Fox News' months-long effort to criticize President Obama's response to the Islamic State extremist group while ignoring the steps he's taken to combat the group culminated in a confused segment claiming that the U.S. has both taken and not taken military action against ISIS.
On the September 15 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth pushed for American ground troops to be sent to the Middle East to combat Islamic State forces there. Hegseth criticized Obama's response thus far, saying that allies are seeing "American ambivalence."
A more striking ambiguity took place on screen, where Fox News' text suggested simultaneously that:
The disjointed segment is representative of Fox's overall coverage of the president's response. On September 9, the hosts of Fox & Friends criticized Obama for doing too little to fight the Islamic State before pivoting to attacks on Obama for requesting funding to continue airstrikes against the group.
International incidents are a prime opportunity to daydream about foreign leaders who'd make better presidents than Barack Obama, at least inside the conservative media bubble. David Cameron has now joined Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu on the right's list of foreigners they'd rather have in the Oval Office than the man the nation elected.
On August 28, President Obama delivered remarks on the U.S. military's approach to the rising terror threat from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and recent developments in Ukraine. Right-wing media figures responded with disdain, accusing the president of failing to view the Islamic State as a threat and even suggesting it's understandable to think Obama sympathizes with terrorists. Yet when Cameron delivered similar remarks on the Islamic State's threat to the United Kingdom the next day, the right's response was much different -- Fox News contributor Erick Erickson tweeted:
Can we borrow David Cameron? He fights.-- Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 29, 2014
Cameron joins a select group of foreign leaders whom the right-wing media have determined to be better suited for the U.S. presidency than the man chosen by American voters.
Laura Ingraham's opinion on the merits of a protest movement seem to vary considerably from month to month. Ingraham recently characterized protestors in Ferguson, Missouri as a "lynch mob" and downplayed the story as a "local, criminal" story, but in April the radio host helped to elevate the standoff between scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy and federal law enforcement agents while suggesting his supporters' violent threats against the government constituted a mere "act of civil disobedience."
Police in Ferguson, Missouri are currently using heavy force to crack down on citizens protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, at the hands of an officer of the mostly white St. Louis County Police Department. Journalists have been arrested on baseless or suspect justifications, and events in the St. Louis suburb have exploded into a national news story.
On August 14, conservative radio host Laura Ingraham complained that the events were receiving too much attention and suggested Brown's death was nothing more than a "local, criminal" story. Ingraham, a nationally syndicated radio host and contributor for both ABC and Fox News, blamed the media for sensationalizing and nationalizing the story, claiming the media presence "perpetuates the unrest and the discontent on the ground."
"You bring in the satellite trucks," Ingraham said, "And then people start playing to the cameras on scene."
Ingraham's disdain extended to the protestors, whom she grotesquely equated to a "lynch mob."
Ingraham struck a much different tone earlier this year, when racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy refused to comply with court orders instructing him to remove his trespassing cattle from federal land.
UPDATE: Keith Ablow defended his remarks on August 13 in an interview with Politico, saying it was "hypocrisy" for Michelle Obama to act as a "role model" on diet when she "has not been consistently a picture of fitness."
A member of Fox News' "Medical A-Team" argued that Michelle Obama is not a credible voice on school nutrition because "she needs to drop a few" pounds.
First Lady Michelle Obama has made fighting childhood obesity a cornerstone of her time in the White House. Recently, she's faced backlash from conservatives seeking to put an end to one of Obama's victories: federal school lunch standards that emphasize healthy eating.
The hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered continued this fight on August 12, when Dr. Keith Ablow, a prominent member of the network's "Medical A-Team," claimed that Obama cannot be taken seriously on the issue of nutrition because she "needs to lose a few" pounds. Ablow's female co-hosts expressed surprise and quickly changed the subject.
KENNEDY: We don't need the federal government applying -- projecting -- these standards upon us. And Michelle Obama is so, like, the duchess when she speaks.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: She's kind of annoying that way.
KENNEDY: She is.
ABLOW: And how well could she be eating? She needs to drop a few.
ABLOW: I'm telling you, let's be honest --
HARRIS FAULKNER: You did not say that --
ABLOW: We're taking nutrition advice from who? Who are we taking nutrition advice from?
The First Lady has long been the target of offensive personal attacks from the right, and Ablow is no stranger to sexist rhetoric himself, well-known for his anti-LGBT commentary and analysis that is often unsupported by the medical field at large.
Update: Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean later tweeted at Ablow, saying "please keep your comments about women 'dropping a few' to yourself. Sincerely, all women."
Fox News host Steve Doocy and guest Bo Dietl exploited the death of a Staten Island man at the hands of the New York Police Department (NYPD) to attack Mayor Bill de Blasio and push for increased use of aggressive police tactics like stop-and-frisk and chokeholds. Dietl went as far as to suggest the autopsy of the man's death was fraudulent, calling for an "independent" medical examiner to inspect the event.
Eric Garner, 43, died in July after a confrontation with police turned physical. One officer put Garner into a chokehold, which an autopsy later pegged as the primary cause of the man's death. The medical examiner ruled the event a homicide.
On August 6, Fox & Friends aired footage of Garner's deadly confrontation with police while co-host Steve Doocy cited "critics" who say the streets of New York "are much less safe" under De Blasio because of his "plans to stop, or at least scale back, stop-and-frisk." Meanwhile, an on-air graphic decried the supposed "anti-cop mentality" in New York.
Doocy invited former NYPD officer and racial profiling advocate Bo Dietl to discuss the incident and whether "the guys on the street are demoralized" by New York's move away from aggressive policing. Dietl claimed that officers are "disgusted" by the change and bragged that he had used the chokehold seen in the video "dozens of times." He went on to suggest the medical examiner's report was erroneous, saying, "I want to see an autopsy report where there is a crushed windpipe ... I'm going to hire an independent medical examiner to look at that autopsy report."
Dietl followed up, saying it's "bad enough that they took the stop-and-frisk away, which is ridiculous."
Fox News and Fox Business have continued to host former CIA officer and CBS News analyst Michael Scheuer after he endorsed the assassination of President Obama. Scheuer's latest appearance on the August 1 edition of Fox & Friends suggests his profile on the networks may have escalated in recent months.
Scheuer has a long history of extreme rhetoric and arguably reached his most fevered pitch when he gave his stamp of approval to the idea that Obama, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron, should be assassinated. Scheuer concluded a December 2013 column with advice for the constituents of Cameron and Obama (emphasis added):
As they head further down the road of losing wars and wrecking Anglo-American liberties, Messrs Obama and Cameron and their supporters in all parties would do well to read the words of the great 17th century English republican Algernon Sidney, a man who was revered on both sides of the Atlantic, who greatly influenced America's founders, and who was executed by the British Crown for what it described as sedition. "There must therefore be a right," Sidney wrote,
"of proceeding judicially or extra-judicially against all persons who transgress the laws; or else those laws, and the societies that should subsist by them, cannot stand; and the ends for which governments are constituted, together with the governments themselves, must be overthrown. ... If he [a political leader] be justly accounted an enemy of all, who injures all; he above all must be the publick enemy of a nation, who by usurping power over them, does the greatest and most publick injury that a people can suffer. For which reason, by an established law among the most virtuous nations, every man might kill a tyrant; and no names are recorded in history with more honor, than of those who did it."
Just 10 days after the column was published, Scheuer appeared on Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight to accuse Hillary Clinton of "effectively murdering" the Americans who died during the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. According to a Media Matters search, Scheuer has appeared on Fox Business at least twice since, on Lou Dobbs Tonight June 9 and on Money July 18.
Fox News Channel -- which hosted Scheuer dozens of times before his validation of attempts to assassinate the president -- has continued to invite Scheuer on in recent months. Fox & Friends Sunday invited the former CIA officer on in June, and after having appeared on the weekday edition of Fox & Friends in February, the show invited him back August 1.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy displayed a striking disregard for reality, claiming that conservatives are "not talking about" impeaching President Obama while failing to note that just days ago, Fox's Andrew Napolitano called for impeachment on the same show.
On the July 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested Obama is trying to "bait" Congress into impeaching him by overreaching on the implementation of immigration policies. Doocy replied, "Brian, to your point about impeachment, only Democrats are talking about it. Republicans, conservatives, not talking about it. Only Democrats. It's to gin up the base before November."
But just days ago, on July 17, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared on Fox & Friends and counseled the GOP to impeach the president, which Napolitano claimed would "focus his attention immediately."
CNBC panelist Jeffrey Sonnenfeld suggested that 21st Century Fox's effort to acquire Time Warner is driven by a nepotistic desire to provide Rupert Murdoch's "poor performing" sons with pieces of the family business and highlighted News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal as an example of the Murdoch family's questionable management record.
Time Warner's board of directors took measures to prevent a hostile takeover by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox by "eliminating a provision in its bylaws that let shareholders call special meetings" -- a move that would prevent shareholders from forcing a vote on the takeover until June 2015.
Panelists on the July 22 edition of Squawk Box suggested Fox's offer undervalues Time Warner. Sonnenfeld, also a dean at the Yale School of Management, went on to say the takeover effort was part of the Murdoch family's plan to "deal with potential succession" by acquiring large businesses to hand over to Murdoch's sons, James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch. But Sonnenfeld described the sons as "poor performing" managers, saying in particular that James Murdoch had been tainted by the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.
SONNENFELD: This is basically a deal for Rupert to eventually -- an 83-year-old guy who's run the company for 62 years -- to try to deal with these perpetual succession questions by giving, you know, Lachlan, one son one piece of the business -- one, you know, poor-performing son -- the other poor-performing son, James, another piece of the business in the News Corp.-21st Century Fox split here. But all this [unintelligible] --
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN (host): So you are not a fan of the Murdoch family, it sounds like.
SONNENFELD: Well, they've not distinguished themselves as leaders. You know, Lachlan had a temper tantrum and left a couple years ago and just came back in this spring with this deal for News Corp. liberation of sorts. And then the 21st Century Fox, we have James, who certainly has soiled himself in the whole scandal -- the phone hacking and all the rest in the U.K. And at minimum, a failure of management oversight is awful. Even Fox's shareholders were pretty upset with him.
Mere weeks after right-wing media loudly defended racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy with erroneous allegations of a "federal land grab" of his property, the same conservative outlets are now advocating for a border fence that would require an immense seizure of private lands.
In the first half of 2014, thousands of children fled across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape rising violence plaguing their home countries in Central America. Anti-immigrant figures in the right-wing media have responded by stoking nativist insecurities, erroneously suggesting the children pose public health and safety concerns and that they will be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely.
Many of these figures have also returned to calls for a fence to be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham made the completion of a border fence part of her personal plan to address holes in the nation's immigration policy in a manifesto titled, "The Government Vs. The People: Rebuilding Trust In The Midst Of The Illegal Alien Tsunami".
On Fox News July 9, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum floated the idea of prioritizing appropriations to construct a border fence over money for humanitarian care and administrative personnel to facilitate customs hearings. On July 8, Fox guest Pat Buchanan said in an appearance on Hannity, "Why cannot the government say 'Look, let's get together, we do need a secure fence, a double- or triple-link fence, all along the border of the United States with Mexico'?"
About a week earlier, contributor Charles Krauthammer advocated for a border fence, saying, "If fences don't work, why is there one around the White House?"
Calls for a fence often lack context or details -- and in MacCallum's case, drastically misinform on the cost of such an endeavor. In particular, conservative media tend to ignore the fact that, in order to complete a border fence, the federal government will have to seize, through eminent domain, the private property of American landowners from Texas to California.
In a rush to sensationalize growing violence in Iraq at the hands of religious extremists, media have circulated dubiously sourced maps which purport to illustrate plans for a future Islamic caliphate that extends from Spain to the southern and easternmost reaches of India.
A Sunni Islamist militant group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) has torn through Iraq in recent weeks, violently capturing several cities and straining the Iraqi government's ability to respond. On June 29, according to the Wall Street Journal, ISIS "announced itself as a new Islamist 'caliphate' ... unilaterally declaring statehood and demanding allegiance from other Islamist groups."
In the wake of this news, media outlets from Fox News to ABC have issued reports on the militant group's future plans based on maps culled from Twitter to declare that ISIS is strategizing to take over swath of territory larger than the Roman Empire within the next five years -- a goal that would include, among other feats, conquering Spain, Portugal, Greece, and most or all of India. The maps resemble the geographic dominance of the historic caliphates that ended with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
On June 3 ABC News published a map -- also cited by Breitbart.com -- which was "purportedly published" by ISIS and "widely shared on Twitter." According to ABC, the "terrifying" map was "published at the same time that ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate."
But ABC News didn't actually trace the image to ISIS, and instead relied on a tweet of the image from American Third Position (A3P). ABC didn't disclose that A3P is a white nationalist political party in the United States.
As iO9 pointed out, "This is one of those 'garbage in, garbage out' stories, since ABC News' source was Twitter." The outlet cited to analysis from Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who explained, "It's an old image put out by fans of the group ... There is nothing official about it nor is there some alleged 5-year plan."
Fox News reported the same day that a "chilling new map reveals the ISIS plan for world domination," displaying an expanded, translated map the network claimed was "released by ISIS" to lay out "its five-year plan." Several days ago the Daily Mail similarly highlighted the map as a "chilling five-year plan," as did The Blaze, the website of notorious caliphate fear monger Glenn Beck.
While Fox attributed the map to ISIS, the Daily Mail described it as having been "widely shared by ISIS supporters on social networks."
Despite the serious tone of their reports, neither the Daily Mail nor Fox News cited any experts to discuss how realistic it would be for ISIS to conquer a swath of land that envelops half of Africa and India and includes territory protected by NATO (Spain, Portugal).