Fox News pivoted its stance on the public health threat posed by Ebola after leading the charge in media stoking fears about the disease in the weeks prior to the midterm elections. The network is now downplaying the urgency of increasing funding for Ebola research and relief efforts while criticizing President Obama's request of a multi-billion dollar Ebola emergency appropriation from Congress.
Conservative media figures pointed to the news that 145 immigrants' names were flagged on North Carolina's voter rolls as proof of potential voter fraud in the upcoming election. But the discovery of these names actually disproves the potential for voter fraud, as the state's board of election is now confirming the citizenship of individuals who were flagged.
After spending weeks avoiding interviews with Iowa newspaper editorial boards who threatened to ask substantive policy questions, Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst took refuge on Fox News, where hosts lavished her with uncritical praise.
Ernst has recently come under fire after cancelling or declining meetings with the editorial boards of major Iowa newspapers. Staff at key Iowa papers told Media Matters that Ernst's recent avoidance of them is nearly unprecedented and pointed to the importance of local papers as forum for candidates "to explain one's positions" to voters in her state.
But Ernst isn't avoiding the media entirely.
On October 24, Ernst sat down for a softball interview with the hosts of Fox & Friends. Fox ran two of Ernst's campaign ads -- her infamous pig castration spot and a recent sequel -- while co-host Peter Johnson, Jr. commented that Ernst had "captured the imagination of voters." Co-host Brian Kilmeade called her "one of the more exciting new candidates."
After co-host Anna Kooiman suggested that Ernst had set herself apart by not deciding to go negative, Fox aired a campaign ad on economic issues from her Democratic competitor, Rep. Bruce Braley, with an on-air graphic hyping "Democratic Attacks." The hosts gave Ernst the chance to criticize Braley but failed to press her for details about a platform many see as extreme:
Fox & Friends' praise of Ernst and string of softball questions is in line with the network's previous treatment of Ernst, which has previously conspicuously avoided mention of her controversial platform. Ernst is a climate change denier and has promoted a Glenn Beck conspiracy theory about the "United Nations' superseding U.S. laws, states nullifying federal laws and impeaching Obama." She has claimed that Obama has "become a dictator" and should maybe be impeached. The Washington Post has criticized Ernst for trying to "cover her tracks" on her previous support for a 'personhood' amendment that would ban abortion and some forms of contraception.
Conservative media are invoking one of their favorite Benghazi hoaxes to accuse President Obama of reluctance to characterize the fatal shootings near Canadian Parliament as terrorism, despite the fact that Obama framed it in terms of "terrorism" the day of the shooting, just as he called the Benghazi attacks "acts of terror" the day after the 2012 assault.
From the October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. suggested that the government was at fault for the shortage of ZMapp, an experimental Ebola treatment yet to be approved for widespread public use, and slammed the first U.S. diagnosis of an Ebola patient as a "poor example of federal government intervention." But in truth, the government has "set records" in approving drugs to address Ebola outbreaks and has provided crucial funding for research and development.
On the October 7 edition of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy and Johnson discussed why there is a current shortage of ZMapp, suggesting that a reliance on federal grants by the pharmaceutical company who produced the medication may be to blame for the shortage. Johnson faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Preventation (CDC) for not having the capacity to produce more of the drug and slammed the fact that ZMAPP has been "supported by federal grants only." He went on to suggest that if the government is "not doing the job they should be doing," perhaps they should be "stepping out of the way and let private industry do it":
But Johnson ignored the fact that the federal government has greatly sped up the drug approval process in order to address the public health threat posed by Ebola. According to an October 6 article from The Hill, the FDA recently approved the use of two experimental drugs that treat Ebola -- an act that "set agency records" for a process that "typically takes years."
The reason ZMapp shortages have occurred is not due to government failure, as suggested by the Fox figures. As ZMapp manufacturer Mapp Biopharmaceautical noted, the drug's production has been slow because "Ebola is a relatively recently discovered disease with sporadic outbreaks," and "most new drugs take a decade or more of development work prior to commercialization."
Long production times are also at fault for the shortage of ZMapp. An October 5 article from CBS News explained that the drug is made from a special "biologically-engineered tobacco" that takes some time to grow:
Making more ZMapp takes a long time because the drug is made from a certain type of biologically-engineered tobacco that's currently being grown at Kentucky BioProcessing, in Owensboro, Kentucky. "It takes time for tobacco to grow; it's a certain kind of tobacco," said Turner. "It's very special, and has been carefully developed to produce authentic human proteins faithfully." He declined to estimate how much longer it would take, or how big the supply would be. Turner added that his team is currently reviewing other ways they could feasibly produce the drug at a faster rate.
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News has repeatedly dismissed the federal civil rights investigation into the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, calling it "political optics" and an example of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder playing "the race card." In fact, under long-standing civil rights law, the federal government has parallel investigative powers alongside local authorities and frequently investigates local police departments that may have a pattern or practice of abuse.
Fox News deceptively edited a clip of President Obama's statement on demonstrations following the shooting death of Michael Brown to suggest Obama is "choosing sides" and has "set an atmosphere" for discord and violence. In fact, Obama emphasized the importance of both "a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest."
Obama addressed the tense protests that followed the death of Brown -- an unarmed teen who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri -- in an August 15 statement that called for "healing," "peace and calm."
The August 15 edition of Fox & Friends promptly suggested Obama may have gone too far by noting that there is "no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters." In a teasing segment, an on-air graphic asked if the president was "choosing sides." Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. later argued that Obama "may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force." Though Johnson acknowledged that Obama "did to some extent" invoke reason, he concluded that "the shadings in his statements ... set an atmosphere -- unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community":
JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if he jumped in too quickly. He may have chosen a side too quickly with regard to this issue of excessive force and with regard to the police being an assaultive force on protesters. What I expect, and I think a lot of Americans expect, is the president to invoke the rule of law, to invoke reason. He did to some extent. But if you look at the shadings in his statements, he's clearly made a statement that the police were acting in an excessive way, that they were violating rights not only of the protesters, but of reporters on the scene. So when you do so, you set a scene and you set an atmosphere --unfortunately, I think -- for continued discord and possibly violence in such a community.
But the portion of Obama's statement that Fox & Friends aired during the segment was deceptively clipped to hide the fact that Obama also condemned "violence against police" as well as "excessive force against peaceful protests." Fox spliced together the Obama's comments that "I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting" and "There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests," skipping over the portion of his statement that condemned violence against police (the portions Fox aired are in bold):
Now, second, I want to address something that's been in the news over the last couple of days and that's the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we've seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting. Today, I'd like us all to take a step back and think about how we're going to be moving forward.
There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. And here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.
I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened. There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred. There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward. That's part of our democracy. But let's remember that we're all part of one American family. We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.
So now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.
Even Fox News' Geraldo Rivera disagreed with this assessment. In a later segment, he pushed back against a similar suggestion from Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, noting that Obama "tried his best to do a measured presentation."
Right-wing media are heaping praise upon Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. over his remarks at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, ignoring his association with extremists.
Clarke has drawn praise from conservative pundits for a speech at the NRA's annual meeting where he proposed that the words "keep your hands off our guns dammit" be appended to the Second Amendment. On Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Anna Kooiman said Clarke delivered a "very powerful speech," while co-host Tucker Carlson said he was going to send Clarke fan mail, rated his speech "awesome," and fist-pumped as Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. said Clarke "put it out there in straight language that people can understand."
On April 28, Clarke joined Fox & Friends for a laudatory interview that co-host Steve Doocy introduced by saying, "He is one law enforcement officer doing more than protecting you on the streets, he's standing up for all of our constitutional rights as well."
One of Fox News' more bizarre ethical violations has drawn to a close. After devoting a week of segments to promoting a Republican Senate candidate's fundraising ploy, Fox & Friends plagiarized the idea and spent another week passing it off as their own.
As Media Matters previously reported, last month Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse released a March Madness-themed competition featuring a bracket of 64 alleged Constitutional violations by the Obama administration.
Fox & Friends eagerly latched onto the "Constitutional Madness" bracket, devoting significant time to it on their March 21, 22, 24, 25, and 26 broadcasts. While promoting the Sasse campaign's bracket, both the hosts and on-screen text repeatedly credited Sasse with coming up with the idea. Fox hosts also adopted the Sasse campaign-approved branding that the Nebraska Republican is known as "the anti-Obamacare candidate."
After originally telling viewers to weigh in on Facebook and Twitter, Fox & Friends started directing viewers to vote in the competition at the Sasse-operated constitutionalmadness.com. (Sasse himself also directed viewers to visit the website during his appearance on the March 24 edition of Fox & Friends.)
The Sasse campaign was likely thrilled by the publicity boost, because the entire competition was a thinly-veiled effort to farm email addresses and solicit donations. Visitors to constitutionalmadness.com are greeted with a large "CONTRIBUTE!" button. Filling out a bracket automatically redirects people to the Sasse campaign's fundraising page, and in order to complete the bracket in the first place, you have to give the Sasse campaign your email address.
Inevitably, since filling out a bracket on March 26, Media Matters has been emailed fundraising solicitations from the Sasse campaign, including one on March 29 urging people to contribute before the end of the fundraising quarter.
But a strange thing happened in the middle of Fox & Friends' promotion of Sasse's "Constitutional Madness": the show kept running segments charting the progress of the competition, but stopped crediting Sasse for the idea. Instead, Fox & Friends started directing people to vote at their show's own website, where they had plagiarized much of the original bracket.
Over the past week, Fox & Friends has run numerous segments promoting the "Constitutional Madness" bracket created by Republican Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse. While Sasse's bracket is ostensibly an attempt to determine the worst constitutional violation among supposed Obama administration scandals, in reality it's a thinly-veiled attempt to collect donations and email addresses. Fox News liked the Sasse idea so much they eventually plagiarized it for FoxNews.com.
To coincide with the NCAA's annual March Madness basketball tournament, last week Sasse's campaign released a bracket of 64 alleged constitutional violations by the Obama administration. Sasse is a former Bush administration official running in a Republican primary to fill Mike Johanns' Senate seat in Nebraska. The bracket is made up of a panoply of Fox News-promoted pseudoscandals, including things like "death panels."
Fox & Friends has given the bracket a major publicity boost, discussing it at length on its March 21, 22, 24, 25 and 26 broadcasts. During some of the segments, Fox hosts -- and Sasse himself, who appeared on March 24 -- directed viewers to the competition website and pushed people to cast a vote. The network has also hyped how "thousands of people" are voting in the competition, which has gotten "a lot of buzz" -- thanks in no small part to Fox's efforts.
Visitors to constitutionalmadness.com -- many of whom likely did so after hearing about it on Fox News' highly-rated morning show -- are greeted with a green "CONTRIBUTE!" button above the actual voting process.
In order to submit votes, visitors must give the Sasse campaign their email address, which will undoubtedly be used for later fundraising pitches. After submitting a vote, the site redirects to the Sasse campaign's donation page, with the $100.00 donation option helpfully pre-selected. Text on the landing page reads, "Thanks for playing! Will you help fight back against Constitutional overreach by making a donation to the campaign today?"
On its March 26 broadcast, the show promoted its own version of the competition and encouraged viewers to visit the Fox & Friends website to cast votes.
Much of the language on Fox's version of the bracket is pulled directly from the Sasse campaign website, but Fox offers no attribution anywhere on its site. To the contrary, Fox News claims it's "our Constitutional Madness Bracket" and "we put together a 'Constitutional Madness' bracket." Fox also lifted language from other sources in writing "background" information about the alleged constitutional violations.
Fox News of course has routinely worked to bolster the political ambitions of Republicans, including those on its own staff. But even by the network's warped ethical standards, its week-long promotion of Sasse's campaign ploy has been egregious.
In 2010, the Democratic Governors Association filed a complaint (later dismissed) against Fox News after the network ran the campaign web address of former Fox employee and then Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich.
A rundown of Fox's "Constitutional Madness" hype is below.
Conservative media's recent smear that surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is controversial because he supports doctors discussing safe gun ownership with their patients is curious given frequent complaints from right-wing media -- albeit false -- that health care reform posed a threat to the inviolable doctor-patient relationship.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has been missing since March 8, and the search for its whereabouts has consumed media attention worldwide. But to Fox News, the missing airliner is reminiscent of Benghazi.
Conservative media have repeatedly attempted to link the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, to a variety of unrelated events, often invoking the tragedy to attack President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or to deflect conservatives from scrutiny. Inside the right-wing bubble, the Chris Christie bridge scandal, Yom Kippur, Monday Night Football, and even openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam are all opportunities to invoke Benghazi.
It was only a matter of time before Fox brought the same mentality to its coverage of the missing plane:
Just days after concluding a smear campaign against highly qualified civil rights attorney Debo Adegbile's nomination to the Department of Justice, the right-wing media began working to tar Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, as a "radical" for suggesting that gun violence is a public health issue.