In recent weeks, conservative media have been consumed by "Obama Derangement Syndrome," accusing President Obama of being insane, of colluding with Russian spies, of trying to create a civil war and implement one world government, among other things, while also claiming that his administration is trying to control everything under the sun, including the Internet and, inexplicably, your toilet.
From the June 24 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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We've previously noted that Fox Business host John Stossel called for the repeal of the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act "because private business ought to get to discriminate" in a Fox News appearance, then defended his claim in FoxBusiness.com blog posts. Stossel's comments provoked outrage, but he has no intention of lying low and waiting for the heat to die down; today, he has a new column pushing similar claims.
It's worth pointing out that yesterday, in a near-unanimous resolution, the Kentucky Senate rebuked Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul for similar remarks. The resolution -- co-sponsored by all but one member of the Kentucky Senate -- states that the provision in question, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, "announced to the world that the United States would no longer tolerate discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, religion, or ethnicity, and set the standard for future conduct by private business."
The resolution adds that while "suggestions have appeared recently that we retreat from the core values of the protection of equal rights of the citizens of the United States, the Senate of the General Assembly finds that these views are outside the mainstream of American values and are not supported by other than an extreme minority of persons in the United States."
Fox, meanwhile, has offered no such criticism of Stossel. Its silence is deafening.
Fox's John Stossel has repeatedly called for the repeal of part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, saying that "private businesses ought to get to discriminate" and that free-market forces will resolve racial discrimination.
From the May 25 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox's media criticism program Fox News Watch promises to "cover the coverage of the week's biggest stories." This week, host Jon Scott and his panel had time to cover the fifth anniversary of YouTube, but didn't have time to analyze their colleague John Stossel's on-air call for the repeal of the Public Accommodation section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Last week Stossel said he was "in total agreement with Rand Paul," adding: "And I would go further than he was willing to go ... and say it's time now to repeal that part of the law because private businesses ought to get to discriminate."
A Fox News contributor openly calling for the repeal of the legislative landmark of the Civil Rights era should warrant some media analysis. After all, Stossel's comments were criticized by civil rights experts and activists as "silly," "ahistorical," and risking "tak[ing] us back to a racist past from which so many people gave their lives to liberate us."
Fox News Watch has had difficulty covering its own in the past. For instance, the Saturday after Fox executives yanked Sean Hannity's plans to broadcast his show live from the Cincinnati Tea Party, with "all proceeds" benefiting the organization, Scott and company were silent.
Other media critics have taken note of Fox News Watch's reluctance to focus its analysis on its own network's personalities.
The group Color of Change is calling on its supporters to hold John Stossel and Fox News accountable for Stossel's remarks that the Public Accommodation section of the Civil Rights Act should be repealed.
On its website, Color of Change, which aims to "strengthen Black America's political voice," has posted a petition that calls on News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch to fire Stossel:
Dear Rupert Murdoch,
I am calling on you to fire Fox Business anchor and Fox News contributor John Stossel. His use of your platform to call for the repeal of key parts of the Civil Rights Act are an insult to Black America and to all Americans who understand the history of racism in this country and have fought for racial progress.
Stossel's remarks fit into a troubling pattern of Fox News personalities spreading misinformation about the state of race in America, and the history of racism in this country. And it follows repeated instances of personalities disparaging Black history, leaders and institutions.
In an email to supporters, Color of change states that "recent history has shown that the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act is still needed." The email highlights a 1994 case in which the Denny's restaurant chain paid, as The New York Times reported, "more than $54 million to settle a lawsuit by thousands of black customers who had been refused service or had been forced to wait longer or pay more than white customers." It also highlights a Justice Department lawsuit filed against the Valley Club of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, alleging that the club engaged in discrimination on the basis of race or color.
On Fox News, Stossel discussed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and commented that "it's time now to repeal" the Public Accommodation section, "because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won't ever go to a place that's racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist."
Color of Change has had success in its activism aimed at what it says is Fox News' "troubling pattern" of misinformation about race. Last year, the group established a boycott campaign against Glenn Beck in which at least 100 advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from his Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people."
Yesterday, Fox News' John Stossel argued that "it's time now to repeal that part of" the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited discrimination in places of public accommodation, stating, "You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it's a private business." Today, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), a Civil Rights activist and Freedom Rider, responded:
A "private" business generally operates on a public thoroughfare, is protected by public police and fire departments, is served by public transportation, is staffed by people educated in public schools, is protected against fraud by the public justice system, may serve food or sell products protected by public inspection agencies, etc, etc, etc. Surely the public has a right to insist on non-racist policies!
As a Freedom Rider in 1961, I rode on an interstate, publicly franchised Greyhound bus, and, as a member of an integrated group, was denied access to restrooms, lunch counters, and waiting rooms. The Supreme Court rightly ruled this was unconstitutional. Do Rand Paul and John Stossel want to take us back to a racist past from which so many people gave their lives to liberate us?
Despite reporting on the controversy surrounding Rand Paul's criticism of portions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Fox News' Special Report did not address the fact that Fox News' John Stossel called for the repeal of the portion of the act that prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation.
In the strange world of conservative media it's probably a good idea to always expect the unexpected.
For example, who would have ever thought that in the late spring of 2010, various right-wing media figures would attack civil rights accomplishments and leaders from the 1950s and 60s?
Sadly that's just what we've been seeing.
Last week radio host Rush Limbaugh used Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's praise for former Justice Thurgood Marshall whom she clerked for in 1988 to attack Marshall for his view that the original U.S. Constitution was "defective" because it sanctioned slavery and gender inequality. Furthermore, Limbaugh said Kagan and Marshall look at "me and people like me as the oppressors."
He wasn't alone.
The very same day, Michael Savage (née Weiner) -- the third highest rated radio host in America -- said "Marshall was an outright communist" who "almost destroyed America" while radio host Monica Crowley said on Fox Business that Kagan's praise of Marshall should raise "red flags."
Why folks like Limbaugh would be defending slavery is anyone's guess.
The attacks on Marshall were followed this week with broadsides against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Fox Business' John Stossel today called for a repeal of the public accommodations section of the Act in an interview on Fox News about Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul's recent comments on the issue.
Stossel further claimed that eventually free markets would have prevailed over discrimination saying, "competition would have cleaned the clocks of the people who didn't serve most customers." It was a notion soundly rejected by Andrew Grant-Thomas, deputy director of the Ohio State's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, who characterized Stossel's comments as "silly," adding, "Market forces hadn't exactly made anti-black discrimination disappear during the several centuries before the Civil Rights Act."
Such is the sad state of the conservative media.
When they aren't attacking such accomplishments and leaders, they are busy completely distorting civil rights history. Like Fox News' Glenn Beck who said today that "Civil rights marchers" weren't "crying for social justice." What's next? Neil Armstrong didn't walk on the moon?
So emboldened have they been by the lack of accountability they've faced from the traditional media over the past 15 months for their incendiary attacks on Obama and Democrats, they've now turned their guns on America's civil rights leaders and accomplishments.
It really is quite sick.
John Stossel's argument that the Public Accommodation section in the Civil Rights Act should be repealed and that the "free market" likely would have resolved the issue of racial discrimination by businesses is "ahistorical" and "unempirical," a civil rights expert said.
The Public Accommodation section of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination "on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin" by businesses open to the general public, such as restaurants, hotels, and theaters.
In an interview with Media Matters, Andrew Grant-Thomas, deputy director of the Ohio State's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, characterized Stossel's comments as "a silly statement," adding, "Market forces hadn't exactly made anti-black discrimination disappear during the several centuries before the Civil Rights Act."
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Three weeks ago, Media Matters reported that Fox host John Stossel is scheduled to keynote an upcoming fundraising luncheon for a "research" organization with heavy ties to the energy industry and whose research and representatives have repeatedly appeared on Fox.
The organization, the Institute for Energy Research (IER), says on the event's website that Stossel will keynote the June 4 luncheon in Houston. IER confirmed to Media Matters today that Stossel will still be speaking at the event. IER said it had arranged Stossel's appearance through a speaker's bureau and had not been in touch with Fox. Last fall, The New York Times reported that "a Fox spokesperson said all speeches given by employees require approval from the network."
From the April 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox host John Stossel is scheduled to keynote an upcoming fundraising luncheon for a "research" organization with heavy ties to the energy industry and whose representative appeared on Fox News twice yesterday.
The organization, the Institute for Energy Research, says on the event's website that Stossel will keynote the June 4 luncheon at the "Hilton Americas Hotel" in Houston. The institute lists several levels of "sponsorship" for the event. For $2,500, a "Silver Sponsor" and two guests get to attend a private reception with Stossel, while a "Gold Sponsor" pays $5,000 and can attend the reception with four guests. For $7,500, a "Platinum Sponsor" gets a "[c]onference call with John Stossel leading up to event, Private reception with John Stossel, and photo op for you and your guests":
A promotional video on the luncheon's site features footage of Stossel's program on the Fox Business Network. The description of the event says that "Mr. Stossel is an important partner in our battle for increased liberty in American energy markets" and highlights Stossel's roles on Fox Business and Fox News:
Mr. Stossel joined Fox Business Network (FBN) in October of 2009. He is the host of "Stossel," a weekly program that uses a libertarian viewpoint to highlight current consumer issues. He also appears regularly on Fox News Channel (FNC), where he provides his signature on-point analysis.
The site doesn't say whether Stossel is being paid for his appearance. However, after The New York Times published an article about Stossel making a paid speech to a group opposed to health care reform last fall, Stossel told the Baltimore Sun that he frequently makes speeches and donates the money to charity:
"I have always made speeches, and I have always given the money to charity," he says. "Some of the groups are controversial or involved in political debates. And the Times never wrote an article about it until I got to Fox. So I think it says more about the Times than it does about me."
IER says that it "maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today's global energy and environmental challenges." According to Media Matters' partner organization, the Media Matters Action Network, IER received $337,000 from ExxonMobil between 2002 and 2007. IER's president is Thomas Pyle, who previously lobbied for Koch Industries, a large private company with heavy interests in the oil industry. A report by Greenpeace recently detailed the Koch empire's extensive donations to organizations skeptical of global warming; it said that IER received $175,000 from Koch foundations between 2005 and 2008.
Twice on March 31, IER spokesman Patrick Creighton appeared on Fox to assail the Obama administration's environmental policies. On Special Report, one of Fox News' "straight news" programs, Creighton said the administration's policy amounted to the "Tonya Harding approach" -- that is, "you break your opponents' kneecaps to get ahead." Earlier in the day on Happening Now, Creighton argued that the administration's plan to open new stretches of coastline to oil and gas exploration didn't go far enough: