Fox News incited Islamophobic fears in its reporting on a weekly swim class at a YMCA facility that ensures the privacy of Muslim girls learning to swim, framing it as evidence that "Sharia law is now changing everything."
In October, a St. Paul YMCA in partnership with the local police department decided to offer an hour long swim practice once a week to give Muslim Somali-American girls between the ages of 5 and 17 an opportunity to learn basic swimming skills, making considerations for the girls' modesty and religious beliefs. On the December 2 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox's Heather Nauert framed this story as evidence that "Sharia law is now changing everything":
NAUERT: Well the minority becoming the majority at one community pool. Sharia law is now changing everything. A YMCA in Minneapolis-St. Paul is starting a swim group for Muslim girls but special considerations have to be made to keep with their religious beliefs. Now this means during the one-hour class, the pool is being shut down, the men's locker room is being locked, and female lifeguards are being brought in. Similar classes are now starting at towns across the Midwest. We'll keep watching this story for you.
Fox's use of an hour-long swim lesson for girls to push the myth that Sharia is taking over is disconcerting to say the least. For many Muslim girls, this class represents their first opportunity to learn these basic skills, and the Star Tribune noted that this is an important and much-needed program for the community, and that "[s]pecial considerations have to be made to address modesty concerns":
Special considerations have to be made to address modesty concerns so that the Muslim girls can swim and not reveal too much of themselves.
St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith had discussions with Britts to let the Y know that, through the department's connections with the Somali-American community, they had learned that such a group was needed.
"I think this is just a great opportunity for them to learn basic skills that we take for granted," said Sgt. Jennifer O'Donnell, who has worked with the Somali community regularly during her time with the department.
"We have to have privacy," said Ubah Ali, Dhamuke's mother.
For years, Ali said she has been trying to find a place where her daughter could swim, but nothing seemed to work. Not knowing how to swim is a safety risk, especially in the state of 10,000 lakes, Ali said.
Fox News' decision to cite this story as evidence of "Sharia law" spreading through the country fits with the network's history of pushing Islamophobia and the myth of "creeping Sharia." In recent history Fox has led a smear campaign against Park51, an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center, claiming it would potentially be a haven for terrorists. The network has also been known to invite discredited anti-Muslim guests on its shows to push fears about Muslims. Fox's pattern of Islamophobia has now reached the new low of presenting swimming lessons for young girls as a problem so worrisome that Nauert promised to "keep watching this story."
Right-wing media are using the firing of fictional cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants to attack the social safety net and those who rely on it.
The New York Post reported on October 30 that in an upcoming episode of the Nickelodeon cartoon, SpongeBob is fired from his job working in the underwater fast food restaurant "the Krusty Krab" after his boss discovers he can save a whole nickel by eliminating SpongeBob from the payroll.
The Post used the cartoon's plot development to attack people who rely on government assistance, referring to individuals who rely on food stamps as "mooching off the social services" and applauding SpongeBob for instead quickly returning to "gainful employment":
So what's a hardworking sea sponge to do?
Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it.
No spoilers -- but it's safe to say that our hero doesn't end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand.
Fox News parroted the Post's attack, with Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert claiming that "the harsh economic climate has hit the underwater community," but "instead of mooching off social services at Bikini Bottom, that's the town, SpongeBob sets out to return to the work force."
Previously, Fox News repeatedly criticized a SpongeBob SquarePants book and video about manmade global warming, claiming the program based on scientific evidence was "pushing a global warming agenda" and "indoctrinating children."
Right-wing media have a long history of attacking the social safety net. Recently, Fox attacked low-wage workers in the fast food industry who have to rely on necessary federal benefit programs because they earn below subsistence wages.
Right-wing media dishonestly reacted to Secretary of State John Kerry's signature to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by promoting the National Rifle Association's conspiracy theory that the treaty -- which aims to stem the flow of weapons to human rights abusers -- would threaten gun rights and require the United States to create a civilian gun registry.
In fact, the treaty only regulates the international trade of arms and explicitly affirms the right of a nation to regulate domestic firearm ownership "pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." As the American Bar Association noted in an analysis that found the treaty to be consistent with the Second Amendment, "the treaty would not require new domestic regulations of firearms."
Still, Fox News continued its checkered coverage of the ATT, promoting baseless conspiracy theories about the treaty.
On September 25, Fox host Heather Nauert reported on Fox & Friends that "gun supporters are opposing part of [the ATT] because it requires the United States government to adopt a new civilian gun tracking system, and that could sidestep the Second Amendment":
Right-wing media are using a new government report showing that there are a million visitors in the United States who have overstayed their visas to argue that the news will negatively impact immigration reform. However, what these media outlets are missing is that passing a comprehensive immigration bill, like the one that recently cleared the Senate, would largely fix the problem of such overstays as the bill mandates the implementation of a biometric entry-exit data system.
On July 30, the Government Accountability Office released a study reporting that as of June 2013, more than one million visitors in the United States have overstayed their visas -- thus the term overstays. GAO defines an overstay as a "nonimmigrant who is legally admitted to the United States for an authorized period but remains in the country illegally after that period expired without obtaining an extension of stay or a change of status or meeting other specific conditions, such as claiming asylum."
In a segment highlighting the report, Fox News host Heather Nauert claimed that the "news could hurt the debate over that sweeping immigration bill that we've heard so much about."
A July 30 Washington Times article similarly asserted that "the report could hurt immigration deal" and falsely claimed that the Senate immigration bill "waters down" requirements for a biometric system. The Times wrote that the bill "say[s] only that there must be a biographic-based system, which means using a photo, and that it be limited to air and sea ports."
While the number of immigrants who overstay their visas has reportedly sharply declined in the last decade, passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill would greatly alleviate the problem. According to a February 2013 study, overstays declined by 73 percent between 2000 and 2009, thanks to enhanced security measures by DHS in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The immigration bill that passed the Senate on June 27 mandates the implementation of an exit system that will monitor when foreigners leave the country. It also mandates establishing a mandatory biometric exit data system that would require that all foreigners be fingerprinted when exiting the country." The system would have to be implemented at the 10 United States airports that support the highest volume of international air travel" within two years of the bill's passage. Such a system would then be expanded to 30 airports and major sea and land entry and exit points within six years.
A fact sheet of the bill by Sen. Bob Corker's (R-TN) office stated that the "underlying bill improves the identification of overstays through a fully implemented entry/exit system," and that Corker's amendment "goes a step further by mandating the initiation of removal proceedings for at least 90% of visa overstays - holding DHS accountable for failing to enforce the law and targeting an issue that is at the core of a policy of de facto amnesty."
According to an analysis of the bill as passed by the Senate, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would not only reduce the flow of illegal immigration, it would also greatly impact overstays. CBO concluded that the security measures in the bill would cut illegal immigration and overstays by "between one-third and one-half compared with the projected net inflow under current law."
Fox News hyped a new poll commissioned by the network to push the false claim that President Obama failed to order troops to respond to attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in an attempt to bolster its falsehood-laden narrative about the attack.
On July 26, Fox & Friends First aired a graphic showing the results of a Fox News poll, paraphrasing a question which said that Obama "didn't send troops to help Americans in Benghazi " and asked "should he have":
The full question from the Fox News poll read:
On the night of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, President Obama did not order U.S. troops to go in and help Americans at the consulate there. Do you think the president should have sent troops, or not?
Co-host Heather Nauert claimed the poll disproved that the events that occurred in Benghazi and the subsequent Fox-led scandal mongering was nothing more than pushing "phony scandals," as she alleged Obama asserted in a June 25 speech.
However, the poll question itself and its subsequent hyping by Fox News substantiates Obama's claim about "phony scandals" that are distracting Washington. As then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified in a February 7 Senate hearing, Obama ordered him and General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to "[d]o whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there" on the night of the Benghazi attacks. Following that exchange between Panetta and Obama, and before the attacks were over, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to deploy to Libya and another special operations team to deploy to the region. Unfortunately, the forces arrived after the attacks were over.
In June, Fox similarly trumpeted the results of a similarly misleading Fox News poll question that asked respondents why "President Obama did not order US troops to help Americans in Benghazi." According to the graphic aired on Fox & Friends, respondents were asked if Obama did not order the response because he "didn't want to risk [the] election," or if he "believed nothing could be done." Respondents were also given the option of saying they were "unsure." In May, Fox hyped its poll that asked: "Do you think President Obama could have done more to help the Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the night of the attack."
Fox News stoked fears of terrorism to attack immigration reform while failing to acknowledge that the Senate's proposed immigration legislation includes provisions to bolster security measures.
The Washington Post reported the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing legally immigrated to the United States as political refugees. Fox News personalities responded by attacking immigration reform and stoking fears of terrorism, going so far as to suggest that visitors from certain countries and regions be banned from entering the United States.
On the April 30 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Nauert continued Fox's pattern of using the Boston Marathon bombings to attack immigration reform and stoke fears of terrorism, asserting that terrorists are "being granted tourist visas." She went on to claim that certain individuals were "overstaying" those legal limits, and asked: "Why isn't there a plan in place to catch that?"
NAUERT: Critics say it is a gaping hole that Washington needs to fix, and fix right now ... And let's remember some of those 9-11 hijackers were here on student visas and overstayed those student visas as well.
During the report, on-screen text falsely claimed the Senate's immigration reform proposal "gives no solution" to individuals overstaying their immigration visas:
In fact, the number of legal immigrants overstaying their visas declined by 73% between 2000 and 2009, thanks to the Department of Homeland Security's enhanced security measures in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate on April 17 is designed to speed that decline by implementing what Republican Senator Marco Rubio called "an effective entry and exit system."
Responding to questions about enforcement and temporary visas in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano described how provisions in the Senate immigration reform bill would "give us more measurements, more metrics, more identities, more things that we can use from a law enforcement purpose."
Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev "initially escaped the notice of federal authorities on a six-month trip to Russia last year because his name was misspelled on his airline ticket," The Washington Post reported. But Napolitano pointed out that the proposed electronic monitoring system is designed to specifically address that problem, as it "does a good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process."
CBS News reported that the bill's "modernized visa system" would monitor "the future traffic of immigrants during both departure and arrival to ensure that nobody overstays their welcome." The summary of the bill's framework further details that the success of the full proposal is "contingent upon our success in securing our border and addressing visa overstays" and requires "the completion of an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law."
Fox News spent an entire week hyping a supposed "War on Easter," pointing to the decision made by a few school boards to hold "Spring egg hunt[s]" instead of Easter egg hunts. In seven days, Fox devoted 10 segments to what host Bill O'Reilly called the continued "war on Judeo-Christian tradition."
On March 21, O'Reilly lambasted President Obama and the White House for empowering "secular progressives" to pressure school districts around the country to eliminate terms like "Easter bunny" and "Easter egg." O'Reilly complained that "the war on Judeo-Christian tradition continues in some public school districts," citing districts in five states that he said "are having Spring egg events. Moderated by a Spring bunny":
O'REILLY: I know it's stupid. You know it's stupid. But it's happening, and there is a reason why it's happening. Secular progressives are running wild with President Obama in the White House. They feel unchained, liberated and they are trying to diminish any form of religion. The goal is to marginalize religious opposition to secular programs.
In the past week, several Fox shows followed O'Reilly's lead, airing segments that criticized the "P.C. police" and focused on "assaults" that have put Christianity "on the run in this country":
Fox News demonstrated the fundamental hypocrisy of its claim that progressives are engaged in a war on Christmas by expressing outrage at Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee because he uses the term "holiday tree" rather "Christmas tree" to refer to the tree that will adorn the statehouse during the holiday season. However, minutes later, Fox announced that it would host its own "holiday wish list" segment.
Fox News has repeatedly attacked people and organizations who use the term holiday when the network would prefer them to use the term Christmas, claiming that they are engaging in a "war on Christmas."
On Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Nauert claimed Chafee made the "decision to kill Christmas," alluding to a decision by the governor not to host a tree lighting ceremony at the statehouse this year.
Chafee reportedly made the decision because in 2011, protesters attended the tree lighting ceremony to criticize the governor for using the term "holiday tree." Fox played its part in creating controversy over the tree, enlisting viewers in a feverish and overblown campaign against the governor and the words "holiday tree."
But only minutes after Fox complained of the Governor's use of the word "holiday" in place of "Christmas," Nauert announced a new segment called "Fox & Friends First's Holiday Wish list":
Fox & Friends devoted live coverage to a publicity stunt by a conservative group paying the difference between today's gas prices and the price when President Obama took office. Conveniently, Fox & Friends never mentioned the oil interests funding the group or the dishonest premise behind the stunt.
On its October 25 show, Fox News correspondent Heather Nauert reported live from a gas station in New Jersey where the "conservative free-market group" Americans for Prosperity (AFP) was conducting a publicity stunt in which drivers paid $1.84 a gallon for gas -- the price that gas temporarily plummeted to right before Obama took office -- and AFP paid the difference.
AFP's stunt is explicitly designed to promote an anti-Obama agenda -- the group has stated that the point is to "highlight President Obama's failing green energy policies."
Nauert effectively played into AFP's political agenda, asking drivers questions like "Would you be more willing to vote for a different administration in this election as a result of the high gas prices today?"
In a second live segment later in the show, Nauert posed similar questions to a female driver. When the driver responded that she supports Obama and plans to vote for him again, Nauert asked, "Even though you're paying more for gas?" After the interview, Nauert highlighted that "we spoke to another voter earlier today who said that he voted for President Obama four years ago but the high cost of gas is actually going to change his vote."
Fox News has aggressively supported a Republican plan to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. However, progressive and conservative experts alike have made clear that a balanced budget amendment would make future recessions worse and damage the current recovery.
From the June 22 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News figures have suggested that President Obama isn't serious about enacting comprehensive immigration reform and is instead "trying to shore up his base" among Hispanic voters. However, there has been a major increase in border security under Obama -- which Republicans say is their starting point for action on the issue.