Fox News hosts Eric Bolling and Sean Hannity falsely claimed the latest video attacking Planned Parenthood "proves" that the organization has failed to obtain proper consent from women for fetal tissue donations. In fact, as other media outlets have noted, the accusations in the video are focused on a separate organization known as StemExpress.
At the 2016 Republican primary debate last night, the Fox News moderators appeared reasonable, effective, and pointed in their questions to the candidates. And that was the point of the whole charade.
Fox did exactly what Media Matters predicted they would. Moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace took advantage of the low expectations mainstream journalists and many Americans have of their network. They knew millions of people who don't watch Fox as obsessively as we do would be tuning in, many of them expecting to see the brand of Fox they've heard so much about, full of conservative bias and incoherent arguments. And they knew how much power rested in surprising those viewers -- in convincing even just a handful of mainstream journalists that Fox can be legitimate.
The strategy worked. Because the moderators managed to look like real journalists for a little over two hours, they're getting intense praise from mainstream media outlets, such as Politico (emphasis added):
For more than two hours, the trio that won widespread praise in 2012 for hard-hitting questions once again demonstrated that Fox News would offer no safe harbor for Republican candidates.
And the New York Times (emphasis added):
There was more than just good television at stake. For the journalists of Fox News, the debate offered a potentially defining moment in front of millions of people, during one of the most anticipated political events of the year. This was an opportunity to demonstrate that their network is not, as its critics have charged, a blindly loyal propaganda division of the Republican Party, that Fox journalists can be as unsparing toward conservatives as they are with liberals, and that they can eviscerate with equal opportunity if they choose.
But that last clause from the Times is crucial: "if they choose." Because the other 364 days a year, Fox News does not choose to hold Republicans accountable for their extreme and misinformed positions on women's rights or welfare or immigration; instead they do create that "safe harbor" for Republicans to come up with their wild misconceptions and hateful rhetoric -- the same misconceptions they "choose" to blast those same Republicans for last night.
Fox has two fundamental goals: make lots of money by broadcasting entertaining television, and bolster the Republican Party. Last night, they succeeded in doing both, even in the moments where it might have seemed like they had no patience for the Republican candidates' pandering.
Because Fox chief Roger Ailes knows that the best way for Fox to bolster the Republican Party in the long-term is for mainstream journalists to trust Fox -- for the "blindly loyal propaganda division" to appear, even just for one night, as credible. Propaganda doesn't work, after all, if you know it's propaganda.
So even if many of their questions actually did reinforce Republican orthodoxy (such as claiming that deceitful videos attacking Planned Parenthood shed "new light on abortion practices"), the Fox moderators made sure they spent most of their time looking like attack dogs ready to take on the Republican candidates.
But it's worth looking closely at how that played out, and what exactly mainstream media outlets are now praising. Getting the most attention is perhaps one of the biggest of the so-called "Megyn Moments" of the night, in which Kelly momentarily appears out-of-step with Fox rhetoric and calls out a bit of right-wing nonsense. Her tendency to do this every once in a while successfully distracts from her standard misinformation, and helps feed the exact narrative about Fox's potential for credibility that they were desperate to encourage last night.
"Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter," she began. "However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.'"
Quickly dismissing Trump's attempt to shrug these comments off with a crude joke, she beat on: "Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?"
To be clear, it is definitely remarkable to hear a Fox News host even mention the "war on women," something the network and the Republican Party have worked hard to minimize. And Trump deserves to be held accountable for these comments.
But it's not exactly an act of remarkable journalism to ask such a question -- pointing out Trump's raging sexism is something any competent journalist should be expected to do.
Moreover, Fox has had ample time to hold him accountable for these comments before. Trump has been winning the "Fox News Primary" for the last three months, appearing on the network more times than any other Republican candidate in the race.
Yet his sexism has certainly not been a regular topic of the fawning interviews he typically receives on the network. Instead, Fox has worked very, very hard to promote Trump, and the fact that he was standing at center stage last night due to his soaring poll numbers was certainly aided by the network.
While network figures have criticized Trump in the past, Fox's shift during the debate to fully acknowledging Trump's nasty side is notable. But it once again says more about Fox's calculus for the evening and our own low expectations than it does about Trump himself.
In his review of the evening, Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman explained that according to his sources, key to that calculus was Fox's fear that the winner of the night would be Trump, at the expense of the network's moderators:
During a meeting at Fox late last week, according to a source, senior Fox executives discussed a more worrisome scenario: What would happen if Trump won over the audience and moved the crowd to boo moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace on live television? What if Trump was able to direct his base of supporters to stop watching Fox? To prevent that from happening, Ailes needed a way to keep the audience firmly on the side of his moderators.
The questions posed last night to all of the candidates were carefully considered, and key to the strategy behind those questions was keeping the audience on Fox's side, not on the side of the actual candidates running for president. That isn't a strategy for good journalism, or for aiding a thoughtful electoral process. That's a strategy of control.
Fox may have realized they can no longer control Trump; but they're definitely trying to maintain full control over the mainstream narrative about their "credibility," and thus the Republican primary.
A Wall Street Journal editorial conflated the public charity known as the Clinton Foundation with the private, personal Clinton Family Foundation in a misleading attack on Hillary Clinton's charitable giving -- and their misinformation made its way straight to Fox News primetime.
Clinton recently released her tax returns as part of her presidential campaign, and the returns reveal that she and her husband Bill donated nearly $15 million to charity from 2007-2014. The vast majority of that money went to their private philanthropic Clinton Family Foundation.
As Nonprofit Quarterly explained, the Clinton Family Foundation acts "a clearinghouse for the family's personal philanthropy." According to the Family Foundation's 2014 tax filing, Hillary and Bill Clinton are the only donors, and the Family Foundation distributes their money to various charities and nonprofits, including New York Public Radio, the American Nurses Foundation, the American Heart Association -- and the separate William J. Clinton Foundation.
The William J. Clinton Foundation -- which was recently renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation -- is the highly-respected international charity that has garnered significant media attention since Clinton announced her run for president. It is the foundation that helps AIDS/HIV sufferers around the world get better medicine, and battles global health crises, economic inequality, childhood obesity, and climate change.
But in its August 4 editorial, the Journal conflated the two charities in their attack on Clinton's giving.
The Journal suggested that it was inappropriate for the Clinton family to give the vast majority of their charitable contributions to their own foundation, because, they claimed, the foundation "isn't exactly the Little Sisters of the Poor," and instead "While the foundation does contribute to charitable causes, it also doubles as a vehicle to promote the first family's political ambitions and public profile."
Though they correctly named the "Family Foundation," the Journal went on to claim that the foundation spends "an outsized portion of its money, for instance, picking up the travel and other expenses for the whole family":
The foundation has also functioned between campaigns and stints in public office as a jobs program and financier for various Clinton operatives. Sidney Blumenthal, who was banned by the White House from a job at the State Department, was paid by the foundation while he was dispensing bad advice on Libya to Mrs. Clinton. Foreign governments, unions, wealthy Democrats and corporations donated to the foundation knowing its political importance to the woman who could be the next U.S. President.
The Clintons play by their own political rules, and taking a nearly $15 million tax write-off to assist their electoral ambitions is merely the latest.
The problem is that the Family Foundation -- which received the nearly $15 million -- doesn't appear to have done most of those things. The global Clinton Foundation is the one which reportedly paid for some travel expenses and for the salaries of some Clinton advisers, but it received only a portion of the family's total charitable giving (a little over $1.8 million out of roughly $3.7 million in contributions in 2014, for example).
As Michael Wyland explained at NonProfit Quarterly (emphasis added), "it's understandable that the two foundations could be confused. However, a national publication expressing its official opinion about a presidential candidate's charitable activities should be expected to perform some due diligence."
Unfortunately, Fox's Bill O'Reilly also failed to perform that due diligence. Picking up on the Journal story, O'Reilly blasted Clinton's charitable giving during his August 5 show:
The Wall Street Journal reporting today in an editorial that although the Clintons donated about $15 million to charity between the years 2007 and 2014, all but 200,000 of that was given to the Clinton Foundation. Which pays travel and other expenses for the Clinton family and gives them a forum to promote public policy, in addition to helping various causes like combating world hunger. The Clintons wrote off $15 million in charitable deductions on their taxes.
The email situation's murky, and we're glad the FBI is finally involved. But the charity situation is not confusing. For seven years the Clintons funded their own foundation, which in part benefits them, and took a huge deduction in doing so.
I have a foundation. I know what I'm talking about.
Donating to their own internationally-renowned public charity seems like a logical thing the Clintons would do -- the fact is much of the Clintons' contributions also went to a variety of other charities, through their private Family Foundation.
The New York Times was forced to issue two corrections after relying on Capitol Hill anonymous sourcing for its flawed report on emails from former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Clinton debacle is the latest example of why the media should be careful when relying on leaks from partisan congressional sources -- this is far from the first time journalists who did have been burned.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported that New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet "refused to publish" a letter from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which expressed "grave concern" with a recent flawed Times report on Clinton's email use.
The July 23 Times story, which has now been corrected twice and which came under heavy criticism from the Times' public editor and veteran journalists, originally falsely claimed that two inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton's email use. In reality, the probe was not criminal and was not focused on Clinton personally. "Despite the overwhelming evidence," Byers noted, "the Times did not remove the word [criminal] from its headline and its story, nor did it issue a correction, until the following day."
Byers explained that in response, the Clinton campaign "sent a nearly 2,000-word letter to the executive editor of The New York Times this week." The campaign then forwarded the letter to reporters after "Baquet refused to publish it in the Times":
"We remain perplexed by the Times' slowness to acknowledge its errors after the fact, and some of the shaky justifications that Times' editors have made," Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri wrote in the letter to Dean Baquet, which the campaign forwarded to the On Media blog late Thursday night.
"I feel obliged to put into context just how egregious an error this story was," Palmieri continued. "The New York Times is arguably the most important news outlet in the world and it rushed to put an erroneous story on the front page charging that a major candidate for President of the United States was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement. Literally hundreds of outlets followed your story, creating a firestorm that had a deep impact that cannot be unwound. This problem was compounded by the fact that the Times took an inexplicable, let alone indefensible, delay in correcting the story and removing 'criminal' from the headline and text of the story."
"In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton," Palmieri wrote. "Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many 'degrees of separation' for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times."
Palmieri's letter, which runs 1,915 words long, includes three other complaints: 1. That the "seriousness of the allegations... demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article's publication. 2. That the Times "incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction." And 3. That the Times' "official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling."
"I wish to emphasize our genuine wish to have a constructive relationship with The New York Times," Palmieri writes in closing. "But we also are extremely troubled by the events that went into this erroneous report, and will be looking forward to discussing our concerns related to this incident so we can have confidence that it is not repeated in the future."
A third video deceptively attacking Planned Parenthood has been released, and, like the previous two, the highly-edited video shows no evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics have broken any laws by allowing women to voluntarily and safely donate fetal tissue from abortions. Media should know seven key facts about the video, including that the group behind it may have obtained the footage illegally; that the video features a lab technician who admits PPFA only receives legal reimbursement for actual costs; and that the video is largely about a separate for-profit research tissue supply company.
A Department of Justice official reportedly contradicted a New York Times article on Hillary Clinton's email use, clarifying that the DOJ investigation into State Department email practices is not criminal, as was initially reported.
On July 23, the New York Times initially cited anonymous "senior government officials" to claim former Secretary of State Clinton was the target of a DOJ "criminal investigation" for her use of a private email account while at State.
The Times then made a major change to that report, walking it back to instead claim there was merely a referral from two inspector generals for a potential "criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account." At the time, the paper said they would not issue a correction, claiming there had been no "factual error."
Now, however, Times' John Harwood reports a second major problem: the investigation is not actually "criminal." Harwood tweeted that a "Justice Dept official" was "contradicting earlier reports" to confirm that the "'referral' related to Hillary Clinton's email is NOT for a criminal investigation":
Justice Dept official says "referral" related to Hillary Clinton's email is NOT for a criminal investigation - contradicting earlier reports-- John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 24, 2015
Washington Post reporter Sari Horwitz similarly tweeted that the DOJ is "now correcting their earlier statement & saying the referral regarding Clinton emails was not a criminal inquiry."
It is currently unclear whether the multiple "senior government officials" the Times initially cited in their report are the same sources now reversing their statements, or if there are several officials leaking differing information.
Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Andrea Tantaros advocated for entirely eliminating Planned Parenthood's federal funding, which helps provide critical women's health services across the U.S., by wildly misrepresenting what the organization spends on abortion and the services they provide.
Congress long ago barred Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion, but the release of two deceptively edited videos -- which attempt to smear the organization's legal practice of allowing women to choose to donate fetal tissues from their abortions to biomedical research -- has nevertheless reanimated anti-choice activists' campaign to defund the nonprofit.
Jumping off of the controversy, O'Reilly stated unequivocally on his July 22 show that "Planned Parenthood should be defunded, period. I don't want my tax dollars going to them."
Fox contributor Juan Williams attempted to push back, explaining that by defunding all of Planned Parenthood, "you're talking about taking away medical access to millions of women." But O'Reilly insisted "It wouldn't take away anything," and Fox host Tantaros agreed:
TANTAROS: I want to jump in on the women's health point because that's actually a crock. Look, you don't have to be pro-life to be horrified by these videos. A number of my pro-choice friends are horrified by these videos, the same way they were horrified by Kermit Gosnell. And look, here's my view on Planned Parenthood. It provides services now, those services are provided under Obamacare. So, we don't really need Planned Parenthood.
O'REILLY: 90 percent of their services are abortion-related.
TANTAROS: But here's my deal, I don't want to pay for it. It's a business, let private funding go to Planned Parenthood, taxpayer dollars should not have to go to crazy towns like San Francisco and to places like Planned Parenthood.
In fact, Obamacare does not guarantee women access to the critical health services Planned Parenthood's 817 clinics across the country provide, nor are "90 percent of their services" abortion related.
The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies cover preventative women's health care services and prenatal care, and has already saved women over $1 billion dollars on birth control by reducing co-pays and deductibles. The law also established funding to construct health centers to increase access to health care.
But the law does not guarantee that there are clinics accessible to provide women these health services. Some local pharmacies may stock prescription birth control, for example, but they aren't equipped to perform pap smears, conduct exams for breast cancer, or provide treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
That kind of critical women's health care is provided at the hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics. According to their most recent annual report, from October 2012 to September 2013 their clinics performed almost 900,000 pap tests and breast exams, over 3.5 million birth control information and service requests, and nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for STIs.
The same report (once again) confirmed that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services were abortion-related.
As Vox's Sarah Kliff recently explained, Planned Parenthood receives "more than $500 million annually in government funding, mostly through Medicaid and grants," and that money is crucial to helping them provide this health care to millions of American women. "Because Planned Parenthood is such a large provider in this space," Kliff writes, "it's hard to see other clinics stepping in to fill the gap that [defunding] would leave."
Anti-choice attempts to shutter women's health clinics -- including Planned Parenthood centers -- around the country have already created a massive health crisis in states like Texas, where 13 million women live but currently only have access to a handful of clinics.
Fox has repeatedly hyped this most recent deceptive campaign against Planned Parenthood, with the network devoting 10 full segments in just one day to hyping the video's false claims.
Super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Marco Rubio have purchased millions of dollars of ad time on Fox News, according to data obtained by Media Matters from a media buying source. An adviser to super PACs backing Perry reportedly admitted the spending is intended to raise his profile to help him qualify for the upcoming Fox News primary debate.
Ever since Fox declared that its August 6 debate would only include candidates "in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls," the 15 Republicans currently running (with more potentially entering the race soon) have scrambled to gain the exposure necessary to make the cut, with some super PACs reportedly changing their entire campaign strategies.
In response to the debate rules announcement, Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus argued that Roger Ailes "will decide which candidates can compete in Republican presidential primaries next year." The debate rules are already having a tangible impact on the campaign.
New York Times' Nick Confessore reported July 15 that a group of super PACs supporting Rick Perry "are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising on the Fox News Channel and other cable channels to raise Mr. Perry's profile," in order to "see him on that debate stage," according to an adviser to the groups.
Data obtained by Media Matters from a media buying source shows that a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio has also been investing in Fox News airtime.
For ads running over the next 12 days, Opportunity and Freedom, a super PAC supporting Perry, is spending $450,000 on Fox News Channel, and an additional $50,000 on sister channel Fox Business.
While Conservative Solutions, a group backing Rubio, will spend more than $3 million on Fox News, and $28,000 on Fox Business, for ads running between June 23 and July 27.
"Because of the way the Fox News Channel has taken over the Republican presidential process this year," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported last night, the groups backing Perry "are completely changing the way they are trying to campaign."
Maddow explained that Fox News now gets to "cash in" on its own rule, adding, "It's a nice racket":
MADDOW: If Rick Perry is excluded from the Republican presidential debates, effectively he's not even running for president any more, right? If he's not in the debates, nobody is considering his nomination ... So, the Rick Perry super PAC today decided first things first -- instead of focusing on the early states, like Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina like candidates always have in the past, today, they announced that they would stop those efforts. They would start ignoring the early states and instead they're going to put all of their resources, all their money, ahundred of thousands of dollars, as fast as they can into ads for Rick Perry to run on the FOX News channel, and on other national cable networks. ... the Rick Perry super PACs are being rational. They're putting all of their eggs into that basket.
So, FOX News set that rule for the Republican Party, and now, FOX News gets to cash in on that role, by getting all of the Rick Perry super PAC money in the form of his national ads. It's a nice racket, right? [transcript via Nexis]
Media Matters has previously reported on Fox News' unprecedented involvement with the Republican primary. Candidates flock to the network to boost their profiles among the network's audience while also trying to win favor from its influential hosts.
Fox host Sean Hannity has sought to become a "conservative kingmaker," with his show devoting significantly more air-time to lengthy interviews with candidates than any other program on the network.
Our most recent data showed former reality TV host Donald Trump taking the lead in the "Fox Primary" with more on-air appearances in June than any other GOP contender. Rick Perry came in second with seven appearances; Marco Rubio only made one appearance that month.
Several of the GOP candidates whose current polling numbers appear to leave them below Fox's threshold for participation have criticized the debate rules and the power it gives Fox, though others are using it to fundraise. Carly Fiorina wrote to supporters in May: "I need your help to get on that debate stage ... Will you donate $13 today?" In June, Lindsey Graham also asked Fox News Radio listeners to "help me" get into the debate.
A deceptive video from a conservative group purports to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing prices for the illegal sale of fetal tissue from abortions. But the full, unedited footage and transcript released by the group undermines their sensationalist claims, showing at least three crucial edits that reveal the Planned Parenthood official was instead discussing the reimbursement cost for consensual, legal tissue donations.