Fox News continues with DHS freak-out even after Smith and Herridge's debunking

››› ››› LILY YAN & HANNAH DREIER

Even after Shepard Smith reported that a DHS report on right-wing extremism "isn't about tea party folks," Fox News hosts and contributors continued to advance the claim that the Obama administration is targeting tea party attendees, as well as conservatives and others, simply because of political differences.

On the April 15 edition of Fox News' Studio B, host Shepard Smith reported that a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report -- which concluded that "rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues" -- "isn't about tea party folks" and that "it sounds like just regular old, everyday people who are conservative just got, you know, got their dander up over something that is not applied to that." During the same segment, national correspondent Catherine Herridge noted that DHS recently issued "a bulletin that looks at the left-wing groups as well." Nonetheless, Fox News hosts and contributors have continued to advance the claim that the Obama administration is targeting tea party attendees, as well as conservatives and others, simply because they disagree with administration policies and proposals.

As Media Matters for America noted, the DHS report concluded that "rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment." The report also cited as potential mobilizing issues for right-wing extremism "immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use," as well as "[r]ightwing extremist paranoia ... harkening back to the 'New World Order' conspiracy theories of the 1990s." The report further warned of a possible resurgence among extremist groups that "will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat," citing, in part, a 2008 FBI report authored during the Bush administration.

On Studio B, Smith asked Herridge of the report, "Who and what are they talking about here? I mean, this isn't about these -- this isn't about tea party folks." Herridge replied:

No, essentially the driver in these intelligence assessments is the downturn in the economy. What they say essentially is that when people have less money, they're out of work, they feel disenfranchised, this is fertile ground for groups on the left as well as groups on the right.

And you remember from reporting on this show, Shep, that even at the end of last year, prior to the inauguration, the Homeland Security Department under the Bush administration was sounding the alarm about the potential for right-wing groups to act, specifically because of the economy, and also because America was going to have its first African-American president.

Herridge also noted that the DHS report "does talk specifically about returning veterans as being sort of attractive targets for these groups, because they've got the weapons training and they may feel somewhat disenfranchised when they return for a variety of returns." She later added, referring to the reports on left-wing and right-wing extremists, "I would point out that both of these assessments, Shep, were commissioned under the Bush administration. It takes some time to do them. They only came out after he had left office." Interviewing former CIA covert operations officer Mike Baker later in the segment, Smith said of the reaction to the report on right-wing extremists, "[I]t sounds like just regular old, everyday people who are conservative just got, you know, got their dander up over something that is not applied to that." Baker replied, "Yeah, it really is. It's a little bit, unfortunately, it's a little bit what the Republicans on the conservative side have been doing."

Later on April 15, even after Smith's and Herridge's reporting, the following Fox News personalities continued to allege or suggest that the Obama administration is targeting Americans simply because of political differences:

  • On his Fox News show, aired live from a San Antonio tea party, Glenn Beck stated to the attendees, "I read something from the Department of Homeland Security that said you're an extremist." He continued: "Moms that worry about massive debt, they are extremists. If you happen to believe that a state has a right to tell the federal government, 'No, we don't want your money,' you're a possible threat or an extremist. And the government -- the government may need to watch you."
  • On The O'Reilly Factor, radio host Laura Ingraham stated, "[T]his is the same media that wails when we have a terrorist surveillance program in place. And nary a word from them of indignation when we have a Department of Homeland Security issuing reports about right-wing extremism and equating, you know, domestic terrorism with, you know, the vets coming home from Iraq and people who are single-issue focused." She then asked, "Where's the outrage expressed by the media about that kind of, perhaps, surveillance of undesirable people who happen to be more conservative?"
  • Also on The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Dennis Miller stated: "Now we've got [Department of Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano coming out, talking about the right-wing conspirists [sic]. For God's sakes -- hey, Janet, if you're going to hover over me like this, at least ditch that Frank Luntz haircut, OK? Because I need something a little more together."
  • On his Fox News show, aired live from an Atlanta tea party, host Sean Hannity claimed, "I'd bet any amount of money -- you know they came out with -- the Department of Homeland Security, that no longer uses the term war on terror, they're calling it an overseas contingency operation. This is amazing. But they -- if you have a pro-life bumper sticker on your car, if you have an 'America is overtaxed' bumper sticker, if you have a pro-Second Amendment bumper sticker, they're viewing you potentially as a radical." Later in his show, he added, "The Homeland Security Department is probably checking the license plates of everybody here."
  • On Fox Business Network's Cavuto, aired live from a Sacramento tea party, Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin stated, "[W]hat we're seeing is -- what we've seen with this White House and with the Department of Homeland Security smearing of people who are patriots." Host Neil Cavuto replied, in part, "[T]hese are great people here; I wouldn't call them kooks or fringe."

As Media Matters documented, on April 14, Hannity, Malkin, and Fox News national political commentator Andrea Tantaros all responded to the DHS report by alleging or suggesting that the Obama administration is targeting Americans simply because of political differences, and suggested that the Obama administration declassified the report to coincide with April 15 tea parties.

Additionally, on April 15, TheFoxNation.com linked to an open letter from the American Legion to the DHS, which made no mention of tea parties in its report, to the headline, "Is Homeland Security Targeting Tea Parties?"

From the April 15 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Yeah. Normally -- oh, by the way, hello, America -- normally, we start with a "Hot List," but today, the media -- all they're talking about or strangely not talking about are the tea parties. For the life of them, they can't figure out what these tea parties are.

This morning, I got up and I read two articles. One I read in the Los Angeles Times that just denigrated the people who are going to the streets today. And then I read something from the Department of Homeland Security that said you're an extremist; moms that worry about massive debt, they are extremists.

If you happen to believe that a state has a right to tell the federal government, "No, we don't want your money," you're a possible threat or an extremist.

And the government -- the government may need to watch you. Well, let me just send a message to Washington and to the DHS: For the next 58 minutes, you can watch all you want and you should listen, because these people have a few things to say to you.

From the April 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

BILL O'REILLY (host): I think -- It think that's an astute observation: that the protests today are against what these people -- and we must remind Americans that there are maybe as many Americans who say, yeah, let's have a big government, I want entitlements.

INGRAHAM: Sure.

O'REILLY: Barack Obama won the election.

INGRAHAM: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: He won the election.

INGRAHAM: Right, and they have a leader, Bill.

O'REILLY: Right.

INGRAHAM: They have a leader --

O'REILLY: So -- so it's not --

INGRAHAM: -- who is espousing that on a daily basis.

O'REILLY: But the debate is the thing that should be respected. And it is certainly not being --

INGRAHAM: Sure.

O'REILLY: -- respected by the liberal media --

INGRAHAM: Bill --

O'REILLY: -- that wants to shut it down or denigrate it. I'll give you the last word.

INGRAHAM: Bill, this is the same media that wails when we have a terrorist surveillance program in place. And nary a word from them of indignation when we have a Department of Homeland Security issuing reports about right-wing extremism and equating, you know, domestic terrorism with, you know, the vets coming home from Iraq and people who are single-issue focused, OK.

Where's the outrage expressed by the media about that kind of, perhaps, surveillance of undesirable people who happen to be more conservative? So they just have no credibility on this. And this is why Fox is killing them in the ratings.

[...]

MILLER: It's unfair up to the point that I stay here. You know, I've discussed this. I have a contingency plan. There's a part I won't go beyond. And it's not about greed. It's about some crazy thing in my head that I'd like to keep a buck for every buck I give away to strangers. It gets much beyond that, I'm going to split the state.

And I think -- you know, I've heard Trump is going to split New York. And you know, I just think it's getting to that point now where you've got to -- listen, I love to help the helpless. I don't care about the clueless. We're helping too many of the clueless nowadays.

O'REILLY: That's a good line.

MILLER: That's starting to bug me.

O'REILLY: That's a good line.

MILLER: Yeah, well, listen --

O'REILLY: You know, I want to help the helpless, too, but the clueless, hey, you're on your own.

MILLER: And you know, you don't even get any credit for it. Now we've got Janet Napolitano coming out, talking about the right-wing conspirists [sic]. For God's sakes -- hey, Janet, if you're going to hover over me like this, at least ditch that Frank Luntz haircut, OK? Because I need something a little more together.

O'REILLY: OK. Now -- OK. The media covering the tea parties, have you seen any of it?

MILLER: Come on, O'Reilly, grab it together.

O'REILLY: I'm just trying to -- I'm picturing Frank and Napolitano, and it's just not working for me. Did you see the media coverage of the tea parties?

From the April 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Yeah. It really is. You know, what did you make -- what did you make of the president? Because, you obviously, you know, your moment helped John McCain. And I watched that debate up-closely and John McCain -- they all started mentioning you. And now Barack Obama has had some time in office. What do you think of his policies up to this point?

SAM WURZELBACHER ("Joe the Plumber"): I'm not impressed with his policies up to this point. But you also got to remember, he's just one man. I mean, Congress really bears a lot of the brunt here, a lot of the blame, so -- and it's not that I'm weak on Obama. I believe he's made some mistakes that could hurt our country.

HANNITY: Yeah.

WURZELBACHER: I mean, he's pretty weak on foreign policy, which scares me. With that being said, it comes back down to Congress. You guys got to turn off the soap opera that is Capitol Hill. You get unaddicted to drama and actually expect them to earn their money.

HANNITY: You know -- now, by the way, I'd bet any amount of money -- you know they came out with -- the Department of Homeland Security, that no longer uses the term war on terror, they're calling it an overseas contingency operation.

WURZELBACHER: Yeah. Yeah.

HANNITY: This is amazing. But they -- if you have a pro-life bumper sticker on your car, if you have an "America is overtaxed" bumper sticker, if you have a pro-Second Amendment bumper sticker, they're viewing you potentially as a radical. My question -- my question is, if those are right-wing radicals, does that mean that somebody that starts their political career in Bill Ayers' house and hangs out with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years -- what does that make them?

WURZELBACHER: I'll tell you what -- let me ask you one more question. Am I an extremist for saying, "In God we trust?"

HANNITY: No. And by the way -- and I say, "God bless America."

WURZELBACHER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

[...]

MIKE HUCKABEE (host, Huckabee): Today the tea parties across America have singled out the problem. Now we are going to be able to take it to the next step, and that's the solution, and that's what the fair tax brings to Americans.

HANNITY: All right, Governor, let me ask you this question, because the president went on his European tour and he referred to America as being arrogant. The Homeland Security Department is probably checking the license plates of everybody here. So I guess my question is, how do you think the White House responds tonight, as Rahm Emanuel will deny it to the world, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will downplay the massive crowd that showed up here.

HUCKABEE: Well, certainly the mainstream media is going to give more attention to six women dressed up in pink uniforms protesting the war than they will 6 million Americans standing across this country today. But they can do all they want. When it gets down to it, 6 million votes beats six votes any day.

From the April 15 edition of Fox Business Network's Cavuto:

CAVUTO: Why don't you think more of the media is here?

MALKIN: Because it doesn't fit their narrative. It doesn't fit their narrative to be here and to see peaceful, law-abiding people who are not scary right-wing extremists peacefully assembling and holding both parties accountable.

CAVUTO: Do you think they just didn't want to share the stage with us?

MALKIN: I guess that's part of it. I have to say that I've been monitoring the very skewed coverage by other outlets, and what we're seeing is -- what we've seen with this White House and with the Department of Homeland Security smearing of people who are patriots --

CAVUTO: Well, I'll tell you this -- I mean, these are great people here; I wouldn't call them kooks or fringe. And -- that one dude with the hat -- he was a kook. But I mean most -- no, you know what I mean? It's like, who are they to judge?

MALKIN: Yeah, that's right. Well, I have to say, it's unfortunate, because we have had some colleagues on Fox News who have also played into these smears by saying that somehow they don't see any people of color, so therefore the people that are here are racist -- that's completely untrue.

And, of course, this manufactured idea that somehow all of these grassroots people are being directed like robots and zombies by some top-down forces -- you can't do that. Now, there is no Republican Party or Democrat Party establishment that could have arranged what this had. It is totally organic, totally spontaneous -- and thanks a lot to the Internet for bringing all of these people together.

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