Fox News treated itself to a victory lap after several Senate Democrats joined with the Republican conference and blocked the nomination of civil rights litigator Debo Adegbile, President Obama's highly-qualified pick to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
On March 5, the Senate procedural vote that would have allowed a confirmation vote on Adegbile's nomination failed, after right-wing media spent months lying about his background with racially charged attacks, even publishing an offensive caricature of Adegbile that was condemned by the nation's leading civil rights groups for invoking "the racist iconography of late 19th century America designed to dehumanize and stereotype African Americans." Outlets like Fox News continued to distort Adegbile's record in the run-up to the vote despite these denouncements, and despite the fact that Adegbile is a mainstream nominee who is regarded as one of the preeminent civil rights experts of his generation by a wide spectrum of authorities, including law enforcement executives and the American Bar Association.
After the vote, Fox host Bret Baier was quick to suggest that Senate Democrats who voted in favor of Adegbile could pay a penalty in the upcoming midterm elections. Baier went on to spread further misinformation about the nominee, falsely insinuating that he was part of an effort to overturn a murderer's conviction:
Conservative media are latching on to the climate change denial of Patrick Moore, who has masqueraded as a co-founder of Greenpeace. But Moore has been a spokesman for nuclear power and fossil fuel-intensive industries for more than 20 years, and his denial of climate change -- without any expertise in the matter -- is nothing new.
After months of championing business owners who discriminated against gay customers, Fox News showed further signs of whiplash celebrating Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a pro-discrimination bill as a sign that the GOP is "growing the tent," despite the party's continued and overwhelming opposition to marriage equality and basic nondiscrimination protections.
During the February 27 edition of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Carlson sat down with Democratic strategist Bernard Whitman and Fox contributor Tony Sayegh to discuss Brewer's veto of the measure, which would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds.
Carlson heralded the veto as a sign of a changing GOP, while Sayegh asserted it was yet another instance of the GOP "stepping up to the plate, consistently defending an individual's right to be free in this country":
SAYEGH: The significance for [Brewer], though, is this is someone who's often been found to be on the extreme right. So the fact that she even realizes - and I'd add Mitt Romney's name, John McCain, Sen. Flake, the other Arizona senator - that the most core principle of the Republican Party is liberty and freedom. She preserved that by doing what she did.
CARLSON: Since you bring that up, it's interesting to note - does this mean that the Republican Party is growing a bigger tent, so to speak? Just last week we were discussing that at CPAC, the conservative convention coming up in a couple of weeks, that they invited GOProud, a gay organization, to be a part of it. Is this significant, Bernard, that maybe the Republican Party is growing the tent?
Fox News resurrected former President George W. Bush's failed health care plan as a possible GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act, seven years after it was proposed in his 2007 State of the Union Address and experts concluded it favored the rich and only insured a small number of Americans.
A February 18 Politico Magazine article titled "Bushcare" by Edward Lazear, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush claimed the former president "found the solution to America's healthcare crisis seven years ago." Lazear wrote Bush's plan was revenue-neutral and would actually net tax payers money for buying insurance, but the plan would not cover the very poor (emphasis added):
The large majority of those who currently have health care would enjoy a net decrease in the cost of their plans through the tax deduction, Treasury found. Many without insurance would be able to obtain it and get a tax rebate that would exceed the cost of the policy, netting money on the deal. And the substantial number of Americans whose policies are not provided by an employer would enjoy a big gain.
The Bush plan works primarily for those who earn income and pay some tax, be it payroll or income. To the extent that subsidies to the very poor, especially those not working, are needed, provisions can be added to the plan that would assist those individuals without altering its basic structure. Of course, since the U.S. economy has changed in the past seven years, the plan would have to be updated too, but this could be done without significantly changing its overall fiscal footprint.
The next day on Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson allowed Lazear an open platform to highlight his alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). During the segment, Lazear pointed out two major problems with the health care system today: the number of uninsured Americans and the problems with third party payment. He explained:
LAZEAR: We have third party payers. That means that the individuals, the decision makers - the physicians and the patients don't bear the costs of their actions. So what happens is, once you have insurance or if you're on state funds for your health care, you essentially get those services for free and as a result you tend to take too many of those services.
Carlson: So what you are saying is that people know they have the health care coverage, so they tend to over use the system.
But Lazear's rosy depiction of Bush's proposal leaves out many of the key problems, namely that it would do little to help lower income Americans get affordable insurance. The CBO reported that Bush's plan would actually only insure 6.8 million Americans without health insurance and added that "those gaining insurance coverage under the President's proposal would have higher income, on average." The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff pointed out that the Bush's proposal would not be revenue neutral and would actually work to benefit "higher-earning Americans who have a higher marginal tax rate" (emphasis added):
[T]he Congressional Budget Office did score a similar proposal from President George W. Bush in 2007. His plan included a $15,000 standardized tax deduction for health insurance coverage, and the CBO estimated that 6.8 million people would gain coverage. The tax deduction would, on average, cover about 70 percent of the premium's cost.
The CBO noted, back then, that using tax deductions, which reduce taxable income, would likely make this a more desirable benefit for higher-earning Americans who have a higher marginal tax rate.
"Compared with people who would be uninsured in 2010 under current law, those gaining insurance coverage under the President's proposal would have higher income, on average," the agency wrote. "The reason is that the value of the new deduction would be greater at higher marginal tax rates, which are associated with higher incomes. Nonetheless, the majority of newly insured people would come from lower-middle- and middle-income households."
Budget-wise, the CBO projected that the Bush proposal would cost $33 billion over a decade.
Fox News baselessly stoked fears that undocumented immigrants would be able to vote if they received identification cards in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his first State of the City address on February 10, in which he announced a plan to offer identification cards to all residents, regardless of their immigration status.
On the February 12 edition of Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson reported on de Blasio's announcement and falsely suggested that the plan is intended to permit undocumented immigrants to vote. She asked guest Emily Tisch Sussman:
CARLSON: So, Emily, am I to assume that the reason that de Blasio would want this is so that people can move on to vote? I mean, I don't really understand -- what do you think his whole effort is in this?
SUSSMAN: We do really see that having these either ID cards or driver's licenses for the undocumented, does actually promote public safety. You know, those who are involved in fatal car crashes, one in five have not gone through the proper training of a driver's license, it would bring them into that kind of system. It would have more economic security for those. It would have better trust with the police -- it really does bring them in in a number of ways.
Fox News responded to the announcement that CVS would no longer sell cigarettes by criticizing the pharmacy chain and leveling attacks at President Obama after he expressed support for the company's decision.
On February 5, CVS Caremark announced that it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its pharmacy stores by the beginning of October. The move was met with praise from health organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy dedicated to public health. President Obama also weighed in on the decision with a statement of support, saying it was a "profoundly positive" move and will help advance efforts "to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs."
As if on cue, Fox News responded to Obama's praise by manufacturing a controversy over the CVS decision.
On Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson approached the CVS decision with suspicion and a remarkably uninformed premise, asking, "Is it OK legally ... to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?" She questioned her guests as to whether they would continue shopping at CVS and observed that, "For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It's not illegal."
On Fox News, an Orthodox rabbi condemned the stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty for conflating anti-gay bigotry with religion, stating that "gay bashing is not religion." His comments made for an awkward moment on Fox, a network that has repeatedly tried to use Christianity and religious belief as a blank check for blatant homophobia.
During the February 4 edition of Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson asked her "faith panel" to discuss a new church curriculum to be released by the family from A&E's Duck Dynasty, which was recently embroiled in controversy over homophobic comments made by patriarch Phil Robertson.
Instead of talking about the new Bible curriculum, Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach criticized the Robertson family for having done "tremendous damage to religion" by conflating homophobia with religious belief:
BOTEACH: They've done tremendous damage to religion. We have to stop making religion in America about bashing gays. They have to just forswear that stupid comment about comparing homosexuality to bestiality. See, the problem in America is that we overlook all the heterosexual guys who are raping women 1 in 5 on the campus. We saw this terrible statistic that in Alaska-
BOTEACH: Bashing gays is not religion. What is religion is family dinners and combating the divorce rate.
No network more badly needs to heed Boteach's advice than Fox News, which regularly uses Christianity and religion to give anti-gay rhetoric a free pass. In the wake of the Duck Dynasty star's anti-gay comments, Fox News employees rushed to defend Robertson, describing his homophobia as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values." Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes called Robertson's critics "anti-Christian haters."
Excusing anti-gay extremism as religious belief has been a favorite Fox pastime since before the Duck Dynasty controversy, though. The network has described some of the country's most notorious and extreme anti-gay hate groups as nothing more than Christian organizations. Fox regularly depicts non-discrimination efforts to protect LGBT people as attacks on faith and Christianity. Even when directly confronted with anti-gay hate speech used by religious conservatives, Fox prefers to label bigotry as nothing more than part of a "Christian world view."
Rabbi Boteach is right to criticize the Duck Dynasty family for using religion to justify homophobia, but it's the anti-gay apologists at Fox News who've helped blur the line between sincere religious belief and toxic anti-gay rhetoric.
Fox host Gretchen Carlson appeared perplexed that the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) addressed reporters at a press conference, though the CEA chairman spoke to the press on multiple occasions during George W. Bush's presidency.
On February 4, CEA Chairman Jason Furman briefed the press on a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the Affordable Care Act. On her show The Real Story, Gretchen Carlson covered the news conference, saying several times that Furman's briefing was an "unusual" occurrence:
CARLSON: Very unusual to have this right now, an explainer going on to reporters, no doubt to try to get out in front of the bad news about what Obamacare apparently does for jobs right here in America.
After months of denying and ignoring the persistent problem of anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace, Fox News displayed a newfound concern for employment discrimination - against religious conservatives.
On the February 4 edition of The Real Story, Fox host Gretchen Carlson hosted a "faith panel" consisting of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the 700 Club's Wendy Griffith, and American Atheists' Amanda Knief to discuss a new report from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation showing a correlation between religious freedom and economic performance. The panel delved into matters of religious views in the workplace, with Carlson suggesting that in the U.S., Christianity is no longer "allowed always as it was in the past":
CARLSON: Many people in the United States feel like in recent years in, there's been some sort of - well, that Christianity hasn't been allowed always as it was in the past, and that there seems to be some sort of attack on it, whether you believe that or not.
The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation doesn't link to the report on its website, although a summary in the Deseret News indicates that the report merely finds a correlation between improved economic outcomes and the loosening of religious restrictions, as in post-Maoist China. There's nothing in the summary pertaining to alleged religious discrimination in the U.S., of which Carlson didn't cite a single example.
Carlson's purported concern for workplace bias is noteworthy, given that it comes after Fox News has long been silent on anti-LGBT employment discrimination - a real, existing problem - or portrayed legislative efforts to combat it as a threat to religious liberty. After the historic Senate passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in November, Fox News devoted a grand total of 19 seconds of coverage to the vote.
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Not all elementary school children should get a free lunch.
That's how it appears on Fox News, anyway, which found sympathy for children whose school lunches were confiscated because parents had not added sufficient funds to their school accounts. The network wondered why the school could not give students the meals for free, a stark reversal from its attack on free lunches for low-income students as part of an "entitlement nation."
Fox's The Real Story devoted a segment on January 30 to the plight of elementary school children in Salt Lake City who saw their school lunches confiscated and thrown away, due to outstanding balances on their school lunch accounts. Host Gretchen Carlson expressed disbelief that "this really happened," wondering "what would the harm have been" in giving to the children the lunch for free "because they were going in the trash anyway."
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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At Fox News, President Obama's push to increase the federal minimum wage for millions of American workers through legislative and executive action is merely a "symbolic" gesture.
On January 28, the White House announced that President Obama had authorized an executive order raising the minimum pay for federal workers to $10.10 per hour, a regulation that will be effective for all employees signing a new federal contract. According to the White House's official press release, the president hopes that this move will encourage Congress to take action on a proposal by Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 for all American workers.
On the January 28 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer called the move a "shot across the bow" for congressional Republicans resisting an increase to the minimum wage. Fox Business' Stuart Varney questioned the White House's motivation, claiming that it was a "symbolic" move motivated by political circumstances and concluding that an executive order lifting wages for all federal employees was simply "not a big deal":
Varney's disregard for the impact of executive action on the minimum wage mirrors comments from other Fox News personalities. On the January 27 edition of The Real Story, contributor Charles Payne scoffed at the notion that lifting the minimum wage is an important goal, noting, "higher minimum wage is not the cure, we're talking about something that impacts less than 3 percent of real workers."
Demos' Heather McGhee hailed the Obama administration for lifting federal pay through executive order, noting that the decision "adds momentum to the fight for a federal minimum wage increase." According to research from the Economic Policy Institute, adopting a $10.10 minimum wage nationwide, which would require congressional legislative action, would positively impact the wages of more than 27 million workers while boosting overall economic growth by $22 billion and creating enough economic demand to support 85,000 new jobs.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 nationwide also has the support of hundreds of economists around the country, including numerous Nobel Laureates.
In an economy as large as the United States, while it may be easy for right-wing media voices to shrug off the implications of minimum wage policies, the fact is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 3.6 million American workers currently work at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. After adjusting for inflation, the federal minimum wage is lower than at any point from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Right-wing media's opposition to raising the minimum wage has grown as public sentiment has turned in favor of it. Varney's pattern of deriding both policies to lift wages and low-wage workers themselves appears to be par for the course.
Fox News hosted Sen. Jeff Sessions to amplify false conservative claims that immigration reform would negatively affect the U.S. economy and has a detrimental impact on Americans' wages. Sessions made similar claims in a USA Today op-ed published the same day, using misleading data from anti-immigrant groups to argue that the Republican push for reform is tantamount to "self-sabotage."
As The New York Times reported, congressional Republicans will unveil principles for immigration reform this week, in which they are "expected to call for border security and enforcement measures, as well as providing a path to legal status -- but not citizenship -- for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country." President Obama is also expected to address the issue during his State of the Union address on January 28.
In the run-up to these efforts, conservative media have attempted to hijack the debate with misleading data and bogus arguments.
On Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson allowed Sessions to repeatedly advance the myth that, in Carlson's words, immigration reform "could mean fewer jobs for Americans who are struggling, and quite frankly, already live here." Sessions stated:
SESSIONS: We really do have a huge problem. We have the lowest percentage of Americans actually working today than since 1975. Wages have declined in America relative to inflation since 2000. American working people are hurting; many of the jobs created today are part-time so it makes no sense to me at all to see a dramatic increase in the legal flow of immigration while we're not even reducing the illegal flow.
He went on to repeat the bogus statistic from anti-immigrant nativist group NumbersUSA that immigration reform legislation, such as the one passed by the Senate in June 2013 and endorsed by the Obama administration, would import 30 million new immigrants into the country. FactCheck.org criticized the number as "inflated and misleading," noting that the legislation would add "an estimated 6 million new foreign job seekers over the next 10 years."
Sessions, who has been profiled as one of the most "persistent and vocal foe[s]" of immigration reform and who led the effort to quash the Senate bill in 2013, later argued on Fox that the "Republicans need to stand up for the American worker," who he claimed was "the person in America today that's been ignored" and whose "interests are being ignored." He concluded: "Somebody needs to stand for them and the party that does that will be rewarded by the American people in elections."
Sessions took a similar stand in his USA Today op-ed, writing:
Republicans have the opportunity to give voice to the working and middle-class Americans whose wages and job prospects have eroded drastically in recent years. House GOP leaders are reportedly planning to release their "immigration principles" this week. Unfortunately, leaks reveal the leaders' plan mirrors central elements of the president's plan, combining work permits for millions of illegal immigrants with large permanent increases in the flow of new workers from abroad. This would be an extraordinary act of self-sabotage.
The choice is clear. Either the GOP can help the White House deliver a crushing hammer blow to the middle class -- or it can stand alone as the one party defending the legitimate interests of American workers.
But Sessions' argument that immigration is inimical to the economy has been thoroughly discredited by a long line of studies. In fact, as the New York Times noted in February 2013: "There are many ways to debate immigration, but when it comes to economics, there isn't much of a debate at all."
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