") And that leaves damage control agents like Tantaros looking a bit foolish: How can impeachment deniers claim the topic's not being treated seriously when two of the most popular radio hosts in right-wing America are doing just that, and demanding their millions of listeners do the same? (For a cheat sheet of Republican politicians who also have also pushed impeachment, see here.)
And that's been the confusing part: The claim nobody on the right's been promoting impeachment (it's all a liberal conspiracy), vs. the acknowledgement that okay, some people have but they're really misguided and irresponsible.
From the July 1 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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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 12 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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A frequent Fox News guest who has contributed to a white nationalist website attacked Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and host of FOX's Cosmos, for speaking out about racial profiling he has experienced.
Gavin McInnes, who co-founded Vice but left the company in 2008, reportedly because he was a "liability," said he "hate[s]" Tyson and complained about Tyson stating that he has been racially profiled in stores on the June 3 edition of Fox News' Red Eye:
MCINNES: I hate this guy [...] White liberal nerds love this guy so much, he could defecate on them like Martin Bashir's fantasies and they would dance in the streets. All he does is, he's drunk with adulation. And he talks about things like "when I was young in New York I would get racially profiled when I'd go into stores." Back then he looked like he was in The Warriors. He had a huge afro and a cutoff shirt and New York was a war zone. Sorry, you fit the profile.
McInnes was apparently referring to a panel discussion at the Center for Inquiry in which Tyson discussed how many adults tried to steer him away from a career as a scientist as a child, and said that he has been racially profiled in stores (starting 1 hour, 1 minute and 30 seconds in):
McInnes used to write for VDARE.com, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a "White Nationalist" "hate group," and stated in 2011 "I love me some VDARE." In one post for VDARE.com, McInnes compared a Canadian university to a "madrassa" because it wouldn't host Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who advocates for founding all-white towns.
McInnes currrently writes for Taki's Magazine, a "paleoconservative" website that publishes overtly racist articles including ones by neo-confederates. At Taki's, McInnes has referred to Asian-Americans as "slopes" and "riceballs," suggested Muslims are "stupider" and "more violent" due to inbreeding, defended blackface because some minstrel shows were "just mimicking black people" and "fun," backed the racist comments of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, and argued that to yell the n-word at someone is "not racist" but "just very rude." He also owns his own website, StreetCarnage.com, where he defended Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's racist comments because Bundy was just "wonder[ing]" if African-Americans were better off under slavery. In 2013, 18 Milling Rising gave him a "Lifetime Achievement Award in Hipster Racism," a brand of racism marked by making "ironically" racist "jokes."
He has also compared being a single mother to "child abuse," claimed that women who join the workforce are generally not doing what "they naturally want to do," and said that having short hair is like "rape."
Greg Gutfeld, co-host of The Five and host of Red Eye, is one of McInnes' biggest fans and hosts him often. According to a Nexis search, Fox News' Hannity has also hosted McInnes frequently -- 18 times so far in 2014.
Conservative media can't seem to agree whether or not Hillary Clinton's 2012 concussion was faked or was so serious she now has permanent brain damage, but whichever it is they seem ready to ignore all medical evidence in order to politicize her health.
In late December 2012, shortly before she was scheduled to testify before Congress regarding the attacks in Benghazi, Clinton sustained a concussion after she fainted due to dehydration from the flu, and was subsequently hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot in her head. The State Department postponed her testimony, and she ultimately appeared before Congress in January after her doctors confirmed she would make a full recovery.
Karl Rove reportedly dismissed this medical evidence last week when he claimed Clinton might have brain damage from the episode. Rove doubled down on his remarks today on Fox. Rove insisted that while he did not use the phrase "brain damage," he did believe she had "a serious health episode" and "she's hidden a lot" of information about the extent of her injuries. Wildly speculating about her health was reasonable, according to Rove, because she might someday run for president.
But back in December 2012, conservative media weren't worried that Clinton's health might impede a presidential run; instead, right-wing media immediately accused Clinton of faking her concussion to avoid testifying on Benghazi, taking a potentially life-threatening incident, which the former Secretary of State thankfully recovered from, and making it a political cudgel.
Fox contributor John Bolton accused Clinton of faking a "diplomatic illness." Monica Crowley dismissed the illness, calling it a "virus with apparently impeccable timing." Fox's The Five took the attacks a step further by mocking the Secretary's health, accusing Clinton of running "a duck and cover" and joking, "How can she get a concussion when she has been ducking everything [related to Benghazi]?" On Special Report Charles Krauthammer quipped she was "suffering from acute Benghazi allergy," a joke Sean Hannity liked so much he laughed about it later on his own show. When this mockery came under fire, host Greg Gutfeld attempted to defend Fox's actions by dismissing their remarks as mere "skepticism" and accusing journalists of "ginning up fake hatred, or outrage, towards skeptics." It wasn't just Fox, though; The Los Angeles Times, for instance, posted an online poll giving credence to the concussion conspiracy theories, asking readers "did she fake it?"
As The Wire noted, some of these conspiracy theorists quickly flipped when conservatives realized mocking a serious health condition, including the blood clot, was not a winning strategy. The New York Post, which had initially featured the headline "Hillary Clinton's head fake," followed up with a sober report on her condition noting that "Cynics in the media and in Congress sneered that Clinton was faking the concussion to avoid testimony about the attack" -- without acknowledging their own previous coverage. The Daily Caller similarly reported in February that "whispers" suggested Clinton's health was so bad she "may not even be capable of making it to Iowa and New Hampshire," after having wondered two months before why "we're supposed to just take her word for it" that she collapsed and hit her head. Fox, however, seems to be sticking with concussion trutherism; just this month, host Eric Bolling claimed Clinton purposefully "hit her head" so someone else could "take the bullet" on Benghazi.
So she either lied about a serious injury in order to avoid testimony (which she still gave), or she's now lying about being healthy in order to run for president (which she isn't currently doing). Either way, Rove's comments continue conservative media's stubborn insistence to politicize her health in whichever direction suits them at the moment, regardless of medical evidence.
The hosts of Fox News' The Five lobbed a series of attacks against Emily Letts, a woman who filmed her own abortion and wrote about her experience in Cosmopolitan, going so far as to claim she had committed "some sort of genocide."
On May 6, the Fox hosts speculated that she had orchestrated her pregnancy and abortion as a "publicity stunt." Greg Gutfeld said Letts "clearly needs help" while Andrea Tantaros described Letts as "deeply disturbed" and asked if her employer had considered giving her a "psychological exam." Eric Bolling took it a step further, likening her abortion to having committed "some sort of genocide":
Letts, an abortion counselor at a New Jersey clinic, filmed her own abortion in order to erase some of the stigma and falsehoods that surround the procedure. In an op-ed for Cosmopolitan, Letts explained that she opted for a surgical abortion in order to combat misinformation and show others what the procedure really looks like:
I searched the Internet, and I couldn't find a video of an actual surgical procedure in the clinic that focused on the woman's experience. We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like. A first trimester abortion takes three to five minutes. It is safer than giving birth. There is no cutting, and risk of infertility is less than 1 percent. Yet women come into the clinic all the time terrified that they are going to be cut open, convinced that they won't be able to have kids after the abortion. The misinformation is amazing, but think about it: They are still willing to sacrifice these things because they know that they can't carry the child at this moment.
The oil-industry funded front group for Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, has a Buzzfeed list featuring animated gifs of the "Top 10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day: For Conservatives." Media Matters has gathered all the ways that anti-conservation "conservatives" have truly decided to celebrate Earth Day this year:
Fox News celebrated Earth Day by hosting Fox Business' John Stossel who is "cheering for fossil fuels" that were responsible for dozens of disasters last year. Forbes contributor and oil and gas industry consultant David Blackmon caught on to the trend, writing an op-ed glorifying the fossil fuel industry titled "Be Thankful On Earth Day For Oil & Gas."
Earth Day happens to lie on the same day as Vladimir Lenin's birthday, so it must be a communist plot, according to conservative blogger Erick Erickson. Erickson filled in for Rush Limbaugh on his radio show on Earth Day by ranting about the connections between environmentalism and communism.
The United States (and globe) has been warming since the first Earth Day -- but that didn't prevent snow-trollers from emerging once again to cast doubt on global warming. On April 22, climate "skeptic" favorite Ryan Maue tweeted at conservative blogger Erick Erickson: "Remind folks on Earth Day... to not put away their snow shovels until July 4th." Erickson later fulfilled Maue's request as a guest host for on The Rush Limbaugh Show.
Jim Treacher, a reporter for the conservative news site Daily Caller, joked that he would celebrate Earth Day by burning "dangerous tires before they can pollute the planet," mocking NASA's Twitter campaign asking the public to take a "#GlobalSelfie" for Earth Day.
Fox News frequent Marc Morano hyped a piece by Roy Spencer that equated climate science to a "religion" -- one of the most prominent ways conservatives erode trust in scientists according to a study by the Yale Project on Climate Communications. Spencer wrote, in honor of Earth Day:
As in other religions, most Earth worshipers are more or less hypocritical. Spend a day being "good", spend the rest of the year failing.
I mostly find Earth Day just plain annoying for the rank hypocrisy on display. A state-sponsored religious day of worship, along with all of the 1st Amendment-violating regulations to codify it.
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 15 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, the GOP acknowledged it needed to change its stance on immigration and Hispanic outreach. But conservative media figures lashed out at Jeb Bush after he expressed compassion for undocumented immigrants.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has been missing since March 8, and the search for its whereabouts has consumed media attention worldwide. But to Fox News, the missing airliner is reminiscent of Benghazi.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to link the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to a variety of unrelated events, often invoking the tragedy to attack President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or to deflect conservatives from scrutiny. Inside the right-wing bubble, the Chris Christie bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, Monday Night Football, and even openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam are all opportunities to invoke Benghazi.
It was only a matter of time before Fox brought the same mentality to its coverage of the missing plane:
From the March 19 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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