In the wake of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner crash, Fox News has rushed to conveniently rewrite history to disparage President Obama by drawing false comparisons to former President Ronald Reagan's response to a 1983 attack on a Korean airliner. The reactions of many Fox figures praising Reagan stood in stark contrast with that of Fox's Chris Wallace, who accurately noted Reagan's apparent reluctance to cut short his vacation in order to address the issue.
A Malaysia Airlines jetliner exploded and crashed on July 17, carrying 298 people. The New York Times reported the plane was allegedly shot down by what "American officials described as a Russian-made antiaircraft missile," adding that the crash elevated tensions between Ukraine and Russia over the insurgency in eastern Ukraine "into a new international crisis." Obama addressed the event on July 18, calling the deaths of innocent people an "outrage of unspeakable proportions."
On the heels of the plane explosion, Fox News has rushed to disparage Obama for continuing his planned fundraising trip in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, drawing comparisons to Reagan's initial response to a Korean Air passenger jet downed by the Soviet Union in 1983.
In fact, Reagan initially sent aides to respond to the attack on the airliner, waiting four days before delivering the speech condemning the Soviet Union that is now being lauded by many pundits at Fox News.
Fox's Wallace pushed back against his network peers, noting that "sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on." He continued, noting that Reagan had to be persuaded to leave his ranch and return to Washington for a speech that came four days after the attack (emphasis added):
WALLACE: I know there's like an immediate reaction, that you want to say he should have run back to Washington and gone back to the Situation Room. I know that a lot of folks at Fox here are saying that. As somebody who covered the White House and saw for six years Ronald Reagan in various situations, sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on. If he had gone back to Washington and gone to the situation room -- first of all, there's not much he can do, we're not in control of the situation. And it would have dialed it up.
WALLACE: I was covering Ronald Reagan at that time. He was in Santa Barbara at his ranch when that happened, and quite frankly he didn't want to leave. And his advisers realized how terrible this looked, and eventually persuaded him he had to fly back to Washington and had to give this speech to the nation, but it did take him four days.
Nevertheless, his colleagues praised Reagan's response as an example of ideal leadership in contrast with Obama's. On the July 17 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly connected the July 17 tragedy to the 1983 Korean airliner crash, highlighting Reagan's speech in response and noting in comparison that Obama has "been accused of 'leading from behind.' " Fox contributor Chris Stirewalt compared Reagan's response to Obama's, saying Reagan's response made Americans feel "reassured and resolute," and Kelly echoed that Obama's response "makes him look unconnected and makes a lot of Americans feel unrepresented."
Fox's Bill O'Reilly downplayed the gravity of the gender pay gap, going so far as to question "the point" of discussing wage disparities between men and women.
On January 9, Maria Shriver and the Center For American Progress released The Shriver Report, a study dedicated to exposing and reducing the gender wage gap by focusing on the drivers of gender-based income inequality. Although women make up approximately half of all workers in the United States, they earn on average only 77 percent of what the average male makes.
On the January 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly questioned whether the Shriver Report was "a big deal," asking his two female guests what "the point" is to drawing attention to the gender wage gap other than advocating for the government to "guarantee equal wages." O'Reilly went on to attribute gender wage disparities to differences in education level:
Bill O'Reilly decried the "corroding culture" and "derelict parenting" in America today and claimed that President Obama has "never addressed" the issue. In fact, the president has discussed the issue several times -- including during the administration's push for gun control legislation and as recently as last month following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
On August 21, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly discussed the recent murder of Australian college student Christopher Lane and connected it to the "corroding culture" and "the corruption of certain groups in this country." When O'Reilly Factor guest Kate Obenshain wondered why President Obama is not "jumping in right now to say 'we have a serious problem among our young people.'" O'Reilly responded saying, "He doesn't believe we have a serious problem among our young people." Fox contributor Kirsten Powers challenged O'Reilly's assertion, but he continued, "Five years in office. He's never addressed it one time -- the culture, the coarse culture, the derelict parenting -- he's never made it a centerpiece. We've had healthy gardens. We've had 'let's do some exercise.' We've had a whole bunch of other outreach programs. Nothing about this."
But as recently as July 19, President Obama spoke at length about issues young African Americans face while giving remarks on race and the death of Trayvon Martin. The president said, "We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys," before continuing:
OBAMA: And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?
I'm not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I'm not sure that that's what we're talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I've got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they're a full part of this society and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed -- I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And during the administration's recent push for new gun control legislation, Obama addressed a crowd in Chicago to stress the need for stronger families to help reduce crime and violence. According to an NBC Chicago transcript of the speech, Obama said, "There's no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families -- which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood."
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.
From the April 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Breitbart.com and National Review Online (NRO) are using today's Equal Pay Day holiday to misinform about gender wage inequality. Right-wing media have routinely downplayed and obscured legitimate concerns about wage inequality.
Equal Pay Day was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. According to a White House proclamation released on Equal Pay Day in 2012, "National Equal Pay Day represents the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year, reminding us that we must keep striving for an America where everyone gets an equal day's pay for an equal day's work."
Breitbart.com and NRO both posted a video today that claims the gender wage gap is a myth, positing that the gap fails to account for women's choices, which are primarily responsible for any discrepancies in salary. The video comes from the conservative Independent Women's Forum, a group The New York Times described as "a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women."
Although the wage gap has decreased since the 1963 passage of the Equal Pay Act, women's earnings remain far below that of men. A report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that "in 2011, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent." According to the National Women's Law Center, the wage gap for minority women is even worse: African-American and Hispanic women make 64 and 55 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earn. The claim that personal choice is responsible for the gender wage gap has also been debunked, mostly recently in the AAUW's 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report.
Breitbart.com and NRO's misleading claims about gender wage inequality follow a long trend of right-wing media's misinformation on equal pay. Here are just a few examples since 2012:
Regular Fox News guest Kate Obenshain criticized the Obama administration's reported forthcoming push to require background checks for all potential gun buyers, claiming it would keep her from selling a gun to her neighbor. In fact, it would only prevent such sales if the purchaser was not legally permitted to own the weapon.
The Washington Post has reported that a working group led by Vice President Biden is considering measures to prevent gun violence. Neither the White House nor the working group has proposed any legislation banning private sales altogether as Obenshain suggested on Fox & Friends when she said that banning "individuals from being able to sell guns to other individuals" is what "closing the gun show loophole is about."
Instead, the Post reported that the White House is considering requiring every would-be gun purchaser to submit to a background check when they try to buy a firearm; federal law currently requires such a check only if the gun is bought from a licensed firearms dealer. These background checks determine whether or not the intended buyer is legally allowed to own a gun, or is banned from gun ownership due to mental health or a criminal record. Several states already have universal background checks to prevent gun sales to felons and other prohibited purchasers while still allowing the private sale of firearms, provided the buyer undergoes a background check.
In the absence of a universal background check requirement, private sellers at gun shows have proven to be a source of weapons trafficked to Mexican drug cartels. According to a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms singled out private sellers at gun shows as a source of guns used by drug cartels:
In addition to these firearms that are successfully traced back to a retail dealer, some ATF officials told us, based on information from their operations and investigations, many seized guns also come from private sales at gun shows, though it is impossible to know this exact number due to the lack of records kept for such purchases.
Though more recent figures are unavailable, a 1997 study from the Department of Justice found that private gun sales outside of stores also make up an estimated 40 percent of all firearm sales.
Moreover, Obenshain is at odds with the overwhelming majority of NRA members and gun owners who support universal background checks. A poll conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns in July found that 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support "requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun."
Today, as guest-host for Your World with Neil Cavuto, Bolling did a segment with Young America's Foundation's Kate Obenshain attacking gender wage equality legislation. Senate Democrats are advocating for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation designed to combat gender wage discrimination suffered by women in the workplace.
Rather than discuss the merits of the legislation, Bolling and Obenshain spent most of their time attacking the motives of the senators and members of the Obama administration championing the legislation.
The closest they came to a substantive discussion of the need for pay equity legislation was mentioning a Rasmussen Reports poll that found that 73 percent of employed adults found that their own workplace is "free of gender discrimination."
Even leaving aside the issue of whether asking people whether there is gender discrimination in their own workplace has anything to do with whether people believe that employment discrimination exists in the country as a whole, why does it matter what polling says? What really matters is whether there is a wage gap. And on that subject, the data is clear.
Data from the U.S. Census shows that women's earnings represent only 77 percent of what men earn. This pay gap extends across all backgrounds, ages and levels of achievement, as demonstrated by the American Association of University Women. Even accounting for industry, occupation, and a plethora of other factors, research has indicated a persistent discrepancy between wages.
Furthermore, even Bolling's and Obenshain's attempt to attack the people championing workplace equity is flawed. Obenshain's claim that Senate Democrats do not practice the pay equity they preach has already been debunked. And her claim that Obama's economic policies have disproportionately impacted women negatively is equally flawed.
From the October 6 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News hosts and analysts helped portray Sarah Palin's bus tour, organized by her Political Action Committee, as an effort to revitalize Palin's "brand." Palin then sat for an interview on the bus tour with Greta Van Susteren, who devoted the first half of her Fox News show to what Fox itself is describing as an effort to renew interest in Palin's brand.
The right-wing media initially praised Andrew Breitbart for his "great work" in publishing a video which he said depicted the supposed "racism" of then-Obama administration official Shirley Sherrod. However, Breitbart's claims quickly unraveled when more information about the incident emerged and the full, unedited video was released.
From the June 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the February 19 CPAC event, "Going Rogue":
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From the February 19 CPAC event, "Going Rogue":
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Right-wing media figures seized on what ABC News' Jake Tapper has described as an "apparently erroneous" report of a statement allegedly made by President Obama's nominee for special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain to portray him as a "pro-jihadist," a "radical," and a "terrorist sympathizer." But, as Tapper points out, Hussain has argued that terrorism is "antithetical" to Islam had has written extensively on "[d]iscrediting the terrorist ideology...to stop al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups."