Fox News has spent the last several months championing anti-gay business owners who refuse to serve gay customers - depicting efforts to prevent discrimination as threats to religious liberty. Now, with several states debating bills that would legalize homophobic discrimination in business and employment, Fox News is now defending the extreme, anti-gay segregation policies it helped to create.
The push to legalize anti-gay discrimination first came to public attention on February 12, when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing individuals and businesses to refuse any services "related to, or related to the celebration of" any union - effectively allowing blanket protection for the denial of services to gay couples. After a storm of negative publicity, the State Senate has shelved the bill.
Similar bills have recently died in Idaho, South Dakota, and Tennessee, but the Arizona legislature has sent its own license to discriminate measure to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
The wave of anti-gay segregation measures is the culmination of a concerted right-wing strategy, bolstered by Fox News, to cast anti-gay discrimination as an integral part of religious freedom.
Long before the public outcry over Kansas' license to discriminate bill, Fox threw its weight behind businesses whose owners refuse, ostensibly on religious grounds, to serve gay and lesbian couples - precisely the form of discrimination that conservative state legislators have sought to legalize.
As part of Fox's continued conflation of homophobia and Christianity, the network has repeatedly defended discrimination by anti-gay business owners as an essential part of religious liberty.
On December 10, Fox & Friends hosted Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his extremist Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney to discuss a court ruling that Phillips had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple. The segment featured a graphic proclaiming "The Death Of Free Enterprise," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he thought he shouldn't have to discard his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck."
Fox News resurrected former President George W. Bush's failed health care plan as a possible GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act, seven years after it was proposed in his 2007 State of the Union Address and experts concluded it favored the rich and only insured a small number of Americans.
A February 18 Politico Magazine article titled "Bushcare" by Edward Lazear, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush claimed the former president "found the solution to America's healthcare crisis seven years ago." Lazear wrote Bush's plan was revenue-neutral and would actually net tax payers money for buying insurance, but the plan would not cover the very poor (emphasis added):
The large majority of those who currently have health care would enjoy a net decrease in the cost of their plans through the tax deduction, Treasury found. Many without insurance would be able to obtain it and get a tax rebate that would exceed the cost of the policy, netting money on the deal. And the substantial number of Americans whose policies are not provided by an employer would enjoy a big gain.
The Bush plan works primarily for those who earn income and pay some tax, be it payroll or income. To the extent that subsidies to the very poor, especially those not working, are needed, provisions can be added to the plan that would assist those individuals without altering its basic structure. Of course, since the U.S. economy has changed in the past seven years, the plan would have to be updated too, but this could be done without significantly changing its overall fiscal footprint.
The next day on Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson allowed Lazear an open platform to highlight his alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). During the segment, Lazear pointed out two major problems with the health care system today: the number of uninsured Americans and the problems with third party payment. He explained:
LAZEAR: We have third party payers. That means that the individuals, the decision makers - the physicians and the patients don't bear the costs of their actions. So what happens is, once you have insurance or if you're on state funds for your health care, you essentially get those services for free and as a result you tend to take too many of those services.
Carlson: So what you are saying is that people know they have the health care coverage, so they tend to over use the system.
But Lazear's rosy depiction of Bush's proposal leaves out many of the key problems, namely that it would do little to help lower income Americans get affordable insurance. The CBO reported that Bush's plan would actually only insure 6.8 million Americans without health insurance and added that "those gaining insurance coverage under the President's proposal would have higher income, on average." The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff pointed out that the Bush's proposal would not be revenue neutral and would actually work to benefit "higher-earning Americans who have a higher marginal tax rate" (emphasis added):
[T]he Congressional Budget Office did score a similar proposal from President George W. Bush in 2007. His plan included a $15,000 standardized tax deduction for health insurance coverage, and the CBO estimated that 6.8 million people would gain coverage. The tax deduction would, on average, cover about 70 percent of the premium's cost.
The CBO noted, back then, that using tax deductions, which reduce taxable income, would likely make this a more desirable benefit for higher-earning Americans who have a higher marginal tax rate.
"Compared with people who would be uninsured in 2010 under current law, those gaining insurance coverage under the President's proposal would have higher income, on average," the agency wrote. "The reason is that the value of the new deduction would be greater at higher marginal tax rates, which are associated with higher incomes. Nonetheless, the majority of newly insured people would come from lower-middle- and middle-income households."
Budget-wise, the CBO projected that the Bush proposal would cost $33 billion over a decade.
Fox News baselessly stoked fears that undocumented immigrants would be able to vote if they received identification cards in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his first State of the City address on February 10, in which he announced a plan to offer identification cards to all residents, regardless of their immigration status.
On the February 12 edition of Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson reported on de Blasio's announcement and falsely suggested that the plan is intended to permit undocumented immigrants to vote. She asked guest Emily Tisch Sussman:
CARLSON: So, Emily, am I to assume that the reason that de Blasio would want this is so that people can move on to vote? I mean, I don't really understand -- what do you think his whole effort is in this?
SUSSMAN: We do really see that having these either ID cards or driver's licenses for the undocumented, does actually promote public safety. You know, those who are involved in fatal car crashes, one in five have not gone through the proper training of a driver's license, it would bring them into that kind of system. It would have more economic security for those. It would have better trust with the police -- it really does bring them in in a number of ways.
Fox News responded to the announcement that CVS would no longer sell cigarettes by criticizing the pharmacy chain and leveling attacks at President Obama after he expressed support for the company's decision.
On February 5, CVS Caremark announced that it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its pharmacy stores by the beginning of October. The move was met with praise from health organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy dedicated to public health. President Obama also weighed in on the decision with a statement of support, saying it was a "profoundly positive" move and will help advance efforts "to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs."
As if on cue, Fox News responded to Obama's praise by manufacturing a controversy over the CVS decision.
On Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson approached the CVS decision with suspicion and a remarkably uninformed premise, asking, "Is it OK legally ... to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?" She questioned her guests as to whether they would continue shopping at CVS and observed that, "For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It's not illegal."
Fox host Gretchen Carlson appeared perplexed that the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) addressed reporters at a press conference, though the CEA chairman spoke to the press on multiple occasions during George W. Bush's presidency.
On February 4, CEA Chairman Jason Furman briefed the press on a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the Affordable Care Act. On her show The Real Story, Gretchen Carlson covered the news conference, saying several times that Furman's briefing was an "unusual" occurrence:
CARLSON: Very unusual to have this right now, an explainer going on to reporters, no doubt to try to get out in front of the bad news about what Obamacare apparently does for jobs right here in America.
After months of denying and ignoring the persistent problem of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace, Fox News displayed a newfound concern for employment discrimination - against religious conservatives.
On the February 4 edition of The Real Story, Fox host Gretchen Carlson hosted a "faith panel" consisting of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the 700 Club's Wendy Griffith, and American Atheists' Amanda Knief to discuss a new report from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation showing a correlation between religious freedom and economic performance. The panel delved into matters of religious views in the workplace, with Carlson suggesting that in the U.S., Christianity is no longer "allowed always as it was in the past":
CARLSON: Many people in the United States feel like in recent years in, there's been some sort of - well, that Christianity hasn't been allowed always as it was in the past, and that there seems to be some sort of attack on it, whether you believe that or not.
The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation doesn't link to the report on its website, although a summary in the Deseret News indicates that the report merely finds a correlation between improved economic outcomes and the loosening of religious restrictions, as in post-Maoist China. There's nothing in the summary pertaining to alleged religious discrimination in the U.S., of which Carlson didn't cite a single example.
Carlson's purported concern for workplace bias is noteworthy, given that it comes after Fox News has long been silent on anti-LGBT employment discrimination - a real, existing problem - or portrayed legislative efforts to combat it as a threat to religious liberty. After the historic Senate passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in November, Fox News devoted a grand total of 19 seconds of coverage to the vote.
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Not all elementary school children should get a free lunch.
That's how it appears on Fox News, anyway, which found sympathy for children whose school lunches were confiscated because parents had not added sufficient funds to their school accounts. The network wondered why the school could not give students the meals for free, a stark reversal from its attack on free lunches for low-income students as part of an "entitlement nation."
Fox's The Real Story devoted a segment on January 30 to the plight of elementary school children in Salt Lake City who saw their school lunches confiscated and thrown away, due to outstanding balances on their school lunch accounts. Host Gretchen Carlson expressed disbelief that "this really happened," wondering "what would the harm have been" in giving to the children the lunch for free "because they were going in the trash anyway."
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Fox News hosted Sen. Jeff Sessions to amplify false conservative claims that immigration reform would negatively affect the U.S. economy and has a detrimental impact on Americans' wages. Sessions made similar claims in a USA Today op-ed published the same day, using misleading data from anti-immigrant groups to argue that the Republican push for reform is tantamount to "self-sabotage."
As The New York Times reported, congressional Republicans will unveil principles for immigration reform this week, in which they are "expected to call for border security and enforcement measures, as well as providing a path to legal status -- but not citizenship -- for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country." President Obama is also expected to address the issue during his State of the Union address on January 28.
In the run-up to these efforts, conservative media have attempted to hijack the debate with misleading data and bogus arguments.
On Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson allowed Sessions to repeatedly advance the myth that, in Carlson's words, immigration reform "could mean fewer jobs for Americans who are struggling, and quite frankly, already live here." Sessions stated:
SESSIONS: We really do have a huge problem. We have the lowest percentage of Americans actually working today than since 1975. Wages have declined in America relative to inflation since 2000. American working people are hurting; many of the jobs created today are part-time so it makes no sense to me at all to see a dramatic increase in the legal flow of immigration while we're not even reducing the illegal flow.
He went on to repeat the bogus statistic from anti-immigrant nativist group NumbersUSA that immigration reform legislation, such as the one passed by the Senate in June 2013 and endorsed by the Obama administration, would import 30 million new immigrants into the country. FactCheck.org criticized the number as "inflated and misleading," noting that the legislation would add "an estimated 6 million new foreign job seekers over the next 10 years."
Sessions, who has been profiled as one of the most "persistent and vocal foe[s]" of immigration reform and who led the effort to quash the Senate bill in 2013, later argued on Fox that the "Republicans need to stand up for the American worker," who he claimed was "the person in America today that's been ignored" and whose "interests are being ignored." He concluded: "Somebody needs to stand for them and the party that does that will be rewarded by the American people in elections."
Sessions took a similar stand in his USA Today op-ed, writing:
Republicans have the opportunity to give voice to the working and middle-class Americans whose wages and job prospects have eroded drastically in recent years. House GOP leaders are reportedly planning to release their "immigration principles" this week. Unfortunately, leaks reveal the leaders' plan mirrors central elements of the president's plan, combining work permits for millions of illegal immigrants with large permanent increases in the flow of new workers from abroad. This would be an extraordinary act of self-sabotage.
The choice is clear. Either the GOP can help the White House deliver a crushing hammer blow to the middle class -- or it can stand alone as the one party defending the legitimate interests of American workers.
But Sessions' argument that immigration is inimical to the economy has been thoroughly discredited by a long line of studies. In fact, as the New York Times noted in February 2013: "There are many ways to debate immigration, but when it comes to economics, there isn't much of a debate at all."
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson dubiously suggested that a Senate report on the Benghazi attack would damage a potential 2016 presidential run by Hillary Clinton, even while admitting that the report barely mentioned Clinton.
On the January 16 edition of Fox's The Real Story, Carlson asked whether a newly released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report could potentially damage any 2016 political aspirations for Hillary Clinton. Carlson began her segment by claiming the report means "potential new problems for Hillary Clinton and any White House aspiration she may have." Carlson acknowledged that Clinton "is barely mentioned by name in this report," but she still went on to ask if Clinton will "escape any association" with the attack:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that released the Benghazi findings, has patently denied the report lays any blame on Clinton. In a statement released by her office, Feinstein clarified that the report does not assign "culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy":
Statements on the Senate floor this morning and some media reports about the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report on the attack against our diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, intimate that the report assigns culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy.
This is patently false.
The report approved on a bipartisan basis says no such thing. As a matter of fact, Secretary Clinton is not mentioned a single time in the 58-page bipartisan section of our Benghazi report.
Carlson then went on to rehash the already debunked accusation that Clinton deliberately played a role in dismissing the attack as an act of terror and instead blamed it on protests due to an inflammatory anti-Islam video, saying "Yeah, and maybe her biggest difficulty is the fact that she did still blame it on the videotape days after" some officials allegedly told the Obama administration otherwise.
Carlson failed to note what the Senate report did say about the video's role in the attack. The report indicated that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the intelligence community (IC) received multiple reports of protests, through media accounts, over an anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility. The report goes on to say that it took days for U.S. personnel to determine through eyewitness statements that there were indeed no such protests. Details like this from the Senate report have been repeatedly ignored by Fox while they continued to hammer calls for a further investigation into Benghazi.
Right-wing media have attempted to manufacture outrage against the Affordable Care Act by promoting the misleading claim that the health care law includes a taxpayer-funded bailout for health insurance companies. In fact, the provision, known as reinsurance, is funded by the insurance companies themselves, not taxpayer money.
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson distorted comments by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to accuse him of hypocrisy after allowing some of his staff to remain on their current health plans.
After reports that Reid would allow certain staffers to keep their existing coverage, Carlson aired comments Reid made in September 2013 about whether his staff would join the Affordable Care Act's exchanges and claimed he was "changing his tune." Carlson claimed Reid said his entire staff would be on the exchanges and accused him of "total hypocrisy."
However, Reid's statements from September do not contradict his decision to allow select staff members to remain on their existing coverage. Carlson failed to distinguish between Reid's personal legislative staff, who are enrolling through exchanges as mandated by law, and the staff that serves for leadership committees, who the ACA does not require to enroll through exchanges. He and his personal Senate office staff will indeed enroll for new coverage through the exchanges, as mandated by law:
In September, Reid told reporters, "Let's stop these really juvenile political games -- the one dealing with health care for senators and House members and our staff. We are going to be part of exchanges, that's what the law says and we'll be part of that."
That's true. Reid and his personal staff will buy insurance through the exchange.
But it's also true that the law lets lawmakers decide if their committee and leadership staffers hold on to their federal employee insurance plans, an option Reid has exercised.
From the December 2 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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From the November 18 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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