Remember when Fox News contributor Sarah Palin joked about torture?
Last spring, Palin appeared before an NRA convention crowd and laughed about how liberals supposedly coddle America's mortal adversaries. "Oh, but you can't offend them, can't make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen," said Palin. "Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists," The NRA audience roared with approval, but even some conservative commentators who saw the tape of Palin's wisecrack took offense, upset that she had linked bodily torture with a Christian sacrament. ("It's disgusting.")
Palin, of course, hardly stands alone among conservative media commentators who have spent years not only downplaying the grievous practice of torture adopted by the Bush administration, but who have routinely made light of the cruel tactic previously banned by the United States.
"If you look at what we are calling torture, you have to laugh," Rush Limbaugh once announced, and claimed "if somebody can be water-tortured six times a day, then it isn't torture." At the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal, Limbaugh routinely mocked the claims of prisoner abuse, which were confirmed by horrific photographs: "Here we have these pictures of homoeroticism that look like standard good old American pornography, the Britney Spears or Madonna concerts or whatever." Limbaugh dismissed the prison torture as a "fraternity prank," suggesting "Maybe the people who executed this pulled off a brilliant maneuver. Nobody got hurt. Nobody got physically injured."
Meanwhile, Fox News' Eric Bolling once joked that the types of interrogation techniques being described in the press ("loud music, sleep deprivation, barking dogs"), sounded like "a typical weekend at my house with my twelve-year old son."
Then-Fox News host Glenn Beck greeted 2009 news of CIA interrogation revelations with fake sobs, after noting that "[c]ritics of the Bush-approved [interrogation] methods have called them torture." And that same year, Sean Hannity laughed on the air while agreeing to be waterboarded to raise money for charity. (Two thousand days later, Hannity still hasn't done it.)
That longstanding conservative attempt to make light of torture (who does that?) is now even harder to justify in light of the disturbing details contained in the new Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's five-years-in-the-making report on the Central Intelligence Agency's detention and interrogation program. (The report is told mostly via internal CIA communications.)
Aside from what the report claimed were widespread efforts by the CIA to cover-up its practice from Congressional oversight and even from the rest of the Bush administration, and that the information extracted through torture was at times fabricated and never considered good enough to thwart an imminent terror plot or help apprehend sought-after terrorists, the key take-away remains the level of brutality inflicted as part of a systemic U.S. policy.
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.
When BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, Fox News pundits rushed to the corporation's defense with excuses ranging from pitiful to conspiratorial. But now the ruling is out, exposing the falsities of Fox's defense: BP was to blame for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Fox News pundits pulled out all the stops to deflect blame from BP when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded in 2010, killing 11 workers and causing devastating environmental impacts. They accused environmentalists and the government for "forcing" the company to drill further from shore and touted conspiracy theories. The network berated the Obama administration for "villainiz[ing]" and "demonizing" the corporation and compared Congressional hearings on the disaster to "Soviet-style" trials and "Inca ritual slaughter":
A federal court, however, ruled on September 4 that BP was largely responsible for the disaster -- not the scapegoats that Fox News tried to pin the blame on.
Watch the difference between Fox News' spurious defense and the facts:
A federal judge assigned 67 percent of the blame to BP, concluding that the corporation acted in "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct." The Wall Street Journal reported on several instances where the court found that BP forewent safety measures in the name of profit:
Struggling with a dangerously unstable oil well in April 2010, BP chose to drill an additional 100 feet into a fragile rock formation thousands of feet beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
That decision set in motion a series of failures that led to the deadly Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
"BP's decision to drill the final 100 feet was the initial link in a chain that concluded with the blowout, explosion and oil spill," Judge Carl Barbier wrote. The decision "was dangerous," he added, and "motivated by profit."
Video created by Coleman Lowndes.
From the July 30 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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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.
The Fox News Channel has more competition for its conservative audience, this time from one of its own employees.
Sarah Palin is launching the Sarah Palin Channel, an online "news channel" that will "cut through the media's politically correct filter" and address "the issues that the mainstream media won't talk about." Rupert Murdoch launched his Fox News Channel in similar fashion by decrying the alleged liberal bias of the media, and targeting his channel to a disaffected audience.
Palin is a Fox News contributor who has a rocky history with her employer. Earlier this month she called for President Obama's impeachment in an op-ed for Breitbart News. This came in apparent violation of her Fox contract, which reportedly "guarantees the cable-news leader exclusive rights to her work on television and on the Internet." The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove reported that Palin's contract "allowed her to make a side deal for digital TV."*
The Sarah Palin Channel is backed by TAPP, a company building "niche" digital channels and founded by former NBCU executive Jeff Gaspin and former CNN executive Jon Klein.
Palin's "news channel" joins an already crowded universe of networks attempting to whittle away at Fox News' Republican audience.
There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.
From the July 13 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
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From the July 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox News' Special Report highlighted conservative calls for President Obama's impeachment, but hid that the calls they cite as coming from "some prominent outside conservative voices" actually originated with Fox's own contributors.
On the July 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox correspondent Mike Emanuel reported that "some prominent outside conservative voices have called for President Obama to be impeached":
From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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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.
From the May 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Twisting itself in partisan knots, Fox News can't keep track of when denying health benefits to Americans is a good thing and when it's a bad thing. Here's a helpful crib sheet: Denying health care by expanding Medicaid is cheered by Fox News. Denying health care through Veterans Affairs backlogs is not.
The current VA controversy has unleashed waves of right-wing media attacks on the organization, which conservative commentators now depict as a failed government-run health care agency. (It's not.)
Fueling their five-year obsession with trying to undermine and obstruct The Affordable Care Act at every turn, right-wing pundits have denounced the backlog that veterans face, the allegations of secret waiting lists at a Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix, and claims that dozens of vets reportedly died while on a waiting list to see a VA doctor. Looking to score points politically, Fox News talkers have proclaimed the VA mess to be a preview of some sort of Obamacare debacle for the general public.
Fox's Kimberly Guilfoyle recently labeled Obamacare "one big fat VA system." (False.) Colleague Ben Carson tactlessly called the veterans health care failure "a God send" because it highlighted how awful Obamacare is going to be. And Fox's Eric Bolling claimed delays that took place at the VA in Phoenix would repeat themselves nationwide under Obamacare, and 500 people "are going to die waiting" every year for treatment because of the president's health care reform law.
The larger Fox message machine has been focused: There's nothing worse, nothing more callous and unimaginable, than vets being denied the government health care they're entitled to, and some dying as a consequence.
Left unmentioned from Fox and friends? In the case of the recent implementation of Obamacare and the federal government's effort to expand Medicaid benefits, Republican governors and lawmakers in 24 states have refused, for partisan reasons, to accept the federal funds to insure more of their citizens. The result? Citizens are being denied government health care they're entitled to, and thousands may die as a consequence.
From the May 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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