Fox News rallied behind a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, continuing the network's defense of the right to discriminate against gay customers.
On February 18, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that florist Barronelle Stutzman had illegally violated the state's Consumer Protection Act when she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex couple's wedding ceremony. Though Stutzman claimed her actions were religiously motivated, the judge made clear that religious belief did not create a blank check to violate the state's non-discrimination law, writing:
For over 135 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that laws may prohibit religiously motivated action, as opposed to belief. In trade and commerce, and more particularly when seeking to prevent discrimination in public accommodations, the Courts have confirmed the power of the Legislative Branch to prohibit conduct it deems discriminatory, even where the motivation for that conduct is grounded in religious belief.
Following the ruling, Washington's attorney general offered Stutzman a settlement - stop discriminating, pay the law's $2000 penalty, and pay $1 to cover the cost of the case - but Stuztman refused the deal.
On the February 23 edition of The Kelly File, guest host Shannon Bream conducted the first ever television interview with Stutzman, along with an attorney from the extreme anti-gay group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing her. Bream has a history of championing the right to discriminate against gay customers, coming to the defense of business owners who violate non-discrimination laws and suggesting that gay customers should "just go down the street" and find someone who is willing to serve them.
Fox News' Special Report falsely claimed that the public won't have a say in the upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Open Internet rule, ignoring reports that the record number of public comments on the rulemaking were overwhelmingly positive and polls that show the public greatly supports net neutrality regulations.
On February 26, the FCC will vote on a proposal that will subject Internet providers to utility-like regulation. During the February 11 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier told his viewers that "you may have absolutely no say in the matter."
Contrary to Baier's claim, in May 2014, the FCC requested public comments on "how best to protect and promote an open Internet" as part of the rulemaking process. While correspondent Shannon Bream did acknowledge this and mentioned that the FCC received a record 3.7 million public comments, she failed to report that the vast majority of these favored net neutrality. The Sunlight Foundation found that fewer than 1 percent of the first 800,000 public comments were opposed to net neutrality enforcement.
In fact, recent polls indicate widespread bipartisan support for net neutrality:
In a new survey, the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication found that support for neutrality is strong and widespread -- regardless of gender, age, race and level of education. About 81 percent of Americans oppose allowing Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to charge Web sites and services more if they want to reach customers more quickly, that is, allowing what are often called "Internet fast lanes."
From the February 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the January 18 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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Fox News has repeatedly pushed the debunked myth that 30 percent of released Guantanamo Bay detainees return to terror. In reality, the estimated number is around 7 percent, and has declined during Obama's time in office.
Congressional Republicans are borrowing from years of right-wing media attacks on federal disability benefits to justify their recent attempt to snarl funding for Social Security programs.
On January 6, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a change to legislative rules that restricts the historically routine transfer of tax money from the Social Security retirement fund to the Social Security disability program. Such transfers have helped keep both Social Security programs solvent. In practice, the rule change makes these reallocations nearly impossible by requiring that they be "accompanied by 'benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of both funds.' " As the Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik explained, because the disability fund is on track to "run dry as early as next year," this could mean "disability benefits for 11 million beneficiaries would have to be cut 20%."
In a January 6 statement justifying the rule change, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) called the disability program "fraud-plagued." And during a January 14 event in New Hampshire on the long-term future of safety-net programs, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) claimed many who receive disability benefits are "gaming the system" and downplayed disabilities, saying, "over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club."
From the January 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox News anchor and Supreme Court correspondent Shannon Bream reacted to a Paris terror attack by suggesting certain skin tones are more typical of "bad guys" than others.
On the January 7 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, the panel of hosts discussed the terror attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead. Co-host Kennedy Montgomery suggested profiling may not always be an effective prevention policy because "sometimes bad guys don't look like bad guys."
Bream echoed the sentiment and wondered whether the ability to identify the skin color of the assailants in Paris would have helped law enforcement in this case. Bream suggested profiling may not be effective in situations where criminals are wearing masks or where the tone of their skin doesn't "look like typical bad guys," apparently implying that certain skin tones should raise red flags for law enforcement:
BREAM: That's my question about these guys. If we know they were speaking unaccented French and they had ski masks on, do we even know what color they were, what the tone of their skin was? I mean, what if they didn't look like typical bad guys? As we define them when we think about terror groups.
The hosts also weighed other options for preventing similar attacks in the United States. Montgomery recommended arming all American citizens, saying, "I think the best thing that Americans can do is arm themselves."
In advance of the Federal Communications Commission's February vote on net neutrality rules, media have promoted distortions of the proposed regulations, suggesting net neutrality is an unpopular, "Orwellian" takeover of the internet that may stifle innovation, hurt the economy, and raise costs for consumers. In reality, net neutrality has broad bipartisan support, promotes competition, and has been the guiding principle behind Internet innovation since its inception.
From the November 2 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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Fox News has repeatedly dismissed the prioritization of addressing climate change, questioning if now is the correct time to focus on it even as military experts highlight climate change as a threat to national security.
Fox News amplified the discredited right-wing claim that the legalization of same-sex marriage plays a part in the declining rate of heterosexual marriage.
On the October 13 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier claimed "traditional marriage" has faced a number of obstacles this year, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in Alaska. Fox correspondent Shannon Bream cited a variety of factors that could explain the decline in heterosexual marriage, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states:
The idea that same-sex marriage somehow discourages heterosexual marriage has been embraced by extreme anti-LGBT rights groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, but has no basis in fact.
The Atlantic also pointed out that the link is unsubstantiated, because the decline in heterosexual marriage came before the rise of gay marriage:
Out-of-wedlock births and delayed marriage were already underway before the 1990s, when gay acceptance took off. This suggests that gay marriage isn't leading to the decline of marriage. Rather, the "decline" of marriage happened to pique media interest at the same time that homophobia got smoked -- in entertainment, in federal law, and in wedding chapels.
A deleterious effect on rates of opposite sex marriage has been argued to be a motivating factor for both the withholding and the elimination of existing rights of same sex couples to marry by policy makers-including presiding justices of current litigation over the rights of same sex couples to legally marry. Such claims do not appear credible in the face of the existing evidence, and we conclude that rates of opposite sex marriages are not affected by legalization of same sex civil unions or same sex marriages.
Conservative media are claiming that unemployed Americans are "lazy" because they supposedly spend too much time "shopping" and not enough time working or looking for work. But the data they cite includes the activities of stay-at-home parents, students, people with disabilities, and retirees who are "not employed."
On September 8, fringe conservative website CNS News published an article claiming "an unemployed American is more likely to be shopping ... than to be looking for a new job. " The article ostensibly cited data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), an annual survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). CNS claimed that "only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed" engaged in job searches or job interviews on "an average day." Meanwhile, according to CNS, 22.5 percent of the "unemployed" engaged in shopping "for items other than groceries" on "an average day."
Unfortunately, CNS did not link to its internal data or provide methodology for its reporting, leaving readers to take the website's claims at face value.
Digging into the technical notes of the ATUS reveals that the BLS does not categorize individuals as "unemployed," but rather as "not employed." This distinction is important, as it includes individuals who fit the classification of being unemployed -- not working but actively looking for work -- as well as individuals who are "not in the labor force" for other reasons, including retirement, educational pursuit, and disability. So-called "discouraged workers," the small percentage of the population who involuntarily leave the labor force due to a lack of opportunity, would also count as "not employed" by ATUS classification.
CNS' insinuation that the so-called "unemployed" spend too much time engaged in non-work activities like "shopping" is based on a fatally skewed statistical error. But that fact has not stopped right-wing media outlets from using CNS' assumptions to fuel their campaign against the unemployed.
One year after San Antonio expanded its non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBT people, opponents' predictions that the measure would curtail religious liberty and free speech haven't come true.
On September 5, 2013, San Antonio's city council voted to extend non-discrimination protections to LGBT residents in housing, employment, public accommodations, city contracts, and board appointments. The ordinance was approved despite a right-wing misinformation campaign propagated by local anti-LGBT activists and national conservative media, including Fox News, Glenn Beck, and The Washington Times.
Opponents of the ordinance asserted that the ordinance could ban Christians from holding public office or winning city contracts, imperil the free speech rights of conservative opponents of LGBT equality, or even impose "criminal penalties" on anti-LGBT business owners. Those claims persisted even though the ordinance explicitly protected against religious discrimination and despite the striking of language that had raised free speech concerns.
At the time, Councilman Diego Bernal, the sponsor of the expanded ordinance expressed dismay at the "ludicrous" misinformation spread about the ordinance, telling Equality Matters, "I've been taken aback by the amount of purposeful misinformation and I find that to be very harmful."
But a year after the expansion of San Antonio's non-discrimination ordinance, even an opponent of the measure admits that horror stories about threats to religious liberty haven't come true.
Throughout the debate over the ordinance, opponents insisted that prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people would result in anti-Christian persecution and harassment. One of those critics was Allan Parker, president of the San Antonio-based Christian legal group The Justice Foundation. Last September, Parker warned that the ordinance would be used to target Christians:
[Parker] said the ordinance is vague and unclear but he believes it can and will be used against Christians, especially those in the business world who disagree with unbiblical sexuality.
"The leverage of the city to pressure any business to caving in is enormous under this," he explained.
But one year later, even Parker admits the ordinance hasn't ushered in a wave of anti-Christian legal action. Only two complaints have even been filed under the ordinance - one from a transgender man who alleged he had been fired because of his gender identity and another from a lesbian couple who said they were asked to leave an ice house after sharing a kiss.
In a statement to Equality Matters, Parker suggested that the small number of complaints was due to the city allegedly refraining from enforcing the ordinance:
I believe because of the outcry against the ordinance, the City and the LGBT community have refrained from actively enforcing it. Their major goal of "stigma removal" and the "soft tyranny" of the threat of criminal prosecution has been achieved.
But as Bernal told Equality Matters, the existing ordinance included safeguards against religious discrimination even before LGBT protections were added.
"It's not intended to persecute any group," Bernal said. "It's crafted in such a way that protects everybody."
Deputy city attorney Veronica Zertuche told Equality Matters that her office hadn't fielded any complaints of discrimination against conservative Christians in the past year.
"The issue [of religious discrimination] has not arisen," Zertuche said.
San Antonio's experience isn't unusual. A 2012 study of local non-discrimination ordinances by UCLA's Williams Institute found "almost uniform compliance" with the ordinances, with no localities reporting spikes in frivolous litigation.
Fox News host Shannon Bream misled about new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that allow both non-profit and for-profit entities to opt-out of health insurance coverage for contraception, while pretending this new accommodation was contrary to the Supreme Court's recent orders on the "contraception mandate" of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On August 22, HHS announced a new set of rules aimed at accommodating non-profits and business owners who object on religious grounds to providing comprehensive health insurance to their employees. The new regulations are designed to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which held that certain "closely-held" for-profit corporations can be exempted from the requirement that contraception be covered in their employer-sponsored plans. This exemption now aligns the treatment of these businesses with that of religiously-affiliated non-profits, an accommodation the conservative Justices of the Court explicitly directed HHS to consider.
But on the August 25 edition of Fox News' Real Story, host Shannon Bream ignored the fact that the new rules were based on instructions from the Supreme Court.
Bream claimed that "a lot of people are saying" that HHS's rule change "was just a sleight of hand" that "doesn't really change anything." The Fox host went on to argue that these new regulations were contrary to the ruling in Hobby Lobby because "the Supreme Court said simply they don't have to comply with the mandate, now they'd have to fill out paperwork to comply with the mandate":
Bream's pretense that the HHS regulations do not track the Supreme Court's recent rulings is wrong. In his majority opinion for the conservative justices in Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that there was "no reason" why HHS couldn't offer an accommodation of this sort to both non-profit and for-profit entities alike, and that such a process for this exemption to the contraceptive mandate "constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government's aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty."
Moreover, the new regulations also address the additional issue raised by the conservative justices in an interim order issued after Hobby Lobby in Wheaton College v. Burwell, a case where a Christian university successfully claimed that even signing the form that notified its insurance issuer of its objection to birth control coverage was also an impermissible burden on religious freedom. To deal with that objection, HHS' new rules -- in an attempt to meet the instructions of the Court in both Hobby Lobby and Wheaton -- now create an accommodation to its accommodation and will allow "institutions ... to tell the federal government which company administers their health-insurance plan, and the government would then contact that administrator to ask it to arrange contraception coverage for the institution's employees."
HHS has now done what the conservative justices twice told it to do, a fact Fox News forgets as it complains that in accommodating objections to female employees' access to contraception, HHS still hasn't done enough.