Fox News anchor Bret Baier debunked the network's defense of Indiana's discriminatory "religious freedom" law, explaining that the law is broader than both federal law and similar measures in other states.
Last week, Indiana became the center of a political firestorm after the state legislature passed its version of the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA), a law that allows private individuals and for-profit business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a legal defense against claims of discrimination from consumers who have been wrongfully denied services based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. As the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana explained, Indiana's RFRA "may embolden individuals and businesses who now feel that their religious liberty is 'burdened' by treating a member of the LGBT community equally and that their 'burden' trumps others' rights to be free from discrimination."
Proponents of the law, including Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence, have downplayed these potential consequences by incorrectly claiming that the law is noncontroversial because it merely mirrors the federal RFRA and RFRAs in other states. It's a talking point that has been repeated on Fox News, which has so far depicted Indiana's law as a benign attempt to protect the devout from government encroachment on religious freedom.
But during the March 30 edition of Happening Now, Baier deflated his network's defense of the law, explaining to host Eric Shawn that Indiana's RFRA is "broader" than both federal law and other state RFRAs:
ERIC SHAWN: You know, the law was intended to protect personal religious liberties against government overreach and intrusion. So what happened?
BAIER: Well, Indiana's law is written a little differently. It is more broad. It is different than the federal law that it's close to, but different than, and also different than 19 other states and how the law is written. In specific terms, Indiana's law deals with a person who can claim religious persecution but that includes corporations, for profit entities and it could also be used as a defense in a civil suit that does not involve the government. That is broader than the other laws. This is where it's a little different in Indiana's case. You saw governor Mike Pence try to defend the law and say it's just like the 1993 federal law where it's just like 19 other states, but as you look in the fine print, it's not really, and it may be something that Indiana deals with in specifics to line up with the others.
SHAWN: Obviously, it had good intentions. What do you think happened to make it kind of go off the rails this way?
BAIER: Well, how it was structured, Eric. And I think that, you know, there may be good intentions behind it but how it's being interpreted is being a little bit more forward leaning than any other Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the books. What this does politically, obviously Mike Pence has been talked about as a governor thinking about a 2016 run. We don't know if he's going to do it or not. But that interview with Stephanopoulos over the weekend was obviously not a great back and forth in defense of this law that likely is going to have to be at least tweaked, if not changed. [emphasis added]
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz downplayed the bloody arrest and subsequent national media coverage of a black University of Virginia (UVA) student, arrested during an alleged dispute over his ID, claiming "such arrests are common in this college town."
The Washington Post reported that Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is under scrutiny after the violent arrest of UVA student Martese Johnson, who "sustained head injuries that left him with bloody streaks down his face" following St. Patrick's Day celebrations near the UVA campus in Charlottesville. Photos of Johnson's bloody face sparked widespread outrage and protests over the use of excessive police force.
During a segment on March 20 edition of Special Report, Kurtz criticized the national media attention claiming that this was a local story with "no evidence that race was a factor" in the arrest. Kurtz later downplayed the arrest as typical, asserting that "bartenders tell us such arrests are common in this college town."
From the March 18 edition of Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier:
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Fox News cited an unnamed "independent expert" to cast doubt on the veracity of recent Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, which have exceeded 16 million Americans and are reported to have driven the largest reduction in uninsured persons in 40 years.
On March 16, the Obama administration announced that 16.4 million Americans had enrolled in insurance through the health care law since it took effect. As The New York Times reported "Since the first open enrollment period began in October 2013, the officials said, the proportion of adults lacking insurance has dropped to 13.2 percent, from 20.3 percent."
But at Fox News, high enrollment numbers and a plummeting rate in those uninsured was barely mentioned. According to a Media Matters count, the network mentioned the 16.4 million Americans who enrolled in health insurance just once in the days following the announcement in an attempt to discredit the findings. On the March 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier briefly reported on the enrollment numbers, offering the unevidenced claim that "an independent expert says the reality is fewer than 10 million people have signed up."
Fox has consistently downplayed and twisted Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, going as far as to skew on-air graphics to misleadingly suggest less Americans were signing up for insurance through the health care law than had been originally projected.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reported that the government's numbers differed from those of "an independent expert," who concluded only about 9.7 million people gained insurance. The lower number was based on a survey by Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, who "took into account insurance losses" during some of the years the ACA was in effect.
From the March 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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A Fox News Special Report segment attacked new rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure net neutrality, claiming the rules were done in secret and would slow down the Internet. But the FCC received millions of public comments in favor of net neutrality, and experts say the rules will ensure Internet fairness.
Today, the FCC passed "net neutrality" rules, which allows the agency to regulate Internet service as a utility and prohibits "Internet service providers from granting faster access to companies that pay for the privilege."
On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier reported that "the FCC approved sweeping new rules that no member of the public has even seen." Correspondent Peter Doocy called the new regulations a government "power grab" that will result in consumers having slower Internet.
In fact, the public overwhelmingly supports new net neutrality regulations. During the public comment period, the FCC received a record 3.7 million comments on the topic of net neutrality. According to a report by the Sunlight Foundation, fewer than one percent of the first 800,000 public comments were opposed to net neutrality enforcement.
Furthermore, tech experts have called net neutrality the guiding principle that has made the Internet successful. Google's director of communications explained that the new net neutrality rules would promote competition and help the economy. And the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that "there is unlikely to be any negative impact from such regulation on [Internet Service Provider] investment."
The Washington Post reported that new rules could make the Internet faster by "mak[ing] sure services such as Google Fiber can build new broadband pipes more easily."
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy pushed a Republican attempt to tar net neutrality when he said that it "could do to the Internet what Obamacare did to the healthcare system," a right-wing attack widely discredited when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) pushed the idea in November.
During the February 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Peter Doocy reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on net neutrality protections for the Internet on February 26. Doocy compared the alleged lack of transparency in the FCC's proposed plans to the Affordable Care Act's passage and claimed, "some critics already calling a slowed down web Obamanet, and their fear is that these changes could do to the internet what Obamacare did to the healthcare system."
This attack echoes right-wing media outlets and Republican lawmakers who pushed the analogy that net neutrality regulations would be like "ObamaCare for the web." In a February 22 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, L. Gordon Crovitz dubbed net neutrality regulations "Obamanet." But the idea behind the term gained popularity after a November tweet sent by Sen. Ted Cruz where he asserted that "'Net Neutrality' is Obamacare for the Internet."
"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.-- Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) November 10, 2014
Cruz was roundly criticized for his misleading attack. Tech blog Gizmodo called Cruz' tweet "disingenuous" and "dangerous." And according to Salon, "Cruz was absurdly wrong on the substance and demonstrated an ignorance of both healthcare and tech policy." Salon did concede however that healthcare and internet service did share some "common features":
Healthcare and Internet service in America do share some common features - specifically, we pay a lot for both, and the product we get in return kinda sucks relative to how much we spend. Head to Europe or Asia and chances are that you'll be able to purchase faster Internet access for far less money than you'd pay here. Also, Internet connections abroad are getting faster and cheaper, while prices and speeds are pretty much staying the same in the U.S.
Click here for more information on net neutrality
After a massive oil tanker derailed in West Virginia, several members of Fox News claimed that the accident demonstrates the need to build the Keystone XL pipeline because it is supposedly "safer" to transport oil by pipeline than by train. However, pipelines spill even more oil than trains, and when a major pipeline spill recently occurred near Keystone XL's proposed route, Fox News barely mentioned the spill and didn't once connect it to legitimate safety concerns about Keystone XL.
Fox News' Special Report used a story about a train derailment and oil spill in West Virginia to push for the passing of the Keystone XL pipeline, a common pattern for Fox, which has a long history of exploiting tragedies to push for the pipeline's construction.
Fox News' Special Report falsely claimed that the public won't have a say in the upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Open Internet rule, ignoring reports that the record number of public comments on the rulemaking were overwhelmingly positive and polls that show the public greatly supports net neutrality regulations.
On February 26, the FCC will vote on a proposal that will subject Internet providers to utility-like regulation. During the February 11 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier told his viewers that "you may have absolutely no say in the matter."
Contrary to Baier's claim, in May 2014, the FCC requested public comments on "how best to protect and promote an open Internet" as part of the rulemaking process. While correspondent Shannon Bream did acknowledge this and mentioned that the FCC received a record 3.7 million public comments, she failed to report that the vast majority of these favored net neutrality. The Sunlight Foundation found that fewer than 1 percent of the first 800,000 public comments were opposed to net neutrality enforcement.
In fact, recent polls indicate widespread bipartisan support for net neutrality:
In a new survey, the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication found that support for neutrality is strong and widespread -- regardless of gender, age, race and level of education. About 81 percent of Americans oppose allowing Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to charge Web sites and services more if they want to reach customers more quickly, that is, allowing what are often called "Internet fast lanes."
From the February 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News' flagship news program aired graphic footage of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group executing a hostage, despite previously criticizing other media outlets for airing such footage they called "terrorist propaganda."
This week the Islamic State (ISIS) released a video purporting to show the horrific murder of a Jordanian pilot being held hostage by the terrorist group. Jordan officials confirmed the pilot's death, and are currently working to authenticate the video produced and distributed by ISIS.
Fox News' Special Report aired images of the execution from the terrorists' video on February 3. Host Bret Baier explained the network's reasoning for showing the graphic images, warning viewers, "The images are brutal. They are graphic. They are upsetting," but, "The reason we are showing you this is to bring you the reality of Islamic terrorism and to label it as such. We feel you need to see it." After displaying the images, Baier added, "Having seen the whole video, it is something you cannot unsee. Horrific and barbaric, as well as calculating and skilled at high-tech propaganda." FoxNews.com later uploaded the full-length, 22-minute video on its site.
From the January 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News promoted debunked claims about President Obama's proposed net neutrality regulations, falsely asserting that the regulations are unpopular, would stifle innovation, and raise costs for consumers.
On Wednesday The New York Times reported that President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to "pre-empt state laws that restrict communities' ability to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas." This initiative is part of the President's plan to implement net neutrality regulations and "keep the United States competitive with other nations that have faster and more widespread Internet connections."
In response to Obama's announcement, Fox News' Special Report recycled debunked conservative claims about net neutrality during the January 13 edition of the show. Host Bret Baier described net neutrality as "a slew of unnecessary regulations that hurt competition and ultimately consumers." Fox correspondent Doug McKelway claimed the new net neutrality regulations will raise costs, citing an "estimate of15 billion dollars in new state and federal taxes a year," and suggested that most Americans do not support the proposed regulations.