Fox News host Megyn Kelly whitewashed Fox's transparent politicization of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial to frame it as an example of her network's commitment to provide "context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere."
Kelly appeared on the October 13 edition of Fox's Media Buzz to discuss her new show, The Kelly File. During the segment, Kelly pushed back against the suggestion that "Fox News leans right," criticizing what she characterized as the "marching orders of media that we do believe leans left," and saying that viewers of her show would see different stories from what they would find in the mainstream media. She claimed that "what we do at Fox News is fair and balanced broadcasting" and held up Fox's coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial as an example of the network's commitment to providing "context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere" (emphasis added):
HOWARD KURTZ (host): What about the counter-notion that maybe as a counterweight that Fox News leans right. Does your show lean right?
KELLY: I don't think that's true. I think what we do at Fox News is fair and balanced broadcasting. And so, you know if you tune in to see my show at 9 pm, you're not going to see the same stories as you see on the front cover of The New York Times necessarily. You know, that's not what we get paid to do, is just follow the marching orders of media that we do believe leans left. That there's plenty of options if people want that. But Fox News gets paid for telling the full story, the complete story, and having both sides of the argument presented in a way.
KURTZ: But will I see more Republicans than Democrats?
KELLY: It depends on the night and the story. You know? I mean, hopefully no, over the course of a week or two, it will all balance out and you'll see both sides. And if you have a Republican you can always press them with the Democratic talking points and vice versa, so there's ways of presenting both sides even if you have more of one. But I think the thing that Fox also does is provide context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere and to tell stories that won't get told elsewhere. I mean, the Gosnell abortion doctor story is one example that very few were covering aggressively until Fox News really picked it up. And that was a hard story to tell. But we did.
But Fox's coverage of the Gosnell trial is a strong example of the network's transparent politicization of a tragic case.
Fox News is using falsehoods to discredit an immigration reform rally that took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., claiming that activists were given preferential treatment by the Obama administration to stage their protest while parks remain closed. In fact, the National Park Service made it clear a week before the protest that First Amendment activities on the Mall and at Memorial Parks would be exempt from closures.
Ask Fox News' Megyn Kelly if she has an opinion and she'll tell you no, she plays it straight. "If you watch O'Reilly, you hear a lot about what Bill O'Reilly thinks," Kelly told the Associated Press regarding her new primetime Fox program, debuting tonight. "Sean Hannity, same thing. But you're not going to hear what I think." This is true to the extent that Megyn Kelly, the longtime star of Fox News' daytime block of "straight news" programming, is not a fulminating champion of "traditional" values like O'Reilly. Nor is she a myna bird for the Republican National Committee like Hannity. In that way she represents a significant departure from the network's last decade of primetime programming -- but toward a direction that actually makes Fox even more dangerous.
Kelly does not breathe fire like her primetime cohorts, but she can be every bit as partisan and misleading. The recent comments from Kelly and from the network are part of a deliberate effort to set her apart from the partisanship and moralism of Hannity and O'Reilly and cast her as a voice of factual authority. Anyone who's watched enough of Kelly's news programming knows how insidious a message that is. And, unfortunately, it appears to be working.
People who think this is unfair to Kelly will likely bring up her election night dismantling of Karl Rove as he sputtered objections to the network calling Ohio for President Obama. Or her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their antiquated views of women in the workplace. And Kelly was absolutely right to take on her colleagues in those instances. It should be noted, though, that these moments are made possible by the fact that the network won't actually punish her colleagues for unguarded crassness or factually dubious partisanship. Fox News will keep paying Rove for being embarrassingly wrong and Erickson for being a sexist oaf, which means Kelly won't lack for opportunities to make headlines by imposing some basic decency on her coworkers.
But for each of those moments, there is an example of Megyn Kelly wielding her journalistic authority to prop up transparent nonsense as "news." Remember the ridiculous New Black Panther story? One of the big reasons you know about it is because Kelly made the story her own, elevating the profile of the extremist fringe group and devoting hours of airtime to the absurd allegation that it was under the protection of Obama Justice Department because that conspiracy theory comported with conservative resentment of the administration (and because it made for entertaining television). Her facts were often wrong, and the story ended up going nowhere because there was nothing to it.
A handful of fringe anti-gay activists are having a meltdown over a "report" that alleges Fox News harbors a "growing pro-homosexual bias," ignoring the network's ongoing track record of smearing and stoking fears about LGBT people and LGBT equality.
On August 14, the xenophobic, Islamophobic, and homophobic right-wing group America's Survival published a "report" documenting Fox News' alleged "growing pro-homosexual bias," citing the network's ties to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and occasionally favorable coverage of marriage equality by personalities like hosts Megyn Kelly and Shepard Smith.
The rambling, 40,000-word report was written by Peter LaBarbera, president of one of the fringiest anti-gay hate groups in America - Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). It's already being touted by other anti-gay hate mongers, including the American Family Association's (AFA) Bryan Fischer:
Defending the legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the resulting gutting of the law by the conservative Justices of the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder, right-wing media insisted voter suppression is only a problem that existed in the past and long-standing voter protections are no longer necessary. But the immediate spike in discriminatory restrictions on voting after the Shelby decision proves Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was right in her dissenting opinion and right-wing media was dead wrong.
Megyn Kelly's move to primetime will mark a shift in the very essence of Fox News, away from the hate of right-wing radio and towards something more effective at shilling conservative misinformation.
Recent rumors indicate that Megyn Kelly may take over Sean Hannity's 9 p.m. time slot on Fox News. But the factors in play are much bigger than one hour a night. The imminent Fox News primetime shakeup is more about Fox News' own brand of misinformation being set to surpass the blunter approach of Rush Limbaugh and right-wing radio hosts.
For a brief bit of historical context before we get to the rumor itself, Fox News' approach in many ways grew out of Rush Limbaugh's short-lived television show. Roger Ailes famously produced the show and would take lessons from there to Fox News where he is still the CEO. (As well as taking lessons from his time as a Republican operative, which are well-documented.) And the further back you look at Fox, the more it resembles the worst aspects of Limbaugh's show. But as Fox has grown, it's adapted, allowing it to more effectively advance a political agenda.
This adaptation was on full display in Roger Ailes' 2011 admission to Howard Kurtz, who has since moved to Fox, that Fox News needed to make a "course correction." The big picture result of this is Fox still pushing demonstrable misinformation, but doing so in a way other news networks will be more likely to pick up rather than mock. Their audience might not have had a problem with the old Fox News (at least, Roger Ailes gave no indication that they did), but the network's reputation was in tatters. (As an aside, CNN's recent pushing of right-wing Benghazi myths only emphasize the risk of Fox's revised approach.)
Sean Hannity is in many ways a product of an iteration of Fox News that is slowly fading away. His willingness to push any argument any Republican ever once had has eroded Hannity's credibility over time. The Republican congressman who coined the term "terror baby" recently guest-hosted Hannity's radio show. Cumulus reportedly isn't even bothering to renew his radio syndication contract. Hannity declared himself as birther-curious, went all-in during the 2012 election on the story that President Obama once hugged a guy that right-wingers didn't like, and even dabbles in secession.
But the new face of Fox News primetime, Megyn Kelly, is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all. She can have a great moment chiding Fox colleagues Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for sexism, only to turn around and push the New Black Panthers scandal as something serious. Megyn Kelly can cover gay rights in a way that is occasionally not abominable, and then push Benghazi falsehoods that have long been debunked. Megyn Kelly will rebuke Dick Morris and Karl Rove, but then hosts a climate change denier during the president's climate address. Kelly smacked down Mike Gallagher on family leave, but she also defended Newt Gingrich's bizarre suggestion that schools should use children as janitors. The examples go on and on -- but the key for Fox is that her positive moments always get more press than her more dishonest moments. It's no surprise that Howard Kurtz declared her future bright.
Former Fox News host Glenn Beck once declared "Do I believe scientists? No. They've lied to us about global warming." But the study, by the Yale Project on Climate Communication, concludes that it's actually the other way around: conservative media consumers don't believe in scientists, therefore they don't believe in global warming.
The study suggests that watching and listening to outlets like Fox News and The Rush Limbaugh Show may be one reason that only 19 percent of Republicans agree that human activity is causing global warming, despite the consensus of 97 percent of climate scientists. The Yale researchers depicted five tactics used by conservative media to erode trust in scientists, which Media Matters illustrates with examples.
Conservative media typically turn to a roster of professional climate change contrarians and portray them as "experts" on the issue. What they don't mention is that most of these climate "experts" don't have a background in climate science and are often on the bankroll of the fossil fuel industry.
A Media Matters study detailed how certain climate contrarians have been given a large platform by the media, particularly Fox News.
For instance, Fox News cut away from President Barack Obama's recent climate change speech to host Chris Horner of the industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute -- giving approximately equal time to Horner and the president.
Fox News has announced that when dayside anchor Megyn Kelly returns from her upcoming maternity leave, she will be moving to the network's primetime lineup.
Fox's evening block is the most stable in cable news, with no new hosts since 2003, and Fox did not announce which host Kelly would be replacing. In May, The New York Times reported that Greta Van Susteren might move out of her 10 p.m. timeslot and be replaced by Kelly, and quoted Van Susteren's husband saying that she would be willing to move to a program earlier in the day.
Kelly has received praise -- including from Media Matters -- for the rare moments when she broke through Fox's conservative noise machine, particularly on women's rights issues. Her sharp questioning of Fox personalities Lou Dobbs and Erick Erickson over their sexist criticism of the finding that a record number of women are becoming their families' primary breadwinner and her confrontation with radio host Mike Gallagher over his claim that her maternity leave was "a racket" were riveting television that promoted progressive values.
But the balance of Kelly's tenure at Fox, during which she has anchored the 1 p.m. program America Live as well as the network's 2012 convention and election night coverage, has been marked by a steady drumbeat of conspiratorial scandalmongering.
In a 2008 profile, Howard Kurtz, who will soon join Kelly at Fox News, wrote that Kelly tends to show "hints of her political outlook" on the air, and quoted Fox's Brit Hume saying that Kelly "seemed to get what we've talked about with 'fair and balanced news' " and that she "came in believing there was a left bias in the news." She will bring that worldview to primetime.
Notably, the report of Kelly's promotion comes just over three years to the day after she launched Fox News' over-the-top coverage of the New Black Panther Party pseudoscandal.
Kelly was the driving force behind Fox News' heavy promotion of the false conspiracy that the Obama administration, due to racial and political motivations, had refused to protect white voters from intimidation at the hands of minorities. She launched the story on June 30, 2010, with a major interview detailing the "explosive new allegations" of right-wing operative and former DOJ lawyer J. Christian Adams. Over the next two weeks she devoted 45 segments to the story, totaling more than 3.5 hours of coverage.
Kelly's take on the story was often factually inaccurate and never terribly credible, and was quickly dismantled by the Republican vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Fox contributors, and other media figures. Fox News and Kelly in particular came under fire for the coverage, which was critiqued as a "minstrel show" and a Kelly "obsess[ion]."
Fox News hosted Rush Limbaugh a day after he thanked the network for defending his 2012 tirade targeting Sandra Fluke, providing Limbaugh a platform to smear the Obama administration, advise Republicans on the 2014 election cycle, and rehabilitate his damaged career.
On July 2 Fox & Friends hosted Limbaugh, who suggested that recent political unrest in Egypt was not surprising because the "Obama regime" wanted Islamic extremists to have power in the region. Limbaugh claimed that "the fact that Obama can't even bring himself to condemn this ought to be eye opening to anybody that's paying attention."
Limbaugh then pivoted to offering advice to Republicans running for office during 2014 election cycle, claiming that attacking health care reform was a "golden opportunity for the Republicans to get back in people's good graces, and stand for something the American people actually stand for." Co-host Brian Kilmeade closed the segment by inviting Limbaugh to "sit on our couch" and appear on Fox & Friends in person.
Limbaugh's Fox & Friends appearance came one day after he thanked Fox News host Megyn Kelly and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin for defending his attacks in 2012 against then-Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke.
On the July 1 America Live, Kelly interviewed Malkin who claimed that Limbaugh's widely criticized rants against Fluke -- including calling her a "slut" -- were nothing more than "political speech." Later on, during the July 1 broadcast of Limbaugh's radio show, he thanked Malkin and Kelly for defending him.
From defending Limbaugh's rant to hosting him on a show and inviting him to return, it seems Fox has taken an interest in rehabilitating Limbaugh's still damaged career.
From the July 1 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the July 1 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, was a frequent legal authority for Fox News until he announced that he was part of a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that the Supreme Court recently struck down.
In the past two months, Fox News has repeatedly turned to the legal expertise of Sensenbrenner, former Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on issues ranging from the investigation of national security leaks by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) under the Patriot Act.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, in particular, has expressed his admiration for Sensenbrenner's stature, hosting him on the June 17 edition of his show and informing the long-time congressman that "you're one of the guys that has always been on principle, which I admire and I know you have been there a while, fighting the good fight every day."
Indeed, Hannity appears to have specifically invited Sensenbrenner onto his show that day so the congressman could defend him from Media Matters' observation that the Fox News host was wildly hypocritical in his criticism of the NSA's current surveillance practices. Hannity subsequently praised Sensenbrenner's defense of the Fox News host and his legal explanation of the Patriot Act - legislation the congressman ushered through the House as Judiciary Committee chair - as "enlightening, edifying."
Sensenbrenner is also well-known for leading the effort to pass another overwhelmingly supported bipartisan bill signed into law by Bush: the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA, which the Supreme Court just infamously gutted in Shelby County v. Holder.
Because Congress accumulated extensive evidence to update and justify the VRA's selection of jurisdictions whose election changes remain subject to federal review due to their inability to stop suppressing the vote on the basis of race, Sensenbrenner has repeatedly defended Congress' reauthorization work. Sensenbrenner even filed an amicus brief for the Supreme Court in strong support of the VRA against the right-wing challenge in Shelby County, which the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court ignored.
Now, although Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), current chair of the Judiciary Committee and another Republican who voted to reauthorize the VRA in 2006, is conspicuously silent, Sensenbrenner is helping lead the bipartisan effort to once again pass the VRA provision that was struck down in Shelby County. As reported by The Hill:
A House Republican who led the last push to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act exhorted lawmakers Wednesday to join him in bringing the law back to life.
The day after the Supreme Court quashed the anti-discrimination statute, Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) urged lawmakers to cast aside their differences and restore the rejected provisions for the sake of voter protection.
"The Voting Rights Act is vital to America's commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in the electoral process," Sensenbrenner, the second-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday in a statement.
"This is going to take time, and will require members from both sides of the aisle to put partisan politics aside and ensure Americans' most sacred right is protected."
From the June 27 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox contributors Kirsten Powers and Monica Crowley mischaracterized a Texas bill that would have limited reproductive rights by downplaying the restrictive measures in the bill, which would have closed almost all abortion-providing facilities in Texas, and repeatedly invoking convicted criminal Kermit Gosnell.
On the June 26 edition of Fox News' America Live, Megyn Kelly hosted Monica Crowley and Kirsten Powers -- both Fox News contributors -- to discuss Senate Bill 5 (SB5), a measure that failed to pass after Texas Senate Democrats held a successful filibuster.
During the segment, Powers claimed that concerns from reproductive rights groups were exaggerated, adding: "I don't think that many clinics are going to close." Crowley agreed, saying reproductive health advocates "always try to go right to hyperbole -- that women are going to have to flee to Tijuana because they're not going to have access in Texas to abortion. It's all ridiculous."
Crowley went on to claim that restrictions in SB5 were "completely reasonable" and that they were "a direct response to the horrors of the Gosnell case." She also used the story to revive the disgusting and long-debunked myth that Obama voted as a state senator to support the killing of infants who were born alive.
Because of a restriction in SB5 that would, according to Bloomberg.com, "require abortions to be done in ambulatory surgical centers by doctors with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic," it's estimated that almost 90% of facilities that provide abortions in Texas -- the percent that do not currently meet that high threshold -- could be forced to close. The Washington Post explained how the bill would impact reproductive access by imposing requirements that only five existing centers would meet:
Right-wing media are offering multiple false reassurances to those outraged at the Supreme Court's attack on voting rights in Shelby County v. Holder, while failing to report on the progress of one possible fix.
In the aftermath of Shelby County, which held that Congress' extensive 2006 findings of ongoing voter suppression did not justify the Voting Rights Act's formula for determining which jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination must "preclear" their election changes, right-wing media are incorrectly claiming that this decision will not have an adverse effect on voting rights.
Repeating the lie that the preclearance requirement in Section 5 of the VRA - gutted when the Supreme Court invalidated the formula within Section 4 that determines which jurisdictions are subject to it - was insignificant, right wing-media continue to argue that only a "small part" of this historic civil rights law was struck down.
In their day-after analysis of Shelby County, the editors of the National Review Online proclaimed the preclearance process to be "worthless," adding "[t]he decision brings an end to the automatic and perpetual punishment of states that are guilty of crimes in decades past. It does nothing else."
On the June 26 edition of America Live, Fox News host Megyn Kelly dismissed the idea that "racism was given the stamp of approval officially by the Supreme Court yesterday." Her guest, NRO contributing editor Andrew McCarthy, repeated the right-wing myth that voter suppression that engages in systematic racial discrimination "has long ago passed to the dustbin of history" and progressives who cannot recognize its demise are demagogues and "race hucksters." From America Live: