Fox News' America's Newsroom criticized a Hannity segment for "cross[ing] the line" of "civil society" after a frequent Hannity guest yelled for his female debate opponent to "know your role and shut your mouth." The daytime program wondered if this type of behavior -- not far from standard fare on Hannity and other Fox primetime programming -- damages the nation's ability to have serious discussions.
Radio host and frequent Hannity guest Bill Cunningham appeared on the June 20 edition of Hannity to debate Fox contributor Tamara Holder on the merits of claims that Attorney General Eric Holder mislead Congress while under oath. Out of the gate, Cunningham told Tamara Holder she was "one of the stooges of the left," pointing his finger at her while loudly shouting, "Sign the petition, Tamara! To call for the resignation of the chief law enforcement officer of this nation because he lied under oath when he criminalized journalism. And you know he did it but you refuse to do what's right." Holder replied that, "your finger does not prove your point," pointing back at Cunningham:
CUNNINGHAM: Whose finger's in my face right now?
HOLDER: Mine, because I'm telling you to shut up.
CUNNINGHAM: Wait a minute. You shut up. Know your role and shut your mouth.
HOLDER: My role as a woman?
CUNNINGHAM: Yeah. Yeah.
HOLDER: What is your obsession with stooges? Aren't stooges like little elves?
CUNNINGHAM: I'm sitting next to you. I'm sitting next to you. And you're a liberal stooge and an excuse-monger for the Obama administration.
HOLDER: Never mind. I --
CUNNINGHAM: What are you going to cry?
HOLDER: No! I'm not going to cry.
CUNNINGHAM: You're not going to cry?
The next morning, America's Newsroom dedicated a segment to whether Cunningham's behavior "crossed the line," concluding that conduct like this on Hannity stifled important public debate on national issues. Host Martha MacCallum appeared speechless after playing an excerpt of Cunningham's comments, asking, "Is this what we've come to? Is this civil society?"
Fox contributors Juan Williams and Mary Katherine Ham agreed that Cunningham's conduct was unacceptable, as Williams asserted, "He not only crossed the line, he obliterated the line ... I think it shut down the conversation. That doesn't help."
MacCallum shared the concern that personal attacks like Cunningham's damage the nation's ability to communicate, wondering, "What does this say, sort of, about our ability to communicate and you know, have a serious, respectful discussion on these things these days?" Williams replied, "What it does is, it makes it very difficult then to cross lines to have reasoned conversation."
Bill Cunningham has been crossing the line for years, and yet Fox continues to host him during primetime. Among his most egregious claims, Cunningham has declared President Obama "to be the beast. Six-six-six," and said that under the Obama administration "women are going to sell their bodies for pennies." He claimed the poor are in poverty "because they lack values, ethics, and morals" and advocated "beat[ing]" the hell outta" the homeless. Still, a Nexis transcript search finds Hannity has hosted Cunningham eight times so far in 2013.
CNN's morning program New Day aired a troubling report on allegations that celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was the victim of domestic abuse, describing her as "subservient" and quoting critics on Twitter saying her subsequent silence on the apparent assault "makes her look weak."
British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson and her husband, Charles Saatchi, were photographed this week during what appeared to be a domestic assault. Multiple photographs show Saatchi's hand grasping Lawson's neck during an argument. He later admitted to assault.
Neil Sean, whom CNN identified as an "entertainment reporter," appeared in New Day's packaged report saying the photos showed Lawson being "sort of subservient":
SEAN: She's always portrayed as a very powerful woman, a woman in control. So for her to be so sort of subservient, I think, is a rather telling story.
Later, CNN's Pamela Brown highlighted criticisms from unidentified people on Twitter who are charging Lawson's subsequent silence on the alleged attack "makes her look weak":
BROWN: Of course, we still don't know the full story. But a lot of people waiting for Nigella to come out and say something. People are taking to Twitter saying she needs to come out and address this. That she's this powerful figure, and this makes her look weak, according to some people, that she's not - but this is all a matter of opinion.
Fox News promised that it would "not leave" live coverage of the House hearings on the IRS controversy while paying only lip service to the simultaneous Senate hearings on the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.
On June 4, the House Ways and Means Committee held another round of hearings on the IRS' inappropriate criteria for scrutinizing conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. The same day, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearings on the increasing problem of sexual assaults in the military, featuring testimony from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and top officers from each military branch.
Fox's America's Newsroom aired live footage of the House's IRS hearing before it began, then stayed live for witness testimony and congressional questioning. When cutting live coverage for commercial breaks, co-host Bill Hemmer assured viewers, "We have to take a commercial, we got to pay some bills here, but we will not leave this hearing."
By contrast, Fox only went live to the sexual assault hearing before it started, airing footage of representatives, staffers, and media figures waiting for the hearing to begin. Next to a splitscreen of the committee room, co-host Martha MacCallum and correspondent Jennifer Griffin discussed the military's growing problem for approximately three minutes before MacCallum cut away, explaining, "You can watch that hearing on our website at FoxNews.com. Click on the link on the homepage. We've got dueling hearings going on this morning."
The epidemic of sexual assaults in the military is a growing problem. A Department of Defense report estimated that 26,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred in 2012 and that 62 percent of victims who reported the assault faced retaliation. During Tuesday's hearing, in testimony Fox did not air, Army Gen. Ray Odierno described the problem: "Sexual assault and harassment are like a cancer within the force -- a cancer that left untreated will destroy the fabric of our force."
America's Newsroom continued with live coverage of the House IRS hearings for the bulk of the two-hour program, never again mentioning the Senate hearings on military sexual assaults.
Erick Erickson is receiving much attention this week for his remarks that female breadwinners conflict with "biology" and "the natural world" and are "tearing [society] apart." But Erickson's comments are nothing out of the ordinary for the Fox contributor - he has a long history of making sexist, homophobic, and otherwise inflammatory statements.
Fox host Lou Dobbs and several Fox contributors -- all men -- lamented news that a record number of women are now the economic breadwinners of their families. The Fox figures worried about the dissolution of American society and nature.
Pew Research released a study on May 29 which found mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in a record 40 percent of all American households with minor children. Pew's report considered both single mothers and married mothers who earned a higher income than their husbands.
On his Fox business program, Dobbs described the Pew study as "showing that women have become the breadwinners in this country, and a lot of other concerning and troubling statistics." He went on to call the report suggestive of "society dissolv[ing] around us."
Fox contributor Juan Williams agreed, calling record female breadwinners indicative of "something going terribly wrong in American society":
What we're seeing with four out of 10 families, now the woman is the primary breadwinner. You're seeing the disintegration of marriage, you're seeing men who were hard hit by the economic recession in ways that women weren't. But you're seeing, I think, systemically, larger than the political stories that we follow every day, something going terribly wrong in American society, and it's hurting our children, and it's going to have impact for generations to come.
Erick Erickson, one of Fox's newest contributors, was troubled by female breadwinners and claimed that people who defend them are "anti-science." Erickson told viewers:
When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and female in society, and the other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complimentary role. We as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complimentary relationships in nuclear families, and it's tearing us apart.
Daily Caller contributor Mickey Kaus theorized that recent incidents of sexual assaults in the military may be a diversion tactic aimed at steering attention away from the White House.
Sexual assaults in the military are a growing problem. A Pentagon report released this month determined up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012, up from an estimated 19,000 the year prior. The report found that 62 percent of victims who reported being assaulted faced retaliation as a result. Recently, three different military officials, each tasked with overseeing sexual assault prevention programs, were investigated or charged with committing an act of sexual assault or harassment.
Kaus's dismissal of the sexual assault crisis is in keeping with the Daily Caller's standards for publishing sexist content.
Fox News is apparently desperate for a scandal over President Obama's handling of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups, especially now that the network's campaign to embroil the president in scandal over his response to the Benghazi attacks is falling apart. Fox has gone from ignoring Obama's swift responses to the IRS's actions to downplaying the significance of his firing the IRS's acting commissioner, each time distorting reality in order to call for a special prosecutor.
The release of over 100 pages of inter-agency emails obtained by CNN have threatened to derail months of right-wing scandal-mongering over the administration's response to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The emails appear to counter the conservative narrative that the State Department altered Benghazi-related talking points for political reasons. As Fox News' desperate attempts to resurrect the waning scandal fall flat, Fox pundits have resorted to criticizing the president's handling of the IRS controversy instead.
Fox kicked off its criticism by deciding Obama's initial condemnation of the IRS's actions as "outrageous" was too weak. When the president first addressed concerns over this story at a press conference on Monday, May 13, he asserted, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable." America Live host Megyn Kelly covered his remarks by wondering, "Does the president understate it when he calls this, 'outrageous'?"
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama released a statement on May 14 definitively calling the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable. This time, Fox simply pretended Obama made no such statement and continued to attack his remarks from two days prior, all while arguing that a special prosecutor was needed given Obama's supposed inaction.
By Thursday, Fox was fumbling over how to handle the fact that Obama had fired Steven Miller, the IRS acting commissioner, over the agency's actions. In the morning, America's Newsroom chose the route of merely ignoring that anyone had been fired so that host Martha MacCallum could declare, "[Obama] could be the big person. He could say, 'This stinks. You're all fired. This doesn't happen in America.' He has every ability in his position right now to take the high road. Why not? Why not do it?"
When the network finally acknowledged that Miller had been forced to resign, it did so by attempting to downplay the decision. Anchor Bret Baier questioned the action on Happening Now, claiming, "He was ready to leave, despite the fact -- I mean, before any of this already happened. He was acting commissioner and was set to leave the IRS. So that's a question for the White House; that's a question for the president. You know, was this guy fired when he was going to leave anyway?"
Fox News ignored President Obama's explicit demand for accountability in the wake of news that the Internal Revenue Service applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups. The network's omission gave it cover to accuse Obama of not taking the IRS's actions seriously and to call for a special prosecutor.
Obama first addressed the IRS controversy during a May 13 joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, where he condemned the IRS's behavior with the caveat, "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported," then "that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable."
After the Inspector General published its report on the IRS's actions, concluding the agency applied "inappropriate criteria" to conservative applicants, Obama granted the IRS no such caveat. He released a statement definitively naming the IRS's actions "intolerable and inexcusable" and directing action to be taken to hold those responsible accountable:
I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog's report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report's findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that's worthy of the public's trust, and that's especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I've directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General's recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again.
Yet the next day, America Live host Megyn Kelly and Fox's digital political editor Chris Stirewalt pretended Obama issued no such condemnation.
Instead, Kelly claimed that even after the IG's report was released, "we still have the president saying, 'Well, if they did it, if they did it, if they did it." She ranted, "I don't understand, more so today than the other day, why the president used that word 'if.' 'If these people did this, if these people did that.' Now that I've seen the Inspector General report -- and you're telling me -- now Fox News just got it last night. But other news organizations had it leaked to them early. You're telling me President Obama couldn't have got it when it was complete on Monday?"
Kelly and Stirewalt used their mischaracterization of Obama's response to call for a special prosecutor into the IRS's actions. Stirewalt told Kelly that if he were the president, he would "find a Republican of good standing" to appoint as an independent investigator. Kelly responded with the charge, "Where is the harm to this administration, if as these IRS employees state, no one outside of the IRS had anything to do with this, this was just IRS employees deciding to target conservatives. So if the White House and no one else had anything to do with it, where is the harm? Why doesn't the president just say 'absolutely'?"
Fox News anchor Bret Baier complained that President Obama's description of his administration's response to attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya attempted to rewrite history. On May 13, Obama recalled how he had previously described the attacks in the context of terrorism. Baier argued that if Obama's comments were laid out in a video timeline, "it doesn't match up to what he said today" -- but a video timeline produced by Media Matters illustrates the opposite.
Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint press conference on May 13, where Obama was asked about his administration's response to the attacks on our U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama pointed out that he had explicitly deemed it an "act of terror" while speaking in the Rose Garden the day after the attack. He noted how, "What we have been very clear about throughout that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were."
Baier appeared on Happening Now after Obama's press conference, where he stated, "Let me say one thing about [Obama's] timeline on talking about terror." Baier suggested that if you "set that aside" Obama's remarks in the Rose Garden - where he called Benghazi an "act of terror" - then Obama has avoided referring to Benghazi as such. Baier went on, "If you just lay it out in a timeline, what the president said and what he was asked about it, it doesn't match up to what he said today."
Media Matters indulged Baier's request for a video timeline, which reveals that Obama both called the Benghazi attacks an act of terror while emphasizing that an investigation was ongoing, just as the president said today:
Fox has misrepresented Obama's statements on whether the Benghazi attacks constitute an act of terror for the last eight months, often ignoring his remarks entirely or bizarrely claiming Obama was referring the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, not the Benghazi attacks, when he spoke from the Rose Garden.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly worried that the network's extensive live coverage of the House Oversight Committee hearings on Benghazi was providing "lopsided" airtime to questions from Democrats -- though Fox had actually devoted over twice as much airtime to Republican questions.
Three State Department officials testified today before the House Oversight Committee about the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Fox afforded live coverage to the hearing, beginning when the three witnesses testifying, Gregory Hicks, Mark Thompson, and Eric Nordstrom, were sworn in.
For over an hour, Fox stayed live on the hearings without a single interruption. During this time, the network showed 32 minutes of Republican committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa's (CA) questions and witness responses. But when Issa yielded the floor to the ranking Democratic committee member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), for his turn to question witnesses, Fox cut to commercial, breaking live footage for the first time.
Rather than immediately returning live to Cummings' questions after the commercial break, Happening Now host Jon Scott instead spoke to Fox contributor John Bolton about the hearing, while a split-screen showed the hearing and Cummings' questioning continue. In total, Fox aired only two minutes of Cummings' questions and witness responses before returning to commercial break.
Fox favored Republican questioning right from the start of the hearing, yet Kelly implied that the network's coverage had been lopsided in favor of Democrats.
Approximately two hours into Fox's hearing coverage, during questioning from Republican Rep. John Mica (FL), America Live host Megyn Kelly broke in and expressed concern that, "We're getting a little lopsided in terms of the Democrats versus the Republicans, so we're going to try to rectify that for you after the break, and play more of Mr. Mica right after this quick commercial break." Fox continued airing what was left of Mica's questions upon returning from break. But then as Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) took the floor, Fox halted live coverage so that Kelly could speak to another Fox correspondent. As she skipped the Democrat's question period, Kelly stated, "And so we're going to try to even it out. We're going to try to get on the same number of Democrats and Republicans as we watch this coverage."
At the time of Kelly's remark, eleven politicians -- six Republicans and five Democrats -- had asked questions of the Benghazi witnesses. And despite Kelly's suggestion, during this time Fox devoted 46 minutes of live coverage to Republicans' questions and answers, airing only 19 minutes of Democrats' questions and answers.
This post has been updated to correct the number of congressmen who posed questions prior to Kelly's remarks.