FOX ignored Christmas tree to cast "Christmas under attack"December 21, 2004 6:41 PM EST ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
In its continuing coverage of "Christmas under attack," FOX News distorted the facts surrounding the exclusion of a nativity scene from a holiday display in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida. The conservative Thomas More Law Center sued the town over the exclusion on behalf of resident Sarah Snowden. FOX's coverage indicated that, prior to a December 15 court decision granting a "temporary injunction" forcing the town to include the nativity scene, the nativity scene had been banned while a Jewish menorah had been permitted. But FOX News failed to report that a Christmas tree had also been allowed in the holiday display.
On the December 20 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly declared "in the small town of Bay Harbor Islands ... a federal judge has ordered the town fathers to allow a nativity scene to be displayed next to a menorah on public property." O'Reilly then asked Bay Harbor Islands attorney Frank Simone, who represented the town in the case, "Why didn't you just let the lady put up her nativity scene next to the menorah? Come on." In addition to arguing that the inclusion of a nativity scene would "violate the United States Supreme Court and all its decisions which say when you have a menorah next to a Christmas tree, you're fine, but once you put a nativity scene next to that, you're going to violate the law," Simone also pointed out that the town had included a Christmas tree in the holiday display -- but that didn't stop FOX News from getting the story wrong the next day.
On the December 21 edition of FOX News Live, anchor Brigitte Quinn gave a misleading account of the story by suggesting that the Christmas tree was added only after Snowden sued; in fact, it has always been a part of the display:
QUINN: One woman getting her Christmas wish in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida. Sarah Snowden won the lawsuit she filed against the town to get a nativity scene placed on public property. You may remember Bay Harbor Islands already had a menorah on display to celebrate Hanukkah, but the town wouldn't allow the nativity scene. ... As of last night, a menorah, a nativity scene, and a Christmas tree are all lighting the night skies of Bay Harbor Islands.
As Media Matters for America has noted, Liberty Counsel president and general counsel Mathew D. Staver baselessly claimed on FOX News Live on December 16 that Bay Harbor Islands' former mayor was hostile to Christianity because he was "apparently Jewish."