Fox News' Special Report helped GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reframe the reproductive choice debate by misleadingly hyping a poll that found that a majority of Americans support a legal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are extremely rare and studies show a majority of Americans continue to support access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, and various other health care reasons.
According to Politico, on April 8, Sen. Paul "refused to tell The Associated Press whether he would support exceptions for abortions in instances of rape or incest or if the birth of a child would risk the mother's life." Later that day, Paul told journalists in New Hampshire, "Why don't we ask the DNC" whether it is "OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus."
Paul's comment was lauded by right-wing media, and on the April 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report host Bret Baier and correspondent Shannon Bream claimed his statement put Democrats on the "defensive" over "views on abortion most Americans find extreme." During the segment, Bream highlighted a Quinnipiac poll showing "a majority of Americans support legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy," to paint Democrats as extreme. Later in the show, panelists A.B. Stoddard, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Hayes applauded Paul for "flipping the script" and exposing Democrats' "extremism" on reproductive choice. Hayes called him "absolutely brilliant" saying he "reframed the issue entirely," and Charles Krauthammer praised Paul's move saying banning abortion is "the right thing to do, and it's a winning issue."
Fox's praise for Paul's misleading characterization of the reproductive choice debate is unsurprising given the network's history of helping the GOP rebrand itself - as Bloomberg Politics' David Weigel pointed out, Paul's attempt to flip the script was "exactly what the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List PAC ha[s] been advising Republicans to do since 2012."
Since President Obama's second inauguration, Sen. Rand Paul has appeared 119 times on Fox News' evening and primetime programming and Fox News Sunday, far outpacing the other declared and likely Republican presidential candidates not employed by the network. On the other end of the spectrum, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has appeared on the programs studied only three times.
Among the potential candidates that were on Fox News' payroll for all or part of the duration of this study, Fox News contributor John Bolton has made 171 appearances, more often than Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson -- who were both dropped by the network over their presidential aspirations -- combined.
When Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced last month that he is seeking the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, his first TV interview, unsurprisingly, was a full hour on Sean Hannity's show. The same night, Rand Paul (and perennial fake presidential candidate Donald Trump) appeared on Megyn Kelly's show to react to Cruz's announcement and discuss their own presidential aspirations.
Paul followed Cruz's lead by appearing in an "exclusive" interview on Hannity's Fox program Tuesday, hours after announcing the start of his own campaign.
While the first presidential primary is about nine months away, Cruz's and Paul's competing appearances provide a glimpse into what is becoming an election tradition. For the past two years, a slew of Republican would-be presidential candidates have been involved in The Fox Primary, making regular appearances to curry favor with the network's influential hosts and reach out directly to the channel's decidedly conservative audience.
In a February piece for The Hill, Fox News contributor and former congressman John LeBoutillier argued that "the key to winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination is winning the 'Fox Primary.'" Touting the importance of coverage from Fox News for Republican contenders trying to court primary voters, LeBoutillier claimed, "The Fox primary is crucial to any GOP candidate." According to LeBoutillier, "The competition just to get on these shows will be intense."
The Fox Primary is nothing new. In the run-up to the 2012 election, Republican contenders also jockeyed for Fox News airtime. New York Times reporter Alessandra Stanley pointed out at the time that "Fox News practically owns and operates" the Iowa primary: "its viewers are seeing the world through the eyes of a Tea Party activist in Davenport, or a small business leader in Ames -- my own private Iowa."
Though the presidential campaign is just kicking into gear, eighteen declared and potential Republican candidates have already made a combined 804 appearances on Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The Kelly File, Hannity, and Fox News Sunday.
Many of the would-be candidates have regularly been introduced to viewers as potential 2016 contenders and have been given a prominent platform to sell themselves and criticize likely Republican primary opponents and potential Democratic nomination frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Greta Van Susteren's show featured by far the most appearances from the stable of potential and declared candidates (313), though the number is inflated due to Fox News contributor John Bolton's 143 appearances on the show. The potential 2016 contenders have made a combined 152 appearances on Hannity's show.
During a February appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity vowed, "On both my radio and television program on the Fox News Channel I promise you this: As somebody who has not made up his mind, I am going to give access to every single solitary candidate as often as I can, as often as they'll come. By the end of the process, I will ask them every question I can possibly think of."
In the past twenty-six months, Paul has appeared twice as often as any other candidate on Hannity's show. Most of the would-be candidates have appeared at least several times with Hannity, with the notable exceptions of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, neither of whom have been on his program in the past twenty-six months:
Individual data and analysis for each of the candidates are below.
Conservative media figures are lashing out against tentative framework for a historic deal on Iran's nuclear program as a "surrender to Tehran," -- ignoring the widespread approval among diplomats, foreign relations and nuclear weapons policy experts of the agreement between the United States and five other nations aimed at limiting Iranian nuclear ambitions.
From the April 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the March 31 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the March 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the March 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz downplayed the bloody arrest and subsequent national media coverage of a black University of Virginia (UVA) student, arrested during an alleged dispute over his ID, claiming "such arrests are common in this college town."
The Washington Post reported that Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is under scrutiny after the violent arrest of UVA student Martese Johnson, who "sustained head injuries that left him with bloody streaks down his face" following St. Patrick's Day celebrations near the UVA campus in Charlottesville. Photos of Johnson's bloody face sparked widespread outrage and protests over the use of excessive police force.
During a segment on March 20 edition of Special Report, Kurtz criticized the national media attention claiming that this was a local story with "no evidence that race was a factor" in the arrest. Kurtz later downplayed the arrest as typical, asserting that "bartenders tell us such arrests are common in this college town."
From the March 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
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Fox News cited an unnamed "independent expert" to cast doubt on the veracity of recent Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, which have exceeded 16 million Americans and are reported to have driven the largest reduction in uninsured persons in 40 years.
On March 16, the Obama administration announced that 16.4 million Americans had enrolled in insurance through the health care law since it took effect. As The New York Times reported "Since the first open enrollment period began in October 2013, the officials said, the proportion of adults lacking insurance has dropped to 13.2 percent, from 20.3 percent."
But at Fox News, high enrollment numbers and a plummeting rate in those uninsured was barely mentioned. According to a Media Matters count, the network mentioned the 16.4 million Americans who enrolled in health insurance just once in the days following the announcement in an attempt to discredit the findings. On the March 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier briefly reported on the enrollment numbers, offering the unevidenced claim that "an independent expert says the reality is fewer than 10 million people have signed up."
Fox has consistently downplayed and twisted Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, going as far as to skew on-air graphics to misleadingly suggest less Americans were signing up for insurance through the health care law than had been originally projected.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reported that the government's numbers differed from those of "an independent expert," who concluded only about 9.7 million people gained insurance. The lower number was based on a survey by Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, who "took into account insurance losses" during some of the years the ACA was in effect.
Fox News' Special Report promoted "GOP alternatives" proposed by Republican presidential hopefuls that would supposedly replace the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court strikes down the law's health insurance tax credits. But Fox's flagship program glossed over the fact that the GOP alternatives would not repair the damage and leave millions of Americans without health care coverage.
On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the opening arguments of the King v. Burwell case. The case involves whether the language of a subclause in the ACA, "Exchanges established by the State," could prevent the IRS from providing tax credits to consumers who purchased insurance over the federal exchange.
During the March 11 edition of Special Report, Fox senior political correspondent Mike Emanuel highlighted "alternatives" proposed by GOP presidential contenders. The proposals ranged from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's plan to shift health care choice back states, to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's plan to repeal ACA:
But none of the plans promoted by Fox proposed a way to help the millions of Americans left without a way to purchase affordable health insurance. As US News & World Report's Robert Schlesinger writes, the GOP "has yet to produce a plan encompassing the latter half of their 'repeal-and-replace' mantra."
Nevertheless, despite the lack of a solution for this potential human and economic disaster, right-wing media continue to baselessly pretend there is a fallback plan in the event this attack on the ACA is successful.
A RAND Corporation study released in February found that, if the Court rules against the federal exchanges, 8 million people would lose their coverage, and unsubsidized health insurance premiums would increase by 47 percent.
From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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A Fox News Special Report segment attacked new rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure net neutrality, claiming the rules were done in secret and would slow down the Internet. But the FCC received millions of public comments in favor of net neutrality, and experts say the rules will ensure Internet fairness.
Today, the FCC passed "net neutrality" rules, which allows the agency to regulate Internet service as a utility and prohibits "Internet service providers from granting faster access to companies that pay for the privilege."
On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier reported that "the FCC approved sweeping new rules that no member of the public has even seen." Correspondent Peter Doocy called the new regulations a government "power grab" that will result in consumers having slower Internet.
In fact, the public overwhelmingly supports new net neutrality regulations. During the public comment period, the FCC received a record 3.7 million comments on the topic of net neutrality. According to a report by the Sunlight Foundation, fewer than one percent of the first 800,000 public comments were opposed to net neutrality enforcement.
Furthermore, tech experts have called net neutrality the guiding principle that has made the Internet successful. Google's director of communications explained that the new net neutrality rules would promote competition and help the economy. And the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that "there is unlikely to be any negative impact from such regulation on [Internet Service Provider] investment."
The Washington Post reported that new rules could make the Internet faster by "mak[ing] sure services such as Google Fiber can build new broadband pipes more easily."
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy pushed a Republican attempt to tar net neutrality when he said that it "could do to the Internet what Obamacare did to the healthcare system," a right-wing attack widely discredited when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) pushed the idea in November.
During the February 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Peter Doocy reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on net neutrality protections for the Internet on February 26. Doocy compared the alleged lack of transparency in the FCC's proposed plans to the Affordable Care Act's passage and claimed, "some critics already calling a slowed down web Obamanet, and their fear is that these changes could do to the internet what Obamacare did to the healthcare system."
This attack echoes right-wing media outlets and Republican lawmakers who pushed the analogy that net neutrality regulations would be like "ObamaCare for the web." In a February 22 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, L. Gordon Crovitz dubbed net neutrality regulations "Obamanet." But the idea behind the term gained popularity after a November tweet sent by Sen. Ted Cruz where he asserted that "'Net Neutrality' is Obamacare for the Internet."
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.-- Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
Cruz was roundly criticized for his misleading attack. Tech blog Gizmodo called Cruz' tweet "disingenuous" and "dangerous." And according to Salon, "Cruz was absurdly wrong on the substance and demonstrated an ignorance of both healthcare and tech policy." Salon did concede however that healthcare and internet service did share some "common features":
Healthcare and Internet service in America do share some common features - specifically, we pay a lot for both, and the product we get in return kinda sucks relative to how much we spend. Head to Europe or Asia and chances are that you'll be able to purchase faster Internet access for far less money than you'd pay here. Also, Internet connections abroad are getting faster and cheaper, while prices and speeds are pretty much staying the same in the U.S.
Click here for more information on net neutrality
While discussing Oregon's recent political scandal, conservative media are reviving their favorite renewable energy bogeyman - the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra -- to push the false narrative that the clean energy industry is an economic failure that is widely infected with "crony capitalism." Contrary to these claims, Solyndra was never a scandal, and renewable energy sources are increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- despite historically receiving far less in government subsidies.
When former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced he would resign due to the controversy surrounding undisclosed consulting fees his fiancée received while advising him on energy policies, conservative media were quick to compare the controversy to the government loan guarantee and bankruptcy of solar firm Solyndra. As Politico recently explained, the conservative strategy is to use the Kitzhaber scandal as "ammunition" against Democrats and environmentalists who they claim "have propped up failed clean-energy projects" and provided government aid that "ends up financially benefiting only the politically connected companies lobbying for it." Bloomberg News similarly stated that whether or not it is accurate, "[t]he argument being made is that clean energy lobbying is a way for Democrats to get rich."
That's exactly what we've seen in the conservative media. The Washington Times claimed the Oregon scandal once again brings to light "the failures of taxpayer-funded green energy companies such as Solyndra that had political ties to party bigwigs." The National Review Online linked the situation in Oregon to Solyndra and what it claimed were other "green-energy scandals that piled up during [the Obama administration's] first term." The Daily Caller alleged that in the case of both the Kitzhaber scandal and Solyndra, "government supported green energy programs based on political connections." And Fox News also highlighted Solyndra while discussing the Oregon controversy -- twice.
But the simple truth is that the Solyndra episode was never a scandal, a fact that has been proven time and time again. The solar energy firm, which received a federal loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, filed for bankruptcy as a result of plummeting prices for solar panels, as detailed by Greenwire, among others. Conservative media responded by pushing baseless claims that Solyndra used unethical influence in the Obama administration to receive its loan, but an extensive investigation by House Republicans turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
In addition to pushing the cronyism charge, conservative media have also used the Oregon scandal as an opportunity to broadly claim that renewable energy is not economically viable in the marketplace. For example, National Review Online purported that these sources of energy can't "survive in the marketplace without giant subsidies or special tax favors." During an interview on WSJ Live, Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell similarly claimed that "wind and solar and ethanol really cannot survive without handouts from government."
But the reality is that wind and solar power have become increasingly cost-competitive with fossil fuels -- and are actually cheaper than coal and natural gas in some markets -- despite having received far less in government subsidies over the years.