Fox News host Gretchen Carlson defended Indiana's anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law, inaccurately equating it to existing federal legislation to claim the bill is "harmless" and necessary to protect Christians from discrimination.
On the March 25 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson and her guests discussed Indiana's recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law that creates a broad license for individuals and business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a defense against charges of discrimination. Businesses, religious leaders, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis have all condemned the state's RFRA law for its potential to encourage discrimination against LGBT people in particular.
During the segment, Carlson and her guests falsely equated Indiana's RFRA with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act , which was originally passed in 1993 to prevent the government from passing laws that substantially burdening a person's free expression of religion, with a few exceptions. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal RFRA did not apply to the states, resulting in many states passing their own local RFRAs:
But Indiana's SB 101, is not, as Carlson and her guests assert, an exact replica of the federal RFRA. A February 27 letter by 30 legal scholars expressing their concern over the proposed Indiana RFRA explains the distinction between the SB 101 and the 1993 federal law:
The state RFRA bills do not, in fact, mirror the language of the federal RFRA.
The definition of "person" under the proposed RFRA differs substantially from that contained in the federal RFRA, affording standing to assert religious liberty rights to a much broader class of entities than that currently recognized by federal law.
Unlike the federal RFRA, Indiana's RFRA contains an extremely broad definition of "person" that includes organizations, corporations, or companies that are: "compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by an individual or the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes."
As Buzzfeed also reported:
The Indiana bill is broader than federal law. While the Indiana bill says that a "governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion," it also applies those rules to businesses and interactions between private parties "regardless of whether the state or any other government entity is party to the proceeding."
Carlson and her guests also downplayed the opposition against RFRA by noting that the federal bill was originally passed with bipartisan support. But the unforeseen consequences of RFRA have caused many democratic legislators who originally voted on RFRA to withdraw their support of the law. As the same legal scholars explain in their letter (emphasis added):
This parallel between support for the federal RFRA and the proposed state RFRA is misplaced. In fact, many members of the bipartisan coalition that supported the passage of the federal RFRA in 1993 now hold the view that the law has been interpreted and applied in ways they did not expect at the time they lent their endorsement to the law. As a result, the legislators who voted on RFRA have distanced themselves from their initial backing of the legislation.
As legal and religious scholar Dr. Jay Michaelson noted, these unintended consequences amount to a broad license to discriminate against LGBT people, because state RFRA laws could allow "individuals and businesses [to] exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws by proffering religious objections to them."
Portraying Indiana's RFRA as benign legislation identical to the "bipartisan" federal law isn't just inaccurate journalism. It is a part of Fox's larger role in promoting the narrative of Christian persecution to support the passage of a number of state RFRAs now being considered in states across the country. Expect to see Fox continue to misrepresent RFRA as a harmless law protecting "religious liberty" while ignoring the fact that these bills are actually the product of powerful anti-LGBT organizations lobbying to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News' Gretchen Carlson distorted President Obama's explanation that U.S. ground troops are not necessary to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in order to claim Obama believes it's not in our national interest to defeat the terrorist group.
In his February 11 request to Congress for an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, Obama stated that "our core objective is to destroy ISIL." He emphasized his opposition to engaging in "another prolonged ground war in the Middle East," which he said is "not in our national security interest." He explained further that a ground campaign is "not necessary for us to defeat ISIL." From a transcript of his remarks (emphasis added):
THE PRESIDENT: This resolution reflects our core objective to destroy ISIL. It supports the comprehensive strategy that we have been pursuing with our allies and partners: A systemic and sustained campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Support and training for local forces on the ground, including the moderate Syrian opposition. Preventing ISIL attacks, in the region and beyond, including by foreign terrorist fighters who try to threaten our countries. Regional and international support for an inclusive Iraqi government that unites the Iraqi people and strengthens Iraqi forces against ISIL. Humanitarian assistance for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Syria, who are suffering so terribly under ISIL's reign of horror.
The resolution we've submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases -- and, yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment. But they do not have a combat mission. They are focused on training Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces.
As I've said before, I'm convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That's not in our national security interest and it's not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL -- and that's what they're doing.
But Fox viewers heard a much different description of Obama's sentiment the next day on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. According to Carlson, "The president said we have no national security interest in this fight." After airing a short video depicting a portion of his remarks (but omitting Obama's statement about destroying ISIS), Carlson asked Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), "What did President Obama mean yesterday when he said that it's not in our interest to defeat ISIL? Huh?"
Playing word games with Obama's remarks is one of Fox News' favorite pastimes. The network often feigns outrage over distorted or selectively cropped comments, setting up easy attacks on their fictionalized version of the president.
Conservative media lashed out at President Obama for mentioning the Crusades and Inquisition at the National Prayer Breakfast after condemning the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) as a "death cult" that distorts Islam.
Right-wing media figures misleadingly attacked and dismissed the need for paid parental leave after President Obama's State of the Union speech advocated for expanding these programs to more Americans. In fact, economists have found that increasing paid leave would boost the economy, increase wages, and keep families out of poverty.
Fox News used the Sydney, Australia hostage situation to question whether Australia's strict gun laws should be loosened, but offered no commentary on Pennsylvania's relatively looser gun laws in their reports the same day when a man went on a shooting rampage, killing six. Americans are murdered with guns at a rate more than ten times greater than Australians.
On December 15, Fox News heavily reported on a hostage situation in a Sydney, Australia chocolate shop. A man, who according to authorities had "a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability," used a shotgun to hold café patrons hostage for 16 hours. After gunfire was heard police stormed the shop. The hostage-taker and two hostages were killed. One hostage was reportedly killed while trying to disarm the hostage-taker, while it is unclear if the other one was shot by the hostage taker or caught in the crossfire.
As Fox reported on developments out of Sydney, the conservative network also provided updates from Pennsylvania where Bradley William Stone allegedly went on a shooting rampage, killing his ex-wife and five of his former in-laws. One former in-law was wounded. Police are currently searching for Stone. (UPDATE: Stone has been found dead, reportedly of self-inflicted wounds.)
Tellingly, Fox News used the Sydney incident to raise questions about Australia's gun law system, while raising no such questions about looser gun laws in the United States during December 15 and December 16 mentions of the Pennsylvania spree killing on Fox programs Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends First, The Five, On the Record, America's News Headquarters, Special Report with Bret Baier, Shepard Smith Reporting, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, or America's Newsroom.
Conservative media outlets attacked President Obama's proposed plan for $263 million in funding for police training and body cameras following the police shooting of Michael Brown, accusing Obama of blaming police instead of focusing on issues affecting the black community. But research has shown that the use of body cameras has decreased civilian complaints and the use of force by police.
Media figures are touting the Keystone XL pipeline as an "environmentally safe" alternative to truck and rail transportation, uncritically citing a State Department report on the environmental impact of building Keystone XL. But experts and subsequent studies have determined that the report is based on faulty conclusions and grossly underestimates greenhouse gas emissions caused by Keystone.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan magazine for writing about politics and endorsing candidates on the same day Fox's Megyn Kelly teamed up with the magazine for a Facebook Q&A.
Cosmopolitan expanded its coverage to include politics in August, launching its "#CosmoVotes" campaign which focuses on candidate endorsements, coverage of "women-centric issues," and a "social media effort" to encourage readers to vote, particularly in the upcoming midterm elections.
On the November 3 edition of The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson criticized Cosmopolitan's foray into politics, suggesting the magazine is "taking it a step too far," because "they basically say some kind of snarky words about any Republican candidate, calling them 'troubling,' 'an extremist who rails against the poor,' 'an anti-choice radical.'" Carlson noted that other women's magazines have covered the 2014 midterm elections highlighting both Republicans and Democrats, but questioned Cosmopolitan's decision to endorse certain candidates, saying, "A lot of people are probably wondering why fashion magazines are getting into politics and actually endorsing candidates but that is the world that we live in now":
From the October 30 edition of Fox News Channel's The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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The conservative media's meltdown over a Nebraska school district's effort to train teachers about gender diversity demonstrates how conservative misinformation threatens even basic efforts to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.
In late September, administrators from the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district in Nebraska began providing teachers with informational materials aimed at better equipping them to accommodate and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included handouts from the group Gender Spectrum, which works to help develop "a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens."
One of those handouts, "12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness," listed recommendations to help teachers make their classrooms more gender-inclusive, including asking teachers to stop gender-based bullying and avoid the use of gender-specific terms like "ladies and gentlemen." Instead, Gender Spectrum recommended teachers use terms like "readers," "campers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
The school district's distribution of Gender Spectrum's materials sparked controversy when the conservative group Nebraska Watchdog published a report on the handout on October 2. The report was picked up by National Review Online and The Daily Caller before eventually making the jump to Fox News. The network ran multiple segments falsely accusing LPS of "banning" terms like "boys and girls" as part of a "political agenda."
In an interview with Equality Matters, Gender Spectrum's Director of Education Joel Baum criticized the "disingenuous" reporting on his organization's training materials. "They're sharing information about work that's occurring in a school and not being accurate about ... the overall purpose of the work," he said. "[B]y taking various things out of context - like "purple penguins" - they completely trivialize something that's really, really important and misrepresent our work."
Fox's misleading coverage of Gender Spectrum's handouts eventually prompted LPS Superintendent Steve Joel to call a press conference to dispel the network's misinformation. Joel criticized conservative media outlets for peddling falsehoods about the educational materials, calling it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school was forced to waste time and resources responding to calls and questions about the handouts.
After spending much of 2009 complaining that President Obama's appointment of "czars" was akin to the crowning of monarchs and Russian practices, Fox & Friends is now calling for the appointment of an Ebola Virus czar.
Fox host Steve Doocy responded to news of the first Ebola diagnosis contracted within the U.S. by calling for an "official Ebola czar" on the October 13 edition of Fox & Friends, echoing the demand of Republican Sen. John McCain. According to Doocy, "We probably need one" because Obama isn't doing enough to fight the virus:
DOOCY: So every time there's an incident like this, you see Thomas Frieden, the guy who heads up CDC, but is he the official -- there he is right there -- Is he the official Ebola czar? We probably need one, because the president isn't, you know, he's not --
KILMEADE: Sen. McCaul is calling for one.
DOOCY: Absolutely. So with all this bad news --
KILMEADE: Congressman McCaul.
DOOCY: Where was the President of the United States over the weekend? Right after he talked to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he went golfing.
But the Fox program has a long history of mocking previous Obama administration czars.
In 2009, then-host Gretchen Carlson mocked the term and alleged, "You know when I looked up 'czar' in the dictionary, or Googled it, the word that came up was 'king.' And I was wondering to myself, why we are having so many czars/kings now in America?" Doocy added, "When you think about it, 'czar' is a Russian word." Fox then aired an altered graphic of Obama's cabinet members in Russian czar attire displaying the question, "And Now We're Russia?" Doocy went on to compare administration cabinet members to Russian monarchs:
The same year, Carlson asked whether czars in the Obama administration were "just friends of Obama who need work or payback a favor?", while Kilmeade previously questioned whether the appointment of a czar was evidence "of a new culture of corruption."
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson criticized a Nebraska school district's efforts to accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students, accusing the district of pushing a "political agenda" while downplaying the problem of gender-based harassment and bullying in schools.
The Lincoln Public Schools district in Nebraska has been targeted by conservative media outlets following a report that teachers had been given educational materials with recommendations for better accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming students. Those materials included a handout encouraging teachers to stop gender-based bullying and avoid using gendered expressions like "ladies and gentlemen" to refer to students. Instead the handout suggested teachers could use gender-neutral phrases like "readers," "campers," or nicknames like "purple penguins."
During the October 9 edition of The Real Story, Carlson invited Fox News contributors Alan Colmes and Tony Sayegh to criticize the school district, falsely accusing the school district of "banning" gendered language:
CARLSON: Don't kids have enough to worry about right now? Now we're going to confuse them even more - right before puberty, by the way - to not call each other what the majority of the population really is, and that would be boys and girls. Once again, this is pandering to outrageous over correction of a society addicted to making sure we take care of the .001 of the population instead of the masses. I want to be very clear: I am not against transgender people or transgender kids in any way, but to make an entire population start calling each other "purple penguins" because maybe one child in the entire school system will turn out to be transgender is crazy.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee is claiming the American public should distrust statements made by President Obama and the federal government about the spread of Ebola because they have purportedly lied about the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
During the October 4 broadcast of Huckabee, the former Arkansas Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said that "the Ebola scare goes to the heart of a simple question: do you trust the government. Audience, do you trust the government?" After Huckabee's audience responded no, Huckabee replied: "And why would you? I mean remember these?" He then played clips of Obama talking about health care, the IRS, and then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's Sunday show comments about Benghazi. Huckabee contrasted the remarks with Obama's September 16 statement it was unlikely someone with Ebola would reach America but "we've taken new measures so that we're prepared here at home."
Huckabee concluded his Fox commentary by claiming he's "feeling a little sick myself. But it's not Ebola. I'm just sick of a government that I'm paying for telling me not to worry and just trust them. I wish I could, but if they repeatedly lie to me I just don't believe them anymore."
Huckabee made similar remarks during his Huckabee Report radio commentary this morning. He said that "if people don't trust our leaders, the people aren't to blame. We were told we could keep our doctors and insurance and pay $2,500 less. That Benghazi was caused by a YouTube video ... trust is something you gotta earn and once squandered, it's hard to get back."
The October 6 Cumulus Media Networks segment:
Fox News has been obsessed with Benghazi, as the network aired over 1,000 weekday evening segments in the first 20 months after the attacks. The Fox obsession has caused its personalities to repeatedly link Benghazi to unrelated matters like the NFL's domestic violence problems, a White House security breach, and missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, among others.
The conservative media have also rushed to politicize the presence of the Ebola virus in the United States with attacks on Obama.
UPDATE: Another Fox host has pointed to Benghazi as a reason to be distrustful of the government's handling of Ebola. During the October 6 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson wondered if we can "trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola" when its "track record" includes Benghazi:
CARLSON: Time now for my take. So, should we trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola? With the government's recent track record not being so hot, well, we learned we couldn't trust the IRS, after the targeting of conservative groups. The Secret Service, after an armed man made his way into the White House. The VA, after reports men and women who served this country died waiting to get health care. We couldn't trust the promise that Obamacare that we could keep our doctors that we wanted. And do we trust that we know all the answers yet about Benghazi? What more and more people seem to be asking about Ebola now isn't that they're necessarily scared about actually getting the disease, but that they're scared the government agencies responsible with helping us if we do get sick might not be up to the task. So if Ebola becomes a bigger issue the question still remains, will we be safe?