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:
Loading the player reg...
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:
Loading the player reg...
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:
Loading the player reg...
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.
Fox News Sunday panelists ignored a poll showing a majority of Texans oppose a proposed abortion ban bill, instead pushing the baseless claim that the bill is supported by that state's public.
Republicans in Texas recently attempted to pass a bill during a special legislative session that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, which is unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent, with lower courts recently striking down similar bans in two other states. The bill did not include exemptions for rape or incest and contained other restrictions that would force all but five clinics that provide abortions in the state to close. The bill was defeated after Texas Senator Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for 11 hours, causing the special session to expire before the bill was passed. But Governor Rick Perry said he would convene another special session on July 1 to pass the bill.
When discussing the second attempt to pass the bill, the June 30 Fox News Sunday panel focused solely on the bill's 20 week ban provision to baselessly claim that the bill would pass because it has the support of the Texas public. Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin said Gov. Perry "is completely in tune with public opinion" on the bill. Fox News contributor Juan Williams backed Rubin, saying that polling shows "abortions after 20 weeks are not popular with anybody." Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel said that the ban is "something that Americans actually have a great deal of unanimity on."
But a mid-June poll of Texas residents showed that a majority of Texans oppose the abortion ban bill. The poll, conducted by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, found that 51 percent of Texans opposed the bill. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that Texas has enough abortion restrictions already, and 52 percent said they think that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Seventy-four percent, including a majority of Republicans and Independents, felt that private medical decisions about abortion should not be made by politicians.
Fox News' America's Newsroom criticized a Hannity segment for "cross[ing] the line" of "civil society" after a frequent Hannity guest yelled for his female debate opponent to "know your role and shut your mouth." The daytime program wondered if this type of behavior -- not far from standard fare on Hannity and other Fox primetime programming -- damages the nation's ability to have serious discussions.
Radio host and frequent Hannity guest Bill Cunningham appeared on the June 20 edition of Hannity to debate Fox contributor Tamara Holder on the merits of claims that Attorney General Eric Holder mislead Congress while under oath. Out of the gate, Cunningham told Tamara Holder she was "one of the stooges of the left," pointing his finger at her while loudly shouting, "Sign the petition, Tamara! To call for the resignation of the chief law enforcement officer of this nation because he lied under oath when he criminalized journalism. And you know he did it but you refuse to do what's right." Holder replied that, "your finger does not prove your point," pointing back at Cunningham:
CUNNINGHAM: Whose finger's in my face right now?
HOLDER: Mine, because I'm telling you to shut up.
CUNNINGHAM: Wait a minute. You shut up. Know your role and shut your mouth.
HOLDER: My role as a woman?
CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. Yeah.
HOLDER: What is your obsession with stooges? Aren't stooges like little elves?
CUNNINGHAM: I'm sitting next to you. I'm sitting next to you. And you're a liberal stooge and an excuse-monger for the Obama administration.
HOLDER: Never mind. I --
CUNNINGHAM: What are you going to cry?
HOLDER: No! I'm not going to cry.
CUNNINGHAM: You're not going to cry?
The next morning, America's Newsroom dedicated a segment to whether Cunningham's behavior "crossed the line," concluding that conduct like this on Hannity stifled important public debate on national issues. Host Martha MacCallum appeared speechless after playing an excerpt of Cunningham's comments, asking, "Is this what we've come to? Is this civil society?"
Fox contributors Juan Williams and Mary Katherine Ham agreed that Cunningham's conduct was unacceptable, as Williams asserted, "He not only crossed the line, he obliterated the line ... I think it shut down the conversation. That doesn't help."
MacCallum shared the concern that personal attacks like Cunningham's damage the nation's ability to communicate, wondering, "What does this say, sort of, about our ability to communicate and you know, have a serious, respectful discussion on these things these days?" Williams replied, "What it does is, it makes it very difficult then to cross lines to have reasoned conversation."
Bill Cunningham has been crossing the line for years, and yet Fox continues to host him during primetime. Among his most egregious claims, Cunningham has declared President Obama "to be the beast. Six-six-six," and said that under the Obama administration "women are going to sell their bodies for pennies." He claimed the poor are in poverty "because they lack values, ethics, and morals" and advocated "beat[ing]" the hell outta" the homeless. Still, a Nexis transcript search finds Hannity has hosted Cunningham eight times so far in 2013.
The Equal Pay Act was signed into law on June 10, 1963, by President Kennedy to prohibit wage discrimination based on sex. Fifty years later, as the issue of gender income inequality continues to affect America, conservative media figures have consistently tried to downplay and minimize these concerns.
Fox host Lou Dobbs and several Fox contributors -- all men -- lamented news that a record number of women are now the economic breadwinners of their families. The Fox figures worried about the dissolution of American society and nature.
Pew Research released a study on May 29 which found mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in a record 40 percent of all American households with minor children. Pew's report considered both single mothers and married mothers who earned a higher income than their husbands.
On his Fox business program, Dobbs described the Pew study as "showing that women have become the breadwinners in this country, and a lot of other concerning and troubling statistics." He went on to call the report suggestive of "society dissolv[ing] around us."
Fox contributor Juan Williams agreed, calling record female breadwinners indicative of "something going terribly wrong in American society":
What we're seeing with four out of 10 families, now the woman is the primary breadwinner. You're seeing the disintegration of marriage, you're seeing men who were hard hit by the economic recession in ways that women weren't. But you're seeing, I think, systemically, larger than the political stories that we follow every day, something going terribly wrong in American society, and it's hurting our children, and it's going to have impact for generations to come.
Erick Erickson, one of Fox's newest contributors, was troubled by female breadwinners and claimed that people who defend them are "anti-science." Erickson told viewers:
When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and female in society, and the other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complimentary role. We as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complimentary relationships in nuclear families, and it's tearing us apart.
Fox News host Jon Scott looped the opposition to marriage equality into the fight against gun violence, claiming that conservatives are lined up in front of the Supreme Court "trying to defend traditional marriage" in part because gun violence is exacerbated by the institution's decline.
On the March 27 edition of Happening Now, Scott hosted Fox News contributor Juan Williams to discuss the nexus between race, gun violence, and the family unit. Scott then tied the discussion to the debate over the Defense Of Marriage Act, saying that a rise in gun and gang violence and drug use was "why so many hundreds of conservatives are lined up outside the Supreme Court right now trying to defend traditional marriage, because they say marriage is an important building block to the society."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the vast majority of protestors outside of the Supreme Court were supporters of marriage equality. The Times described the conservative DOMA protestors Scott cited, noting they "waved signs reading 'Kids do best with a mom and dad' and 'Appeal to Heaven'."
But science contradicts Scott's implication that children raised in same-sex parent households are prone to violence or drug addiction. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a 25-year study in 2004 that concluded there is no link between parents' sexual orientation and the emotional health of their children, and the American Psychological Association came to a similar conclusion in a 2004 compilation of research concerning same-sex parenting:
Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.