Fox's news programs echo its "opinion" shows: Smears, doctored videos, GOP talking points

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Fox News has responded to White House criticisms of its network by claiming that while its "editorial" programs are filled with "vibrant opinion," its news hours are straight and objective. However, Fox News' purportedly straight news programs echo its "editorial" programs: Media Matters for America has compiled a non-exhaustive list -- from this year alone -- documenting how Fox's news programming features smears, falsehoods, doctored and deceptive editing, and GOP talking points.

Fox News: Our news hours are objective

In response to criticism, Fox News claims its news hours are objective. The New York Times reported on October 11 that in response to White House criticism, Fox News claimed that its news hours -- which it reportedly defined as "9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays" are objective:

In an interview, Mr. [senior vice president for news Michael] Clemente suggested that there was an element of "shoot the messenger" in the back and forth. "Sometimes it's actually helpful to have an organization or a person that you can go up against for whatever reason," he said.

Fox argues that its news hours -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays -- are objective. The channel has taken pains recently to highlight its news programs, including the two hours led by Shepard Smith, its chief news anchor. And its daytime newscasts draw more viewers than CNN or MSNBC's prime-time programs.

"The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page," Mr. Clemente said.

In a written statement provided to media outlets, Clemente compared Fox News' purportedly separate "news" and "opinion" programming to "the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page":

An increasing number of viewers are relying on FOX News for both news and opinion. And the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents. So, with all due respect to anyone who might still be confused about the difference between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts, rather than attack the messenger...which over time, has never worked.

America's Newsroom (9-11 a.m. ET): Obama official never reported "statutory rape"; Dems "protect pedophiles"; tea parties recruitment

Hemmer advances smear that Jennings knew of "statutory rape" and "never reported it." During the October 1 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer joined his network's smears against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings by claiming that Jennings knew of a "statutory rape" case involving a student but "never reported it." In fact, as Media Matters has confirmed, the student in question was of legal age of consent at the time he was counseled by Jennings.

Kelly on Sotomayor comment: "sounds to a lot of people like reverse racism." On May 26, co-host Megyn Kelly joined conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh by stating that then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark "sounds to a lot of people like reverse racism, basically. Like she's saying that Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges, and that that's her assumption, and people get worried about putting a person like that on the U.S. Supreme Court." Kelly later added, "I've looked at the entire speech that she was offering to see if that was taken out of context, and I have to tell you ... it wasn't." In fact, Sotomayor was specifically discussing the importance of diversity in adjudicating race and sex discrimination cases; several conservative legal figures have made similar comments.

America's Newsroom falsehood: "House Dems vote to protect pedophiles, but not veterans." On May 6, America's Newsroom pushed the falsehood that Democrats attempted to "protect" pedophiles in voting in favor of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Hemmer teased a segment by stating that Democrats had reportedly "voted to give special protection to pedophiles." During the segment, America's Newsroom ran on-screen text that read, "House Dems vote to protect pedophiles, but not veterans":

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Henneberg repeats right-wing myth that hate crimes bill could gag ministers. During the April 29 edition of America's Newsroom, correspondent Molly Henneberg repeated the right-wing myth that under the proposed Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, religious groups "may be prosecuted for their religious beliefs if they believe that homosexuality is a sin," and the disputed claim that the legislation "could gag ministers who preach that [homosexuality is a sin], or even if a church may not want to marry a gay couple."

Fox News' Hemmer "keeping track of the stimulus money" -- by lifting research from GOP website. On April 23, Hemmer repeatedly suggested information about four "interesting" projects reportedly funded by the recovery act was obtained through Fox News' own research, even though nearly all of the information Hemmer mentioned, as well as that included in on-screen text and graphics, first appeared on Rep. Eric Cantor's Republican Whip website.

America's Newsroom promotes tea party organizing info on-air and online. America's Newsroom encouraged viewers to get involved with April 15 "tea party" protests across the country, which Fox News had described as primarily a response to President Obama's fiscal policies. The program frequently hosted tea party organizers, and posted on-screen organizing information, such as protest dates and locations. America's Newsroom also repeatedly directed viewers to its website, which featured a list of tea party protests.

America's Newsroom directs viewers to "virtual tea party." America's Newsroom repeatedly directed viewers to participate in a "virtual tea party" at Fox News' purportedly non-biased website, Fox Nation. Hemmer told viewers, "Can't get to a tea party? Fox Nation hosts a virtual tea party," while Kelly said, "You can join the tea party action from your home if you go to the FoxNation.com ... a virtual tax day tea party."

America's Newsroom pushes discredited GOP calculation of Obama's cap-and-trade proposal. On April 2, guest host Alisyn Camerota asserted that the cost of Obama's cap-and-trade proposal "would be $3,100 per U.S. household." The claim was advanced by the House Republican Conference in a March 23 "Talking Points" press release, and the Republicans reportedly purported to back up the claim by pointing to a 2007 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But MIT professor John Reilly, one of the authors of the study, has disputed the GOP's calculation, stating that his study "has been misrepresented" and that the Republicans' claim of an average household cost of $3,128 is "nearly 10 times the correct estimate" based on his study's cap-and-trade model. PolitiFact.com rated the $3,100 figure a "pants on fire" falsehood.

America's Newsroom falsely claimed Obama budget "4x bigger than Bush's costliest plan." On the April 3 edition of America's Newsroom, on-screen text falsely claimed that Obama's $3.6 trillion FY 2010 budget is "4x bigger than Bush's costliest plan." In fact, President Bush submitted a $3.1 trillion budget for FY 2009 and a $2.9 trillion budget for FY 2008.

America's Newsroom promotes McCaughey falsehood that stimulus would "hav[e] the government essentially dictate treatments." On February 10, Hemmer and Kelly promoted the falsehood -- which first appeared in a Bloomberg "commentary" by serial misinformer Betsy McCaughey and was subsequently promoted by Limbaugh and Matt Drudge -- that the economic recovery bill included a provision that would, in the words of guest Stephen Moore, a Wall Street Journal economics writer, "hav[e] the government essentially dictate treatments."

Happening Now (11 a.m.-1 p.m. ET): Home of repeated attempts to pass off GOP research as its own

Happening Now passes off GOP press release as its own research -- typo and all. During the February 10 edition of Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott purported to "take a look back" at how the economic recovery plan "grew, and grew, and grew." In doing so, Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release. The following day, Scott apologized -- for running the typo. Scott's apology was criticized by Washington Post media critic and CNN host Howard Kurtz, who said: "We sometimes jab at the pundits for using talking points, but in the case of Fox News anchor Jon Scott, it was literally true this week. ... You should be apologizing for using partisan propaganda from the GOP without telling your viewers where it came from. Talk about missing the point."

Happening Now posts "FOXfact[s]" about GOP budget nearly identical to GOP Rep. Ryan's op-ed. During two segments on the April 1, Happening Now aired "FOXfact[s]" purporting to describe facts about the House Republican budget. However, all of the seven "FOXfact[s]" displayed onscreen were nearly identical to portions of an op-ed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) published in that day's Wall Street Journal.

Happening Now crops clips of Obama to promote "another apology tour." On June 2, Scott asked if "the president's upcoming trip [to Europe and the Middle East will] be what conservatives might call another apology tour," and both Scott and co-host Jane Skinner aired cropped clips of Obama's remarks from an April 3 speech in France to falsely suggest that Obama only criticized the United States. In doing so, Happening Now joined conservative commentators and Fox News hosts who have cropped or misrepresented Obama's overseas remarks to falsely suggest, in the words of host Sean Hannity, that Obama was "blam[ing] America first" and, more broadly, that Obama's earlier overseas trip constituted an "apology tour."

Live Desk (1-3 p.m. ET): Falsehoods, deceptive editing

Fox News presents deceptively cropped six-month-old Biden clip as new. On March 16, Live Desk co-host Martha MacCallum claimed that "after weeks of economic doom and gloom, the Obama administration is now singing a slightly different tune. Take a look at what was said in recent interviews this weekend." Live Desk then aired clips of administration officials purportedly giving an optimistic view of the economy, which included video of Vice President Joe Biden stating, "The fundamentals of the economy are strong." However, Biden did not make those remarks during an "interview" that weekend; he made them at a September 2008 campaign event in which he criticized statements by Sen. John McCain. MacCallum apologized the next day.

Fox's Camerota pushes bogus stat that cap-and-trade would cost "every American family $1,761 annually." On September 30, guest co-host Alisyn Camerota pushed the bogus stat that cap-and-trade would cost "every American family $1,761 annually." PolitiFact.com has labeled the statistic false and noted that the talking point has been pushed by Republicans.

Jarrett suggests DOJ "thinks it's OK to intimidate white people, not OK to intimidate black people at the polls." On July 30, guest co-host Gregg Jarrett suggested that the Obama Department of Justice "thinks it's OK to intimidate white people, not OK to intimidate black people at the polls."

Live Desk: "Dems and Unions Push to Kill Workers' Right to Secret Ballot." During a report on the Employee Free Choice Act on the March 11 edition of The Live Desk, Fox aired a chyron stating, "Dems and Unions Push to Kill Workers' Right to Secret Ballot." In fact, the legislation would not eliminate employees' right to a secret ballot; as The New York Times reported, "Business groups have attacked the legislation because it would take away employers' right to insist on holding a secret-ballot election to determine whether workers favored unionization" [emphasis added]. Indeed, as The Christian Science Monitor has noted, "[t]he proposed law gives workers a choice of forming a union through majority sign-up ('card check') or an election by secret ballot."

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MacCallum agrees with Bachmann's claim that Obama's proposals are a "lurch toward socialism." On March 24, MacCallum responded to Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) claim that Obama proposals are a "lurch toward socialism" by stating: "I think you're absolutely right about that."

"Democrat" Mark Sanford. While airing live footage of a press conference by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Live Desk incorrectly identified the Republican as a Democrat. Gallagher later apologized for the error.

Special Report (6-7 p.m. ET): Video doctoring, cropped quotes, smears of Obama officials, falsehoods

Baier smears Jennings as failing to report "sexual abuse." On October 1, host Bret Baier joined Fox News' witch hunt against Jennings, claiming that "Education Secretary Arne Duncan is standing behind his so-called safe schools czar after revelations that Kevin Jennings did not report a case of sexual abuse he encountered as a schoolteacher."

Wilson: Jennings "admitted" that "he failed to alert authorities when a 15-year-old boy told him he was involved in a sexual relationship with an older man." On October 6, correspondent Brian Wilson stated: "School safety czar Kevin Jennings is currently under fire because he admitted that in 1988, when he was a high school teacher, he failed to alert authorities when a 15-year-old boy told him he was involved in a sexual relationship with an older man. One member of the House believes Jennings would not have his current job if czars were required to face Senate confirmation hearings." Wilson repeated the 15-year old age claim even though FoxNews.com previously acknowledged that the student was of legal age -- 16 years old -- at the time.

Video doctoring: Goler reverses meaning of Obama quote to falsely suggest he supports European-style health care. On April 24, White House correspondent Wendell Goler cropped a comment by Obama and took it out of context -- effectively reversing the statement's meaning -- to falsely suggest that Obama supports creating a health care system "like the European countries." Goler claimed that Obama "doesn't want to do it halfway" on health care, and then aired a clip from a March 26 online town hall event of Obama saying, "If you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health-care system like the European countries?" Following the clip, Goler reported: "His critics worry universal health care would mean government-run health care." In fact, Obama actually said, "Now, the question is, if you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health-care system like the European countries?" [emphasis added] In doing so, Obama was paraphrasing the town hall question he had been asked -- "Why can we not have a universal health-care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?" -- before explaining why he opposed such a system.

Fox's Garrett deceptively cropped Obama remark on judicial role. On May 1, saying it was a "description of how the president hopes his nominee will interpret the law," congressional correspondent Major Garrett aired a clip in which Obama stated: "I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes." Garrett then said: "That aggravates those who believe justices should follow the Constitution and legislative intent." But Garrett omitted Obama's very next sentence, in which he stated: "I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role."

Rosen: "Rats could attack us in the sewers and court systems if all of Cass Sunstein's writings became law." On September 9, reporter James Rosen joined Glenn Beck's "czars" witch hunt by distorting Obama administration official Cass Sunstein's writings about organ donation and animal rights.

Special Report packs in health care falsehoods. In an August 24 report on how, in the words of Baier, "Republicans are trying to position themselves as the party looking out for seniors' well-being," Rosen advanced the conservative talking point that Democrats plan to cut Medicare benefits for seniors and presented the widely debunked "death panel" falsehood as a he said/she said. Rosen also advanced the smear that Veterans Health Administration officials are referring veterans to a booklet that encourages them to end their lives prematurely.

Baier falsely suggests Obama has cited Canada as possible health reform model. On June 29, Baier falsely suggested that Obama has cited Canada's medical system as a "possible model" for his health care reform plan. In fact, Obama has explicitly rejected a Canadian-style health care system.

Special Report falsely suggests activism question deleted from questionnaire for Sotomayor. A June 4 report by legal correspondent Shannon Bream falsely suggested that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) eliminated a question on judicial activism from the questionnaire for Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination. In fact, Leahy reportedly removed the question in 2007 pursuant to a bipartisan agreement. The following day, Baier corrected Bream's report by acknowledging that the question was deleted "long before Sotomayor was picked for the high court."

Fox News Sunday: "Death book," health care misinformation

"Death book" distortions abound on Fox News Sunday. On the August 23 edition of Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace hosted former Bush administration aide Jim Towey to discuss his Wall Street Journal op-ed, "The Death Book for Veterans," and in doing so promoted numerous distortions about an end-of-life educational booklet used by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). In addition to forwarding the smear that the booklet is a "death book," Wallace promoted Towey's distortion that the booklet encourages veterans to "pull the plug" -- it doesn't; Wallace and Towey both suggested that the Bush administration suspended use of the booklet -- it didn't; and Wallace claimed that a VHA document requires doctors to direct veterans to the booklet -- it doesn't.

Wallace revives rationing bogeyman. On August 16, Wallace repeatedly advanced the conservative talking point that Democrats' health care reform proposals would create a system of rationing care, omitting the fact that rationing already happens under the current system. Indeed, Wallace did not acknowledge that rationing already occurs, even after his guest, American Medical Association president J. James Rohack, said, "[T]here's a myth that rationing doesn't occur right now. ... That's why this bill's important. It gets rid of some of the rationing that's occurring right now."

Wallace claimed Holder, confirmed 75-21, "got into office by the skin of his teeth." On February 22, Wallace claimed that Attorney General Eric Holder "got into office by the skin of his teeth." However, Holder was confirmed by the Senate in a 75-21 vote, and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 in favor of reporting his nomination to the full Senate.

Wallace on Obama: "pettiness," "childishness"; Obama admin. "biggest bunch of crybabies." Wallace has claimed Obama did not appear on his show because of "pettiness" and "childishness," and has called the Obama administration the "biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington."

Fox News opinion programs don't just have "vibrant opinion" -- they frequently smear Obama administration

Fox News "opinion" programs frequently smear Obama administration with falsehoods. In defending its programming, Fox News has repeatedly pushed the argument that critics are targeting the network for the "vibrant opinion" expressed on shows such as Glenn Beck and Hannity. However, Fox News' "opinion" programs don't simply have a "vibrant opinion" about the Obama administration -- they frequently smear the Obama administration with falsehoods. Fox News' pattern of smearing the Obama administration follows the network's prevalent pattern of smears and misinformation -- on both the network's purported straight news hours and its "opinion" shows -- during the 2008 political campaign.

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