CNN contributor Newt Gingrich revived a debunked claim about Boko Haram's designation as a terror group in order to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to attendees at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Gingrich claimed that the Obama administration, currently and during Clinton's tenure at the State Department, is not doing enough to confront terrorism threats. As evidence, Gingrich pointed to Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group based in Nigeria, saying, "Boko Haram has ten thousand fighters, and last year Boko Haram killed more people than Ebola. But the State Department for years, under Secretary Clinton, wouldn't even list them as a terrorist group."
The implicit argument of Gingrich's attack is dishonest -- experts, including a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria appointed by President Bush, opposed designating Boko Haram a terror group out of concern it would empower the extremist group. Instead, in 2012 the State Department under Clinton designated the individual leaders of Boko Haram as "foreign terrorists." Reuters reported that the move was historic, noting it was the "first time [State] has blacklisted members of the Islamist group." Boko Harm went on to receive designation as a terrorist group in 2013.
Gingrich's smear was right out of the conservative media playbook. Fox News and other right-wing outlets spent considerable time suggesting Clinton and the Obama administration tried to appease Boko Haram, even suggesting the administration was partially responsible for the failure to save 300 young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.
Fox News personalities attacked President Obama for not using the words "Islamic" or "Islam" to describe terrorism in his 2015 State of the Union address, but they ignored that the official GOP response, delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), didn't mention Islam either.
What happened to the extended victory lap?
Convinced that last year's midterm losses for Democrats signaled the effective end of Barack Obama's presidency and a resounding victory for all-things conservative and Republican ("On Fox News, there were smiles all around"), just three weeks into the new year Fox News is left wondering what happened to the "lamest" of the lame duck presidents. The one Fox News was going to mock for two more years while trying to tarnish his legacy.
Rebounding to approval ratings not seen since 2013, Obama, instead of floundering, is riding a crest of post-midterm successes, while Americans reward him for the country's rebounding economy. The result: Obama's the one quietly circling the victory track.
"You can hardly tell from our NBC/WSJ poll that the Republican Party was the big winner from the midterm elections just two months ago," noted NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann this week. "Somehow, Obama and the Democrats stole the Republicans' post-election honeymoon."
If that didn't sting badly enough, Fox at the same time continues to wrestle with the unfolding crisis over the network's demonstrably false and stunning claim that some parts of Europe, including in France as well as Britain's second largest city, Birmingham, have become Islamic and are "no-go zones" for non-Muslims, including for British law enforcement.
The misstep became an international punch line, with observers in Europe guffawing at Fox News' trademark ignorance. "When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fool's Day," British Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV News. "This guy is clearly a complete idiot," he said, referring to Steve Emerson, who Fox had hosted to discuss recent terror attacks in Paris.
In a rare move for Fox, it apologized repeatedly for its colossal "no-go zone" blunder. Yet the story continues to haunt the network: Paris' mayor, Anne Hidalgo, announced on Tuesday that the city might sue Fox News over the bogus claim that portions of Paris remain cordoned off from non-Muslims. "The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced," Hidalgo told CNN.
Bottom line: It's not even February and Fox News is already having a really bad year.
From the January 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News established close ties with Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, as each used one another to amplify smears against the Obama administration related to the Benghazi attacks in 2012. Now Graham is cashing in the credibility and profile Fox and Benghazi helped him build, announcing he's exploring a run for president in 2016.
Days after Fox News apologized for promoting an embarrassing falsehood about England having "no-go zones" controlled by Muslim extremists, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) repeated the myth during a speech and on CNN.
Last week, frequent Fox guest Steve Emerson -- part of the network's stable of extremists who lead its conversation about Islam -- provoked international outrage with the false claim that the city of Birmingham is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." (British Prime Minister David Cameron described Emerson as a "complete idiot," for example.)
As the Emerson controversy raged on, another Fox News guest argued that governments should "put razor wire around" the mythical "no-go zones" and catalogue the residents. On Saturday, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro apologized for Emerson's "incorrect" comments, telling viewers, "We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who have been offended."
Despite Fox's retraction, the myth of no-go zones apparently lives on. During a speech in London, Gov. Jindal reportedly alleged that some immigrants are seeking "to colonize western countries, because setting up your own enclave and demanding recognition of a no-go zone are exactly that."
Appearing in an interview from London, Jindal also told CNN correspondent Max Foster that he's heard "from folks here" that "there are neighborhoods where women don't feel comfortable going in without veils" and "where police are less likely to go."
Foster challenged Jindal's assertion, noting that "I've lived here a long time, I don't know of any no-go zones for non-Muslims." In response, Jindal said "the radical left absolutely wants to pretend like this problem's not here."
Appearing on The Bill Press Show, Media Matters senior fellow Karen Finney discussed how Jindal was still repeating the falsehood.
Jindal's repetition of a Fox-fueled myth is representative of the role the network plays in misinforming conservatives. Falsehoods about death panels in health care reform, weapons of mass destruction, economics, and leaders like President Barack Obama, Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Hillary Clinton have all been grist for the mill on Fox and have become a part of conservative folklore.
From the January 16 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News has repeatedly pushed the debunked myth that 30 percent of released Guantanamo Bay detainees return to terror. In reality, the estimated number is around 7 percent, and has declined during Obama's time in office.
Following a firestorm of media criticism, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch backtracked on controversial tweets he made following terrorist attacks in Paris, France that all Muslims should be held accountable for terrorism.
In January, terrorist attacks in France killed 17 people, including an attack on the satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. Rupert Murdoch responded to the attack by tweeting that "Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible." The tweet was roundly criticized and condemned as "incredibly irresponsible."
On January 14, Murdoch walked back his controversial comments on twitter writing that he "did not mean all Muslims responsible for Paris attack" but that the "Muslim community must debate and confront extremism":
Certainly did not mean all Muslims responsible for Paris attack. But Muslim community must debate and confront extremism.-- Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) January 14, 2015
Tens of thousands of jihadi victims are Muslims and millions fighting back. But important for people of all faiths to address the threat.-- Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) January 14, 2015
But Murdoch's response ignored Muslims who are speaking out against extremism. Following the Paris attacks, Muslim organizations as well as leaders of Arab states denounced the attacks as "brutal and cowardly." And as Media Matters' Karen Finney explained, Murdoch's rhetoric "alienates rather than engages Muslims who both regularly denounce and are often the victims of Islamic terrorism."
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
Loading the player reg...
From the January 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
Loading the player reg...
From the January 13 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
Loading the player reg...
Sean Hannity lashed out at the creators of the Showtime series Homeland for potentially "dropping the theme of Islamic terrorism from the show's storylines," accusing the producers of "capitulating to terrorists."
Entertainment Weekly reported that Homeland's writer-producer, Alex Gansa is considering a potential storyline shift to "find a fresh antagonist" for the show, but explained that the decision has not yet been made and assured that the antagonist "will be chosen for creative reasons -- and to avoid repetition -- rather than the recent terror attacks in Europe." In fact, according to Showtime's president David Nevins, the show "has focused on Muslim extremists and Middle East terrorists since it launched in 2011."
From Entertainment Weekly:
"Where they're going to go next year is a little bit up in the air," Nevins told critics at the Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour Monday. "We're not necessarily going to stay now and forever [focusing on] U.S. relations in the Muslim world. It's a show ultimately about U.S. foreign policy, U.S. intelligence in the 21st century at a very difficult time. So we're exploring a few different possibilities and may change it up a little bit."
Yet in terms of Homeland--which is based on an Israeli format and has focused on Muslim extremists and Middle East terrorists since it launched in 2011--the executive said that none of the current attacks will prevent the show from tackling sensitive international issues. "I hope [the attacks are] not considered at all," he said. "I really, really don't want there to be any limitations. I don't expect there will be. They never shied away from anything difficult. I want them to go right into the teeth of it again."
But on the January 13 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity accused Homeland's producers of "capitulating to terrorists." Listen:
Fox News has responded to the attack on the satirical French paper Charlie Hebdo by inviting notorious Islamophobes to appear as guests in discussions about Islam, terrorism, and immigration.
In the week after the attack, Fox News hosts themselves produced shockingly Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric. For instance, Sean Hannity wondered if the U.S. should "insist" on assimilation from Muslim immigrants, and Bob Beckel admitted, "I'm an Islamophobe." But it's not just the hosts: Fox has given many media figures with a clear record of Islamophobia a platform in the week following the Charlie Hebdo attack, making the debate on the network drastically more extreme.
A self-styled "terrorism expert," Emerson prompted outrage and ridicule in Britain by claiming in a January 10 appearance on Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine that Birmingham, the second-largest city in the United Kingdom, is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." Birmingham is, in fact, 22 percent Muslim. Emerson has also appeared on Fox News on at least three other occasions since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, including an appearance on Hannity the night of the attack in which he declared Europe "finished" because of its supposedly high numbers of non-assimilated Muslims.
Even before British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Emerson is "clearly an idiot" because of his comments, Emerson had little credibility on terrorism. During coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Emerson claimed on Fox that the suspect was a Saudi national -- a claim that was later thoroughly discredited. After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Emerson claimed that it had "a Middle Eastern trait" because it "was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible." Emerson also said that Oklahoma City was "probably considered one of the largest centers of Islamic radical activity outside the Middle East."
Gabriel is the founder of ACT! for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says has "eagerly tapped into a groundswell of anti-Muslim rage and done what it could to fan the flames." She has appeared on Fox several times since the Charlie Hebdo attack, despite her history of extreme Islamophobia. Gabriel was a guest on the January 7 edition of Hannity, where she said that Muslims in Europe "started multiplying" after World War II and did not assimilate and that Europe is "paying the price" because it "ignored the cancer growing within its body when it was at Stage Two." In her appearance on the January 8 edition of The Kelly File, she argued that the "Islamic religion" forbids Muslims to assimilate.
In September 2014, Gabriel told an audience at the Values Voter Summit that "180 million to 300 million" Muslims are "radical Islamists who are willing to strap bombs on their bodies and walk into this room and blow us all up to smithereens." In June 2014, Gabriel berated a Muslim student who had criticized members of a Heritage Foundation panel on Islam, calling her a liar and saying, "Your loyalty is somewhere else. It's time we see more patriotism from the Muslim community and less terrorism." A prominent Middle East expert and editor of The Oxford History of Islam called Gabriel "a professional Muslim basher."
Farage is the leader of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), an anti-immigration party, and has appeared on Fox three times since the Hebdo attack. On January 7, the night of the attack, Farage appeared on Your World with Neil Cavuto, arguing that "the biggest mistake the governments have made" is "promoting multiculturalism" and that "we come from countries with Christian cultures and Christian constitutions, and it's about time we started standing up for that." On January 12, Farage joined the hosts of Fox & Friends to criticize "open door" immigration policies and defend his attacks on multiculturalism. Farage also appeared on Hannity that night, where he warned that Sharia law is being implemented in British Muslim communities.
Farage and the party he leads have a history of extremism on Islam. In 2010, Farage called for burqas to be banned, saying they were a symbol of "an increasingly divided Britain" and could pose a security risk. In February 2014, the party's immigration spokesman, Gerard Batten, said he stood by his 2006 charter for Muslims, a code of conduct that all British Muslims should sign stating they reject violence. The Guardian reported that the charter was once promoted on the party's website.
Gaffney, a Washington Times columnnist and founder of the Center for Security Policy, appeared on the January 12 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine. He argued that President Obama is "engaged in basically trying to enforce Sharia blasphemy laws" and said that "most of those who are being brought here" -- apparently referring to Muslims -- are bringing "no-go zones" here as their "preferred practice."
Gaffney was once described by the SPLC as "the anti-Muslim movement's most paranoid propagandist." In 2011, he was prohibited from participating in the Conservative Political Action Conference after he claimed it had been infiltrated by Islamic extremists and accused prominent conservative Grover Norquist of being a mole for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Boykin, a retired Army lieutenant general and deputy undersecretary for defense under George W. Bush, was a guest on the January 9 edition of Fox & Friends to comment on a hostage situation at a printing press outside Paris involving suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack. Boykin argued that these were "sophisticated terrorists" and that what they were doing is "a reflection of what's growing in these no-go zones."
Boykin has drawn criticism and faced consequences for making Islamophobic comments in the past. In 2010, Boykin called Islam a "totalitarian way of life," and in 2012 Boykin called Islam "evil."
Spencer, director of the Jihad Watch website, appeared on Hannity on January 9. Spencer claimed that a "core principle" in Islam is "the idea of emigrating to a new place to conquer and Islamize it, and that's exactly what we're seeing." He also cited the "much higher" birth rate of Muslim populations as evidence that "Sharia enclaves" will "inevitably grow and continue to grow until, finally, that's all there is."
Spencer once stated that it's "absurd" to think that "Islam is a religion of peace that's been hijacked by a tiny minority" and that there is a "doctrine of warfare" in Islam. According to the SPLC, Spencer "engages in fear-mongering through steady reference to theories like 'stealth jihad,' eminent 'Islamization of America,' and the infiltration of Congress by 'Muslim spy interns.' "