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  • Fox News Exploits Tragedy In France To Attack NYC Mayor De Blasio

    Fox's National Security Expert Blames Attack In Part On France's "Really Strict Gun Control Policy"

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    Fox News used the tragic attack on the offices of a satirical newspaper in Paris as an opportunity to attack New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio while blaming strict gun laws and political correctness for the tragedy.

    The New York Times reported Wednesday that 12 people have died in an attack on the offices of a satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. French President Francois Hollande called the attack "a terrorist attack without a doubt," and France has reportedly "raised its security alert to the highest level."

    On the January 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, national security analyst KT McFarland said that "really strict gun control policy" in France contributed to the attack and claimed that France's "politically correct " policies that treat everyone equally were also to blame. Host Elisabeth Hasselbeck echoed support for law enforcement policies that treat people unequally and added that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatens security by demoralizing the New York Police Department and painting the NYPD with "a racist brush" when officers act on that principle. 

    Fox's exploitation of tragedy comes as no surprise. The network immediately exploited the deadly hostage situation in Sydney, Australia in December to justify torture, politicized the Canadian Parliament shooting in October to attack gun safety measures, and used reports of American deaths in Benghazi, Libya to push their phony scandal surrounding the 2012 attacks.

  • Misinformer Of The Year: George Will

    Blog ››› ››› HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY

    George Will, a cartoon by Rob Tornoe

    "[W]hen they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate." 

    This single phrase has followed George Will for the last six months. The syndicated conservative columnist, considered by many a thoughtful intellectual rather than a bomb-thrower, severely damaged his brand when he wrote a June 2014 column dismissing efforts on college campuses to combat the epidemic of sexual assault and suggesting that women who say they were raped receive "privileges." The column has sparked hundreds to protest his public appearances, challenges from U.S. Senators and women's rights groups, and the dropping of his column from a major newspaper. 

    Will's 2014 misinformation was not limited to attacking and dismissing rape victims. Throughout the year, Will failed to disclose several major conflicts of interest in his columns, and his tangled relationship with political entities backed by Charles and David Koch was cited by the outgoing ethics chair of the Society of Professional Journalists as the kind of conflict journalists should disclose in their writing. His history as a prominent denier of climate change also helped further undermine his credibility, with more than 100,000 people signing a petition demanding the Washington Post stop printing the science misinformation he and others regularly push in its pages.

    Will has written a column for the Post since 1974, which is syndicated in over 450 papers. He started his career as a Republican Senate staff member and speech writer before moving into the ranks of the conservative press, contributing to The American Spectator and working as the Washington editor for the National Review for a time. He has become a fixture in the right-wing think tank infrastructure, serving as a board member of the Bradley Foundation, which funds conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Federalist Society. But Will was always careful to keep one foot in the mainstream -- in addition to his Post column, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977, he served as an ABC News commentator for three decades and was even a featured interview in several Ken Burns documentaries.

    Yet late last year, he left ABC to join Fox News as a political contributor, cementing his increasingly conservative and counterfactual tendencies. Some of his politics -- such as his longstanding climate change denial -- seemed to fit in at the network. But at the time, Media Matters wondered if an association with Fox's more angry and crude fare would ruin the brand of the staid conservative pontificator, shifting his erudite elitism towards the hard-edged style of misinformation for which Fox is better known. Will's accomplishments in 2014 revealed our suspicions were well-founded.

    Media Matters isn't the only organization to recognize the damage Will's commentary did to the discourse this year. When PolitiFact awarded its 2014 Lie of Year to "exaggerations about Ebola," they cited Will as a prime example. Will used his Fox News platform to spread lies about the disease, falsely claiming that it could be "spread through the air." As PolitiFact noted:

    Will's claim that Ebola could spread through the air via a cough or sneeze shows how solid science got misconstrued. The conservative commentator suggested a thought shift about how the virus could spread. In reality, Will simply misunderstood scientists' consistent, albeit technical explanation.

    Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood, vomit and diarrhea. Coughing and sneezing are not symptoms.

    Will has a long history of pushing misinformation, but it finally caught up with him in 2014, tarnishing the reputation as a public intellectual he had spent decades cultivating. He started the year one of the most respected members of the conservative media elite, and ended it with hundreds protesting his speeches. For this reason, Media Matters recognizes George Will as the 2014 Misinformer of the Year.

    Past recipients include CBS News (2013), Rush Limbaugh (2012), Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. (2011), Sarah Palin (2010), Glenn Beck (2009), Sean Hannity (2008), ABC (2006), Chris Matthews (2005), and Bill O'Reilly (2004).

  • Right-Wing Media Hide Obama And De Blasio Statements To Blame Them For Violence Against Police

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & JESSICA TORRES

    Conservative media figures hid statements from President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio condemning violent protests. Instead, they misleadingly suggested the politicians were to blame for December 20 murder of two New York City police officers by a gunman, who was reportedly retaliating against the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police.

  • U.S. Senator Denounces Michigan State's Decision To Honor George Will

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    George Will

    U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) expressed disappointment in Michigan State University's decision to honor George Will during their December commencement ceremony, citing Will's offensive comments about campus sexual assault which have received widespread backlash and prompted multiple student government condemnations on the campus.

    On December 10, Stabenow issued a statement criticizing the decision to let Will speak and to award him with an honorary doctorate. From Stabenow's statement:

    As a Michigan State alumna, I am deeply disappointed that George Will is being honored this weekend. His statements on sexual assault are inaccurate, offensive, and don't represent the values of our state or MSU. I urge the University to continue their efforts to combat campus sexual assault, including the recent convening of the University Task Force on Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence.

    MSU invited Will to speak during the December 13 graduation ceremony despite ongoing controversy surrounding his past comments on campus sexual assault. 

    Will published a syndicated column in June disputing the evidence that 1 in 5 women on U.S. college campuses experience sexual assault, and arguing that efforts to combat sexual assault have made "victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges." 

    Will's comments received widespread criticism at the time from four other U.S. senators, media, and women's equality groups, and have since incited campus protests. Scripps College cancelled his scheduled speaking engagement in October.  

    Both the MSU Council of Graduate Students and the school's undergraduate student government have passed resolutions denouncing Will's upcoming commencement address, but the university's president Lou Anna K. Simon defended the decision to honor Will on December 9.

  • Right-Wing Media Evokes Controversial Rolling Stone Story To Discredit Senate Torture Report

    ››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

    Conservative media are attempting to discredit the investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the CIA's use of torture on terrorism suspects by comparing it to a controversial Rolling Stone article detailing an alleged rape at the University of Virginia that was criticized for not interviewing students implicated in the assault.