Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson and Fox News contributor Keith Ablow distorted research findings to warn of a "terrifying link" between video games and mass shootings while dismissing the role of high powered firearms in those incidents.
During the September 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Carlson claimed, "brand new research suggests there is a terrifying link between video games and violent behavior," before showing images of recent mass shooters who purportedly "were big gamers." Ablow -- claiming that all of the shooters were "addicted to violent video games" -- said that a recent study that found "watching violent video games increases aggression and decreases empathy" to support his claim that video games are linked to mass shootings.
Carlson concluded the segment by saying, "This whole is issue is so much more complicated than just gun control, there are so many other factors, mental illness [and] video games are just two of them":
In fact, the author of the research cited by Carlson and Ablow -- which was actually published in 2010 -- has stated that video games cannot be the sole cause of mass shooting incidents, despite being a proponent of the claim that a relationship exists between video games and real world violence. Ohio State University professor Brad Bushman published the survey of other studies that found a link between playing video games and aggressive thoughts cited by Ablow during his Fox & Friends appearance.
However, in explaining his research on video games in a March 20 New York Daily News op-ed, Bushman wrote, "It is crucial to understand there is no single cause of a crime like [Sandy Hook shooter Adam] Lanza's, and no responsible scholar could claim that violent video games cause murder."
Furthermore, other research disputes the link between violent video games and real world violence.
From the September 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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In a desperate attempt to revive the manufactured Benghazi "scandal" in advance of its one-year anniversary on Wednesday, Fox News hyped a misleading ABC interview with Benghazi witness Gregory Hicks that was discredited by the State Department.
Fox & Friends hyped former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Hicks' claim that he had been "punished" for speaking out about Benghazi, furthering Fox's campaign of scandal-mongering about the Benghazi attacks in advance of Wednesday's anniversary. On September 9, the show aired a small portion of Hicks' ABC interview, in which he claimed that he had been "punished" and his career had been stalled following his congressional testimony on the attacks, while on-screen text claimed that "nearly one year later, still no answers" on Benghazi:
But Fox left out the portion of the interview where George Stephanopoulos read part of the State Department response to Hicks' claim, which discredited Hicks' remarks. State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach responded to Hicks' interview by telling ABC News that "The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way," and explained that Hicks' departure from his position in Libya was voluntary and that the State Department is currently "working with him through the normal personnel process and assignment timetable to identify his next permanent assignment." Gerlach concluded that "the State Department does not tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on ANY ISSUE, including Benghazi."
Fox's campaign went so far as to equate the Benghazi attacks, in which four Americans were killed, with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, in which nearly 3,000 Americans were killed. Co-host Gretchen Carlson conflated the two anniversaries, saying "this week, coming up on Wednesday, it's the one-year anniversary of not only 9-11, but Benghazi and what happened there," and later in the show Fox & Friends aired an image of events that are distracting Americans from the conflict in Syria, including the "9/11 & Benghazi Anniversaries" this Wednesday.
From the September 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News continued its defense of anti-LGBT discrimination by businesses, conducting a one-sided interview with the owners of a now-shuttered bakery that refused to provide a lesbian couple with a wedding cake and suggesting that those who oppose anti-LGBT discrimination fail to display "tolerance."
On September 4, Fox & Friends invited Aaron and Melissa Klein, the co-owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. The Kleins closed their storefront in the wake of a civil rights complaint that alleged the couple violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Co-host Steve Doocy suggested that refusing to serve the lesbian couple didn't indicate a bias against LGBT people, just opposition to same-sex marriage. "[Y]ou didn't refuse to serve gay people, simply the gay weddings, right?" Doocy asked Melissa Klein, as if the lesbian couple's sexual orientation was irrelevant to Klein's refusal to serve them. Klein undercut Doocy's suggestion that she and her husband lacked anti-LGBT animus when she replied that she "can't participate in the wedding" because "homosexuality is - the behavior - is a sin."
Making no distinction between personal religious belief and public business practices, co-host Gretchen Carlson then used the closure of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to question whether we're still a "free country":
Fox News falsely claimed that the Lifeline program to provide low-income Americans with cell phone access is funded by taxpayers. In fact, it's funded entirely by fees charged to phone providers and other telecommunications companies, some of which pass on the costs to customers' phone bills.
On Fox & Friends August 27, Gretchen Carlson interviewed Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley about the Lifeline program, which according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services." The program also pays for free cell phones for some low-income Americans.
During the segment, both Carlson and Finley falsely asserted that the Lifeline program is taxpayer-funded, referring to it as an "entitlement program." On-screen text also pushed this false claim:
Despite these claims, often repeated by Fox News, the Lifeline program is not funded by taxpayers or the U.S. Treasury. As FactCheck.org noted in May 2012, "Lifeline is funded by telecom customers who pay a universal service fee as part of their phone bills. The fee technically is not a tax but a cross subsidy, the rules of which are determined by the Federal Communications Commission." The article further noted that the U.S. Treasury "does not collect or handle the funds" collected by the universal service fee.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services further explained how the fee is assessed:
All telecommunications service providers and certain other providers of telecommunications must contribute to the federal USF based on a percentage of their interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues. These companies include wireline phone companies, wireless phone companies, paging service companies, and certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers.
Some consumers may notice a "Universal Service" line item on their telephone bills. This line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from its customers by billing them this charge. The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs. These charges usually appear as a percentage of the consumer's phone bill. Companies that choose to collect Universal Service fees from their customers cannot collect an amount that exceeds their contribution to the USF. They also cannot collect any fees from a Lifeline program participant.
Carlson's disregard for the facts was in direct contrast to her insistence, less than an hour before on Fox & Friends, that it was her Fox colleagues' "responsibility as journalists to try and keep the bar up high on intelligence to try and inform people of what's going on in the world."
Fox News hosts mislead viewers and each other by hyping the cost of a White House plan to fund high-speed Wi-Fi for schools while obscuring the plan's small impact on individual taxpayers.
On June 6, the White House unveiled the ConnectED initiative, a plan that would give 99 percent of American students access to "high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless" at school by 2018. The plan would be funded through a minimal tax increase on mobile phone users, which the as The Washington Post reported, "could work out to about $12 in fees for every cellphone user over three years."
Fox News similarly reported on the August 15 edition of Fox & Friends First that the initiative would only cost individual consumers about five dollars per year.
But a few hours later on Fox & Friends, the hosts and contributors seemed unable to accurately report what the predicted cost would be for individuals. Though co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Fox Business contributor Charles Payne to specify how much the initiative would "cost each of us as individuals," Payne claimed the "administration doesn't say" and instead hyped the program's net cost and unspecified higher taxes on the middle class:
PAYNE: The administration doesn't say. There's some estimates say it costs like $6 billion but you know how these estimates are when the government gets involved. We know It's going to be multibillions and billions of dollars. It's going to hit individuals, this brings us to the third point. Middle-class taxes, you know, there won't be middle-class tax hikes, but we know already there have been. These are the kinds of things that are taxes on normal, regular people. This would be a tax on every single person watching the show who didn't get a free phone from the government, they are going to have to chip in.
Later, a Fox News reporter once again explained that the increase would only be about five dollars per year, but Carlson remained confused about the ConnectED program's expected cost to individual consumers, saying in a subsequent segment: "I think it would be about $5 a year, or maybe $5 a billing cycle. I'm not exactly sure. But the entire cost is $4 to $6 billion."
Payne and Carlson both followed the media's common practice of relying on abstract and sensational raw number figures when discussing budgetary issues while either ignoring or misreporting the context that would make those figures relevant to viewers. Economists have noted that focusing on raw numbers rather than budgetary percentages or individual costs in economic reporting is often little more than a scare tactic intended to drum up fears about the economy. And Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted that the reliance on raw numbers also increases the likelihood that outlets will misreport information.
Fox News is attempting to manufacture another Obama administration scandal by fearmongering about letters sent to small businesses asking them to explain discrepancies in revenue -- the result of a policy change made under the George W. Bush administration.
The August 15 edition of Fox & Friends reported that the Internal Revenue Service had sent letters to certain small businesses, asking them to explain why their revenue showed a disproportionately high number of credit and debit card transactions. Guest co-host Peter Johnson Jr. called the letters "unsettling" before playing a clip of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) tying the story to the improper targeting of certain political groups by the IRS. While Johnson admitted that "it happened in the past," the show continued to fearmonger about the letters, asking, "Are there other illegal things that are going on? Chairman Issa and U.S. attorneys are looking at the IRS, and there's some inference and implication that there may be":
But the IRS letters have nothing to do with political ideology. The Washington Post reported that the letters were sent out based on collected information about credit and debit card transactions:
Fox News took the Interior Secretary's remarks on the urgency of climate change out of context to claim that the Obama administration is engaged in a "witch hunt" to purge climate deniers from the agency.
Fox & Friends hosted contributor Michelle Malkin Tuesday to suggest that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is planning on conducting a "witch hunt" because she said she "hope[s] there are no climate change deniers in the Department of the Interior." Malkin added that Jewell was "talking like a cult leader" and insinuated that the administration is full of "eco-zombies."
But extended video from the meeting undermines this attack. Jewell was not trying to intimidate anyone; rather, she was emphasizing the signs of climate change already evident on our public lands, and encouraging the department to heed those signs and address the broader issue through renewable energy leasing and other measures.
Here's what Jewell actually said and how Fox News clipped the video to make it seem like she was announcing a "witch hunt":
JEWELL: I hope there are no climate change deniers in the Department of the Interior. If you don't believe in it, come out into the resources, go on to some [federal] land, go to Alaska where the permafrost is melting, go into the Sierra, which used to retain a lot more water in its frozen form that's now running off the hillsides quicker, and we don't have the storage capacity to be able to serve the downstream users like the demand requires. We have far-reaching impacts in every part of the department, but we are in a unique position to actually be able to do something about it. How exciting is that?
From the August 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Conservative media figures and their cut-outs in the Republican Party went out in full force Sunday, ready to cast blame and aspersions on President Obama for the closures of U.S. embassies around the world after intelligence suggested a possible al Qaeda attack.
With our embassies around the world under what all acknowledge to be a serious threat, these conservatives saw a political opportunity, cynically using the fear of an imminent terrorist attack to regurgitate year-old smears about Barack Obama's success in the war on terror.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, the Iraq War's #1 cheerleader, led the charge with a blog post Saturday, hyperbolically stating, "Al Qaeda's not on the run. We are."
He followed that up on Fox News Sunday, telling host Chris Wallace:
KRISTOL: Four years ago President Obama gave a much-heralded speech as outreach to the Muslim world. And now, four years later we are closing embassies throughout the Muslim world. The year ago the president said Al Qaeda is on the run. And now we seem to be on the run.
Kristol's falsehoods were reflected by other conservatives across the media. Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint also appeared on Fox News Sunday echoing Kristol's attack: "Well, it's clear that Al Qaeda may be more of a threat to us than they were before 9/11 now."
Later in the panel he went on to state, "The instability around the world is clearly related to at least a perception of a lack of resolve of the United States and a perception of weakness."
Fox News is floating the idea that Detroit's filing for bankruptcy could lead to other cities following suit, a claim that economist Jared Bernstein calls "analytically incorrect."
On July 18, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, officially becoming the largest city in the United States to do so. According to USA Today, "The bankruptcy petition would seek protection from creditors and unions who are renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt and other liabilities."
On the July 19 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney warned that Detroit's actions could cause a string of cities throughout the U.S. to also seek bankruptcy protection. Varney claimed, "This is a very big deal. Other cities might choose to go the Detroit route, because federal bankruptcy allows an escape route from these unpayable pension obligations."
Reacting to Varney's theory, co-host Gretchen Carlson stated:
This is the microcosm of the macrocosm in America. This is not just going to be Detroit, maybe Detroit is one of the worst, but this is going to be happening to big cities. You can't continue to do this. You can't continue to fund money that you don't have.
The speculation that Detroit's actions may set in motion other bankruptcy filings continued throughout the day. On America's Newsroom, frequent Fox Business guest Ed Butowsky continued sounding the alarm for municipal default, stating:
I mean this is going to happen all of the country, all over this United States if people don't start taking the proper measures.
Fox's narrative of a "domino effect" taking place in cities across the country ignores a number of economic facts. In an interview with Media Matters, economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, claimed Fox's suggestion that other cities will follow Detroit's lead amounts to nothing more than "scare mongering":
There will be no domino effect. There is a lot of scare mongering around that issue. That doesn't mean that every pension fund is in tip top shape, but the fact is that states and cities have been taking action to bring their costs in line and reduce their unfunded liabilities. In fact, between 2009 and 2011, 43 states have reduced the costs of their pension plans, including their unfunded liabilities, typically by modifying their obligations. Between 1970 and 2012, there were five city or county governments that defaulted. Okay, this is a rare event and for anyone to extrapolate from Detroit, which has faced extremely unique and tough economic challenges, to the rest of the country is analytically incorrect.
Fox News falsely claimed that a Republican-led congressional hearing showed that an Obama appointee was personally involved in the IRS' inappropriate targeting of conservative groups requesting tax-exempt status. This desperate attempt to further the right-wing narrative that the White House directed the IRS to scrutinize conservative groups was undermined by testimony from a witness and Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA).
The July 18 hearing led by Issa featured current and former Treasury and IRS employees. One of the witnesses, recently retired IRS employee Carter Hull, testified that staffers from the IRS chief counsel's office were involved in further assessing applications of groups identified as conservative that were seeking tax exempt status.
Fox & Friends co-hosts Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy claimed on July 19 that this testimony showed a link between the undue scrutinizing of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and the White House, because the IRS chief counsel is an Obama appointee. Carlson claimed that IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, the Obama appointee, directly reviewed Hull's work. Doocy expanded, falsely suggesting that Wilkins decided to target conservative applications, and that this may have been at the direction of someone at the White House. Co-host Brian Kilmeade added that any suggestion that Wilkins was not involved in should be viewed skeptically.
However, there is no evidence that links Wilkins to the assessment of the scrutinized applications. USA Today reported:
The IRS chief counsel, William Wilkins, is one of only two IRS officials appointed by the president. The evidence released by two congressional committees Wednesday does not prove that he had personal knowledge of the targeting of Tea Party groups but does significantly broaden the scope of IRS officials involved.
USA Today also noted that the IRS chief counsel's office is composed of 1,600 employees.
Indeed, Issa was very clear that Wilkins himself was not personally involved. In his opening statement at the hearing, he said:
ISSA: I hope that both my side of the aisle and the ranking member side of the aisle will be very careful and cautious in what we say. When I say something goes to the office of the counsel of the IRS, that is not to be construed as the office of the president, or to the counsel himself. It is important that we understand that words matter, nuances matter, and that we not go one step beyond what we know.
Hull's testimony also does not show that Wilkins was personally aware of the controversy. Hull testified that he met with staffers from the counsel's office, but made no mention of Wilkins.
The Washington Post more broadly noted that there is no evidence from the investigations and hearings about the controversy that connects the scrutinizing to the White House:
Key Republicans, including the oversight panel's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said the audit findings suggested that the IRS had systematically delayed tax-exemption applications for President Obama's opponents during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Some GOP lawmakers suggested that high-ranking administration officials must have been involved in the alleged effort.
There has been no evidence of White House involvement.
Fox News suggested that past hate crime prosecution decisions proved that the Obama Justice Department acted politically, citing prosecutorial efforts by the Bush administration.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson proposed that the decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether or not the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was based on racial animus was part of a political decision making scheme unique to Obama's DOJ. To illustrate her point, Carlson claimed that the Obama administration decided to prosecute three hate crime cases while dismissing a case against the National Black Panther Party (NBPP):
CARLSON: Alright, thanks so much Steve. Since the Obama administration took office, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has successfully prosecuted these three cases you see on your screen there, all of which involve racially motivated hate crimes where the victim was a minority. Yet, at the same time, the DOG [sic] dismissed the Black Panther case -- you remember that one from the 2008 election -- where these individuals were seen intimidating white voters at a Philadelphia polling location. So, as the DOJ considers hate crime charges against George Zimmerman now, many people are asking, are they playing politics when it comes to racism?
The following graphic aired during Carlson's remarks:
As the graphic makes clear by providing dates, Carlson pointed to three cases initially prosecuted by the Bush administration to claim that "since the Obama administration took office," the DOJ has prosecuted cases only when the victim was a minority. Yet these cases were all started and decided before "the Obama administration took office" on January 20, 2009.
Moreover, Carlson's claim that the Obama administration chose not to pursue a civil suit against the NBPP for voter intimidation is misleading. Like the other cases, the Bush DOJ brought a civil suit against three NBPP members who showed up at polls during the 2008 election. The Obama DOJ later pursued action against the member brandishing a night stick, obtaining an injunction, and dropped the cases against the other two members.
Experts across the political spectrum contend that the Obama DOJ took the correct action.
The case involving the NBPP is the only example of the Obama administration's involvement in any of the cases cited by Carlson, and it was merely an effort started by the Bush administration to pursue a civil rights violation, one found to be committed by a black man.
Media Matters intern Charlie Rafkin contributed to this post.
Fox pushed the Republican narrative that they have not obstructed President Obama's nominees, hiding both the intent of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV)'s push to break GOP obstruction of Obama executive nominees and the nature of the obstruction itself.
On June 15, senators failed to negotiate a deal that would allow for confirmation votes on Obama executive branch nominees, including heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Labor, and members of the National Labor Relations Board. A vote on the nominees is scheduled for 10 am on June 16. Reid has indicated that if Republicans do not allow for an up-or-down vote on the nominees, he will go forward with having the Senate change its rules so that Republicans can no longer prevent an up-or-down vote on Obama executive branch nominees by using the filibuster.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson suggested there was no need for this reform, highlighting the Republican claim that "over 1,500 have been confirmed and only four were defeated."
Carlson forwarded the notion that Reid's filibuster reform effort would prevent Republican obstruction of all Obama nominees, when in fact Reid is only proposing to allow for up-or-down votes on executive branch nominees.
By quoting the Republican claim that they have confirmed over 1,500 Obama nominees, Carlson also ignored the unprecedented nature in which they have obstructed the confirmation process for some of these nominees.
For example, the Republican filibuster of Chuck Hagel was the first time in U.S. history the confirmation of a secretary of defense nominee was filibustered. Fox News' Sean Hannity called this filibuster "a major win for the GOP." And Republicans have also delayed the confirmation of Robert Cordray as head of the CFPB since he was nominated two years ago. Indeed, in February, Republicans vowed to oppose any nominee to head the CFPB unless changes were made to the agency, another unprecedented move.
Graphic via People for the American Way