Fox News' Outnumbered, which features four female anchors and one male guest in an hour-long show, is billed as "a news show first and foremost," but in its first week the jaw-dropping program has proven to be anything but.
Even before its debut, it was evident that Roger Ailes' brainchild would be incredibly sexist. The name Outnumbered alone announces that the show operates from the perspective of its sole male guest, who must inevitably feel outnumbered in the presence of four female hosts (never mind the fact that many of Fox's current programs, like Fox & Friends or The Five, feature more male hosts than female yet carry no such designation).
Outnumbered likewise doesn't depart from Ailes' trademark exploitation of Fox women -- immediately evident in the no-pants dress code thus far for female anchors, whose legs are on prominent display and nearly always crossed toward the male guest du jour, known to the Twittersphere as #OneLuckyGuy.
Before the program first aired, Jay Wallace, Fox's senior vice president for news, described the show as "a news show first and foremost," with "journalism at the heart."
Nearly all of Fox's purported news programs churn with an undercurrent of sexism. But with Outnumbered, the network drops the veil. It's more a parody of a news program, devoting the vast majority of the first week to decidedly non-news, fluff stories that highlight stereotypical altercations or disparities between the sexes. Rather than mention actual news stories that pertain to women's issues -- such as a new White House report on college sexual assault -- Outnumbered relayed George Clooney's groundbreaking recent engagement and a new plastic surgery that will enable women to better wear sky-high heels, stories built around gender stereotypes.
Recent racist musings from the likes of rancher Cliven Bundy and LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling bring to light one of right-wing media's favorite misnomers -- that racism and bigotry are over. It's a dangerous fiction that's also surfaced in recent Supreme Court decisions, and one that provides cover for modern racists and policies that hurt minorities.
"Is there racism? I don't believe there's racism," asserted Fox News' Eric Bolling, echoing a refrain that's become common place inside the conservative bubble.
For example, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer has argued that policies protecting against racial discrimination are no longer necessary because they're about giving "advantages to people who 50 years ago" were disadvantaged. Co-host of Fox's The Five Andrea Tantaros argued civil rights laws are no longer needed "because there is equality." According to Bill O'Reilly, racism is "an individual problem," "not a country problem," and America's sad history of discrimination is "all in the past."
This readiness to ignore the existence of racism provides cover for intolerance on the fringe. Over the last month, right-wing media propelled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to folk hero status for cheating the federal government out of millions, only to sprint away from him when was caught on tape wondering if black people were better off as slaves.
While many Fox News hosts and contributors eventually condemned Bundy and Sterling's racism, the rhetoric is largely reminiscent of right-wing media's stereotypes of minorities and denial of the existence of racism -- In the wake of their racist rants, both Bundy and Sterling denied they held any racist views.
Bundy and Sterling are extreme examples of cognitive dissonance, but the racism-denialist mindset is a pervasive and dangerous one.
Right-wing media's dismissal of racism has most recently surfaced in the wake of the recent April 22 Supreme Court decision in Schuette v. BAMN, that effectively overturned decades of civil rights precedent and gutted a core component of equal protection law by giving Michigan voters the power to change their state's constitution to ban race-based considerations for university admissions.
As Jeffrey Toobin described, the conservative majority took the position of "blame-shifting," suggesting that "the debate over affirmative action should and could take place in a genteel, controversy-free zone." He wrote:
Bundy and Sterling represent an ugly corner of contemporary American life, but it is one that is entirely invisible in recent Supreme Court rulings. In the Roberts Court, there are no Bundys and Sterlings; the real targets of the conservative majority are those who've spent their lives fighting the Bundys and Sterlings of the world.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote about a country where the Bundys and Sterlings still hold considerable sway. Indeed, she went beyond the simple bigotry of the Bundys and Sterlings and found that more subtle wounds of racism still exist in this country. "Race matters," she wrote, "because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: 'I do not belong here.'"
Decisions made and policies created on the premise that racism no longer exists in America have incredibly damaging impacts on civil rights and minority communities.
The Supreme Court's recent decision in Michigan is evidence of that. The ruling opened a door for state majorities to change their political systems to unfairly disadvantage minorities -- a decision that has dangerous consequences, particularly in a state like Michigan where white Americans are the overwhelming majority. Such consequences are already being felt by minority students in Michigan. In addition to racist incidents and racial tensions on campuses around the country, the enrollment of African-American students in Michigan has seen a dramatic decrease.
The Supreme Court's recent tossing aside of history and legal precedent is reminiscent of the court's June 2013 blow to voting rights -- a decision also made on the premise that racism no longer exists in America, but in reality had a negative impact on minorities. In the June 25 decision, the conservative majority invalidated the provision within the Voting Rights Act that prevents states and local jurisdictions from enacting racially discriminatory election practices. States wasted no time after the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act pushing highly restrictive voting laws that history has shown serve to make it harder for minorities to cast a vote.
Apparently inside the conservative bubble, it's easy to praise such devastating policies so long as you deny the existence of racism at all, a refrain that ultimately helps keep discrimination alive.
Fox's newest show, Outnumbered, features a rotating cast of four female hosts, one male host, and a litany of sexist tropes.
The program premiered April 28 with female co-hosts Jedediah Bila, Harris Faulkner, Sandra Smith, Kimberly Guilfoyle and their male co-host of the day Tucker Carlson, who was honored with the Twitter hashtag #ONELUCKYGUY and described by the women as "a good enough sport to join us on day one."
When Fox announced the new show, Amanda Marcotte noted its premise: "The man will be 'outnumbered,' meaning that even though Outnumbered is supposedly a female-centric show, the male point of view is still so central that it gives the show its title." The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg similarly predicted that the program would find its "heat" by highlighting opposition between men and women, essentially parodying "what conservatives often accuse feminists of wanting to do to men: overwhelm them and shout them down as a sort of rhetorical reparations for years in a subordinate position."
These predictions proved accurate. In fact, Outnumbered's set even placed the lone man at the center, surrounded on a couch by the female hosts wearing Fox's famous short skirts. The hosts kicked off the show by indulging the parody that men and women are profoundly opposed to each other, with Carlson joking at the very beginning that he was "in a defensive crouch already," because living with four women had given him experience he needed to "submit" and handle this "outnumbered" position:
Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized his own network's coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, blasting the network for elevating Bundy's anti-government agenda and turning the lawless rancher into a folk hero before falling silent when Bundy's racist remarks came to light.
Fox News darling Cliven Bundy rose to his folk hero status after he failed to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land, following decades of refusing to pay required grazing fees. Fox News and other right-wing media elevated the story with substantial coverage, championing Bundy and his supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials.
But when Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, Fox News fell silent, abruptly ending their incessant promotion of the lawless rancher. The New York Times first reported that Bundy had questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," and Media Matters quickly obtained video of the racist remarks.
On the April 27 edition his Fox News show #MediaBuzz, Kurtz posited that Fox News "fell seriously short" in their coverage of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy once his "blatantly racist" comments were revealed, after having previously built Bundy up "as a symbol of resistance":
Right-wing media have been rushing to distance themselves from the Nevada rancher they've spent weeks championing after Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, but two of Bundy's biggest cheerleaders -- Sean Hannity and Fox News -- have vested corporate, financial, and political interests in the promotion of Cliven Bundy's anti-government land ownership agenda.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy became Fox News' favorite folk hero after he refused to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land. Hannity and many other right-wing media rallied around Bundy and his armed supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials attempting to impound Bundy's cattle and collect the $1 million he owes in fines and fees after decades of noncompliance with the law.
Hannity has promoted Bundy's anti-government rhetoric, arguing that the federal government owns far too much land and pushing Bundy's claim that not only does the federal government not have land-ownership authority but that they don't need or use the land they claim to own. On the April 23 edition of his show, Hannity attacked the government for owning too much land, agreeing with Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano that they do not have the constitutional authority to own any of the land. Throughout the land battle, Hannity continuously argued that the government is irresponsibly fighting for land they have no intended use for -- such as building hospitals, schools, or roads -- and should focus their efforts elsewhere to rapists, murderers, criminals, and pedophiles.
Bundy and Hannity's promotion of state ownership of federal lands gives airtime to an issue that conservatives have long been campaigning for but have had difficulty getting voters excited about -- an issue in line with the land interests of the Koch brothers. Slate reported on April 23 that the Fox News corporate, financial, and political interests being served by Hannity's promotion of Bundy lie in the network's connection to the Koch brothers:
Bundy's anti-federal agenda is closely aligned with that of Charles and David Koch, major Republican donors who have been pushing for states to gain control over federal lands - so they can be sold or leased to people like the Koch brothers in deals.
The New York Post reached new lows publishing "an open letter to Chelsea Clinton's fetus" -- rather than simply reporting on Clinton's recently announced pregnancy or offering the couple well-wishes, the Post took the opportunity to attack the new baby and soon-to-be grandparents Bill and Hillary Clinton under the guise of "news."
The April 22 letter told the baby that "what makes you so special" is "you're going to live your whole life in make-believe." The Post labeled the child a "campaign asset" and "stage prop" for "Lady Pantsuit" and non-"maternal" Hillary Clinton:
Welcome to advanced gestation! Since you're new around here, I thought you'd like to know a little bit about what makes you so special. The reason is, you're going to live your whole life in make-believe!
In two years or so, when most babies are just learning to crawl, you will be hitting the road! Grandma Hillary is going to need you to smile and coo whenever there are Sunshine Men around. So play nice and don't projectile vomit. Grandma is not what grown-ups call "maternal," and was busy turning $1000 into $100,000 in the magical cow trading market when your mommy was a baby, so she will have to make believe she is really "helping out" with you. No crying if she gets the diaper on the wrong end!
The best part of your make-believe Clinton-Mezvinsky life is that people will pretend you're good at things and give you gifts like high-paying consultancy gigs when you just got out of college, jobs reporting for NBC News when you have as much camera-awareness as a smoked flounder, and the leadership of the free world because you "deserve it."
On Tax Day, Fox hosts provided a platform for six Tea Party members, disproving Ruport Murdoch's claim that the network doesn't promote the Tea Party.
During a March 2014 interview with Fortune, Rupert Murdoch called "bullshit" on the assertion that Fox News has gone to bat for the Tea Party, saying, "we don't promote the Tea Party. That's bullshit. We recognize their existence." But just as Fox can be credited with a staggering amount of early Tea Party promotion in 2009, Fox hosts celebrated Tax Day 2014 by hosting a number of Tea Partiers to discuss the movement.
On the April 15 edition of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren questioned why the Tea Party hadn't planned any large scale events in honor of Tax Day and hosted three Tea Party members to promote the movement's new political plan. Van Susteren painted the Tea Party as victims, claiming that the movement has been "unfairly demonized by some members of politics." Van Susteren even gave the floor to the Tea Partiers to promote their favorite hopefuls for the 2016 presidential election:
Fox News minimized the influence of political spending by the Koch brothers in order to paint Democrats as hypocrites on the issue of campaign finance.
After championing the impact Koch ad money has had on shaping public opinion on Obamacare during the April 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Doug McKelway hid the influence Koch Industries' funding actually has on elections. McKelway cited an OpenSecrets.org list of the "top all-time donors," emphasizing that despite the $30 million spent on advertisements, the list ranks Koch Industries as only 59th out of 156 donors. In an attempt to attack Democrats as hypocrites for their criticisms of the Koch brothers' political spending, McKelway highlighted the fact that the top donor on Open Secret's list was ActBlue, a Democratic PAC:
Fox News hosted an anti-immigration Arizona sheriff to push the myths that the Obama administration has released violent undocumented immigrants and is refusing to deport convicted criminals. In reality, deportations of undocumented immigrants with criminal records have nearly doubled since 2008, and the claim that the Obama administration is releasing violent undocumented immigrants is based on a flawed report.
On the April 9 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and guest Paul Babeu -- an Arizona police sheriff, Fox News darling, and anti-immigrant activist -- pushed one of Fox's favorite immigration myths, claiming that the Obama administration is not deporting criminals, "the dangerous folks, or the folks you would think more urgently should be deported." Babeu accused the administration of releasing convicted criminals, stoking fears that those released were "convicted of child molestation, aggravated assault against police officers" and manslaughter:
Contrary to Cavuto and Babeu's claims, the Obama administration has consistently increased the number of convicted criminals that are deported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data shows that the number of immigrants with Level 1 offenses who were deported has gone from about 3,400 in 2009 to nearly 29,000 in 2013. Since 2008, ICE deportations of immigrants with criminal convictions have increased by 87 percent:
On national equal pay day, ABC's World News served as an example of how the media should be covering the gender wage gap, emphasizing the significant economic benefits of equal pay and simultaneously shooting down the right-wing media spin that dismisses the issue.
On April 8, President Obama signed two executive orders aimed at closing the gender wage gap, beginning with federal contractors. One executive order makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who discuss salaries. President Obama also signed an executive memorandum that "instructs the Labor Department to collect statistics on pay for men and women from such contractors." The president then called on Congress to pass legislation that would have much more impact.
April 8 also marked the observance of Equal Pay Day, an awareness campaign to educate the public about the pay discrepancy between working men and women in the United States. National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill says the date marks "the number of extra days into 2014 the average woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart did in 2013."
On the April 8 edition of World News, host Diane Sawyer and correspondent Mara Schiavocampo shined a light on the gender pay gap, lending the issue the emphasis it deserves by highlighting the significant beneficial impact closing the gap would have on women and the overall economy as well as the necessity of President Obama's executive orders.
Sawyer and Schiavocampo championed President Obama's executive order barring employer retaliation against employees that discuss salaries, and explained that this is necessary because "half of all workers say they are required to stay silent about their salary." Many women may not be aware of pay discrimination due to company policies that prohibit salary discussions -- a 2011 survey by the Institute for Women's Policy Research revealed that "[a]lmost half of all workers (48.4 percent) responded that they were either prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing their earnings with colleagues."
Schiavocampo also deserves credit for highlighting the substantial effect closing the pay gap would have, noting that "if women could eliminate that pay gap, the average working woman could pay for more than a year's worth of food in California, 10 months of rent in Georgia, and more than 1,900 gallons of gas in Florida." Schiavocampo also pointed out that action such as Obama's executive order would allow "women to ask for more without fear of losing their jobs":