At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air.
The controversial conservative brothers founded the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its 501(c)(3) sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in 2004. David Koch has called AFP the group he feels "most closely attached to and most proud of" and chairs AFPF's board. (The Washington Post notes of the IRS code distinction: "A 501(c)(4) is allowed to do considerably more issue advocacy work than a 501(C)(3), however. Neither group has to disclose the identity of its donors or the amounts of money those contributors have given.")
Politico's Ken Vogel reported that AFP "intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group." The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP "may be America's third-biggest political party." In 2012, "More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds."
AFP and AFPF are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal noted, "It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors' identities -- plus the vast sums of money they move -- that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts."
AFP states that it "mobilizes citizens to effectively make their voices heard in public policy issue campaigns" and "educates citizens about where their elected officials stand on our issues." AFP campaigns have included false attacks about health care reform, clean energy, economic issues, and elected Democrats like President Obama.
Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers' affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.
The Koch/Fox News events are aimed at rallying attendees to support conservative causes and fight progressive initiatives. For example, an invitation for a May event featuring Tucker Carlson stated the rally will "send a message to the Left that we know the truth and support free market solutions." Information for a November 2013 rally with Monica Crowley said participants will "learn how you can fight back against government restrictions, taxes, and out-of-control spending." And an October 2012 event with John Stossel was a "Hands Off My Health Care Rally" which sought "to fully repeal Obama's deeply flawed health care bill."
Media Matters previously documented how numerous Fox News personalities campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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On May 29, Duck Dynasty star turned GOP darling Phil Robertson gave a keynote speech at the Republican Leadership Conference (RLC). His speech, which focused on religion and encouraged Republicans to "get godly," is the latest milestone in the controversial reality TV star's meteoric and unexpected rise in national conservative politics.
Robertson's presence at the RLC perplexed Fox News' Juan Williams, who questioned why the GOP had embraced a figure who gained national notoriety after making a number of homophobic and racist statements in an interview with GQ. During a May 31 appearance on Fox's Cashin' In, Williams asked what Robertson's rise in conservative politics said about the GOP:
BOLLING: I don't know, I don't know Juan, what about it? I think he's big business, and I think it's probably good for the GOP. No?
WILLIAMS: No, are you kidding me? What does it say, Eric, that GOP makes a hero out of a guy that says black were happy with slavery and segregation, and gays are to be damned. Is he the chief of outreach for the GOP, or is he the chief of internal self-satisfaction?
But Williams' own network is at least partly responsible for the GOP's fawning relationship with Robertson, having worked for months to whitewash his offensive comments and prop up the reality star as a beacon of American Christianity.
Fox's fascination with the Duck Dynasty family predates Robertson's GQ interview. But when A&E announced in Decemberthat they had placed Robertson on a hiatus over his comments, the network went into damage control mode; Fox's Sean Hannity described the comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values," while Fox reported Todd Starnes claimed Robertson was just reflecting "the teachings of the Bible." Even Megyn Kelly came to Robertson's defense, calling him a "Christian guy" and criticizing LGBT activists for trying to "shut down the debate."
After A&E reinstated Robertson, Fox News snatched the first 'exclusive' interview with the Robertson family as part of the network's "All American New Year." Since then, Fox has continued to whitewash Robertson's rhetoric by repeatedly depicting him and the Robertson family as besieged Christian heroes.
When St. Louis Rams draft Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend in celebration of his historic selection as the first openly gay active NFL player, there were predictable protests of homophobic disgust on social media.
The kiss also raised the ire of Fox News, where commentators condemned the kiss as "in your face" and "over affectionate." It's a reaction that highlights the way that modern homophobia can manifest in dishonest calls for "appropriate" behavior.
Commenting on Sam's selection on the May 12 edition of Fox & Friends, Donald Trump essentially set the tone for the network's response, noting that many people thought Sam's kiss was "inappropriate" and stating that he personally thought it was "out there a little bit":
The show's hosts didn't ask Trump to weigh in on this sports-related kiss.
On the May 12 edition of The Five, co-host Andrea Tantaros criticized Sam for being "overly affectionate on camera," but avowed that she doesn't like to see public displays of affection by anyone. Bill O'Reilly sounded the same theme on his show that night, saying that "there's no kissing in football" - nobody tell Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen - and affirming that he opposes public displays of affection between straight people, too.
O'Reilly argued Sam's "gay thing" was "way overplayed," "annoying," and "in your face." "Do I really need to see that?" O'Reilly asked. Fox contributor Juan Williams agreed, stating that he, too, found Sam's kiss to be a little too "in your face."
Perhaps the least self-aware reaction came from Fox News Latino contributor Rick Sanchez, who penned a May 13 column asserting that, while he supports gay rights, Sam's kiss "set back the cause of the LGBT movement." Dubbing the kiss a "cake suck," Sanchez falsely claimed that Sam "lick[ed]" cake off his boyfriend's face in a flagrant "affront to the NFL's culture":
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly became the latest right-wing media personality to frame gay rights supporters as bullies, baselessly alleging that support for marriage equality has risen so quickly because activists have threatened to "harm" and "hurt" opponents of same-sex marriage.
During the "Impact" segment on the April 21 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly hosted Fox contributors Mary Katharine Ham and Juan Williams to discuss the controversy surrounding the recent resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Eich stepped down after facing criticism over his 2008 donation in support of the virulently anti-gay campaign for California's Proposition 8. Eich became a right-wing cause célèbre, with conservative media personalities using his resignation to peddle the myth that gay rights supporters are persecuting conservative Christians.
O'Reilly echoed that narrative on his show, proclaiming that Eich's departure highlighted how "one of the reasons gay marriage has come on so strong in the USA is intimidation." O'Reilly claimed that gay rights activists are threatening to "harm" opponents of marriage equality:
O'REILLY: If you donate money to a traditional marriage cause, okay, we're going to hurt you. We're going to hurt you. We're going to find out where you live. We are going try to take your job. Maybe do vandalism to your home -- big, big difference, is there not?
O'REILLY: Now there are threats and demonization. And that unfortunately, has put gay marriage over the top. That is the technique that turned the tide -- intimidation and harm. That's what won it.
When pressed for evidence of the alleged intimidation and "harm" against marriage equality opponents, O'Reilly was unable to cite specific examples of harassment:
WILLIAMS: The only people I've heard going to somebody's house and attacking - I just heard that in the comment from that editor at The Nation, but that's not real.
O'REILLY: No, it's been on websites. There have been websites who have put people's names on there. There have been a lot of that stuff.
While it's true that the names of donors to Proposition 8 are publicly available, there's no evidence of widespread intimidation or harassment by marriage equality supporters. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), for example, has repeatedly tried and failed to demonstrate in court that supporters of Proposition 8 experienced serious "harm" from gay activists.
After months of championing anti-gay business owners who refuse service to gay customers because of their religious beliefs, Fox News condemned a proposed Arizona law that would protect businesses that discriminate against gay customers, comparing the measure to "Jim Crow laws."
During the February 25 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum invited Fox News contributor Juan Williams and The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros to discuss Arizona's controversial new anti-gay segregation law, SB 1062 which would protect businesses that refuse to serve gay customers on religious grounds. The measure, which awaits Gov. Jan Brewer's signature, has been condemned by a growing number of conservatives and business owners, including three Republicans senators who regret voting for the bill.
MacCallum, Williams, and Tantaros all condemned the measure, with MacCallum and Tantaros both drawing comparisons between the bill and racist "Jim Crow laws":
TANTAROS: What has happened, Martha, is this has spiraled totally out of control. And so, while the First Amendment is a really strong argument, I don't know why you would want to bring Jim Crow laws back to the forefront for homosexuals.
MACCALLUM: I mean, that's exactly what it sounds like.
TANTAROS: If you're a business owner, I don't know why you'd want to turn business away. And if you're gay, let's say, why would you want the baker of hate baking your cake anyway? Unfortunately, it has taken a really crazy turn and gotten way out of hand. And as Juan mentioned, a number of Republicans, three of them who voted to pass this said that they would change their mind.
MACCALLUM: It sounds like the lunch counter, Juan.
From the February 7 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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The media has extensively reported on the Republican National Committee's decision to boycott MSNBC following an offensive tweet for which the network subsequently apologized. But they've spent far less attention on the fact that the RNC denounced MSNBC while on Fox News -- a network that has frequently aired offensive and derogatory comments.
From the October 13 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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Fox Business host Stuart Varney argued that the potential nomination of Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to succeed Chairman Ben Bernanke would be based in part on her gender, making no mention of her aptitude or qualifications for the position.
On the September 26 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney was joined by Fox Business host Melissa Francis and Fox News contributor Juan Williams to discuss the current and continuing role of the Federal Reserve. The panel largely focused on the recently politicized nature of the nomination process and who is expected to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman. Varney ended the segment by arguing that the potential nomination of Janet Yellen as the next Fed chair would in part be driven by her gender.
VARNEY: Would you agree with me that the lady in question here, Janet Yellen, is a shoo-in to be the next Fed chair because she's female, she's academic, and it is assumed that she would keep on printing money. That conforms with everything that President Obama wants in a Fed chair. She's a shoo-in, agreed?
Varney's contention that gender would play a role in the nomination process reveals a troubling development in right-wing media. Rather than discussing Yellen's qualifications as an economist, her history of accurate econometric predictions, or her broad base of support among economists, conservative media instead focus their attention on Yellen's gender.
On September 18, the Institute for Women's Policy Research sent a letter to President Obama supporting Janet Yellen, signed by more than 500 economists from across the country. The signatures included several former White House economic policy officials and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman also expressed his support for Yellen's candidacy in The New York Times. From Krugman's article:
Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Fed's Board of Governors, isn't just up to the job; by any objective standard, she's the best-qualified person in America to take over when Ben Bernanke steps down as chairman.
From the September 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News host Martha MacCallum used the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to accuse President Obama of squandering a unique opportunity to tell African-Americans "to stand up and take responsibility" and "profess that there are no excuses for anybody in this country."
On the August 23 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum moderated a discussion of the 50th anniversary of the March with Fox contributor Juan Williams and Republican strategist Brad Blakeman. After Blakeman accused "half-black" Obama of injecting himself in racial issues instead of bringing people together, MacCallum asked whether the president "squandered a unique opportunity... to profess that there are no excuses for anybody in this country." She added that Obama may have squandered an opportunity to say, "no, you are not a victim, you need to stand up and take responsibility":
After the segment, MacCallum sent out a tweet asking whether the president missed an "opportunity to stand for responsible Fatherhood":
Rush Limbaugh's claim that it's acceptable for him to say "nigga" -- with the "a" at the end -- because some African-Americans have used that derivation of the racial slur drew strong criticism from several black journalists and commentators who called him "harsh" and a "bully."
"I just think this is not good," said Juan Williams, a regular Fox News commentator. "Obviously I think this whole level of conversation is pretty base and divisive. It's so harsh."
Gregory Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said Limbaugh should know better.
"We don't use any other offensive words on the air, why is this okay?" said Lee, who is also South Florida Sun-Sentinel executive sports editor. "As a professional broadcaster, he should have a deeper understanding of why. He knows why, but he knows this will help pump money into his empire by saying things of this sort."
At issue is a comment Limbaugh made on his syndicated radio show July 16th, in which he reacted to a CNN interview with Rachel Jenteal, a friend of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and witness in the murder trial of George Zimmerman. Jenteal had testified at the trial about her phone conversation with Martin the night he was shot and killed by Zimmerman.
In the CNN interview, Jenteal was asked if there was anything she wished she had said at the trial, she answered that she wished she had said, "nigga" in her court testimony.
After he played an audio clip of the CNN interview Limbaugh stated:
This was between 9 and 10 pm last night on CNN, who is in a quest to become the, again, most respected news organization in the country, perhaps even in the world. So, "nigga," with an "a" on the end, well I think I can now. Isn't that the point? 'Cause it's not racist. That's the point. I could be talking about a male, a Chinese male, a guy at the Laundromat. I could be talking about a man. That's what she said it means.
Jenteal herself weighed in on Limbaugh's views today on Huffington Post Live, saying she thought his comments sounded racist.
Chicago Tribune editorial writer and syndicated columnist Clarence Page said Limbaugh used the word simply to provoke a reaction.
"This is just Rush playing his usual classroom bully role, trying to be provocative for the case of being provocative," Page said. "He is feeding the lame brains out there who just want to get mad at somebody."
Page added, "Racial etiquette is like any other etiquette, there is a proper time and proper people to use certain language with and other times there is not. The N-word is like any other obscenity, you use one kind of language around a bunch of sailors smoking and drinking, you don't use it in church. What makes it provocative is that there is hardly a word in the English language that is more provocative than the N-word."
Eric Deggans, media writer for the Tampa Bay Times and a frequent CNN commentator, said Limbaugh's claim is nothing new.
"It's an old conservative argument, black people use the N-word so we can use the N-word, I think that is nonsense," Deggans said. "Why do you even feel the need to want to use the word? There's plenty of black people who disapprove of the use of the N-word in any shape or form. Some conservatives say, 'well, black people don't say anything when black people use the N word,' and that is totally wrong."
Deggans later noted, "The thing to me about Limbaugh is that he has gone from being somebody who has highlighted the hypocrisies of liberals in a funny way to becoming a punitive person, a person who is a scold, who gets on the radio and this whole thing about the N-word, there is nothing funny about it or entertaining about it, it is just awfulness and harshness."
Roland Martin, the former CNN commentator and veteran media voice, agreed.
"I have always made it clear that I do not believe that the N-word should be used," Martin said in a phone interview. "It is a word, a hateful word that has been used against black folks for a long time." He said that debating it makes no sense: "When was the last time you saw Jews in this country having a debate, 'hmmm should we use the K-word?' or Hispanics debating, 'should we use the W-word?"
Fox has blasted civil rights leaders and organizations as "race hustlers" for taking action in response to George Zimmerman being found not guilty of murder in the killing of 17-year-old African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.