Last week, Fox News invited discredited conspiracy theorist Kathleen Willey on air to smear Hillary Clinton. Willey has for years spread outlandish conspiracies about the Clintons, including suggesting that they may have been behind the death of her husband and former White House aide Vince Foster.
During the interview Fox host Megyn Kelly pointed out that "detractors" say Willey is a "dishonest person," and that "there's no direct evidence tying the Clintons" to some of Willey's more outrageous allegations. But the fact that Willey is dishonest and lacks evidence for her smears merely highlights the folly of giving her a platform in the first place.
Fox News has had similar lapses in judgment when hosting other conspiracy theorists and smear artists in the past. Among others, Fox has hosted a person who thinks the Obama administration may have "orchestrated" the Benghazi attacks; a guest that believes the president and Osama bin Laden are literally the same person; a blogger that thinks Obama's father isn't Obama's father; a contributor that once wrote a column arguing Rep. Gary Condit had Chandra Levy killed by a gay Caribbean motorcycle gang; and someone who thinks the president "bears traits that resemble the Antichrist."
Below is an admittedly incomplete list of the least credible guests the network has ever hosted. People that just missed the cut include a self-proclaimed prophet who warned that the Antichrist "will employ precisely the same methods" as President Obama and the author of the birther tomes Where's The Birth Certificate? and Where's The Real Birth Certificate?
The Woman Who Thinks President Obama And Osama Bin Laden Are Literally The Same Person
Last fall, a fringe group of activists organized what they claimed would be a massive rally involving thousands of disgruntled truckers protesting the government. The movement was given an assist by conservative websites and Fox News, which hosted organizer Zeeda Andrews to plug the protest. During an appearance on On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Andrews explained that the goal of the event was to oust Obama from office because he "is a threat to our national security."
Not mentioned by Fox during the segment? That Andrews believes Obama is a "threat to our national security" in part because she thinks, somehow, that "Osama Bin Laden is our President Obama." According to a comment Andrews posted on YouTube in 2013, people should "do your research" because the "CIA has been preparing for" swapping Obama and bin Laden since the president "was a boy. They have same height, bone structure, hands and ears both are left handed the Osama face was created by Hollywood. The fox is in the hen house."
Andrews apparently also identifies as a fan of at least two conspiracy theory films about 9-11; thinks Obama is secretly a Muslim; that the Department of Homeland Security is planning to massacre Americans and that the Boston Marathon bombings were a "false flag" attack.
The Guy Who Thinks Obama May Have "Orchestrated" Benghazi
WND columnist Erik Rush has made numerous appearances on Fox News in recent years to attack President Obama and Democrats.
In addition to dabbling in well-worn nonsense about Obama's birth certificate and the president's supposedly thinly-veiled Marxism, Rush has pushed several utterly absurd conspiracy theories about the government.
For example, in a column posted last year, Rush argued that President Obama's alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood suggest his administration may have "orchestrated" the terror attacks in Benghazi. As part of his evidence that the Obama administration would do something like orchestrate an attack on American diplomatic facilities, Rush referenced the "unresolved Trinity United murders," the monumentally idiotic conspiracy that Obama and his associates possibly murdered members of Obama's old church in order to cover up the president's hidden homosexuality.
Right Wing Watch has an extensive archive of the various ridiculous things Rush has said over the years. Among them arguing that Obama is "enslaving" white people; positing that the Navy Yard shooting was a false flag operation designed to prevent the Navy from arresting Obama for treason; claiming that Obama is murdering his critics; and just last week, suggesting Obama has been secretly creating "jihadi cells across country in order to 'have his back' in the event that a move is made to remove him."
Despite all of this, Rush has made at least a dozen appearances on Sean Hannity's Fox News program since 2010.
The Guy Who Called A Judge A "Crooked, Slimy Jew"
In 2008, Sean Hannity hosted "internet journalist" Andy Martin to attack then-Senator Obama. Martin told Hannity that Obama's time spent as a community organizer amounted to "training for a radical overthrow of the government." But Martin's on-air attacks on Obama seem tame compared to the reputation he brought with him to Fox.
As The New York Times reported following Martin's appearance, Martin held the distinction of "being among the first -- if not the first -- to assert in a chain e-mail message that Mr. Obama was secretly a Muslim."
Martin also once called a judge a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race." In a lawsuit he filed against Media Matters in 2007, Martin lamented that the African-American judge presiding over the case had proven through his actions that "African-Americans are willing to corrupt and abuse their-public offices to defend their own sleazy candidate for office."
After people objected to Hannity hosting an overt anti-Semite with troubling racial views to attack Obama, a network executive told then-Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz, "Having that guy on was a mistake." Despite the criticism, Hannity, who later called Martin's anti-Semitic comments "despicable," repeatedly defended himself for giving Martin a platform, claming he's a "journalist who interviews people who I disagree with all the time."
The Sex-Obsessed Conspiracy Theorist
This entry differs a bit from the others in that the "guest" both currently works for Fox News and is a former congressman. But his ridiculousness merits bending the rules a bit.
In 2011, Fox News hired former Republican congressman John LeBoutillier as a contributor. He contributes a column to FoxNews.com and appears in a weekly series with Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen that airs both on Fox and on its website. LeBoutillier is a peculiar fit to be giving trite political commentary on Fox, given his utterly bizarre history in conservative media after leaving Congress.
In 2001, following the disappearance of Federal Bureau of Prisons intern Chandra Levy, LeBoutillier published a series of columns for conservative site Newsmax pinning blame for her disappearance on then-Democratic Representative Gary Condit. (Condit was later cleared by investigators of any involvement in her death.)
One column LeBoutillier wrote about Levy's disappearance was so absurd that it was pulled offline by Newsmax. In it, LeBoutillier highlighted allegations from an anonymous source named "RJ," whom LeBoutillier promised readers had "never steered me wrong." According to "RJ," Condit was known "inside the gay community here in DC for being a big, big user of gay male prostitutes -- especially blacks from the Caribbean who ride motorcycles and love to wear black leather." "RJ" claimed that one of LeBoutillier's favorite leather-loving black prostitutes had taken Levy "on his motorcycle, took off some where, killed her, and dumped her body. Then, on orders from Condit and with money from Condit, he headed back to Haiti or wherever he came from."
LeBoutillier has also long been a proponent of inane conspiracies about the Clintons. During an interview with The Daily Show about his "Counter Clinton Library," LeBoutillier offered, "Some people believe that the Clintons have had up to 70 people whacked over the years."
In 2010, LeBoutillier wrote a "satirical novel" with Ed Klein about a private investigator looking into conspiracy theories about President Obama. Among other embarrassments, the book features the president's foreskin as a major plot device. For his efforts, LeBoutillier was given a platform to push birther nonsense on Fox & Friends, which teased the book with the chyron "Fact Or Fiction? 'Obama Identity' A Fictional Tale Of Reality."
The Radio Host Who Thinks Obama "Wants To Gas The Jews"
Bill Cunningham has for years said horribly inane and offensive things on his Cincinnati radio program. He was apparently driven over the edge by the 2008 election, during which he launched offensive and outlandish attacks on then-Senator Obama. Cunningham repeatedly referred to the future president as "Barack Mohammed Hussein Obama" while arguing it would be a "shock" if he could get elected "in these difficult terrorist times"; forwarded the smear that Obama was "raised in madrassas"; used tape of Obama toasting Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi to argue that "Obama wants to gas the Jews"; declared that Obama is "racist"; and concluded after 666,000 new voters registered in Ohio, "I may declare [Obama] to be the beast. Six-six-six. It could be the end of all days."
Cunningham's ire certainly isn't reserved for Obama -- he also has a deep well of antipathy towards the poor, whom he thinks are impoverished "because they lack values, ethics, and morals." He has also advocated "beat[ing] the hell outta" the homeless.
Cunningham has made dozens of appearances on Sean Hannity's show, during which he likes to make sexist comments about his co-panelists. Last year, after Cunningham shouted at Fox contributor Tamara Holder to "know your role and shut your mouth," he was called out by Fox personalities the next day for crossing the line. He was back on Hannity the next month.
The SNL Star Who Thinks Obama Might Be The Antichrist
After a 2007 political awakening, former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson refashioned herself as a political pundit. Jackson, who has become a regular on the tea party event circuit, first gained notoriety for arguing that Obama "bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ." Since then, she has repeatedly labeled Obama a communist and argued that the president is raising a secret army to possibly kill Christians and conservatives.
Jackson's Fox appearances are invariably awkward, and usually derail after she says something completely over the top that the host tries to explain away. For example, a 2010 appearance by Jackson on Fox & Friends took a wrong turn after she declared that Obama is a "communist," prompting co-host Steve Doocy to counter, "he is not a communist."
Though she's been publicly over-the-top for years and has clashed with Fox personalities during previous appearances, the network nonetheless still helped Jackson promote her 2013 book with the help of an interview on the top-rated O'Reilly Factor. Inevitably, the interview went off the rails when Jackson claimed she is "going to die soon." According to Jackson, "first thing they do is they kill the Christians or persecute them or jail them." O'Reilly attempted to reassure Jackson, explaining "I don't think we're real close to that."
The Islamophobic Birther
Conservative blogger Pamela Geller has seemingly made a career for herself out of saying offensive things about Muslims. Though Geller has made (too many) appearances on non-Fox networks, Fox News and Fox Business have repeatedly given her a platform to spew her hate. During her many Fox appearances, Geller has: claimed that Obama was "sanctioning these murderous rages that these Muslim mobs have been going on"; asserted that the president is "consistently on the side of jihadic Islamic supremacist regimes"; and accused the president of having "switched sides" in the war on terror.
Though Geller is most well-known for her Islamophobia, she is also an ardent conspiracy theorist.
A lot of conservative bloggers emerged from the years-long birth certificate debacle with severely diminished credibility, and Geller is no exception. Geller -- who once reprinted a bizarre, labyrinthine email from a reader alleging that Obama's real father is Malcolm X -- has a whole section of her website devoted to "Obama's Birth Certificate Forgery."
While singling out an embarrassing example is nearly impossible, it's hard to beat her promotion of "heat maps" from an analysis by an anonymous guy named "Techdude." Geller attached the "heat maps" to the top of a post promoting speculation that Obama had been hiding his real birth certificate because it revealed his true last name as "Soetoro."
Geller's reward for promoting nonsense about the president's birth certificate? Being hosted on Eric Bolling's Fox Business show the night Obama released the long-form version of it in 2011. Geller joined host Eric Bolling to parse whether the document had been "Photoshopped." During the segment, Geller declared that it was "actually not a birth certificate."
The Author Who Thinks Obama's Father Might Not Be Obama's Father
Conservative columnist Jack Cashill has been at the leading edge of several of the most inane conspiracies about President Obama. In addition to pushing more run-of-the-mill birtherism, Cashill has repeatedly suggested Barack Obama Sr. is not the president's real father. To give some sense of how he arrived at this conclusion, here's an excerpt from a 2011 Cashill column on the subject:
Then, too, those who have read "Dreams" are almost invariably surprised by the fond memories Ann's father, Stanley Dunham, has of his putative son-in-law. These memories do not deceive.
A photo taken on the occasion of Obama Sr.'s celebratory departure from Hawaii shows a smiling Stanley Dunham -- looking all the world like a young Barack Obama Jr. -- standing right next to the African guy who allegedly knocked up his 17-year-old daughter and is now abandoning them. As the father of two daughters, this doesn't smell right at all.
According to Cashill, possible candidates for the real father are "an American black," and maybe communist poet Frank Marshall Davis (in another column, Cashill argued that Marshall had "quite possibly" had sex with an "underage Obama").
But Cashill's most durable theory -- since picked up by people like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin -- is that the real author of Obama's autobiography is Bill Ayers. Cashill has buttressed his theory by claiming that both men use similar words like "skillet" in their writing. While it would be generous to label Cashill's evidence flimsy, he was nonetheless hosted on Fox & Friends to promote his book and the Ayers conspiracy in particular. During the segment, Steve Doocy wondered, "why isn't the mainstream media touching this with a 10-foot pole?"
The Alex Jones-Approved "Legend"
In March 2011, Glenn Beck hosted author G. Edward Griffin to attack the Federal Reserve. Griffin is a rabid conspiracy theorist that radio host Alex Jones has held up as a "trailblazer" and a "legend in the alternative media New World Order resistance movement."
What sort of work does someone have to do to become a "legend" in the eyes of Alex Jones? Griffin thinks:
- vapor trails left behind by commercial jets are a "chemtrail/geo-engineering coverup" that the government is behind
- "there isn't even such a thing as HIV"
- cancer can be cured by the vitamin b17, but this fact has been covered up by powerful forces motivated by a "hidden economic and power agenda."
Beck later earned Jones' plaudits for hosting Griffin on Fox.