Fox Guest: Refugees "Are Exploiting Their So-Called Political And Economic Persecution Status" For "Welfare"
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Right-wing media figures took to Twitter to lament over the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision not to reinstate President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven majority-Muslim countries, calling the decision “judicial tyranny” and the judges “pro-terrorists activists.”
When President Trump claimed that as many as 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, and when Trump’s press secretary categorically announced that Trump’s swearing-in had been the most-watched "both in person and around the globe," the new Republican administration set off a firestorm -- not only about the crowd estimate, but about “alternative facts” and truth-telling.
That Trump and his communications team would begin his presidency with such an easily debunked falsehood about the size of the inauguration crowd stunned plenty of Beltway observers. Even days later, the topic was still gnawing at Trump, as he reportedly bragged to congressional leaders yesterday about how enormous his inauguration crowd was.
But in truth, the pattern of lying about how many people assemble en masse to support conservative causes enjoys a long history within the right-wing media; a history Trump has revived. (Note that lots of pro-Trump propaganda outlets gladly propped up the inauguration crowd lie.)
Most famously, when former Fox News host Glenn Beck sponsored an anti-Obama rally in September 2009, the conservative media was awash in wild, unfounded claims about how massive the protest crowd was. Blogger Michelle Malkin even announced two million people had assembled. (That would be a bigger crowd than Obama’s 2009 inauguration.)
According to one aerial estimate that day, Makin’s quote of two million was only off by about 1.9 million.
More recently during the presidential campaign, conservative outlets routinely propped up Trump’s phony claims about crowd size. Breitbart even got caught publishing a photo from a CNN.com news report about a massive gathering of Cleveland Cavs fans celebrating their home team’s NBA championship, and then presented the image as being from a Trump rally in Florida.
It’s one thing for dishonest bloggers to make up crowd size estimates for political purposes. It’s obviously quite another when the White House takes that tact and turns it into official government policy.
What’s so strange about the obsession over crowd size is that conservatives often make fantastic, unbelievable claims about crowds that are already respectably large.
Nothing made that point more clearly than the Beck-sponsored march in 2009, the so-called 9/12 Project rally. Riding the wave of the burgeoning Tea Party movement, conservatives wanted to send a message that American was suffering from Obama buyer’s remorse and that all the good will he had earned the previous year was gone because Americans were appalled by his agenda.
Tens of thousands of activists showed up. But all day long, conservatives online insisted (or fantasized) that the anti-Obama crowd had swelled to astonishing, historic, unimaginable proportions. In a weird game of telephone tag, a Tea Party activist first claimed ABC News had reported the 9/12 crowd was 1.5 million strong, even though ABC did no such thing. Another activist then tweeted that ABC was reporting the crowd at 2 million. (False.) Malkin then embraced the baseless 2 million figure to spread it.
Also that day, conservatives bloggers passed around a photo that supposedly proved the march was one-million strong. But the photograph was actually from a rally that took place 12 years earlier. Even after the 9/12 rally, Beck still claimed his rally had attracted nearly 2 million anti-Obama activists.
Two months later, Fox News’ Sean Hannity had to apologize after Comedy Central caught him using footage from the 9/12 rally to tell the story about a much less-well attended D.C. rally, the Super Bowl of Freedom. “The effect was that the latter event seemed like a much bigger deal than it was,” Mediaite noted.
Fast forward to the Trump campaign and the Republican candidate seemed to take the bogus crowd size strategy right off the shelf and put it in play, while supportive conservative media outlets pitched in. “Trump has routinely exaggerated the already large numbers” at his rallies, noted the Washington Post.
Back in July 2015, Trump tweeted out that 12-15,000 people had attended his rally in Phoenix, even though the local police put the number closer to 4,000. Nonetheless, the phony 15,000 figure was embraced by media outlets friendly to Trump. Not to be outdone, right-wing blogger Gateway Pundit upped the ante: “20,000 PATRIOTS TURNED OUT TO SEE DONALD TRUMP IN ARIZONA!!”
That’s five times what the local police estimated the actual crowd to be.
On the surface, Trump’s weird post-inauguration obsession with puffing up the numbers of his celebration might seem like a baffling, insecure tick. It is -- he's just advertising that insecurity via an established right-wing media tactic.
Appearing alongside former president George W. Bush in Dallas, Texas, President Obama eulogized police officers targeted in a “hate crime” last week during a Black Lives Matter march. Right-wing media figures immediately lashed out, calling Obama’s speech “bullshit,” labeled Obama the “divider-in-chief,” and claimed his statements “gave a middle finger to the cops.”
On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2 placed an “undue burden on abortion access.” Supporters of the unconstitutional law argued that HB 2’s restrictions were necessary to protect women’s health and prevent another “Kermit Gosnell scandal” -- talking points pushed by right-wing media. Writing the majority opinion of the court, Justice Stephen Breyer rebuked these anti-choice myths, saying there was unequivocal evidence that HB 2 lacked medical benefits and posed extreme harm to Texas women.
Right-Wing Media’s Favorite Myths About Abortion Made It To The Supreme Court In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
In June 2016, the Supreme Court will release its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a controversial case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law (HB 2) that severely limits access to abortion and medical care. Right-wing media have alleged that HB 2 is necessary to protect women’s health and prevent another “Kermit Gosnell scandal” -- talking points that made their way into Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller’s defense of HB 2 during oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
ESPN fired former Major League Baseball analyst Curt Schilling after he shared an image attacking transgender people on Facebook. Right-wing pundits immediately denounced ESPN as "brownshirts" and claimed "the world-wide leader in sports has no balls."
On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court “is weighing the fate” of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration which “could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation” and grant them legal right to work. Right-wing media have spent years misinforming about the legality, and economic impact of the executive actions. Here are the facts.
In oral arguments for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, pro-choice groups called on the Supreme Court to strike down Texas' extreme anti-choice law, HB 2. Right-wing media and conservative lawmakers have long argued the bill's restrictions are aimed at protecting women's health and will not force clinic closures. In response, media in Texas have highlighted new research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) confirming HB 2 is dangerous, forces clinic closures, and places an "undue burden" on abortion access.
Media Labeled Previous Attacks On Clinton's Voice "Sexist"
Right-wing media personalities reacted to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's Florida primary victory speech by claiming she was "shouting angrily" and "screech speech," with MSNBC's conservative morning show host Joe Scarborough telling Clinton to "smile" during her speech. Media outlets previously blasted similar attacks on Clinton in February as "sexist."
In the oral arguments for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt -- the case before the Supreme Court concerning Texas' anti-choice law, HB 2 -- Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller relied on a common right-wing media myth to justify medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. In his argument, Keller made the long-debunked claim -- pushed for years by right-wing media -- that HB 2 was passed to prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic.
A February 27 piece in The New York Times illustrated how the Republican Party has allowed right-wing media to play a gatekeeper role on immigration issues.
The paper reported that legislators working to pass immigration reform in 2013 had to seek support from media mogul and executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company Rupert Murdoch, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, but even those entreaties didn't win the backing of conservative pundits. Fringe media players attacked the legislation, spurring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was helping with the effort, to back away from the issue, The Times reported. Now, the 2016 election is marked by the same anti-immigration rhetoric emblematic of right-wing media figures -- an approach that runs counter to both national opinion and the pro-inclusivity strategy the GOP laid out after its 2012 presidential election loss. That's of no consequence to right-wing media, whose fortunes aren't tied to GOP electoral success, but it could be devastating for immigrants in this country.
According to The Times, Rubio and other co-sponsors of the 2013 immigration reform bill -- known as the "Gang of Eight" -- knew that they needed to get Murdoch and Ailes on board to give their legislation "a fighting chance at survival." Aware of the eroding trust among their viewership -- which lately, as reported by CNN's Dylan Byers, doesn't think Fox News is "conservative enough" -- Murdoch and Ailes advised the legislators to also seek the blessing of Limbaugh, who "held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base." The New York Times reported on February 27:
Their mission was to persuade Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the media empire, and Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of its Fox News division, to keep the network's on-air personalities from savaging the legislation and give it a fighting chance at survival.
Mr. Murdoch, an advocate of immigration reform, and Mr. Ailes, his top lieutenant and the most powerful man in conservative television, agreed at the Jan. 17, 2013, meeting to give the senators some breathing room.
But the media executives, highly attuned to the intensifying anger in the Republican grass roots, warned that the senators also needed to make their case to Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base.
The Gang turned to Rubio to reach out to Limbaugh, as The Times reported, but the lobbying was unsuccessful; right-wing media launched an offensive against the push for immigration reform and against Rubio personally. Despite the Gang of Eight's appeals specifically against the label, right-wing radio continued to attack the bill as "amnesty." Radio host Laura Ingraham slammed Rubio, saying that unless he walked back his support for the bill, he would "rue the day that he became the Gang of Eight's poodle." Similarly, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin stated that he should move away from the immigration bill. Breitbart News also demanded that Rubio vote against his own bill. Right-wing media not only effectively sank the bill, but their criticism so deeply impacted Rubio that he has spent a considerable amount of time during his presidential campaign running as far as possible from the immigration positions he once espoused, to the gloating satisfaction of conservative radio pundits.
The rift between factions of conservative media has continued to deepen as the 2016 campaign has progressed, fueled in part by the polarizing presence of front-runner Donald Trump. After The Times published its piece, Rush Limbaugh tried to assuage his listeners. Limbaugh said he never even considered helping Rubio and the Gang of Eight on the immigration initiative. He portrayed the article as an attempt to "drive this wedge between" him and his loyal following by casting doubts on the purity of his anti-immigrant credentials.
The way right-wing media relentlessly torpedoed the reform -- and Limbaugh's need to wear his opposition to immigration as a badge - demonstrates how conservative media has effectively obliterated the space for a compassionate approach to immigration policy. And that explains why the tone of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign has been marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric and extremism.
The campaign's current anti-immigrant vitriol is a far cry from the goals the Republican Party espoused after its defeat in the 2012 presidential elections. After Mitt Romney's loss, strategists and campaign experts questioned the GOP's dependence on the right-wing media bubble: Keith Appell labeled it the "GOP's choir-preaching problem," while Mike Murphy asked that the party stop embracing viewpoints lifted from "Rush Limbaugh's dream journal." The Republican National Committee published the Growth & Opportunity Project -- more commonly known as the "autopsy" -- in which inclusion and a change in tone were deemed essential components of the road map toward 2016.
And yet, the stark contrast between the road map's goals and the party's current anti-immigrant discourse demonstrates that Republican candidates will side with right-wing media over the party's own goals, even when doing so runs counter to the will of a majority of Americans:
Right-wing media's strong influence on the GOP is likely to continue driving the party toward stances that alienate Latinos and other minorities. As Vox's David Roberts pointed out in a July 30, 2015, piece, because right-wing media's audience is mostly white and male, these outlets have no incentives to soften their policy positions or lessen the vitriol toward ethnic and racial minorities. And while changing demographics are lessening the dominance of the white/male constituency in general elections, right-wing media doesn't need to win elections to be profitable. According to Roberts:
The problem is that right-wing media is in no way dependent on the political success of the GOP. In fact, it's almost the opposite: The more the party establishment fails to deliver on the far right's (wildly unrealistic) demands, the more the audience feels betrayed, and the angrier it gets. That means more clicks, more phone calls, more engagement. It is to right-wing media's great benefit for the party to engage in a series of dramatic, doomed protest gestures like shutting down the government or attempting to repeal Obamacare for the 47th time. It stokes the outrage machine.
On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a controversial case that will determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law (HB 2) that severely limits women's access to abortion and medical care. In covering the case, some media outlets have relied on right-wing media talking points about the purported medical necessity of restricting women's access to abortion, as well as the false claim that HB 2 would prevent another "Kermit Gosnell scandal," in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths at a Philadelphia clinic. Here are the facts.
Right-wing media attacked Beyoncé's Super Bowl halftime performance of her new song which reportedly features "implicit commentary on police brutality, Hurricane Katrina and black financial power." Conservative figures called the performance "anti-cop," criticized Beyoncé for bringing race "into the halftime show," and attacked the women performers for being "dressed like prostitutes."