At what point will Fox News stop conflating anti-gay bigotry and Christian religious belief?
Phil Robertson, one of the stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty, has been put on indefinite hiatus by the network following criticism of a number of anti-gay and racist remarks he made in an interview with GQ. In the interview, Robertson refers to homosexuality as a "sin," comparing it to bestiality and calling gay sex illogical:
"It seems like, to me, a vagina--as a man--would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me.I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
"Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong," he says. "Sin becomes fine."
What, in your mind, is sinful?
"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men," he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers--they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
In the aftermath of his anti-gay comments, several Fox News employees have rushed to Robertson's defense, depicting him as a run-of-the-mill Christian who espoused mainstream Christian theology. Host Sean Hannity described Robertson's comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values." Fox reporter Todd Starnes claimed his comments reflected "the teachings of the Bible." And Fox Business' Dennis Kneale claimed Robertson had just "stated his religious beliefs."
But not everyone at Fox News is so quick to accept Robertson's anti-gay comments as what they believe to be basic Christian dogma. During the December 18 edition of Hannity, Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. seemed hesitant to describe Robertson's remarks as "religious," saying, "I wouldn't accept that that's a religious view":
Fox News host Sean Hannity relied on a discredited right-wing organization that fabricated a story about a transgender student harassing her peers in a school restroom, attacking proper facilities access for transgender students as a "violation of privacy."
The rabidly anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) gained notoriety earlier this year after it was caught manufacturing a story about a transgender student in Colorado who PJI claimed was harassing other students in her school's bathrooms. That story ended up being entirely fabricated - the school district's Superintendent stated that no instances of actual harassment had been reported. PJI scrambled to save face, claiming that the "harassment" it referenced actually amounted to nothing more than a few parents and students feeling uncomfortable by the mere presence of a transgender student.
PJI's history of lying about the case didn't stop Hannity from promoting the group's work during the December 18 edition of his show, including airing a PJI-produced video featuring testimony from parents and students from the Colorado school who were bothered by the transgender student's existence. Hannity called the video "pretty powerful" and asked if letting transgender students use the bathroom of their choice was a "violation of privacy":
Many schools have already implemented policies similar to the one in Colorado, and California passed a law this summer granting transgender students proper facility access. Schools that have instituted such policies haven't reported any instances of misconduct and state that they've experienced "nothing but positive results." Experts state that allowing transgender individuals access to facilities that match their gender identity is essential to affirming their identities and removing the stigma all too often attached to trans people.
This isn't the first time Hannity's program has featured fear-stoking arguments against transgender rights. In August, he blasted California's new law, asking, "What do we do with the seven-year-old girl that goes into the locker room and there's the 14-year-old boy naked in the girls' locker room because that's where he chooses to be?" Fox itself has assailed the law repeatedly, with host Bill O'Reilly calling it "the biggest con in the world," further contributing to the network's transphobia problem. The network's willingness to tout a group that has lied in order to smear transgender students marks a new low.
On the December 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News' Sean Hannity falsely claimed that a background check occurs on every gun sale in America to attack an ad that calls for action on gun violence in memory of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The December 10 edition of Hannity included a segment on a new ad called "No More Silence" from gun violence prevention groups Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). The ad depicts a moment of silence for victims of the Newtown tragedy while also advocating for action to be taken on gun violence to prevent future tragedies. Asking if the ad was "politicizing tragedy," Hannity made a number of false claims about gun violence during the segment:
After American Values Institute Executive Director Alexis McGill Johnson said that action on gun violence would include reforms so that "every gun sold has a background check," Hannity replied, "We already have that." (Both MAIG and Moms Demand Action make expanding checks a major component of their advocacy.)
In fact, a significant number of firearms are sold without background checks through so-called private sales, often at gun shows or over the Internet. Gun shows and websites that specialize in private sales have been linked to illegal trafficking operations, both narcoterrorismand international terrorism, and serve as conduits for individuals who would fail a background check because they are prohibited by law from owning a gun. Indeed, research has shown that a large percentage of criminals obtain firearms through private transactions.
Fox News continued its campaign against undocumented immigrants getting an affordable college education, railing against a lawsuit in Georgia that asks the state's universities to grant in-state tuition to immigrants who are considered lawfully present under the deferred action program. To make its case, Fox cited the fallacy that their parents don't pay taxes, and argued that this was an issue "of fairness."
It's indisputable fact however that at least three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal taxes and an even larger number pay state and local taxes. Moreover, reports show that the notion that undocumented students are somehow cheating Americans out of a college education is untrue.
As the Associated Press reported on December 5, a group of undocumented students in Georgia filed a lawsuit against the state's university system stating that they should be granted in-state tuition as they are now lawfully present under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to the Department of Homeland Security:
An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect.
Discussing the lawsuit on Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity dismissed Five co-host Bob Beckel's argument that undocumented immigrants have a right to an affordable college education, replying: "So laws don't matter in Obama-Beckel's world." Five co-host Andrea Tantaros added that she's "very sensitive to the immigrant community" because her father was an immigrant and that "you do feel sorry for the children that were brought here." She went on to say: "However, their parents, Sean, have not been paying taxes. They have not been on the books. Their parents broke the law. It's a crime." She concluded: "It's an issue of fairness."
In fact, the federal government has estimated that about three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in federal payroll taxes each year. In a 2010 study, the Brookings Institution found that the "consensus of the economics literature is that the taxes paid by immigrants and their descendants exceed the benefits they receive--that on balance they are a net positive for the federal budget."
A New York Times article highlighted positive stories of people gaining coverage from the Affordable Care Act's exchanges -- a departure from the media's history of ignoring the law's success stories in favor of overwhelmingly negative coverage.
The media has overwhelmingly turned to negative anecdotal stories in covering the implementation of the ACA's exchanges. In The American Prospect, Paul Waldman argued that the media's tendency to use negative "exemplars" in health care coverage dramatically overemphasizes negative consequences of the law, often employing misleading reporting in order to manufacture "victims" of the law:
As the Affordable Care Act approaches full implementation, we're seeing a lot of exemplar stories, and I've been noticing one particular type: the story of the person who seems to be getting screwed. If it were true that most Americans were indeed being made worse off by the law, that would be a good thing; we'd learn their stories and get a sense of the human cost of the law. The trouble is that in the real world, there are many more people being helped by the law than hurt by it, and even those who claim to be hurt by it aren't being hurt at all.
Journalists have a natural inclination to cover bad news over good and to be skeptical of the government, which is usually healthy. But if you aren't careful it can also lead to misleading reporting. If you're going to do a story presenting one person as a victim of the law, it might be a good idea to make sure they are what you say they are.
Waldman cited a report from the NBC Nightly News as an example of how the media's coverage of health care consequences can be misleading. The segment highlighted a Los Angeles real estate agent whose premiums were higher after her insurer cancelled her plan and she looked for replacement coverage on the exchange. Waldman pointed out that the segment left out crucial context, such as whether she was eligible for subsidies and what level of coverage her current plan provided. A CBS News segment had similar problems, interviewing a woman named Dianne Barrette who lost her existing coverage and found replacement plans to be much more expensive. The Washington Post's Erik Wemple criticized the report, pointing out that Barrette's current plan was "a pray-that-you-don't-really-get-sick 'plan'" and "could well have bankrupted her."
Fox News' Sean Hannity faced criticism after hosting three couples who professed to be "victims" of the health care law. After Eric Stern, a former senior adviser to Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, contacted the three couples after the show aired, he found that none of them had actually been negatively impacted by the law or had even attempted to shop for coverage on the exchanges that they were complaining about:
Since the show's debut on October 7 and through November 29, Fox News' The Kelly File has hosted conservatives significantly more often than progressives and has surpassed even Fox's Hannity in its divide between guests on the left and right.
Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.
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From the November 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The Veterans Day edition of Fox News' Hannity spent twice as much time discussing the so-called "War On Christmas" than the actual wars whose veterans we honor on that holiday.
On the November 11 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted Sarah Palin to discuss her newly released book about the "War On Christmas." While Hannity wrung his hands about the latest "unbridled and seemingly unprecedented" attacks on Christmas, Palin opined that "angry atheists" armed with attorneys "want to tell us, they want to tell patriots, they want to tell traditional Americans, that no longer can you acknowledge that Jesus is the reason for the season."
The "War On Christmas" segment lasted only two minutes, but that was twice the amount of airtime Hannity devoted to covering Veterans Day. Only a brief "Veterans Day edition of our video of the day" segment at the end of Hannity's show made any mention of the nation's veterans and the conflicts they braved as part of their service.
Fox News hosts often cover the "War On Christmas" more extensively than they do real wars. During the last holiday season, Fox's Bill O'Reilly dedicated nearly an hour to segments defending Christmas from its alleged assailants, while spending a mere fifteen minutes covering military conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Gaza.
After months of support from conservative talk radio and other right-wing media, commonwealth Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli failed to win the race to become Virgnia's next governor. Even before Election Day, conservative commentators like Mark Levin had already begun lashing out at "RINOs" and Republicans like Karl Rove for not sufficiently supporting Cuccinelli.
Following the October 1 rollout of the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, media outlets hyped several anecdotal stories of people who will be negatively affected by the law. These stories have ranged from the misleading to the outright false.
Sean Hannity hosted Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Citizens United as they used Fox News as a platform to launch a campaign targeted at ending the so-called congressional exemption to the Affordable Care Act. There's one problem: the congressional exemption does not exist.
On the November 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity, David Bossie, president of the conservative political organization Citizens United, and Vitter joined Hannity to announce a new campaign calling on Congress to "Live By Your Laws." While the segment aired, Citizens United's Twitter account encouraged its followers to "join the movement" with Bossie, Hannity, and Vitter to stop a rule within the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) that allegedly exempts members of Congress and their staffs as well as the White House from having to take part in the ACA's health insurance exchanges. Hannity introduced the segment by playing most of Citizens United's new advertisement.
Contrary to the trio's claims, the reality is that the ACA requires Congress and its staff to obtain health insurance on the exchanges and also prohibits them from receiving subsidies under the ACA. Because of this "special punishment" as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein called it, congressional staffers would be forced to cover the entire cost of their health insurance. To avoid that punishment, the Office of Personnel Management clarified that it would continue to subsidize congressional employees' health insurances costs just like most employers throughout the country do. One Republican lawmaker said of the clarification, "There's no question it was the right thing to do."
From the October 28 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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