From the August 28 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Conservative media are embroiled in a blame game over the rise of Donald Trump as a legitimate contender to be the 2016 Republican nominee, and while many on the right promoted his candidacy, Trump's greatest ally has been Fox News itself.
After Erick Erickson disinvited Donald Trump to his annual RedState Gathering over Trump's sexist attacks on Fox News anchor and debate moderator Megyn Kelly,The Wall Street Journal editorial board called out Erickson for helping legitimize Trump's candidacy in the first place. Erickson "trumpeted the businessman as a political tonic," the Journal wrote, noting how the conservative blogger is part of "a strain on the right that has put Trumpian bluster above political reality" and "helped to create Trumpism." And yet it's these conservative media pundits "who indulged him [that] now claim to be embarrassed."
Right-wing bloggers like Erickson have definitely played a role in hyping Trump -- just refer back to Erickson's blog titled, "Yes, I Would Vote for Donald Trump For President" -- but Trump's rise has been sanctioned by a much bigger ally: Fox News.
Fox, a corporate cousin to The Wall Street Journal, has played perhaps the largest role in the promotion of Trump as a legitimate candidate, a fact that is suspiciously missing from the Journal's editorial (despite the fact that Erickson is a contributor on the network). Within the past three months, Trump has far exceeded any other GOP candidate in regards to airtime on Fox News, enjoying 4 hours and 45 minutes on the national platform over the course of 31 appearances.
Until he turned on one of their own, Fox hosts have been quick to praise Trump and defend him from controversy in the past. Fox's entire primetime line-up rallied to defend Trump and his anti-immigrant comments after NBC severed business ties with the presidential hopeful for unapologetically referring to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and criminals. The network then led the charge crediting Trump for igniting a national debate on immigration.
Eric Bolling has repeatedly gone to bat for Trump, praising him for "making the rest of the [GOP] field better," while Sean Hannity championed Trump as the "direct result of a weak and timid ... Republican party." Bill O'Reilly gave Trump a platform to continue calling Latin American immigrants rapists and criminals and justified Trump's vitriol as simply an attempt to inartfully "highlight a problem." Others like Gretchen Carlson lashed out at the RNC following reports chairman Reince Priebus had scolded Trump about his inflammatory rhetoric.
There was also the cycle of back-patting that occurred between Fox's morning show Fox & Friends and Trump, where the program and the candidate repeatedly traded compliments on the network and at campaign events.
Fox hosts and contributors have gone so far to instruct other Republican candidates to be more like Trump. Fox contributor Laura Ingraham lauded Trump for teaching other candidates "how to build a brand," while network judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano urged candidates to "take a lesson from the Donald" after exclaiming he's "thrilled" Trump is in the race. Andrea Tantaros once instructed GOP presidential candidates to "follow Donald Trump's lead."
Fox News is now seemingly following Erickson in backing away from Trump, since the bombastic candidate they helped build is turning his vitriol on Megyn Kelly, one of their own. But if outlets like the Journal are calling out those conservative media outlets culpable for his rise in the first place, Fox News should be first on the list.
Conservative media are likening Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email use as secretary of state to retired Gen. David Petraeus' illegal mishandling of confidential information, claiming a "double standard" because Petraeus was convicted of a misdemeanor, while Clinton is not under criminal investigation. But that comparison ignores the central fact that Petraeus knowingly handed over classified materials to his biographer, while Clinton followed State Department rules concerning private email use and was unaware of any classified information in her unmarked email correspondence.
Fox News devoted 10 segments on seven separate programs in one day to hyping a deceptively edited video purporting to show Planned Parenthood "haggling" over the price of "baby parts, while mainstream media and fact checkers roundly discredited the video and its smears.
From the July 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News figures have been leading the praise of Donald Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric, and have even credited the 2016 presidential hopeful for injecting new life into the national debate over illegal immigration. It represents a significant departure from what Fox and other right-wing media were saying in the wake of the 2012 presidential election, when the deep rift between Republicans and Hispanic voters had become painfully clear to the GOP.
Trump is basking in -- and benefitting from -- the support of conservative media. He reportedly had a one-on-one meeting with Fox News President Roger Ailes before announcing his White House candidacy and is now leading the Fox Primary. During the month of June, Trump made 10 appearances on Fox News, racking up an hour and 48 minutes of airtime on the popular cable news network.
After Trump's incendiary remarks about Mexicans caused him to begin hemorrhaging corporate support, Fox News immediately rallied to defend him. Fox's Megyn Kelly even turned to conservative bomb-thrower Ann Coulter to defend Trump's anti-immigrant talk.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly said that while Trump may have inartfully articulated his point, he was "highlighting a problem...that is harming the nation." Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham applauded Trump for his comments, saying, "Finally, someone is taking on Bush," and calling Trump "someone who is channeling our frustration with the system." Fox News host Gretchen Carlson lashed out at the Republican National Committee (RNC) for reportedly scolding Trump, asking, "Don't you want to see what he might just say on the debate stage? I know I do."
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley suggested that GOP presidential candidates follow Trump's lead because he is "saying things that need to be said, and if the other candidates are smart," they'll follow suit.
Latinos don't agree. As the Washington Post pointed out, "Trump's unfavorable ratings among Hispanics rose sharply from 60 percent in May to 81 percent now."
Flashback to 2012, when a slew of conservative media figures were calling for a change in tone towards Latinos in the wake of GOP White House candidate Mitt Romney's disastrous "self-deportation" comments and the decisive Republican defeat at the polls. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham said, "The language of dealing with Latinos has to be changed." Fox host Bill O'Reilly said, "The Republican party has to figure out what message in their philosophy is going to be accepted by black and Latino voters. They have to get a message to them. And they haven't done it."
According to Nexis transcripts from the November 20, 2012 edition of Fox News' Hannity, conservative commentator David Webb advised Republicans to "get better and engage in communities on policies, not because it's different for Hispanics or Blacks but because it is good for the American people."
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson offered that "you have to reach out to the Latinos. You have to have immigration reform," on the November 15, 2012 edition of The O'Reilly Factor. Fellow Fox host Jeanine Pirro agreed, saying, "And, you know, the Republican party is at a very crucial point. They have to make a decision as to what they're going to do to reach out to everyone, to be the party of -- and I have even using the word "inclusion" (via Nexis).
As Media Matters wrote back in 2013, "The schism among conservatives on how to approach immigration reform and Latino voters in general isn't going away." So even though conservative politicians are aggressively courting the Latino vote in battleground states, conservative media have been championing Donald Trump. This is placing conservative Latino civic involvement groups like the Libre Initiative in a difficult situation.
To be fair, current polling has found that a "clear majority of Hispanic voters recognize the difference between Trump and the Republican Party in this controversy." But nonetheless, Trump's popularity among Republicans continues to soar.
From the July 9 edition of Fox News' The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News is outraged that an ABC News anchor waited to disclose charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation, despite the network's marked history of failing to disclosure its pundits' political and financial conflicts of interest.
From the May 8 edition of Fox News' The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson:
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Three Fox News figures touted "school choice" as an appropriate response to the recent riots in Baltimore, faulting the city's "awful" and "worst schools on earth" for the violence. But their allegations ignore evidence that Baltimore public school students have made significant achievement gains over the past several years.
Protests broke out in Baltimore over the weekend following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19 from a spinal cord injury he sustained while in police custody a week earlier. Peaceful protests that devolved into violence led Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to impose a weeklong, citywide 10 p.m. curfew, and both the Baltimore Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Gray's death.
On Fox News, contributor Charles Krauthammer, frequent guest Rudy Giuliani, and host Gretchen Carlson touted "school choice" in separate discussions of the riots, insinuating that Baltimore public schools are to blame for the violence. On the April 28 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Krauthammer cited "the worst schools on Earth" as one of "two issues in the inner cities," concluding, "If you want to do something, let them choose their school."
From the April 20 edition of Fox News' The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News and NBC ignored Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) record of opposing gender equality legislation during interviews with the Republican presidential candidate's wife, in which Kelley Paul attempted to dismiss accusations that he looks down on women.
Kelley Paul, the wife of 2016 hopeful Rand Paul, appeared on Fox News and NBC's Today for multiple interviews April 14 to discuss her husband's presidential bid and her new book.
The hosts of Fox & Friends turned the discussion to recent accusations that Rand Paul is sexist, after the candidate infamously lectured Today's Savannah Guthrie for asking about his foreign policy positions earlier this month, a testy exchange that came on the heels of Paul shushing CNBC's Kelly Evans during an interview in February.
"You know how it works," co-host Steve Doocy told Kelley Paul. "The mainstream media's just trying to disqualify him. They see that thing, they put it all together, they say, 'oh he's a sexist, he can't be president.'"
Paul defended her husband's treatment of women, saying his "entire professional career is working with female surgeons" and noting a longtime partner in his ophthalmology practice was a woman.
Later on The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson asked Paul,"What do you make of the fact that some people are saying that your husband may not be able to connect as well with women?" Paul again cited her husband's female work partner as evidence that he has no issues with women, describing the accusations of sexism as a "false narrative -- a construct sort-of created on the Democrat side."
Meanwhile, NBC's Hoda Kotb asked Paul on Today to discuss her husband's relationship with women and respond to his previous treatment of Guthrie which sparked widespread backlash. Paul again pointed to her husband's longtime female colleague.
The examination of Paul's professional record as a means of predicting how a Paul presidency would benefit women overlooked his more recent professional activities.His legislative history contains red flags for anyone hoping to characterize him as an advocate for women -- issues that weren't raised by Kotb, Carlson, or the Fox "friends."
Paul is on record opposing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which would provide protections and resources to victims of domestic violence. He wrote a letter in 2012 arguing that the issue should be addressed at the state level, not by the federal government.
It's also noteworthy that Fox's defense of Paul came on April 14, Equal Pay Day, because the senator has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act multiple times. As ThinkProgress noted, Paul compared the legislation "to the Soviet Politburo dictating wages and the prices of goods" and added that the wage landscape is better when "the marketplace decides what wages are."
Fox News has been at the forefront of defending Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law, falsely portraying the measure as harmless and whitewashing the anti-LGBT extremism that motivated the legislation.
On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) into law. The law -- which has been criticized by religious leaders, the business community, legal scholars, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis -- provides a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.
The law triggered a furious national backlash, with major companies, celebrities, and government leaders condemning the measure for potentially encouraging discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers. Pence and top Indiana Republicans eventually pledged to "clarify" the law by adding language that explicitly prohibits RFRA from being used as a defense for discrimination in court.
Throughout the controversy, a number of Fox News personalities whitewashed the law's discriminatory purpose and misleadingly compared Indiana's RFRA to other "religious freedom" laws -- a comparison that even a Fox News anchor acknowledged was inaccurate.
Media outlets have argued that Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) mirrors RFRAs passed in other states as well as the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton. In fact, Indiana's RFRA is broader than other versions of the law, and experts say it could allow private businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers on the basis of religion.
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.