The National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media are attempting to downplay the significance of an "historic" victory for gun safety in Washington state, where voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to expand background checks on gun sales.
On November 4, Washington voters backed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members. In doing so, Washingtonians closed a loophole in federal law that allowed guns to be bought without a background check at gun shows, over the Internet, and through other venues from non-licensed sellers.
Voters also rejected I-591, a competing initiative that would have prohibited the enactment of any background check law that was stricter than the loophole-riddled federal law. The NRA stayed neutral on 591 and spent nearly $500,000 opposing 594.
Journalists labeled the successful ballot initiative approach to a background check law as "historic," while the head of Everytown for Gun Safety, a prominent backer of I-594, said the outcome "proved the polls right -- when Americans vote on public safety measures to prevent gun violence, gun safety wins."
Prior to Election Day, an NRA spokesperson expressed concern about the potential passage of I-594 stating, "If [gun safety advocate Michael Bloomberg] is successful in this ballot initiative in Washington, we are very concerned that he will replicated this across the country and we will have ballot initiative like this one across the country. That is why we are so concerned."
In an attempt to spin the unfavorable outcome, conservative media and the NRA are offering weak arguments to downplay the significance of this major victory for gun safety advocates:
The hosts of Fox & Friends wondered whether a Washington Post infographic that shows the different levels of documentary identification required to vote in each state promotes voter fraud, and they also cast suspicion on the intentions of the country's leading Hispanic civil rights advocacy group that highlighted the article on Twitter.
The Washington Post published an informational piece on October 27 that summarizes which states in the U.S. require or request photo ID, another form of documentary ID, or a non-documentary form of identification to vote. The source The Washington Post relied on, the National Conference of State Legislatures, makes clear that the article and graphic focus on documentary identification, of which strict voter ID -- a photo ID requirement that is selective about which photo IDs are acceptable -- is the most stringent type. As the NCSL explains, not all states require documentary identification. Other states have " 'non-documentary' ID requirements, meaning voters must verify their identity in other ways, such as by signing an affidavit or poll book, or by providing personal information. In addition, all states have procedures for challenging voter eligibility."
But on the October 30 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman, and Brian Kilmeade highlighted the fact that the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a Hispanic advocacy group, retweeted the Post article. Doocy suggested the Post is encouraging voter fraud, and Kooiman cast suspicion on NCLR's promotion of the article:
DOOCY: Are they, is The Washington Post promoting voter fraud or just doing a public service?
KOOIMAN: Well, I mean, The Washington Post just put it out there, but this immigration group tweeted it, and then La Raza retweeted it, and it wasn't just, you know, nonpartisan. It had the hashtag #TurnOutForWhat, which is the pro-Democrat hashtag.
Despite Fox & Friends' attempt to attribute a nefarious intention to the article and NCLR, strict voter ID laws have become a significant obstacle to many Americans attempting to vote, and because of ongoing legal challenges, the requirements to vote in many states are in flux. Eligible voters in Texas have already been turned away because of the state's restrictive voter ID law, which was recently blocked and then reinstated. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that similar laws in Kansas and Tennessee brought voter turnout down 1.9 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively -- which amounted to 122,000 fewer votes. As The Washington Post explained in its summary of the report, "[y]oung people, black people, and newly registered voters were the groups that were more likely to see bigger drops in turnout."
Courts and social scientists have repeatedly found strict voter ID laws to be racially discriminatory toward or linked to bias against voters of color. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that when they emailed state legislators posing as a voter asking whether or not he could vote without a driver's license, "legislators who had supported voter ID laws were much more likely to respond to 'Jacob Smith' than to 'Santiago Rodriguez.'" The Washington Post's Wonkblog further summarized the findings:
"The fact that legislators supporting voter identification responded so much l[ess] to the Latino name is evidence anti-Latino bias, unrelated to electoral considerations, might be influencing these public policies," they write.
A University of Delaware study found that white survey respondents who saw a picture of black voters were more likely to support voter ID laws than those who were shown an image of white voters or no image. And two experts from the University of Massachusetts Boston wrote in The Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog that "restrictions on voting derived from both race and class":
The more that minorities and lower-income individuals in a state voted, the more likely such restrictions were to be proposed. Where minorities turned out at the polls at higher rates the legislation was more likely enacted.
More specifically, restrictive proposals were more likely to be introduced in states with larger African-American and non-citizen populations and with higher minority turnout in the previous presidential election.
And the Fox hosts' concern about supposed "voter fraud" is unfounded -- studies and investigations have found that in-person voter impersonation, the kind of fraud that voter ID laws are supposed to prevent, is so rare that it is almost nonexistent.
Fox News proved that love is blind in its latest interview with former Fox employee and current Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown.
With less than a week before the 2014 midterm elections, Brown was welcomed on the set of Fox & Friends with no disclosure of his prior affiliation with the network. Instead, hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade praised Brown for "doing really well" in the polls and getting "within two points" of Shaheen. Kilmeade added: "I think both sides are saying you're one of the finest politicians they've seen because you like people."
Fox's softball questions didn't attempt to delve into Brown's platform, instead echoing Brown's own attacks on Shaheen's voting record. Doocy mistakenly congratulated Brown, who was elected Massachusetts Senator during Obama's presidency in 2010, for having an independent record under the Bush administration and claimed that, unlike Brown, Shaheen has served as a "rubber stamp" for her party's policies:
DOOCY: You just touched on something. When you were in the U.S. Senate you were not a rubber stamp, an automatic rubber stamp for George Bush's policies. However, you've been very effective in this particular senate race. Jean Shaheen has been a rubber stamp for President Obama.
BROWN: I was there with President Obama, not with President Bush, but that is correct, I was the most independent senator in the United States Senate. Senator Shaheen is the most partisan. So, we need to change direction.
Doocy failed to mention that his line about Shaheen being a "rubber stamp for President Obama" comes directly from the Brown campaign. During an October 6 debate Brown said, "You will have a clear choice, someone who is rubber stamping for the president's policies or someone who will be independent on the issues." Brown's "rubber stamp" attack has also been echoed by the Republican National Committee on Brown's behalf.
Fox has a long history of working to boost the electoral prospects of its former employees and has given Brown a particularly cozy platform to promote his campaigns. While Brown was still employed at Fox, its hosts repeatedly asked him whether he planned to run again, calling it a "terrific" idea. Brown has also said that his time at Fox "really charged me up to" run. Since his primary victory in New Hampshire, the network has repeatedly offered him free airtime to attack Shaheen.
Conservative media are claiming that looser gun safety laws are key to preventing shootings like the one in Canada, a nonsensical stance given that the U.S. has far less restrictions on gun ownership and a higher incidence of gun violence compared to Canada and other high-income nations.
Fox News went to bat for a Virginia lobbyist-turned-farmer unhappy with the easement restrictions agreed to as a condition on the purchase of her property, characterizing the execution of the easement as an attempted "land grab" and government invasion.
On the October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade summarized the story of farmer and right-wing political activist Martha Boneta with the tease, "Caught on camera: A woman's farm invaded by the government." Boneta appeared for an interview to explain how, in the words of co-host Steve Doocy, a "land grab" of her farm was in the works.
Boneta, a GOP donor and so-called "Tea party farmer," complained that because the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) owns conservation easements on her land, the group is conducting "invasive" and "abusive" inspections of the property. She proclaimed, "What we have here is an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land and yet there is no accountability to the American people or the democratic process."
Conservation easements are legally binding agreements entered into by private parties. And PEC is a private party, with a private property right attached to Boneta's farm that the organization's representatives are responsible for inspecting. Boneta's claim that PEC is "an organization that has the power over thousands of acres of American farm land" is simply her devious way of describing the basic right of a person or organization to purchase and own property and control the conditions upon which they transfer that property.
From the October 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News falsely claimed an indictment filed against alleged Benghazi attacker Ahmed Abu Khattala proves the September 11, 2012, attack was not sparked by an anti-Muslim video. But Fox ignored the fact that Abu Khattala himself reportedly cited the video as his motivation for the attack.
On October 15, Fox & Friends reported that new charges against Abu Khattala allege that he "masterminded the pillage of ... documents, maps and computers, secret stuff" from the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi during the assault. Guest host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed these details prove Fox's longtime claim that the Benghazi attack was "a planned terrorist attack. Not a spontaneous outburst of some kind of video."
But in reality, planning theft of confidential information during the assault and targeting the U.S. outpost in response to an anti-Muslim video are not mutually exclusive. Abu Khattala reportedly "told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video." According to The New York Times:
On the day of the attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy's walls -- images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world.
As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.
In an interview a few days later, he pointedly declined to say whether an offensive online video might indeed warrant the destruction of the diplomatic mission or the killing of the ambassador. "From a religious point of view, it is hard to say whether it is good or bad," he said.
Despite Fox's claims, the latest indictment against Abu Khattala does not contradict this account. It is unspecific about the timeline, saying that "on or before" the night of the attack Abu Khattala told people that he "believed the [U.S] facility was actually being used to collect intelligence" and that he was "going to do something about the facility." It also reports that the theft of the documents did not take place during the first portion of the attack. Abu Khattala allegedly took part in the initial 9:45 p.m. assault that set fire to the compound, retreated, and then returned to the facility with other conspirators nearly two hours later to "plunder property from the Mission's office."
Fox News has been relentless in claiming that the attack had no connection to the inflammatory video, spending 478 segments attacking administration talking points that mentioned the connection -- though the myth continues to fall flat.
Conservative media are denying recent reports that sliding financial support has stalled research on infectious diseases and vaccine development, ignoring evidence that funding shortfalls have handicapped the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, told The Huffington Post on October 10 that "a decade of stagnant spending has 'slowed down' research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases." Conservative outlets pivoted off of Collins' statement to misleadingly claim that an overall increase in the CDC's budget proves that a lack of funding has not hindered research on and the response to diseases like the Ebola virus.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy said that the "CDC budget wasn't cut at all" and told viewers to "remember that money to [the CDC and the NIH] actually went up rather than got cut." On the October 13 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh similarly argued that "the CDC got plenty of money," including "significant budget increases."
But both the NIH and agencies inside the CDC have experienced funding problems over the past decade. As The Huffington Post pointed out, the NIH's purchasing power has dipped significantly:
NIH's purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency's budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion -- barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.
Fox News hosts stoked fears that the United States' ability to respond to Ebola may be weakened by the absence of a Surgeon General, a concern that whitewashes the network's history of smearing the pending Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Following CDC director Tom Frieden's October 13 statement that a Dallas nurse's contraction of Ebola requires hospitals to "rethink" infection control and "double down" on precautions, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy suggested that the administration's response to Ebola is suffering from a lack of leadership without a designated Surgeon General, arguing:
DOOCY: You would normally think that in something like this, the Surgeon General would be in charge, but right now at this point oddly, the United States of America does not have a Surgeon General. His nomination is tied up in politics.
Doocy's concern stands in contrast to Fox News' efforts to stall and politicize the Surgeon General nomination process earlier this year.
Fox personalities repeatedly worked to cast doubt on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination, questioning his strong qualifications and smearing him as "too political" for the job. In March, network host Brian Kilmeade alleged that Murthy "hasn't done much in his career yet," and argued that "you want to be impressed with" a Surgeon General nominee's resume.
After spending much of 2009 complaining that President Obama's appointment of "czars" was akin to the crowning of monarchs and Russian practices, Fox & Friends is now calling for the appointment of an Ebola Virus czar.
Fox host Steve Doocy responded to news of the first Ebola diagnosis contracted within the U.S. by calling for an "official Ebola czar" on the October 13 edition of Fox & Friends, echoing the demand of Republican Sen. John McCain. According to Doocy, "We probably need one" because Obama isn't doing enough to fight the virus:
DOOCY: So every time there's an incident like this, you see Thomas Frieden, the guy who heads up CDC, but is he the official -- there he is right there -- Is he the official Ebola czar? We probably need one, because the president isn't, you know, he's not --
KILMEADE: Sen. McCaul is calling for one.
DOOCY: Absolutely. So with all this bad news --
KILMEADE: Congressman McCaul.
DOOCY: Where was the President of the United States over the weekend? Right after he talked to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he went golfing.
But the Fox program has a long history of mocking previous Obama administration czars.
In 2009, then-host Gretchen Carlson mocked the term and alleged, "You know when I looked up 'czar' in the dictionary, or Googled it, the word that came up was 'king.' And I was wondering to myself, why we are having so many czars/kings now in America?" Doocy added, "When you think about it, 'czar' is a Russian word." Fox then aired an altered graphic of Obama's cabinet members in Russian czar attire displaying the question, "And Now We're Russia?" Doocy went on to compare administration cabinet members to Russian monarchs:
The same year, Carlson asked whether czars in the Obama administration were "just friends of Obama who need work or payback a favor?", while Kilmeade previously questioned whether the appointment of a czar was evidence "of a new culture of corruption."
A Nebraska school district superintendent responded to Fox News' inaccurate reporting about the district's recommendations for accommodating transgender and gender non-conforming students.
On October 9, Fox News ran several segments attacking the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) district for distributing informational materials aimed at helping teachers better accommodate transgender and gender non-conforming students. The materials included recommendations that teachers stop gender-based bullying and avoid using gendered phrases like "ladies and gentlemen" when referring to students. Instead, teachers could use phrases like "campers," "readers," or classroom nicknames like "purple penguins."
Fox News' Gretchen Carlson falsely accused the school district of "banning" the use of gendered language, and a Fox News report echoed the claims of one parent who believes the school district was using "taxpayer dollars" to promote a gender-neutral agenda.
Following Fox News' inaccurate reporting, LPS Superintendent Steve Joel announced a press conference to discuss the training materials, according to the Lincoln Journal Star:
At the press conference, Joel aimed "to set the record straight" and correct the "recent confusion and misinformation" caused by inaccurate reporting about the training materials. From Watchdog.org:
[A]fter three FOX News shows derided Lincoln Public Schools' gender sensitivity training on Thursday, the superintendent called a press conference, and with his school board seated behind him, clarified what happened without backing down.
"Our teachers are allowed to use boys and girls in the classroom, and they do so in schools every day across the community," he said in the message to parents. "We are telling our staff to be sensitive to the needs of all students, and those with gender identity issues are particularly vulnerable to bullying and suicide."
During his press conference, Joel called it "regrettable" and "truly unfortunate" that the school district has had to waste so much time and energy answering questions and fielding calls about the training on gender inclusiveness used during summer teacher training at Irving Middle School, and possibly other LPS schools.
Fox News is drawing sweeping and unsupported conclusions to accuse the White House of covering up a volunteer's role in a 2012 Secret Service prostitution controversy. Fox's "bombshell" claims are undermined by the fact that it has long been known that a White House volunteer was implicated in the controversy, and by the fact that a bipartisan Senate committee did not substantiate allegations that the White House tampered with an independent investigation into the controversy for political reasons.
Fox News analyst Peter Johnson Jr. suggested that the government was at fault for the shortage of ZMapp, an experimental Ebola treatment yet to be approved for widespread public use, and slammed the first U.S. diagnosis of an Ebola patient as a "poor example of federal government intervention." But in truth, the government has "set records" in approving drugs to address Ebola outbreaks and has provided crucial funding for research and development.
On the October 7 edition of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy and Johnson discussed why there is a current shortage of ZMapp, suggesting that a reliance on federal grants by the pharmaceutical company who produced the medication may be to blame for the shortage. Johnson faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Preventation (CDC) for not having the capacity to produce more of the drug and slammed the fact that ZMAPP has been "supported by federal grants only." He went on to suggest that if the government is "not doing the job they should be doing," perhaps they should be "stepping out of the way and let private industry do it":
But Johnson ignored the fact that the federal government has greatly sped up the drug approval process in order to address the public health threat posed by Ebola. According to an October 6 article from The Hill, the FDA recently approved the use of two experimental drugs that treat Ebola -- an act that "set agency records" for a process that "typically takes years."
The reason ZMapp shortages have occurred is not due to government failure, as suggested by the Fox figures. As ZMapp manufacturer Mapp Biopharmaceautical noted, the drug's production has been slow because "Ebola is a relatively recently discovered disease with sporadic outbreaks," and "most new drugs take a decade or more of development work prior to commercialization."
Long production times are also at fault for the shortage of ZMapp. An October 5 article from CBS News explained that the drug is made from a special "biologically-engineered tobacco" that takes some time to grow:
Making more ZMapp takes a long time because the drug is made from a certain type of biologically-engineered tobacco that's currently being grown at Kentucky BioProcessing, in Owensboro, Kentucky. "It takes time for tobacco to grow; it's a certain kind of tobacco," said Turner. "It's very special, and has been carefully developed to produce authentic human proteins faithfully." He declined to estimate how much longer it would take, or how big the supply would be. Turner added that his team is currently reviewing other ways they could feasibly produce the drug at a faster rate.
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Conservative media began politicizing the first case of Ebola virus diagnosed in the United States almost immediately, speculating as to whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could be trusted to contain the virus considering its ties to the Obama administration and about Obama's own role in the diagnosis.