From the November 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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Fox News helped turn a bogus story about subpoenas sent to a handful of Houston pastors into a national rallying cry for religious liberty. Now the network is helping promote an event that will pit some of the country's most extreme anti-LGBT voices against the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.
In May, the city of Houston made history by enacting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure that prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other categories. The ordinance was championed by the city's first openly gay mayor, Democrat Annise Parker.
Opponents of HERO -- led by the Houston Area Pastor Council -- responded by launching an effort to put a repeal of the ordinance on the ballot in November. Their campaign peddled the myth that HERO would allow men and sexual predators to enter women's restrooms -- a myth that was widely circulated by local media. Though opponents submitted the required number of signatures to put the repeal on the ballot, City Attorney Dave Feldman determined that many of the signatures were collected improperly, and the city announced that not enough valid signatures had been collected.
Opponents quickly filed a lawsuit to have the signatures reviewed, prompting the city to respond by issuing subpoenas to five local pastors for a broad range of documents -- including sermons and personal communications -- related to their opposition to HERO.
On October 14, Fox News reporter and serial misinformer Todd Starnes broke the news of the subpoenas, misleadingly characterizing them as an "attempt to deconstruct religious liberty" and describing HERO as a "bathroom bill." Starnes' report relied heavily on spin from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the extreme right-wing legal group representing the pastors in their effort to quash the subpoenas. ADF attorney Christina Holcomb called the subpoenas "an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of [the city's] actions."
Before long, Starnes' report made the jump to Fox News' airwaves. On October 15, Starnes appeared on The Kelly File to discuss the story, describing HERO as a measure that would let "men who identify as women" to use women's restrooms:
Starnes' appearance was followed by a barrage of misleading segments about the story, all of which depicted the subpoenas as an attack on religious liberty. Multiple Fox personalities incorrectly described the subpoenas as part of the enforcement of HERO, suggesting that the ordinance might criminalize anti-gay speech. Others repeated Starnes' lie that HERO would allow men to use women's restrooms. By the end of the week, in just three days of coverage, Fox had spent nearly thirty minutes of airtime peddling its Houston horror story*.
Fox's panicked coverage was grossly misleading and left out crucial details about the anti-HERO lawsuit. But it worked perfectly as a right-wing horror story about Christians being victimized by a city's attempt to protect LGBT people.
Soon, Houston had become -- as one Fox anchor put it -- "ground zero for religious liberty." Conservative media outlets quickly regurgitated the victimization spin from Starnes and ADF. Conservative groups -- led by the notorious anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council (FRC) -- began organizing "I Stand Sunday," a November 2 rally in Houston to support the pastors who had been "unduly intimidated by the city's Mayor."
Potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says his Fox News platform is helping him in the crucial primary state of Iowa.
A Huckabee profile from Real Clear Politics (RCP) documents the Fox host's recent trip to Iowa to support Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst. According to reporter Scott Conroy, Huckabee was approached by several "Iowa Republican activists and volunteers" who told the Fox News host that they regularly watch his show.
Huckabee reportedly cited his platform at the network with helping put him in a "very good place to be" as he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, explaining that it has helped increase his visibility and name recognition in Iowa because he has "been in these people's homes every week":
As a driver shuttled him between events, Huckabee told RealClearPolitics that his work on Fox has put him in a "very good place to be" politically as a self-imposed decision date looms in the early spring of next year.
"When I came up here eight years ago, nobody knew who I was," he said. "I had to spell my name. They didn't recognize me, and that was true all over the country. And now I come back, and I've been in these people's homes every week."
Huckabee isn't the first Fox employee/politician to credit their role at the network with helping their political aspirations. In July, former Fox News contributor turned Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown told Fox News Radio that being on the network "really charged me up" to run for office. When he was running for president in 2012, former Fox News contributor Rick Santorum pointed to his Fox role as having "been big" because it "helped folks remember who I am."
Fox continues to allow its employees to publicly weigh runs for office while remaining on the network payroll. As Conroy points out, Huckabee's Fox News show gives him "hundreds of hours of free advertising that hits some of the most reliable Republican voters," which is "the kind of media exposure that any of the more frequently talked about GOP contenders can only dream of."
During the run-up to the 2012 Republican primary in 2010, Media Matters calculated that Fox News had essentially gifted its five employees that were considering running with roughly $55 million in free advertising. Huckabee was by far the biggest beneficiary, with about $31 million worth of free airtime.
Though Huckabee declined to run in 2012, Conroy reports that "the consensus among many plugged-in conservatives in his orbit is that he is already determined" to enter the 2016 race.
A conservative group backed by several Fox News contributors has pulled ads featuring footage of murdered journalist James Foley after his family sharply criticized the campaign as "deplorable."
Secure America Now (SAN) had been running advertisements attacking Democratic candidates with footage of Foley's beheading at the hands of ISIS. Foley's parents told New England Cable News (NECN) that the ads are "very sad" and "deplorable," and called for them to be pulled with an apology.
The group announced on October 15 that it would launch advocacy campaigns featuring the Foley footage in ads against Democratic Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Mark Udall (CO), Mary Landrieu (LA), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Congressman Gary Peters (MI). Secure America Now president Allen Roth said that "Pryor, Udall, Landrieu, Shaheen, and Peters have all ignored the crisis at our southern border. While evading efforts of those attempting to secure the border, they have silently supported President Obama's rumored amnesty plans." The group also posted on Facebook that day, "Watch the ad that's got the left riled up. Help us get it out, SHARE this video now."
Roth later told NECN, "It has been brought to our attention that a news report image of American hostage James Foley that appeared in a Secure America Now video has upset his parents, so we have decided to take the video down. It was never our attention to upset Mr. Foley's family and we apologize for any pain we inadvertently caused."
Fox News host Mike Huckabee advised Republicans to "grow a spine" and oppose marriage equality, blasting court rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans as "the betrayal of our Constitution."
During an October 7 interview with the anti-gay American Family Association's radio program, Huckabee said that he's "utterly exasperation with Republicans ... who have abdicated on this issue," and warned that he might leave the Republican Party and become an independent if the GOP stops fighting marriage equality. The former governor of Arkansas is reportedly considering a run for president in 2016.
Huckabee reiterated his criticism in the opening monologue of his October 11 Fox News show. Huckabee denounced the court decisions that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal in several more states, emphasizing that judges overruled "the collective votes of the people themselves" in a "betrayal of our Constitution." He concluded that he is "utterly disgusted" with Republican governors and other officials that complied with the court orders overturning same-sex marriage bans, arguing that they should "[g]row a spine, show a modicum of knowledge about the way we govern ourselves, and lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way."
Fox News host Mike Huckabee is claiming the American public should distrust statements made by President Obama and the federal government about the spread of Ebola because they have purportedly lied about the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
During the October 4 broadcast of Huckabee, the former Arkansas Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said that "the Ebola scare goes to the heart of a simple question: do you trust the government. Audience, do you trust the government?" After Huckabee's audience responded no, Huckabee replied: "And why would you? I mean remember these?" He then played clips of Obama talking about health care, the IRS, and then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's Sunday show comments about Benghazi. Huckabee contrasted the remarks with Obama's September 16 statement it was unlikely someone with Ebola would reach America but "we've taken new measures so that we're prepared here at home."
Huckabee concluded his Fox commentary by claiming he's "feeling a little sick myself. But it's not Ebola. I'm just sick of a government that I'm paying for telling me not to worry and just trust them. I wish I could, but if they repeatedly lie to me I just don't believe them anymore."
Huckabee made similar remarks during his Huckabee Report radio commentary this morning. He said that "if people don't trust our leaders, the people aren't to blame. We were told we could keep our doctors and insurance and pay $2,500 less. That Benghazi was caused by a YouTube video ... trust is something you gotta earn and once squandered, it's hard to get back."
The October 6 Cumulus Media Networks segment:
Fox News has been obsessed with Benghazi, as the network aired over 1,000 weekday evening segments in the first 20 months after the attacks. The Fox obsession has caused its personalities to repeatedly link Benghazi to unrelated matters like the NFL's domestic violence problems, a White House security breach, and missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, among others.
The conservative media have also rushed to politicize the presence of the Ebola virus in the United States with attacks on Obama.
UPDATE: Another Fox host has pointed to Benghazi as a reason to be distrustful of the government's handling of Ebola. During the October 6 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson wondered if we can "trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola" when its "track record" includes Benghazi:
CARLSON: Time now for my take. So, should we trust the government to keep us all safe from Ebola? With the government's recent track record not being so hot, well, we learned we couldn't trust the IRS, after the targeting of conservative groups. The Secret Service, after an armed man made his way into the White House. The VA, after reports men and women who served this country died waiting to get health care. We couldn't trust the promise that Obamacare that we could keep our doctors that we wanted. And do we trust that we know all the answers yet about Benghazi? What more and more people seem to be asking about Ebola now isn't that they're necessarily scared about actually getting the disease, but that they're scared the government agencies responsible with helping us if we do get sick might not be up to the task. So if Ebola becomes a bigger issue the question still remains, will we be safe?
The annual Values Voter Summit will take place from September 26 through September 28 in Washington, DC. The convention is sponsored by hate groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, and regularly features extreme rhetoric and hate from politicians and conservative media members. In 2013, Ben Carson said that Obamacare is "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." Here is some of what you can expect at the 2014 event:
Media figures speaking at the event are scheduled to include: Lt. General William Boykin, Fox News contributor Oliver North, Rick Santorum, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, David Limbaugh, Fox News host Mike Huckabee, Fox News contributor and Redstate.com Editor-in-chief Erick Erickson, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios, Mat Staver, Mark Levin, Star Parker, Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes, Brigitte Gabriel, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
Update: Fox News has reportedly cut ties with contributor Ben Carson following the announcement that he will be airing a biographical 40-minute ad this weekend in the first salvo of his 2016 campaign for president. According to the Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokeswoman said that "Carson understood the network's reasons for terminating his contributor status and that the two parted amicably."
This announcement came over a month after Fox News senior vice president Neil Cavuto told Carson on-air, "I think you're running for office now."
Fox News contributor Ben Carson now claims that he will likely run for president in 2016, capping off a more than year-long campaign by the network to promote his political ambitions. Carson's potential run continues the seemingly never-ending series of Republicans who have used Fox as a jumping off point for runs for office.
During a September 22 appearance on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Carson told Hewitt that the "likelihood is strong" he will throw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination in 2016, "unless the American people indicate in November that they like big government intervention in every part of their lives."
While Carson has repeatedly discussed the idea of running in recent months -- often in response to questions about the multi-million dollar "Draft Ben Carson" movement -- his comments to Hewitt seem like the strongest indication that he will seek the nomination. (Hewitt concluded based on the interview that it was "Pretty clear he will be running for president.")
Carson's assertion that he will likely run once again raises questions about Fox News' ongoing unethical arrangement with contributors that are planning bids for office. The network has repeatedly given its contributors a megaphone (and a paycheck) while they openly discuss future political plans, only severing their contracts once the employee-candidates file official paperwork.
It's created a situation where it encourages the network's stable of future candidates to delay a formal announcement while continuing to benefit from Fox News' prominent platform, which can amount to millions of dollars of what is essentially free advertising. This ethically shady setup has previously been criticized by current Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, who wrote for the Daily Beast in 2011, "The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel--and pad their bank accounts to boot."
And while Carson considers a run, Fox News is happy to help stoke the speculation. Fox News and other conservative media are responsible in large part for helping catapult Carson from a career as a renowned neurosurgeon into his current incarnation as a political bombthrower -- with a penchant for spouting nonsense -- following a 2013 speech he gave attacking President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Shortly after that speech, he quickly became a media star, with Fox News figures quickly latching onto the idea he should run for president. The day after he delivered his speech, Sean Hannity hosted Carson on his Fox News show, asked him if he would ever run for president, then announced, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled "Ben Carson for President." A week later, one of Fox's news programs dedicated a segment to one of the day's "top stories," which was the "buzz" that Carson should run for office.
Following several more months of network personalities fawning over Carson, Fox News inevitably announced that it had hired him in October 2013. Since then, Fox News and Carson have continued to work together to build his political brand and promote the idea that he is a viable presidential contender.
Right-wing media furthered Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's ad hominem attacks against State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki while claiming that the Obama administration is unwilling to act against the Islamic State.
On the September 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly criticized Psaki's response in a press briefing to a question posed by Fox reporter James Rosen, belittling Psaki's ability to successfully do her job based on her appearance. O'Reilly said: "With all due respect, and you don't have to comment on this, that woman looks way out of her depth over there. Just the way she delivers -- it just doesn't look like she has the gravitas for that job."
Psaki's colleague Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, spoke out against O'Reilly's criticism and right-wing media rushed to his defense and seized on Harf's response to attack the Obama administration for supposedly being hesitant to act against the Islamic State.
Radio host and ABC and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham insisted "O'Reilly is saying what all the rest of us are thinking about this Jen Psaki woman." Ingraham echoed O'Reilly's attacks, saying "she doesn't exactly carry herself with the, you know, the type of gravitas, well-spoken presentation that one would expect," but took them further. Ingraham called into question Psaki's qualifications for her State Department career based on her appearance, saying "she looks like she should be on MTV or something." Ingraham also argued that the State Department views O'Reilly as its new enemy rather than the Islamic State:
The hosts of Fox & Friends roundly endorsed a Texas school district that allows teachers to carry guns, even though security experts reject the idea of armed teachers and civilians with concealed guns have not stopped past mass shooting incidents.
During segments on August 27 and September 2, Fox & Friends hyped plans by the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) to arm teachers this school year. Media reporting on the school district's plans have focused on a sign outside of an Argyle school that reads, "ATTENTION: Please Be Aware That The Staff At Argyle ISD Are Armed And May Use Whatever Force Is Necessary To Protect Our Students."
Co-host Brian Kilmeade told viewers, "Don't mess with this school in Texas, they're armed, they're ready, and letting everyone know about it," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck described the sign as a "great warning there that is meant to protect the kids." While advancing the common but false right-wing media claim that mass shooters target places where guns are not allowed, Kilmeade later added, "If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected."
Fox & Friends proceeded to host Greg Coker, who provides weapons training for schools, to tout armed teachers. What Fox neglected to include in the segment, however, is that Coker actually has a business relationship with Argyle ISD and was responsible for arming their teachers through his "Not On My Watch" program.
According to a document posted on the Argyle ISD website, Coker charges $1,500 per teacher for a 30-hour training course that involves firing 900 rounds of ammunition. (The National Rifle Association, which endorsed armed teachers following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, recommends that teachers receive between 60 and 80 hours of training before carrying a gun in school.)
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee joined 79 other conservatives in signing a letter blasting "sexual radicals" for their efforts to scuttle a planned conference of the World Congress of Families (WCF), a group notorious for stoking homophobia and promoting harsh anti-gay laws internationally.
On August 30, the Rockford, IL-based WCF plans to hold a "Life, Family, and Freedom Conference" in Melbourne, Australia. Protests have led to three changes of venue for the conference, which prominent members of Australia's governing party are slated to attend. The WCF has responded to those protests with a letter signed by 80 social conservatives, including Huckabee. Accusing "sexual radicals" of waging a "smear campaign," the letter charges that opponents of the conference aim to "transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past":
Sexual radicals have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Melbourne conference, which misrepresents the international pro-family movement and the positions of the World Congress of Families.
Attacks on the Melbourne conference and the international pro-family movement generally are an attempt at intimidation - a weapon used to stigmatize family advocates, stifle dissent and foreclose a debate.
The goal of sexual radicals is to deconstruct marriage and marginalize the family, and thus to transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past. Like all social experiments that attempt to create a "new man," these are doomed to failure.
But a new Human Rights Campaign (HRC) report documents how the WCF has been involved in helping promote the enactment of harsh anti-gay laws internationally.
Founded after a 1995 meeting between Illinois anti-gay activist Allan Carlson and two Russian sociologists, the WCF is a self-proclaimed "alliance of orthodox believers, based on their commitment to Judeo-Christian values and the natural family." Partnering with 29 social conservative organizations - with a combined annual budget estimated at $216 million - the WCF convenes "pro-family" activists for regional and international conferences aimed at combatting reproductive freedom and LGBT equality. WCF partner organizations include a number of groups that have been labeled anti-gay "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
Mike Huckabee told a gathering of anti-gay activists that the United States is becoming like communist China and defended his recent claim that President Obama deserves to be impeached.
Huckabee was speaking at the third annual Family Leadership Summit, hosted by The Family Leader and sponsored by anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage and FRC Action. The event was held in Ames, Iowa, and was attended by potential 2016 Republican candidates including Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Rick Perry, and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Speaking on August 9 about his recent China trip, Huckabee noted the country's policies regarding trade, human rights, one child and forced abortions, and observed: "After we came back, I assessed that what was most disturbing was that China was becoming a lot more like the United States used to be, and America was becoming a whole lot more like China used to be." Huckabee added that America, like China whitewashing the Tiananmen Square massacre, has "completely rewritten our history" to remove God from textbooks. The Fox News host has made similar pronouncements on his show and elsewhere in the right-wing media.
During a media availability, Huckabee defended his recent declaration that President Obama has committed impeachable offenses. Huckabee began by claiming "I don't think we're going to have an impeachment, don't think we even should because there's no point and it's not gonna go through." However, Huckabee still argued President Obama is worthy of impeachment because of his alleged abuse of "the basic constitutional powers," citing Obamacare and the DREAM Act.
On June 15, the United States apprehended the individual suspected of leading the terrorist attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, transferred him to a U.S. naval ship, and ultimately arraigned him in federal court in Washington, D.C. on June 28. Since his capture, right-wing media have repeatedly complained that the suspect was not entitled to Miranda warnings or due process.
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.