Sean Hannity hosted the Media Research Center's (MRC) Brent Bozell on his Fox program Hannity, and together the pair weaved a distorted caricature of the ongoing government shutdown and the media coverage surrounding it. From their seats on one of the nation's largest news networks, Hannity and Bozell complained that liberal media bias was to blame for the public's low opinion of congressional Republicans' role in the shutdown, supporting their façade with a series of lies, omissions, and a dose of their own bias.
On October 1, the federal government shut down when congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare).
On the October 3 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity and Bozell discussed media coverage of the shutdown, reflecting on "all the ways the mainstream media puts their liberal spin on the news," as Hannity put it. He proceeded to open the segment with his own conservative spin on the news, accusing President Obama of refusing to talk to Republicans about the shutdown and absolving Republicans of responsibility. But in fact, the president has called and met with Republican leadership, who are holding fast to their ACA demands.
Bozell stepped in to agree that media's focus on Republicans is inappropriate, complaining that, "In the media coverage -- 21 stories blaming Republicans, not one story blaming Democrats." Bozell's MRC study focused on network evening news stories, ignoring the multitude of Fox News segments blaming Democrats for the shutdown.
Bozell's study in fact confirms that network news is providing reality-based coverage of the shutdown, which persists because of a Republican refusal to extricate its opposition to the ACA from the nation's budget. Bozell fails to acknowledge this fact, and his complaints amount to little more than an argument in favor of journalistic "false equivalency."
Fox News is accusing President Obama of intentionally inflicting pain upon World War II veterans who were initially unable to visit the memorial to their legacy after it was closed in the wake of a government shutdown. Fox figures, many of whom have been advocating for this very shutdown, compared the memorial's closing to the cancellation of White House tours during sequester -- a move conservatives originally claimed was made for no reason other than to inflict pain upon the American people for political purposes.
On October 1, the federal government shut down when Congressional Republicans refused to pass legislation funding operations unless the funding was tied to the delay or defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). As a result of this shutdown, national parks and museums -- including the nation's monuments -- were forced to close.
One of the shuttered monuments was the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. The closing initially prevented busloads of veterans from accessing the site. As media attention focused on their plight, members of Congress -- many of whom are vocal advocates of the shutdown in the first place -- aided the visiting vets in removing barriers in order to "storm" the monument. National Park officials eventually opened the site to veterans, who are now considered as participating in a First Amendment protest.
Right-wing media, particularly the pundits at Fox News, rushed to accuse President Obama of unnecessarily closing the monument in order to cause "some sort of pain" against the American people. On the October 2 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Dana Perino said the administration "wanted to insert some sort of pain, so that as they screw down the nut, and then you'll start to feel like 'oh, my gosh, we have to compromise.'"
Perino went on to characterize the closing as "the Washington Monument strategy" -- a political strategy that, according to The Washington Post, "involves fighting against budget cuts by focusing...cuts to the most popular and visible services an agency provides." Co-host Eric Bolling concurred, likening the closing of the World War II memorial to the cancellation of White House tours in the aftermath of sequestration.
On Fox Business Network, host Lou Dobbs said that in March, the president was "trying to make the sequester as painful as possible ... and that's what they're doing now." He followed up, saying, "There's just one conclusion as to why they did block the wide open space in the first place -- the administration wanted to."
The war memorial, as well as the other parks and museums under the purview of the National Park Service (NPS), are deemed non-essential services under a shutdown of the federal government, and NPS employees, including park personnel, face a requisite furlough. The NPS shutdown contingency plan requires the suspension of "all activities except those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."
Conservative radio host and Fox News pundit Sean Hannity appears to be under the impression that Healthcare.gov -- a government website that facilitates health insurance enrollment that recently went live -- is actually a "life or death" prerequisite for 9-1-1 and whose opening day glitches could be preventing people from accessing emergency care.
The Affordable Care Act's (ACA) insurance exchanges rolled out on October 1 providing an option for millions of uninsured Americans to obtain health care.
On the October 1 edition of his radio show, Hannity compared the ACA to the Ford Edsel -- a hightly-anticipated automobile that suffered poor sales and was ranked by Time magazine as one of the 50 worst cars of all time and "synonymous with failure." Hannity then segued into reports of glitches hindering the ACA's new website, saying, "Think of how you'd feel today if you actually had a medical emergency -- had to go through this mess before they send an ambulance. At least the Ford Edsel wasn't a matter of life and death."
Hannity appears to be implying that accessing healthcare.gov is somehow required before receiving emergency care. In fact, under a law enacted in 1986, virtually all emergency departments are required to render emergency medical assistance, regardless of insurance status -- that requirement also applies to most ambulances -- according to the National Institute of Health.
Fox News contributor and GOP strategist Karl Rove revealed the real motive behind calls to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): To buy time until the election of a Republican president who would be willing to repeal the law in its entirety.
On the September 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Rove discussed his previous criticism of Republicans and conservative media figures who have threatened to force a government shutdown if President Obama doesn't acquiesce to right-wing demands to completely defund the ACA, also known among conservatives as Obamacare. Congress must pass a continuing resolution by October 1 in order to fund the federal government. If not, the government will partially shut down. Republicans in Congress have insisted that they will only pass the resolution if it excludes funding for the ACA, one of Obama's signature accomplishments.
Rove opposed the idea of forcing a government shutdown, largely for fear of the political consequences. Instead, he pushed the idea that Republicans should attempt to delay implementation of the law -- currently scheduled to be fully implemented on October 1, 2013 -- until a Republican president is elected. "We need to have a President who will sign a measure defunding, repealing, getting rid of, and replacing Obamacare, and until we have a president who is going to do that we are going to be fighting."
When Fox host Bill O'Reilly pointed out that the next presidential election is three years away, Rove shrugged it off, responding, "That's why I favor a delay strategy."
Fox News continued its assault on the labor movement during a Cashin' In panel discussion that characterized unions as parasitic "vestigial" lobbying organizations that do nothing for their members and harm the economy. As evidence of their claims, the panel referenced a decades-long decline in union membership, but ignored the sustained political assault behind the drop as well as the empirically established economic benefits of a robust labor movement.
On the September 14 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling introduced a segment about union membership drives and protests taking place this month, asking whether the effort was "bad for workers."
Fox regular Jonathan Hoenig explained that the membership drive was necessary, because unions are "parasites" that "need new blood."
Guest Sabrina Schaeffer complained that unions are "no longer representing workers. They're representing political views." She added that labor unions provide "very, very little" to their members.
Fox guest Wayne Rogers argued that unions are "vestigial," saying, "They're not doing anything for the worker."
The panel blamed unionized workers for the demise of Hostess, the textile industry, and the health of the overall economy while gloating that union membership has reached a 40 year low.
Bolling's panel was content to dedicate their airtime to glib metaphors and baseless attacks, ignoring a more substantive discussion on the reasons for declining union membership and the benefits that organized labor provide to union worker, non-union workers, and the economy as a whole.
Rush Limbaugh characterized the debate over the racially charged name of the National Football League's Washington Redskins as a "manufactured controversy," wondering whether anyone is truly offended by the name. Limbaugh is apparently unaware that American Indian tribes, members of Congress, the U.S. judicial system, and others have all raised concerns that the team name is racially disparaging.
On the September 12 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh complained that the Redskins name was under attack and questioned whether anyone was actually offended by the team name. Rush asked, "Who is bothered by this?" He then argued that the franchise's consistent ability to sell out games was evidence that objections to the name are a "manufactured controversy, manufactured by the left."
To answer Limbaugh's question, a whole lot of people are offended -- and have been for a long time. Native Americans have been protesting the team name for at least the past twenty years. Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo told NPR, "The name is one of the last vestiges of racism that is held right out in the open in America." The Oneida Indian Nation -- an American Indian tribe in upstate New York -- has launched a radio ad campaign against the name, decrying it as a "racial slur."
Ten members of Congress have publicly requested that the team's owner, Dan Snyder, change the name. In a letter to Snyder this year, the legislators wrote, "Native Americans throughout the country consider the 'R-word' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African Americans or the 'W-word' among Latinos."
The name has even been recognized as derogatory by administrative bodies of the U.S. government. The Washington Post reported on a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board which found the name to be "disparaging" to Native Americans:
It is also a team with the most patently offensive name in pro sports. A 1999 ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board even found as much, revoking the Redskins' trademark because it "may disparage Native Americans and bring them into contempt or disrepute." The decision was overturned on the grounds that the lawsuit had not been pursued in a timely enough manner.
One prominent sports writer, Sports Illustrated's Peter King, will no longer repeat the name of the team because it "offends too many people," and he noted that, among many others, the American Indian Movement considers the name a slur.
The list goes on. But those who expect Limbaugh to acknowledge the sincerity of their concerns shouldn't hold their breath. The radio host isn't known for his grasp of racial controversy.
Days after appearing on Fox News to discuss a potential military strike against Syria, right-wing radio host Alex Jones elucidated an updated Syria conspiracy theory, arguing that a tentatively agreed upon effort to place that nation's chemical weapons under international control is the latest step in a broader globalist conspiracy to orchestrate the extinction of the human race and replace it with a new species of human-machine hybrids. Despite his regularly outlandish rhetoric, outlets like Fox News continue to mainstream the Texas conspiracist.
Earlier this month, President Obama began making his case to Congress for military strikes against Syria in response to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons on reportedly more than 1,400 of his own citizens, including hundreds of children, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment. On September 9, administration officials signaled a willingness to avoid using force against Syria if that country agrees to turn over control of its remaining chemical weapons reserves to the international community.
In the ensuing public debate, Fox News escalated its habit of merely echoing Alex Jones' conspiracies by actually hosting the theorist himself to discuss the chemical weapons attack in Syria. At the time of the interview, which took place prior to talks about Syria relinquishing its weapons, Jones believed that Syrian rebels -- whom Jones has subsequently referred to as "Obama's psychopathic Syrian rebels" -- were to blame for chemical weapon attacks against civilians. Jones appeared on the September 7 edition of Fox News' Geraldo At Large, where he claimed the Assad regime was not behind the attacks, saying, "[A]ll the evidence leans towards the rebels having the motive to do it. And the Russians have put out a new report saying they have proof the rebels did it back in March of this year."
Jones has since raised the bar. On the September 10 edition of his radio show, Jones expressed concerns about plans to take international control of the weapons, claiming it was part of an effort to dismantle and deindustrialize Syria (and eventually the world):
JONES: [W]hat the United Nations really wants to do here, is set the precedent that they can come into any country they want, that has any type of weapons systems -- and call them WMDs, and then dismantle that country's infrastructure.
Weapons inspections, Jones argued, are essentially a Trojan horse -- a premise globalist leaders use to infiltrate nations for the purpose of dismantling not only weapons, but its entire infrastructure. According to Jones, such 'deindustrialization' has taken place in Iraq and Libya already, and eventually it will take place in Western nations as well. Once this has been achieved, "Obama and the globalists" will maintain control of advanced tools like "jetcopters" and "life extension technologies" that will be denied to most of humankind:
JONES: Everyone is going to be deindustrialized. Everyone is going to be put back in the stone age to be controlled, and then Obama, and the globalists, and the robber barons, they're gonna fly around in their jetcopters, and their Air Force Ones, and their red carpets like gods above us, and they're gonna get the life extension technologies.
Jones sees the globalist plan extending further than merely relegating humanity to a primitive, jetcopter-less state of subservience. The globalists, represented in part by Obama, France, Saudi Arabia, the military-industrial complex and large financial institutions, are using conflict in Syria as a distraction to further a more insidious plan: "The extinction of almost everybody," to be replaced by "a new species ... of humans merged with machines."
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is using the victory of conservative Tony Abbott in Australia's recent race for prime minister as a cautionary tale, warning American politicians to "beware the faddish politics of climate change." The warning, issued by an editorial board with a long history of misinforming the public on climate policy, comes on the heels of accusations that Abbott's victory was influenced by severe attacks on his opponent lobbed in the pages of Murdoch's Australian press empire.
Over the weekend, Australians elected Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott -- a man who has been compared to former American President George W. Bush -- to serve as the nation's 28th prime minister. Among other initiatives, Abbott intends to dismantle the country's fight against climate change, arguing that the science behind the phenomenon is "absolute crap."
In an editorial September 9, The Wall Street Journal attributed former PM Kevin Rudd's loss, and the overall defeat of the center-left Labor Party, to the party's push for a tax on carbon emissions and other "anticarbon policies." The Journal argued that Abbott successfully made the carbon tax a "political liability," and the editorial board used the opportunity to warn Republicans in the United States against going along with attempts to curb carbon emissions:
A carbon tax is one of those ideas that economists love to propose but that turn out to be lousy politics. If Republicans want to toy with the idea, they had better be prepared to eliminate the income or payroll tax along with it. Otherwise voters will figure out that the politicians are merely looking for one more way to tap into their incomes, in this case by raising their electricity and other energy bills.
Despite The Wall Street Journal's claim, voters were probably not sending a message about carbon policy. Only 37 percent of Australians support eliminating the carbon tax and replacing it with the policies of Abbott and the Coalition. The tax didn't even break voters' top three concerns, with those spots going to concerns about the economy, asylum seekers, and health care. In fact, most Australians think the country's climate policies should remain the same or stronger.
Instead, voter antipathy toward the center-left government may be rooted in an aversion to political hypocrisy and broken promises. Leaders of the Labor Party, including former PM Julia Gillard, previously promised there would be no carbon tax, then flipped on the issue and instated one any way. A reporter for The Guardian's Australian edition noted that the Labor Party was thrown out of power because for voters, it "became an issue of her [former PM's] credibility really rather than carbon pricing." The Journal did not see fit to include this important context in its editorial.
Conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham attacked the speakers at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, at one point using the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a man whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965. Ingraham used the speech's anniversary to race-bait about black-on-white crime statistics and hosted Pat Buchanan to bemoan the idea that minorities face any higher level of adversity in America 50 years later.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC over the weekend to commemorate and recreate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington, an event originally dedicated to calling for civil and economic rights for African Americans. CBS News reported that the 50th anniversary event -- part of a week-long build-up to Wednesday's anniversary -- "was sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Martin Luther King III and the NAACP, featured a roster of speakers, including King, Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. They spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 50 years ago this month King delivered his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech."
On her August 26 radio broadcast, Ingraham criticized the event and its speakers, saying the goal "was to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern-day liberal agenda," and scoffing at the topics speakers supposedly discussed: "From gay marriage, to immigration -- amnesty, was thrown in for good measure. We talked about the Voting Rights Act."
Ingraham ran through a list of African-American crime rates before hosting Pat Buchanan, a prominent racist with white nationalist ties. Buchanan dismissed the idea that minorities suffer any disadvantages in contemporary America, calling the idea "absurd" because "black folks excel and are hugely popular figures in everything from sports to entertainment to athletics to politics. Everywhere you go ... So the progress has been enormous."
At one point during her broadcast, Ingraham began playing a clip of Lewis' speech from the 50th anniversary rally, before interrupting the playback of his comments with the sound of a loud gunshot.
Fox News and right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh have not hesitated to inject harmful and unnecessary racial overtones into their coverage of an Australian teen shot and killed at random in Oklahoma. Fox and Rush are feeding into a well-worn script of biased media coverage of violent crimes that academic research has shown favors white people and disparages black people with seriously ill effects on racial comity and equal justice in America.
On August 16, three teens -- one white, two black -- shot and killed Christopher Lane, an Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.
Conservative media figures pounced on the story with a racial lens. On his radio show, Limbaugh called the murder, "Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse," and speculated that the teenagers "got bored and said, 'Let's go shoot a white guy!'"
Over at Fox News, guest Pat Buchanan appeared on the set of On the Record With Greta Van Susteren to predict that the shooting was "racial" while running through a list of dubious statistics on interracial crime that he used to claim that "racial hate crimes [are] 40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community, and nobody talks about it."
On the morning side, Fox & Friends wondered why civil rights activists Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson hadn't responded to the murder, while Fox News' White House correspondent Ed Henry asked Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest if the White House had any reaction to Lane's murder "apparently by three African-American young men."
Unfortunately, Fox News' coverage of this tragedy fits a long pattern of racially-biased media coverage of crime stories -- a pattern that has demonstrably harmful effects. Professor of media & public affairs at George Washington University Robert Entman highlighted a few of the subtle media trends recorded in various studies. They include:
1. Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to appear as lawbreakers in the news - particularly when the news is focusing on violent crime. [...]
2. [W]hites are overrepresented as victims of violence and as law-enforcers, while blacks are underrepresented in these sympathetic roles.
3. [B]lacks in criminal roles tend to outnumber blacks in socially positive roles in newscasts and daily newspapers. [...]
4. [D]epictions of black suspects...tend to be more symbolically threatening than those of whites accused of similar crimes...In the ubiquitous "perp walks," blacks were twice as likely as whites to be shown under some form of physical restraint by police - although all were accused of scary and generally violent crimes.
7. [B]lack victims are less likely to be covered than white victims in newspaper coverage of crime.