Fox News provided a platform for Iowa Senate Candidate Joni Ernst (R) to recite talking points during an interview on the network, but neglected to ask Ernst about any of her controversial policy positions that are garnering widespread criticism across other media outlets.
During the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum interviewed Ernst about her campaign for the U.S. Senate opposite Democrat Bruce Braley. After highlighting a clip of Ernst's infamous campaign ad featuring the castration of pigs, MacCallum asked Ernst a series of softball questions including:
1. Were you nervous that that ad might backfire on you, Joni?
2. There's a huge ground game, Democratic ground game, very strong in Iowa left over even from President Obama's runs there. How are you going to compete with that?
3. How many undecided voters do you believe are out there right now, and what do you think is the major issue that's on their minds? What are they torn between and how are you going to reach them?
4. So I'm hearing in the local reporting that there's an increase in requests for absentee ballots from Independents and also from Democrats, so there's definitely an effort by your opponent to get out some of these voters who maybe don't usually vote in midterm elections. How does your ground game match up to what they're doing?
Fox's mild string of questions failed to get to the heart of Ernst's controversial platform. While MacCallum's inquiries into Ernst's "ground game" strategies provided the candidate a platform to discuss her own talking points, the interview failed to include the full scope of Ernst's controversial policy positions which have come under fire from other media outlets.
The Washington Post recently criticized the candidate for attempting to "cover her tracks" by backtracking on her previous support for a 'Personhood' amendment -- which would amend the state Constitution, preventing access to preventative health services for women including abortion and various forms of contraception.
ThinkProgress pointed out that Ernst is one of many Republican politicians that admit to "not knowing the science of climate change, but remain happy declaring we need do nothing about it," and noted that Ernst's climate denial was an issue so important it could cost her the election.
In a piece asking "How Does This GOP Senate Candidate Keep Getting Away With Such Terrible Gaffes," Mother Jones noted that Ernst has alleged that Obama has "become a dictator" and may deserve impeachment.
But any discussion of these extreme viewpoints were noticeably missing from today's interview.
Fox News is calling recent court decisions blocking voter ID laws a "setback," despite the fact that these decisions will allow more people to engage in the political process.
On October 9, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking Wisconsin's voter ID law -- a law that The New York Times called "one of the strictest in the nation." Even though these kinds of voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of color and in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent, right-wing media outlets has repeatedly celebrated them. National Review Online was highly supportive of Wisconsin's law in particular, and it called fears that the new ID requirements would cause "chaos at the polls" overblown because "there has been no such 'chaos' in any of the other states that have implemented voter-ID laws over the past ten years."
Elsewhere, in Texas, a federal court struck down that state's voter ID law -- another stringent law that right-wing media have described as "a good thing." However, in its ruling, the court called Texas' law an "unconstitutional poll tax" that "has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose."
Yet Fox News was apparently unmoved by the Texas court's proclamation that the right to vote "defines our nation as a democracy." On the October 10 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum said the "timing" of the orders was "very interesting." Her co-host, Bill Hemmer, said the decisions were "the latest setbacks" to laws "meant to crack down on voter fraud":
The timing is interesting, but probably not in the way MacCallum thinks. Although the court's order doesn't say why it stopped Wisconsin's law from being implemented, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston suggested that "the fact that this year's election is less than a month away may have been the key factor." In its brief in the Wisconsin case, the ACLU also argued that "[n]o court has permitted a voter ID law to go into effect this close to an election based on last-minute changes to the law." Had the law been implemented before the 2014 election, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters could have been affected. According to the ACLU and the Advancement Project, state officials would have had "to issue some 6,000 IDs per day between now and the election" to ensure that every eligible voter had the required form of identification.
On September 30, California became the first state to ban the use of plastic bags in stores, leading to a barrage of misinformation from various media outlets claiming the ban would actually hurt the environment. However, these contrarian claims are undermined by research showing that previous bans and taxes have reduced energy use and litter, while doing no harm to the economy.
Fox News' Martha MacCallum falsely suggested the White House has failed to acknowledge the connection between the Khorasan group, the terrorist organization recently targeted along with the Islamic State (ISIS) by U.S. airstrikes, and Al Qaeda -- ignoring a statement from President Obama doing just that.
During the September 30 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and contributor Stephen Hayes discussed whether the White House had "misunderstood the evolution of Al Qaeda" with respect to ISIS and the Khorasan group. Speculating as to why many people had not previously heard of the Khorasan group, MacCallum asked why "the White House doesn't want to call" the Khorasan group Al Qaeda:
But in a September 23 statement on the U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Obama specifically referenced the Khorasan group's affiliation with the terrorist organization, noting that it consisted of "seasoned al Qaeda operatives" (emphasis added):
OBAMA: Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group. And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.
Right-wing media are claiming that President Obama's decision to target the Islamic State and Khorasan terror groups with airstrikes is a political move designed to give Democrats a boost in the 2014 midterm elections.
In response to the protests following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the right-wing media have unleashed an array of race-baiting tropes. From "lynch mobs" to "race pimps," here are some of the worst examples.
Right-wing media emphasized the supposed prevalence of "black-on-black" violence in response to the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. But such emphasis takes the crime statistics out of context in order to hype the racial aspect.
In the wake of the tragic shooting death of unarmed Missouri teenager Michael Brown, right-wing media outlets attacked President Obama's uncontroversial statement of condolences and suggested the president was to blame for the state of race relations in the United States.
Right-wing media and Republicans are blaming Democrats and President Obama for allegedly "ginning up" the issue of impeachment for political benefit, but that Pandora's Box was opened by conservatives themselves, who have been demanding impeachment since Obama first took office.
In an interview with conspiracy website WND (which has its own "Impeachment Store"), Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) told conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi that President Obama "wants us to impeach him now" because "his senior advisors believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote."
Stockman's proclamation that the president is "begging to be impeached" was quickly trumpeted as the top story on the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, and Stockman isn't the only one trying to pin the increase in impeachment discussion on Democrats. While refusing to answer whether impeachment is off the table for House Republicans, incoming House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) claimed "this might be the first White House in History that's trying to start the narrative of impeaching their own president."
Fox News America's Newsroom host Martha MacCallum also attempted to distance impeachment rhetoric from the right and pin it on Democrats, claiming that while "some" Republicans have called for impeachment, "The White House itself has been talking a lot about this potential impeachment, even though a lot of members of the GOP want nothing to do with it."
She continued, saying impeachment was "kind of crazy when you think about it," and dismissed Fox News contributor Sarah Palin's impeachment call, saying "it really gained no traction among Republicans. A couple talk show hosts also liked the idea, apparently, but that seemed to be pretty much as far as it went. And now, there seems to be a move to convince Americans that all Republicans are interested in that option." Her guest, Republican New Hampshire Senate candidate and former Fox News contributor Scott Brown, responded by saying that there is "no appetite" for impeachment among Americans.
While MacCallum claimed Palin's call for impeachment "gained no traction among Republicans," in Fox News' own poll released last week, a majority of Republicans (56 percent) endorsed the idea of impeaching Obama.
Furthermore, these attempts to pivot and shift blame towards Democrats for invoking impeachment severely downplay conservatives' responsibility for the narrative.
Fox News figures have repeatedly claimed a surge of National Guard troops to the U.S. - Mexico border would stem the tide of people seeking refugee status in the United States, but National Guardsmen cannot apprehend people at the border or turn them away.
On the July 13 Fox News Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) said he is requesting troops on the border because "what you have to have is this clear presence on the border, where people understand that you no longer can just freely go and walk across the Rio Grande and stay in America from now on." In response, guest host Brit Hume said to Perry, "I get that that's the message governor. What I don't quite understand is how it is with the law being the way it is, the presence of more troops or forces on the border who are not legally able to apprehend these immigrants, these border crossers, is going to change anything without the law being changed first."
Perry returned to his demand for an increased National Guard presence, arguing that "you bring boots on the ground to send that message clearly, both visually and otherwise."
Mere weeks after right-wing media loudly defended racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy with erroneous allegations of a "federal land grab" of his property, the same conservative outlets are now advocating for a border fence that would require an immense seizure of private lands.
In the first half of 2014, thousands of children fled across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape rising violence plaguing their home countries in Central America. Anti-immigrant figures in the right-wing media have responded by stoking nativist insecurities, erroneously suggesting the children pose public health and safety concerns and that they will be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely.
Many of these figures have also returned to calls for a fence to be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham made the completion of a border fence part of her personal plan to address holes in the nation's immigration policy in a manifesto titled, "The Government Vs. The People: Rebuilding Trust In The Midst Of The Illegal Alien Tsunami".
On Fox News July 9, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum floated the idea of prioritizing appropriations to construct a border fence over money for humanitarian care and administrative personnel to facilitate customs hearings. On July 8, Fox guest Pat Buchanan said in an appearance on Hannity, "Why cannot the government say 'Look, let's get together, we do need a secure fence, a double- or triple-link fence, all along the border of the United States with Mexico'?"
About a week earlier, contributor Charles Krauthammer advocated for a border fence, saying, "If fences don't work, why is there one around the White House?"
Calls for a fence often lack context or details -- and in MacCallum's case, drastically misinform on the cost of such an endeavor. In particular, conservative media tend to ignore the fact that, in order to complete a border fence, the federal government will have to seize, through eminent domain, the private property of American landowners from Texas to California.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum suggested the construction of a border fence would be a cost-effective strategy for dealing with the influx of children fleeing Central America across the U.S.-Mexico border, but she underestimated the real cost of construction by billions of dollars.
On July 8th, Politico reported that President Obama requested $3.73 billion in emergency funds from Congress "to address the influx of child migrants crossing the Southwest border and Rio Grande from Central America." The funds would be used for border enforcement, humanitarian assistance for unaccompanied children, and immigration courts.
During an interview with Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) on the July 9 edition of America's Newsroom, MacCallum criticized the Obama administration for requesting $3.7 billion to address the humanitarian crisis which she claimed would only "plug the hole" when the "most recent estimate" for the cost to build border fence was only $6.5 billion:
MACCALLUM: 3.7, and we just listened to sort of a detail of where the money goes -- a lot of it is into facilities and for judges and that kind of thing as you say. It was interesting -- we looked back this morning at the latest estimate -- the most recent estimate we could find for what it would have cost to build the fence across the border and that's about six and a half billion dollars. So now you've got a 3.7 billion dollar request to basically -- you know -- plug the hole and take care of the people who came through it.
But MacCallum is wrong. According to the New York Times, the $6.5 billion figure MacCallum cited was merely an estimate of the cost to "deploy, operate and maintain" the existing border fence, which currently covers 650 miles, not the cost to extend the fence across new territory. In fact, the Times also reported that Customs and Border Protection projected the cost of finishing one fence across the southern border of the U.S. to be more than $22 billion, not including costs to acquire land and maintain the fence:
In 2009, the Congressional Search Service reported that the Department of Homeland Security had spent roughly up to $21 million per mile to build a primary fence near San Diego. The cost had ballooned as the fence extended into hills and gullies along the line.
The same year, Customs and Border Protection estimated costs of building an additional 3.5 miles of fence near San Diego at $16 million per mile. Even this lower figure would yield a rough projection of $22.4 billion for a single fence across the 1,400 miles remaining today.
These estimates do not include the costs of acquiring land, nor the expense of maintaining a fence that is exposed to constant efforts by illegal crossers to bore through it or under it or to bring it down. In March, Customs and Border Protection estimated it would cost $6.5 billion "to deploy, operate and maintain" the existing border fencing over an expected maximum lifetime of 20 years. The agency reported repairing 4,037 breaches in 2010 alone.
Fox continues to offer misinformation and advocate anti-immigration policies, recommending the federal government respond to the increasing numbers of of children fleeing gang violence in Central America by building multiple fences and militarizing the border.
Fox News' Adam Housley suddenly flipped his own network's script, calling the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala not "that big of a deal," and accused the White House of embellishing his role in the deadly Benghazi attacks -- a report that's inconsistent with other Fox News reports naming Khatalla as a key suspect.
American forces apprehended Khattala in Libya on June 15. When the news broke on June 17, Fox News quickly reported the top militia leader's arrest. Then on June 27, Khattala went from a top terrorism leader to small potatoes.
Fox News diminished Khattala's capture, suggesting the militia leader was small time and the Obama administration is ignoring "actionable intelligence" on larger suspects. On the June 27 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox correspondent Adam Housley reported that Khattala's capture "wasn't that big of a deal at all," because Khattala was considered by officials to be "low-hanging fruit." Housley capitalized on diminishing Khattala's profile in order to criticize President Obama for failing to follow through on his "promise to stay focused on hunting down those responsible for the 2012 attack.":
Fox News host Martha MacCallum described the pending Hobby Lobby case -- a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that all employer-sponsored health insurance cover contraceptives as part of preventive services -- by repeating four right-wing media myths in the span of 17 seconds. MacCallum adopted the false narrative of the religious owners of the for-profit, secular chain store and its supporters during the June 25 edition of America's Newsroom:
1. "The Hobby Lobby case, which challenges the Obamacare conception mandate that requires ..."
As political science professor Scott Lemieux explained, "there is no 'contraception mandate.' Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all. ... What is erroneously described as a 'mandate' simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards." In other words, Hobby Lobby can avoid contraception coverage by providing no health insurance at all -- but it may not hold its employees hostage by sponsoring health insurance policies that are not complaint with the ACA.
2. "... that employers provide ..."
As Georgetown Law professor Marty Lederman has written, it would be the federal government that requires the insurance companies -- not Hobby Lobby -- to meet the minimum coverage standards that include comprehensive preventive services, including birth control. According to Lederman, "Once the HHS Rule goes into effect, it would not be the Greens who 'directed' the Hobby Lobby ... insurance plans, in any real sense, to cover contraception: That would, instead, be a legal requirement imposed by the government -- and it's a requirement that applies to any and all such plans throughout the nation, whether sponsored by an employer or not."
3. "... free access to conception methods ..."
It turns out that so-called "free" birth control isn't actually free. In fact, "it is misleading -- and politically dangerous to say so," according to Jodi Jacobson, editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check, because "if you have insurance, you pay for it, either by virtue of your labor or out of your own pocket, or, depending on the situation, both. And under the ACA, it is now mandated that your insurance plan cover certain benefits without a co-pay. This does not make them 'free.' It means that you are paying for that service as part of your premium. You earned it, you paid for it, it is yours. If you pay for it, you deserve to get it."
4. "... as part of a comprehensive Obamacare health policy, includ[ed] in that would be some drugs which could trigger abortion."
Despite the fact that Hobby Lobby "sincerely believes" that some contraceptives result in the termination of a pregnancy, the science simply does not support this claim. According to The New York Times, "It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion ... is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents' definition of abortion-inducing drugs."
Fox News ran with the unsubstantiated and explicitly discredited claim that the U.S. might have paid a cash ransom to an Afghani militant group in exchange for the recent release of an American soldier, an assertion that has been repeatedly denied by the White House.
During the June 9 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox's senior political analyst Brit Hume hypothesized that in addition to releasing five Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. may have paid a cash ransom to the Haqqani network, Bergdahl's captors. Hume claimed that because the Haqqani network "is interested in money," "that gives rise to the question, which the administration has yet to answer, as to whether in addition to the release of these five Taliban prisoners, some ransom was paid."
MacCallum ran with the ransom idea:
MACCALLUM: A lot of layers and a lot of questions. And I would imagine Congress would have questions about that money as well.
HUME: Of course.
MACCALLUM: Whether or not they would have been put in the loop on that, right?
HUME: Sooner or later that question's going to be asked to somebody under oath, or perhaps the administration may come out and say, 'Yes, in addition we paid X amount of money to get this guy freed because we thought it was so important. And we'll see how people react to that.
MACCALLUM: But that raises the question then, why would you need to release these Taliban prisoners if that was part of the deal? And that goes back to perhaps some of these other questions about --
HUME: Well if it turns out that ransom was paid -- and this is speculation -- if it turns out ransom was paid, and that was what did the trick, that really does, as you suggest Martha, sharpen the question of well, why did you need to release these Taliban starting-five, as they've been called by some people?
Fox even floated their theory in the following segment with Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA), asking McCarthy, "What about this other question with the money ... how will you get to the bottom of the question whether or not money was exchanged?"
It's a conspiracy theory that parrots Fox contributor Oliver North's unsourced speculation that "somebody paid a ransom" for Bergdahl -- and one that has already been explicitly debunked.
The White House has flatly denied that money was exchanged for Bergdahl's release. While a ransom was previously considered as a possibility in the prisoner swap negotiations, a National Security Staff spokesperson explicitly denied the idea last week, according to the Houston Chronicle:
The White House countered Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Clear Lake, in a statement Friday after the congressman had questioned whether President Barack Obama paid ransom for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release.
"The United States did not provide money in return for Sgt. Bergdahl," National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
In fact, after Fox's lengthy speculation, an official White House Twitter account reiterated the fact that no cash was exchanged in response to right-wing claims: