For two years, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been peddling the theory that the IRS intentionally leaked its donor list to a gay rights organization as part of an Obama administration conspiracy. Two separate investigations and a ruling by a Reagan-appointed judge have debunked that theory. But right-wing media, which have widely touted NOM's initial accusations, have largely ignored or denied the conspiracy theory's demise.
In the spring of 2012, an IRS employee inadvertently leaked an unredacted list of NOM's donors in response to a public records request. The pro-equality group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) got its hands on the list, highlighting past contributions to NOM by prominent conservatives like then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Noting that key HRC officials were prominent supporters of President Obama's re-election campaign, NOM alleged a conspiracy between the organization and the Obama administration aimed at embarrassing NOM and its supporters.
In April 2012, NOM filed a formal letter of complaint to the IRS. Conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and The Weekly Standard touted the complaint, focusing particularly on the revelation that Romney was one of the group's donors. For most of the next year, however, media interest in the story was scant.
That changed in the spring of 2013. In May, U.S. Attorney General Eric holder ordered the FBI to begin a criminal probe into allegations that the agency had targeted tax-exempt conservative political groups. While the IRS actually scrutinized progressive groups more extensively than conservative ones, the IRS "scandal" became a rallying cry for right-wing media. The controversy also meant newfound interest in NOM's allegations against the agency.
Mainstream and conservative media outlets were quick to pick up on NOM's call for an investigation into the IRS's activities.
The Wall Street Journal 's James Taranto spotlighted NOM's claims in a column on the IRS controversy, asking "How pervasive is the Obama IRS scandal?":
From the June 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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Fox News' On the Record aired dramatically cropped video of Susan Rice to falsely claim she brushed off a question about Benghazi and did not take the deaths seriously.
On May 15, host Greta Van Susteren aired only four words from Rice's response to a question about what new information the recently-formed GOP special committee for Benghazi may find. After airing Rice saying "Dang if I know," Van Susteren cut off the video and said it doesn't sound like the White House is taking the investigation seriously. Van Susteren repeatedly emphasized that four people died in the attack while calling Rice's response insensitive:
But the full video of Rice's response shows that Van Susteren is manufacturing this latest Fox outrage. Rice's response was to the question of whether or not new information would be released. In the full version of the clip that Fox chose not to air, Rice goes on to point out that "I mean, honestly, the administration has produced, I think, 25,000 pages of documents, or 25,000 individual documents. They've supported, participated in, contributed to the investigations of, you know, seven, I think, different committees. We have had an accountability review board by a very distinguished group of outsiders."
Later in the interview, Rice emphasized the need to prevent a similar attack from occurring in the future, saying we lost four brave Americans on that day, and their families and those of us who work with them continue to grieve. And the last thing we need to do is to lose any more":
RICE: What I think about and focus on as the National Security Adviser is what we can do and what we must do with Congress to increase the security of our embassies and facilities around the world. We have a budget request on the Hill for $4.6 billion that is necessary, in the administration's judgment, to make the kind of upgrades and provide the kind of security that our facilities need. Let's focus on that. Because what is lost in all of this discussion about Sunday shows and talking points is that we lost four brave Americans on that day, and their families and those of us who work with them continue to grieve. And the last thing we need to do is to lose any more.
Watch Rice's actual response:
A look at how right-wing media ran with Fox contributor Karl Rove's speculation that Hillary Clinton suffered brain damage from a fall in 2012, laying the groundwork to establish the baseless smear as an issue for the 2016 presidential race.
Fox News has pushed reset on many of its favorite Benghazi myths that have already been put to rest in the wake of the recently released Rhodes email and the House GOP's announcement of the formation of a Select Committee to investigate the attacks.
Mainstream media distorted Ret. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Lovell's Benghazi testimony to the House Oversight Committee, seizing on a partial remark that "we should have tried" to rescue the victims and ignoring the fact that Lovell later explained that he did not mean the military response was insufficient.
From the May 1 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
After enabling vicious attacks on gay candidates and elected officials, Fox News has finally found an openly gay politician it can support - congressional candidate Carl DeMaio (R-CA).
Fox's championing of DeMaio started with an April 28 FoxNews.com column written by The Five co-host Dana Perino, who wrote that DeMaio's story epitomizes "what everyone who fights for equality says they've been fighting for." Perino also noted that during his unsuccessful run for San Diego mayor in 2012, an anonymous group of supporters of Democratic candidate Bob Filner ran gay-baiting ads showing DeMaio hugging another man and a photoshopped photo showing DeMaio with a drag queen. Perino couldn't point to any other examples of Democratic attacks on DeMaio's sexuality, but she nonetheless seized on the episode to depict "the left" as hypocritical.
While Perino's column implied that a few "far right social conservatives" had also gay-baited DeMaio, she didn't note that among those conservatives are groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has endorsed DeMaio's Republican primary opponent and gone after DeMaio for "holding the hand of his gay lover."
But Fox's pro-DeMaio campaign was just starting up. The candidate appeared on the network's America's Newsroom to decry his progressive critics. On Fox's The Five, co-hosts attacked progressives for putting DeMaio's sex life "front and center."
And during an interview with DeMaio on the April 28 edition of On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren introduced the candidate by falsely claiming that "it's not social conservatives, but the Democrats" waging anti-gay attacks on his campaign, prompting DeMaio to correct her:
VAN SUSTEREN: Carl DeMaio is a Republican and he is also openly gay, and he says he's coming under attack, not from social conservatives, but from Democrats.
VAN SUSTEREN: You say it's not social conservatives, but the Democrats giving you a hard time. Tell me.
DEMAIO: We do have some social conservatives giving us a hard time, but we're finding a lot more acceptance and tolerance and support from those on the socially conservative side of the spectrum than we are from progressive Democrats. You know, I have an agenda to move our country past social issues. I don't think that we ought to have either political party deciding what happens in the privacy of our bedroom. And, instead, we should demand that Washington refocus its priorities on fixing the national debt, getting our economy going again, and holding government programs accountable for results.
Van Susteren urged DeMaio to describe "how the Democrats have discriminated against you based on your sexual orientation." DeMaio cited the anonymous ads from the 2012 mayoral campaign and proceeded to criticize national gay groups for not supporting his candidacy - echoing Perino's criticism of groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
Despite having no apparent understanding of Supreme Court precedent, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly still managed to accuse Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor of being wrong about civil rights law.
On April 22, the conservative justices of the Supreme Court effectively overruled an important strand of equal protection jurisprudence in Schuette v. BAMN, upholding a voter-approved state constitutional amendment that banned the consideration of race in admissions at Michigan's public universities. Right-wing media were enthusiastically supportive of the decision as they simultaneously insulted the intelligence of Sotomayor, and O'Reilly was no exception.
On the April 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly dedicated his "Talking Points Memo" segment to praising the Court's decision in Schuette. O'Reilly's misunderstanding of that decision, as well the Court's prior case law, became immediately apparent when he erroneously claimed affirmative action policies violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment because "if an individual American gets a preference, then he or she is not being treated equally with everyone else."
O'Reilly went on to argue that Sotomayor, who wrote a powerful dissent in Schuette, "is clearly wrong, constitutionally speaking":
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.
On Tax Day, Fox hosts provided a platform for six Tea Party members, disproving Ruport Murdoch's claim that the network doesn't promote the Tea Party.
During a March 2014 interview with Fortune, Rupert Murdoch called "bullshit" on the assertion that Fox News has gone to bat for the Tea Party, saying, "we don't promote the Tea Party. That's bullshit. We recognize their existence." But just as Fox can be credited with a staggering amount of early Tea Party promotion in 2009, Fox hosts celebrated Tax Day 2014 by hosting a number of Tea Partiers to discuss the movement.
On the April 15 edition of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren questioned why the Tea Party hadn't planned any large scale events in honor of Tax Day and hosted three Tea Party members to promote the movement's new political plan. Van Susteren painted the Tea Party as victims, claiming that the movement has been "unfairly demonized by some members of politics." Van Susteren even gave the floor to the Tea Partiers to promote their favorite hopefuls for the 2016 presidential election:
In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
From the April 1 edition of Fox News' On the Record:
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From the March 5 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) publicly admitted that his dogged investigation into the IRS may be at a "dead end" given a former IRS official's refusal to testify, but you won't hear that on Fox News.
The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee called on former IRS official Lois Lerner to testify on March 5 in yet another hearing on the IRS' inappropriate targeting of organizations seeking tax exempt status. For the second time, Lerner testified that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights and not answer the committee's questions.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Issa articulated that his investigation into the IRS could "dead end" given Lerner's refusal to testify. As Talking Points Memo reported:
Issa was asked how bad of a setback Wednesday's hearing was for the investigation.
"As you can see from our questioning today, we have continued to gather facts around Ms. Lerner's absence of testimony," Issa replied. "It would have allowed us to bring this investigation to a -- probably pretty quick close if she had been willing to answers those questions. Without it we will undoubtably [sic] have a few more questions to try to find out things that she could have answered quickly today."
A reporter than asked Issa if he was still "confident" the investigation would "get to the bottom of this."
"It may well be we have gotten to the bottom of it," Issa said. "At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. The witness who to took the Fifth. That becomes -- she becomes one of the key characters at this point. Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner."
Fox News was quick to hype Issa's hearing, but not nearly so quick to acknowledge the congressman's admission that his IRS investigation might be over.
Summarizing the House hearing that evening on Special Report, Fox correspondent Mike Emanuel concluded, "At this point, Issa seems prepared to move forward with the IRS investigation without hearing from Lerner":