Fox News' Special Report cherry-picked Justice Antonin Scalia's religious freedom concerns from the Supreme Court's oral arguments on constitutional protections for same-sex marriage to question whether clergy may "be required to conduct same-sex marriages." But this selective reporting ignores the fact that Scalia's line of questioning was immediately debunked by his fellow justices as well as the pro-marriage equality lawyer.
On April 28, the court heard landmark arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that will decide whether the U.S. Constitution forbids states from banning same-sex marriages, or at least requires them to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it's legal.
During the April 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report, anchor Bret Baier highlighted a dubious line of questioning between Scalia and Mary Bonauto, the lawyer representing the same-sex couples, that suggested a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would require clergy with religious objections to perform those ceremonies. Baier reiterated Scalia's question to The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, who agreed and argued that a ruling in favor of marriage equality would leave religious liberties vulnerable:
BAIER: There's one more thing. If states license ministers to conduct marriages, would those ministers -- if it is constitutional -- then be required to conduct same-sex marriages?
HAYES: Right, and then you go to the religious liberty argument. I mean, this is one area where I think conservatives are shifting their focus now, in a sense almost conceding that the gay marriage debate for all intents and purposes in the political realm is over, but can they sort of protect those religious liberties that, you know, certainly I would argue that the founders intended.
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."
Right-wing media attacked President Obama's Easter prayer breakfast speech, claiming he "smeared" Christianity by referring to "less-than-loving" statements from Christians.
Conservative media celebrated the effectiveness of torture in response to news that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee would release its report on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) detention and interrogation program, attacking the Senate for releasing the report and disputing the report's findings. Military and interrogation experts have emphasized that torture is an ineffective interrogation technique, and human rights groups support the release of the report.
From the November 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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From the October 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
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From the October 9 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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There's a glaring hole in Weekly Standard senior writer Steve Hayes' argument that media figures do not typically warmonger because "there was no drumbeat for war in Syria" -- he himself called for U.S. military intervention against the Assad regime.
Many media figures -- including former fans of the Iraq War -- are calling on President Obama to intervene in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) with military power. Currently, the administration has conducted airstrikes against the State in Iraq and is considering further action in Syria, though officials have said there will be no U.S. combat troops on the ground.
Fox's Juan Williams pointed out the increased calls for war during the September 7 edition of Fox's Media Buzz, suggesting that media seem to consistently favor war over peace, perhaps for a ratings boost that international conflicts could bring television news. Williams noted that today's calls seem to parallel media's eagerness for military intervention in Syria back in 2013, over human rights abuses from the Bashar al-Assad regime.
But Hayes, who is also a Fox contributor, disagreed, asking "which media favored going to Syria?" According to Hayes, "There was no drumbeat for war in Syria from the media":
HAYES: If there had been, if the media were sort of predisposed to want war, to want the drama as Juan suggests, we would have seen that with respect to Syria. We didn't see that at all.
In fact, Hayes and his Weekly Standard colleagues were perhaps the loudest in the chorus of media figures calling for war with Syria just last year.
After multiple investigations concluded that no "stand down" order was given to security personnel responding to the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Fox News alleged that the delay security personnel took to enlist support amounted to a "stand down" order.
On the September 5 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier once again hyped the asked-and-answered question from his Fox News special, "13 Hours at Benghazi," based on the accounts of three CIA security personnel who alleged they were delayed in responding to the diplomatic facility under attack in Benghazi, Libya. Baier criticized the "semantics" used by deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, who during a press briefing explained that "there was no stand-down order" but there was a short delay "for very good security reasons to get additional backup and additional weapons" for the security personnel before responding to the attack.
Fox contributor Steve Hayes chided Harf, saying that "she admits that there was a delay" which is "the same thing" as a stand down order. Fox's Charles Krauthammer added that "there is no distinction between stand down and don't go."
Conservative media are suggesting that the Obama administration is "working with foreigners to subvert the Constitution" by seeking a climate agreement with other nations without Senate approval, but legal experts agree that because it is not expected to be legally binding, the accord does not require Senate ratification.
Fox News is minimizing the radical nature of the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby, framing it as narrowly-tailored and claiming that the federal government "will end up paying" for the four contraceptives that the chain store objected to. However, Fox is ignoring the fact that companies are challenging all 20 contraceptives covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and that one way the conservative majority suggested the government could bridge the gap in coverage -- providing the same opt-out accommodation to for-profits that it provides to religiously-affiliated non-profits -- is already being challenged in the lower courts.
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, holding that for-profit, secular corporations are exempt from a provision in the ACA that requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover comprehensive preventive health services, including contraception. The religious owners of Hobby Lobby objected to providing coverage for certain forms of birth control, including emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, because they erroneously believe that these medications cause abortions. For the all-male conservative majority on the Court, it was enough that the owners "sincerely believed" this scientifically inaccurate information.
Right-wing media immediately celebrated the Hobby Lobby decision, which adopted many of their favorite myths about religious freedom and contraception. Fox News in particular was supportive of the Court's supposedly "narrow ruling," with contributor Laura Ingraham claiming that women who worked at companies "like Hobby Lobby" who were upset about the decision were overreacting and "had really bad cases of the vapors over this case." A panel discussion on the June 30 edition of Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren also downplayed the significance of the case, with Weekly Standard senior writer Stephen Hayes stating that he didn't think the case would "have a huge impact" because "the Court very carefully narrowed this case to apply basically to the facts presented." A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, agreed with Hayes and claimed that the case was "narrowly-tailored," arguing that "the government will end up paying for these [forms of contraception] anyway." Fox News host Megyn Kelly went the furthest on The O'Reilly Factor, claiming reproductive rights advocate Sandra Fluke -- who warned the decision could apply to all contraception -- "doesn't know what she is talking about."
From the June 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Weekly Standard writer and Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes broke ranks from his fellow conservatives and colleagues at Fox by agreeing with Hillary Clinton's assessment that her critics have mischaracterized her congressional testimony on the Benghazi attacks.
On May 30 Politico published advance excerpts from Clinton's upcoming memoir, Hard Choices, in which she details her time at the State Department during the attacks in Benghazi and criticizes Republican efforts to exploit the tragedy. Writing on her congressional testimony on the attacks, Clinton argued that the controversy surrounding her response to a question from Sen. Ron Johnson is "yet another example of the terrible politicization of this tragedy." Clinton points out that her"what difference at this point does it make" statement did not "mean that I was somehow minimizing the tragedy of Benghazi" and that "many of those trying to make hay of it know that, but don't care."
In a May 30 post at The Weekly Standard, Hayes agreed that Clinton's critics have "badly mischaracterized the now infamous question." Hayes went on to correctly note that Clinton's response was simply "an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future":
Hillary Clinton is right about Benghazi -- or at least she's right about one thing.
According to a story by Maggie Haberman about the Benghazi chapter in Clinton's forthcoming book Hard Choices, the former secretary of state contends that some of her critics have badly mischaracterized the now infamous question she asked at a January 23, 2012, congressional hearing: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
She's right, they have. The question, which came in the middle of a heated back-and-forth with U.S. senator Ron Johnson, was not so much a declaration of indifference as it was an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future.
Hayes has previously defended Clinton from attacks mischarcterizing her exchange. On the April 30 edition of Hannity, Hayes stood up for Clinton against those who labeled her attitude about the attack as indifferent and again corrected the record:
HAYES: Let me start by actually defending Hillary Clinton, which I don't do often in the context of Benghazi. You know, that sound bite has been, I think, misinterpreted by some to be a declaration of her indifference as to what had actually happened on the ground in Benghazi when she says, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" She wasn't saying, basically, I don't care, you know, we're beyond it, it doesn't matter. What she was saying is it doesn't matter how it happened.
Despite Hayes' correction to critics who willfully misinterpreted Clinton's words, conservatives continue to hold up her remarks as a false indication of indifference.
Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes accused President Obama of attacking a "straw man" after the president argued that his foreign policy critics believe "military intervention is the only way to avoid looking weak" -- a somewhat ironic characterization, given that Hayes has loudly accused Obama of being weak and "dithering" in his approach to foreign affairs.
In a May 28 commencement address at West Point, Obama outlined his foreign policy goals and addressed his critics:
And I would betray my duty to you, and to the country we love, if I sent you into harm's way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed fixing, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.
Here's my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don't, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only - or even primary - component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader - and especially your Commander-in-Chief - to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.
Hayes took to Twitter to accuse Obama of attacking a "straw man" and claimed nobody believes that "military intervention is the only way to avoid looking weak":
Within minutes of the tweet, Hayes criticized Obama's lack of leadership on Ukraine, a foreign policy issue Hayes has said demands military action:
Hayes's tweets make for a striking juxtaposition when placed in the context of his recent critiques of Obama's foreign policy. For example, on the April 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Hayes accused Obama of "dithering" in his response to Russia's invasion of Crimea and claimed military intervention would have made him appear "resolute" (via Nexis):
HAYES: [If] we had said when Russia first invaded Crimea, if we had sent troops, hopefully more than 150, to our NATO allies at that time, it would have suggested that the president was resolute, that he was determined not to let Russia push our allies around. Instead what he did was dither for weeks and weeks and weeks on end. And now he does it almost grudgingly and because is he being badgered in part by members of Congress suggesting is he not doing enough, that he sends something that everybody recognizes. The United States, the Obama administration basically has to concede, members of Congress are calling him out on this. Our allies are saying this is just a symbol. This is basically just a symbol.
And on the March 19 edition of the show, Hayes mocked the president for what Hayes perceived to be a reluctance to intervene militarily against Putin in Ukraine.
HAYES: I think the overriding objective for the Obama administration on a number of different fronts, whether you're talking ability Iran, Syria, or Russia, is to avoid military confrontation. We can all understand why he wants to avoid it. Everybody would like to avoid it. But there comes a time where that can't be your leading objective. When you have one of the world's great powers invading other countries or annexing other sovereign states, you have to take that seriously.
The Supreme Court will soon decide Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, a case that could let owners of for-profit, secular corporations ignore the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and provide health insurance that does not cover preventive benefits like contraception. Right-wing media continue to advance multiple myths to support the owners of Hobby Lobby, despite the fact that these arguments have been repeatedly debunked by legal experts, religious scholars, and medical professionals.