A U.S. airman is facing a formal investigation for allegedly falsely claiming that he was punished for opposing marriage equality - a statement widely promoted by Fox News. Now, Fox News is citing the investigation as further evidence that the military is cracking down on anti-gay Christians.
Hoping to advance the right-wing myth that the military has an anti-Christian bias, Fox News has aggressively touted the case of Air Force Sgt. Phillip Monk. In August, Monk told Fox News that he had been relieved of his duties for vocally opposing marriage equality - a claim that the Air Force flatly denied, saying he was simply at the end of his assignment.
Now, Monk is being investigated for providing false statements about the incident, prompting further outrage from Fox.
During the September 23 edition of America Live, Fox's Shannon Bream - who's made a career of trumpeting bogus religious liberty claims - spoke to hate group leader Tony Perkins about Monk's case. Bream and Perkins framed the investigation as further evidence of anti-Christian bias, asserting that Monk was being punished for advocating for his "First Amendment right":
Fox's Shannon Bream claimed that the Obama administration has remained silent on violence against Christians in the Middle East and Africa, ignoring that the White House has condemned violence targeting Christians in the region.
On September 21, armed terrorists shot and killed at least 62 people and wounded more than 150 in a terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The Associated Press reported that only non-Muslims were targeted by the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab in the attack.
On the September 23 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Shannon Bream claimed that "despite an increase in these kinds of attacks in Kenya and Pakistan, we still have not heard anything specific from the White House about whether the treatment of Christians in this part of the world has to change":
Fox News reporter Shannon Bream has become a reliable proponent of right-wing efforts to discriminate against LGBT people, using her national platform to validate religious extremists who claim that any LGBT protections infringe on religious liberty and freedom of speech.
Before joining Fox News in 2007, Bream practiced corporate law in Tampa, FL. In 2000, she left her legal career to pursue journalism, eventually getting noticed by Fox News' Brit Hume. She joined Fox as the network's Supreme Court reporter and is the host of Fox's Sunday show America's News Headquarters.
Bream is also a devout Christian who claims to have been inspired by the work of the notoriously homophobic conservative activist Jerry Falwell. Bream attended Falwell's right-wing Liberty University for her undergraduate degree, and in May of 2013, she became the first woman to deliver the keynote address at her alma mater's commencement ceremony.
During her speech, Bream urged the graduating class to live a life guided by the kind of Christian principles espoused by Falwell, challenging them not to "stand silently" as their "most deeply held beliefs are being questioned in the public square":
Now is not the time to stand silently by as your most deeply held beliefs are being questioned in the public square. Speaking up is rarely easy when the world is actively waiting to discredit and misconstrue what you have to say. But we have Christ as our model. He didn't care what others thought of him. He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He loved them, never condemning them but also never condoning their sin. He spoke boldly and unapologetically in a way that made him a very unpopular guy and ultimately cost him his life. We are not called to live some kind of watered-down version of that truth. In fact, it is just the kind of life the Dr. Jerry Falwell I knew would expect his Liberty grads to live. [emphasis added]
Bream went on to urge the graduating class to fight against "religious oppression" while "never backing down" from "scriptural absolutes":
Not talking about politics, and I personally don't care what party you do or don't belong to. This is about right and wrong, unwavering absolutes, respecting life, loving our neighbors, yeah, as much as we love ourselves, purging our lives of the secret sins that we've convinced ourselves is just no big deal, living in humility, defending those who cannot defend themselves, fighting to end religious oppression against men and women and children all across the globe and never backing down from the scriptural absolutes we must stay tethered to. [emphasis added]
Bream also called on her audience to bring their fight for religious liberty into their workplaces, asking, "if we don't, if you don't, who will?":
Now along with religious liberty, one of the most important things our country has granted from its inception is freedom of speech. There are ways to disagree without compromising, to debate without annihilating each other, but it requires us to know what we believe and why. There are men and women who have fought and died for those freedoms, our very brave service members, and we must never allow the lives sacrificed in pursuit of the goals of liberty and freedom for all to be forgotten or in some way diminished because we are fearful of taking up the cause into our homes and our workplaces, whatever our sphere of influence. If we don't, if you don't, who will? [emphasis added]
Bream's comments offer a glimpse into the kind of narrative she's been working to promote at Fox News, where she's consistently given airtime to right-wing religious extremists and hate group spokespersons who claim their free speech and religious liberty are threatened by even the most basic protections for LGBT people.
Fox News host Shannon Bream invited the hate group Family Research Council's (FRC) Peter Sprigg to confirm her baseless belief that a proposed non-discrimination ordinance would ban Christians from holding public office in San Antonio, marking her third failed attempt to smear the measure.
On the August 27 edition of America Live, Bream and Sprigg peddled unfounded right-wing attacks on the proposal - which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's existing non-discrimination ordinance - as an assault on the rights of Christians. Bream opened the segment by echoing critics who claim the ordinance could be "the first step to banning Christian conservatives from holding public office":
BREAM: New developments today with a controversial proposal in San Antonio that critics say could be the first step to banning Christian conservatives from holding public office. The city council proposing an ordinance that disqualifies anyone who has ever, quote, demonstrated a bias against a person based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. That appears to include people who have spoken out against things like gay marriage and in support of traditional marriage.
Fox News has continually injected race into its coverage of the murder of Oklahoma college student Christopher Lane, despite law enforcement's insistence that the crime, allegedly committed by three teens -- two black, one white -- has no evidence of a racial motive.
Fox News anchor Shannon Bream defended a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, suggesting that forcing the photographer to serve gay customers would infringe on religious liberty.
On August 22, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Elane Huguenin -- owner of Elane Photography -- violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law when she refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple.
During the August 23 edition of America Live, Bream invited Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Jordan Lorence -- who unsuccessfully represented the Huguenins -- for a one-sided interview to criticize the court's decision as an attack on religious liberty:
BREAM: So many parts of the opinion raise a lot of questions. The concurring judge ... said that the Huguenins, the couple here, have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. What about the Huguenins?
LORENCE: Well that's exactly right. In a free society, we have to, people of different beliefs have to learn how to get along. There were plenty of photographers available, willing to shoot this same-sex ceremony. They got them. The Huguenins just need to be excused. This can't be used in an authoritarian, coercive way to force people to basically promote the messages that they don't agree with.
If you want to know how ridiculous this line of reasoning is, just replace "gay couple" with any other marginalized group. What if the photographer had refused to offer her services for a commitment ceremony for Latinos, or an interracial couple, or a Muslim couple? As the Justice Richard C. Bosson wrote in his concurring opinion:
The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of sexual orientation--photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony--than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims.
Fox host Shannon Bream and correspondent Molly Henneberg continued Fox's relentless campaign to demonize Planned Parenthood and stoke fears about their participation in an initiative to expand health insurance. Bream and Henneberg dishonestly linked abortion with federal funds going to Planned Parenthood to cover federal funds helping enroll Americans in health insurance.
On the August 22 edition of America Live, Bream proclaimed there was "outrage over a new plan to give federal money to Planned Parenthood," and concluded that "critics are upset that the government wants to give funds to clinics that also provide abortions." Henneberg brought up the irrelevant red herring that Planned Parenthood is "the largest abortion provider in the country":
Despite Henneberg's dishonest attempt to tie the funding to abortion, the purpose of the navigators is to provide "'fair, impartial and accurate information that assists consumers with submitting the eligibility application, clarifying distinctions among [qualified health plans] and helping qualified individuals make informed decisions during the health plan selection process.'"
Henneberg then attempted to portray the funds as a broken promise by the president by claiming Obama said "no federal dollars that fund Obamacare would go to abortion providers." As The Daily Beast's Amanda Marcotte notes, this is a blatant falsehood:
Well, if you're watching Fox, you'd think it's apocalyptic. Right-wing radio host Mike Gallagher acted like there was nothing more outrageous than a public health clinic getting involved in a program that helps people get better access to health care. "I always try to anticipate what my friends on the left will possibly say to try to defend this egregious about-face," he chuckled on Fox. The "about-face" is a reference to the overt lie underpinning this entire campaign against Planned Parenthood, which is the conservative claim that Obama somehow promised that Planned Parenthood as an entity would not get any federal funding under the Affordable Care Act. Obama made no such promise. He signed an executive order disallowing abortion to be covered in health-care plans sold on the exchange, but signing people up for health care should not be equated with giving them abortions or even giving them plans that cover abortion. That's like saying the Department of Motor Vehicles is casting your ballot for you by giving you the opportunity to register to vote--an outright and inflammatory lie.
Fox even read a statement by Planned Parenthood Vice President Eric Ferrero, who assured that the grants "have nothing to do with abortion and won't be used for abortion services," which would fulfill Obama's promise.
Planned Parenthood is one of 105 groups to receive federal funds under the Affordable Care Act to aid in enrolling Americans in health insurance. According to The Hill, "organizations on the other side of the ideological spectrum also received grants," including Ascension Health, the nation's largest Catholic and non-profit health system, and Catholic Social Services, an arm of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.
Fox News attempted to smear a new Affordable Care Act (ACA) outreach campaign by claiming that Deepak Bhargava, the head of an organization affiliated with the effort, was involved in the manufactured ACORN video scandal. Fox's attempt to smear the campaign ignores that Bhargava left ACORN over ten years ago and was in no way affiliated with the video scandal hyped by the network.
In 2009, conservative activist James O'Keefe targeted the community organizing group ACORN with a series of deceptively-edited sting videos that attempted to demonstrate widespread criminality at the organization. The videos were widely promoted by Fox and the conservative media, and the ensuing bad publicity forced the organization to shut down. But subsequent investigations found that the group had broken no laws.
Bhargava, a former government affairs official at ACORN, is now the executive director for the Center for Community Change, a group that funds an organization named the Young Invincibles. On August 19, the Daily Mail Online reported that the Young Invincibles is partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services for a video contest to assist with ACA outreach. The article used the connection between Young Invincibles and the Center for Community Change to invoke the conservative bogeyman of the defunct ACORN:
In its heyday, ACORN's legislative agenda was managed by Deepak Bhargava, an Indian-born community organizer. Bhargava left ACORN in 2002 after holding the top government affairs position there for 10 years. He is now executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Community Change.
Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was among the most vocal Republicans during the 2010 battle over ACORN's federal funding, told MailOnline that the White House is risking a public backlash with its choice of partnerships.
'The fact that the Obama administration is putting a senior staffer of the now defunct and notoriously corrupt ACORN in charge of giving away cash to bribe young Americans into accepting Obamacare is cause for grave concern,' Gosar said.
Fox News is using an ad opposing Stand Your Ground self-defense laws that reenacted the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to revive the false claim that Florida's Stand Your Ground statute played no role in the acquittal of Martin's shooter, George Zimmerman.
On August 19, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence released an online ad reenacting the night Martin was killed as part of an effort to seek the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws, which are on the books in more than 20 states. Those laws drew controversy after Martin's death, with critics claiming Florida's broad self-defense statute had provided Zimmerman with too much leeway to kill Martin without repercussion. On July 13, a Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder or manslaughter in Martin's killing. Two days later, a juror told CNN that they felt neither crime applied because Zimmerman had "a right to defend himself" by killing Martin under Stand Your Ground, which should have ended all debate over whether the law played a role in the case.
But while discussing the CSGV ad on the August 20 edition of America Live, guest anchor Shannon Bream said, "Let me also start with the fact that the Stand Your Ground law was not used in the Zimmerman case, but that's what this ad is all about. Does it do a disservice to both sides of this debate if we're starting from a place that's not even factually accurate?"
After radio host Richard Fowler attempted to correct Bream by accurately stating that the Stand Your Ground defense was described in instructions to the jury, Larson falsely responded, "No, it wasn't."
From the August 20 edition of America Live:
BREAM: Richard, let me also start with the fact that the Stand Your Ground law was not used in the Zimmerman case, but that's what this ad is all about. Does it do a disservice to both sides of this debate if we're starting from a place that's not even factually accurate?
FOWLER: The facts are that the Stand Your Ground law was in the jury instructions and beyond that --
LARSON: No, it wasn't. No it wasn't.
Larson is wrong. The publicly available Zimmerman trial jury instructions -- which were entirely based on Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense law -- stated: "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
The jury instructions are nearly identical in wording to the text of Florida's Stand Your Ground law. According to Dan Gelber, a former Florida state senator and former prosecutor who opposes the law, Stand Your Ground "fundamentally changed the analysis used by juries to assign blame in these cases." The law was also important to the case because it was cited by authorities as a reason for why Zimmerman was not initially arrested after shooting Martin.
Fox News promised to continue highlighting segments from its report, "The Great Food Stamp Binge," an hour-long attempt to characterize SNAP recipients as freeloaders. One participant in the report, an advocate against hunger, described it a "tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies."
On the August 12 edition of Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream played an excerpt of Bret Baier's report on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (commonly referred to as food stamps) and promised to continue highlighting parts of the report throughout the week:
Later that evening, Fox's Bill O'Reilly also pushed the report, contending that SNAP shows that the Obama administration "encourag[es] parasites to come out and take as much as they can with no remorse."
Media Matters has noted that the report is a wild misrepresentation of SNAP recipients. One advocate featured in the report, Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, called it a "tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies" that "could win the Pulitzer Prize ... for fiction." From Berg's statement:
Once again, Fox News is blaming the victim, claiming that low-income families - who are victims of the continued collapse in the U.S economy and the failure of the U.S. political system to fix it - are somehow to blame because they need temporary help from SNAP benefits to feed their families. That's like blaming those who drowned on the Titanic for the ship's faulty design and reckless piloting. Ignoring the fact that most SNAP participants are working, or are senior citizens, children, people with disabilities, and veterans, the show repeatedly gives the false impression that the program encourages laziness instead of work. Even though there are 47 million Americans now receiving SNAP benefits, the show focuses on one individual - yes, one - who abuses the system.
[T]he Fox show is a tour de force of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. In fact, were it not for the half-truths, the report would have no truths at all.
This post has been updated.
Fox dumped Glenn Beck after his bizarre conspiracy theories and rhetoric reportedly caused the network's advertisers to balk. Now Fox appears to be clinging to one of his classic distortions, characterizing a government effort utilizing behavioral psychology to reduce fraud, error and debt as "mind control."
FoxNews.com reported that it obtained a document outlining plans for the government to hire a "Behavioral Insights Team" that "will look for ways to subtly influence people's behavior." The United Kingdom has implemented several related initiatives. In one instance the U.K. government sent out reminder letters to late taxpayers, leading to increased tax revenue.
The ideas behind this type of initiative were laid out in Professor Cass Sunstein's book, Nudge. When Sunstein joined the Obama administration as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Beck launched a campaign to demonize him and his ideas.
Right-wing media have baselessly smeared the White House's new Behavioral Insights Team, labeling it "propaganda," "mind control," and "Orwellian." In reality, the Behavioral Insights Team is modeled off a similar unit in Britain that has proven effective in encouraging timely tax payment and reducing energy bills and consumption.
Conservative media seized on White House plans to create a Behavioral Insights Team on July 30, when FoxNews.com obtained a document describing the program and its search for behavioral scientists.
Breitbart.com quickly jumped on the story, suggesting that the Obama administration will use the program to push a social agenda: "The Obama administration has not been shy about attempting to use its influence - or taxpayer money - to push enthusiasm for its agenda, including Obamacare, nutrition, and gay rights."
Fox stoked fears by hyping the program on multiple shows with little mention of its benefits. On the July 30 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs commented on FoxNews.com's report on the program, saying, "To many, that sounds purely like propaganda and mind control."
Fox News hosted conservative activist and media critic Brent Bozell to defend a widely criticized interview by Fox's Lauren Green and continue the right-wing media's attack on Muslim scholar Reza Aslan.
During an interview with writer and scholar Reza Aslan, Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green ignored the content of his book and his academic credentials, instead repeatedly questioning the motivation and propriety of a Muslim writing a book about Jesus, suggesting a religious bias.
Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, defended Green during the America Live segment, saying: "I'll be the first one to stand up and applaud Lauren Green for the question that she asked. It was the exact, correct question that needed to be asked." He went on to criticize Aslan's response to Green's suggestion of religious bias -- that he's a scholar of religions, that it's his job to write about religion -- calling it arrogant and further claiming that if Aslan was indeed writing without bias, then "he's not a very good Muslim."
Green has come under widespread criticism for the interview. As Media Matters pointed out, Green failed to meet her own standards since she, a Christian, has reported on Muslims in the past. Aslan responded to his interview with Green by pointing out Fox's "inherent anti-Muslim bias."
Green's interview has since been described by critics as "atrocious." Abe Levy, a religion writer for the San Antonio Express-News wrote: "anyone can scrutinize a particular faith if they have studied it, you don't have to be of that particular faith. In my line of work, you want to have a deep respect for a particular religion, even if it is not your own, but you don't have to be of a particular faith to cover it." A former writer for Christianity Today magazine said: "when it comes to the author, she could have looked at his credentials, she was trying to get at a controversy and wasn't sure what the controversy was."
The interview first gained attention after Buzzfeed posted it under the headline "Is This The Most Embarrasing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?" The segment was also described by Slate as "the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News."
Fox News declined to air President Obama's economic speech, despite offering a pre-rebuttal of his agenda.
On July 30, President Obama was scheduled to address his agenda for sustainable economic growth and recovery at an Amazon shipping facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On the July 30 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Shannon Bream and guest Dana Perino chastised the president's previous economic proposals as a preview to his upcoming speech. Perino stated that the Obama administration's "speeches end up being like cotton candy, you know what, melts on contact? So I give them a C minus when it comes to the content of their speeches."
Shortly thereafter, Bream informed viewers that those interested in the speech could follow it on Foxnews.com.
As the speech started, rather than airing the president's remarks, Fox brought on guest Chris Stirewalt to continue the network's general attack on his policy proposals without any context from the actual speech. Stirewalt explained that the speech offered little pragmatic solutions, and was solely based around the president's alleged desire to show he is willing to compromise.
Earlier in the day, Bream questioned on Twitter whether anyone was "still listening" to the president on the economy.
Fox News offered Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a platform to promote his petition to defund President Obama's health care law, an effort that has been repeatedly pushed by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
On the July 29 edition of Fox News' America Live, guest host Shannon Bream hosted Cruz to promote his petition to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During the interview, Bream praised Cruz's background, saying, "The first time I met you was when you argued a case at the Supreme Court. You seem very familiar with the Constitution." Cruz appealed to Fox viewers, declaring that "the only way" to stop funding of health care reform is if Americans "go to dontfundit.com, we sign a national petition, and every one of us picks up the phone, calls our elected officials and says, 'Talk is cheap. Stand up, use the constitutional power of the purse and defund Obamacare now.' If we stand together, we can win this fight."
Bream is not the first Fox News host to hype the right-wing campaign to defund the ACA. On his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity has repeatedly threatened Republicans to support defunding, even to the point of threatening primary challenges to those who don't comply. After Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) threatened to shut down the government if the health care law was not defunded, Hannity hosted Lee on his show, saying:
This is an interesting moment -- I think -- and a test for the Republican Party. Are they going to be the conservative alternative? How many members of the House and Senate ran on repealing Obamacare? Now they can vote symbolically or they can take this stand, is what you're telling them to do. I'm supporting you. I think they ought to just put their foot down, stand on principal and stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here. Fund the rest of the government, but just defund Obamacare. And then if the Democrats want to shut down the government, then let them shut it down.