Fox News attempted to distinguish between Chief Justice John Roberts and civil rights litigator Debo Adegbile by arguing that Adegbile is unqualified to pass Senate nomination because his defense of a murderer was politicized, due to his alleged participation in rallies supporting his former client. However, Fox is conflating Adegbile with a former colleague of his, who GOP senators suggested had politicized the trial of his former client, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
On March 5, the Senate procedural vote that would have allowed a confirmation vote on Adegbile's nomination to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed, despite the fact that Adegbile is a mainstream nominee who is regarded as one of the preeminent civil rights experts of his generation by a wide spectrum of authorities, including law enforcement executives and the American Bar Association. The Senate's failure to confirm Adegbile reflects right-wing media attempts to distort his record with lies about his background and racially charged attacks, which have included labeling Adegbile a "cop killer's coddler" and a "cop-killer advocate." These attacks reference Adegbile's defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose death sentence was successfully contested by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), which Adegbile headed at the time.
In light of the blocked confirmation, many have pointed out that defending a reprehensible murderer has not been a disqualifier for other high-profile government nominees, such as current Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who also once represented a death-row inmate convicted of killing eight people in Florida.
On the March 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier attempted to distinguish Justice Roberts from Adegbile by arguing that Adegbile, unlike Roberts, "became more political in his support" of his client. Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer concluded that blocking Adegbile's confirmation was "the right thing," because although Adegbile "didn't choose the case," "the one thing that sways it here is that he participated in rallies":
Fox News treated itself to a victory lap after several Senate Democrats joined with the Republican conference and blocked the nomination of civil rights litigator Debo Adegbile, President Obama's highly-qualified pick to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
On March 5, the Senate procedural vote that would have allowed a confirmation vote on Adegbile's nomination failed, after right-wing media spent months lying about his background with racially charged attacks, even publishing an offensive caricature of Adegbile that was condemned by the nation's leading civil rights groups for invoking "the racist iconography of late 19th century America designed to dehumanize and stereotype African Americans." Outlets like Fox News continued to distort Adegbile's record in the run-up to the vote despite these denouncements, and despite the fact that Adegbile is a mainstream nominee who is regarded as one of the preeminent civil rights experts of his generation by a wide spectrum of authorities, including law enforcement executives and the American Bar Association.
After the vote, Fox host Bret Baier was quick to suggest that Senate Democrats who voted in favor of Adegbile could pay a penalty in the upcoming midterm elections. Baier went on to spread further misinformation about the nominee, falsely insinuating that he was part of an effort to overturn a murderer's conviction:
Fox News is blasting Attorney General Eric Holder for allegedly telling state attorneys general that they don't have to enforce their states' gay marriage bans. In reality, Holder merely instructed the attorneys general that they don't have to defend such bans in court if they deem the laws unconstitutional.
It's unclear if Fox is misreading or simply willfully distorting what Holder actually said, but either way, the network is wrong.
Addressing the National Association of Attorneys General on February 25, Holder stated that if state attorneys general conclude that their gay marriage bans violate core constitutional principles like equal protection under the law, they're not obligated to defend those bans in court. Holder also explicitly stated that attorneys general shouldn't base such decisions on "policy or political disagreements" and should stick to legal analysis of the bans' constitutionality.
Holder's guidance doesn't mean that marriage equality bans won't be enforced while they're still in effect. However, an attorney general does have the option of refusing to defend laws that he or she believes won't survive judicial scrutiny. In such circumstances, other parties may then intervene to defend a law on the state's behalf. That's precisely what's currently happening in the court battle over Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban.
This isn't Fox News' first baseless attack on Holder when it comes to the defense of anti-gay marriage laws. It was only three years ago that Megyn Kelly asserted Holder had decided not to enforce the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) after the Obama administration dropped its defense of the law in court. But the administration kept enforcing DOMA as the law of the land until the Supreme Court struck down its core provision last summer.
Three years later, it appears that Fox remains unable - or unwilling - to get its facts right.
From the February 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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From the February 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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After Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave congressional testimony that echoed President Obama's recent statements about the threat that al Qaeda poses, Fox News host Bret Baier claimed that the testimony was a "direct contradiction" to the president's description of the threat posed by the terrorist organization.
On the February 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Baier reported on Clapper's testimony earlier in the day before the Senate Armed Service Committee, in which Clapper testified that al Qaeda is "morphing and franchising itself" throughout the world. Baier categorized Clapper's testimony as a "direct contradiction" to what President Obama has said about the terrorist group in the past:
BAIER: A direct contradiction today from the nation's top intelligence chief, to what president Obama has said about al Qaeda. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee today previous assessments from the president are not accurate.
Baier appeared to suggest that Obama's past claims that al Qaeda was "on the run," made several times during the 2012 campaign, are in contradiction to Clapper's testimony. But Baier failed to note Obama's most recent statements on the terrorist organization. In fact, Clapper's testimony before the Senate that al Qaeda is a "morphing" threat that is "franchising itself" in several countries is similar to recent statements from President Obama. In his State of the Union address last month, Obama acknowledged that al Qaeda still posed a threat to the United States, a threat that he said has "evolved": (emphasis added)
While we've put al-Qaida's core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Right-wing media are misinforming about a recent Supreme Court injunction that allows the non-profit charity Little Sisters of the Poor to continue its objection to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate, as they appeal a lower court opinion that rejected their legal challenge.
In its January 24 order, the Court pointed out that the ruling "should not be construed as an expression of the Court's views on the merits." In other words, the nuns haven't won their lawsuit -- the Court has not issued an opinion regarding whether or not their First Amendment rights have been violated. Interestingly, although the order stipulated that the nuns would no longer have "to use the [original] form prescribed by the Government," in order to register their objection, they still must "inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they ... have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services."
But this preservation of the status quo hasn't stopped right-wing media from framing the case as a big win for Little Sisters. In a January 27 segment on Fox's Special Report, host Bret Baier "chalk[ed] one up for David against Goliath." National Review Online at least acknowledged the meaning of the Court's order, but still crowed about the nuns' "big procedural victory." In a recent editorial, The Wall Street Journal went further, not only calling the case a "victory" for Little Sisters, but also a "rebuke to the Obama Administration's bullying conception of religious liberty":
[T]he permanent stay pending appeal, issued late Friday by the full Supreme Court with no recorded dissent, was rarer still -- and a rebuke to the Obama Administration's bullying conception of religious liberty.
The Little Sisters sued because they believe the form they must sign to supposedly exempt themselves from the mandate instructs others to provide contraceptives and abortifacients in their name, and thus violates their faith and the First Amendment. Nearly all of the lower courts that are adjudicating the 91 lawsuits challenging the rule gave religious organizations a reprieve, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals did not for the Little Sisters.
The Justice Department also argued that this order of Catholic nuns who run a Colorado nursing home and hospice should be forced to comply. You might call it a war on religiously devout women.
From the January 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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"I don't care about the bloody report!"
With that, Bill O'Reilly delivered the climax to a night of Senate report denialism on Fox News.
This week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the results of its investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. The report dispelled many of Fox News' favorite conspiracy theories surrounding the attacks, including the myth that the Obama administration engaged in a cover-up by suggesting the attacks may have grown out of protests outside U.S. facilities in Benghazi over an anti-Islam video, an idea then-U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice suggested in a series of interviews on the broadcast Sunday shows three days after the attacks.
And yet, Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Bret Baier continued to push these myths, even when covering the Senate report that debunked them.
On the January 16 edition of Special Report, guest A.B. Stoddard pointed out that the report found no evidence of a cover-up, and Baier responded, "You said no cover-up, but there's clearly an open question about this story about the protests, and about where that all came from."
Bill O'Reilly went even further, peppering guest James Carville with questions about the origins of Rice's suggestion that the attacks may have originated from a protest over the film. Carville attempted to explain that the Senate report answered O'Reilly's question, but the Fox host repeatedly interrupted him, finally yelling, "I don't care about the bloody report":
Fox News stoked fears about the security of HealthCare.gov, all but ignoring the fact that a top official testified to Congress on January 16 that the website is secure.
The January 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier featured a panel discussion on the security of the health care website consisting of Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, Fox News Legal Analyst Andrew Napolitano, and frequent Fox guest A.B. Stoddard. Baier and his guests roundly panned the website's security, relying on testimony by cyber security expert David Kennedy, who claimed that HealthCare.gov remains insecure:
Fox News downplayed the connection between income inequality and poverty in an attempt to dismiss government efforts to reduce the growing problem.
On the January 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Doug McKelway dismissed concern over the nation's rising income inequality as a simple issue of "class resentment." He attributed the problem of inequality to capitalism's system of rewards and punishments, because "some people are better, smarter, harder-working, or luckier than others," later adding, "numerous studies show the greatest predictor of poverty is not income inequality."
Fox News figures revived the tired falsehood that President Obama and his administration neglected to acknowledge Benghazi as a terrorist attack, this time adding speculation that Hillary Clinton may have played a role in the imaginary omission.
On January 13 the House Armed Services Committee released declassified transcripts of congressional briefings on the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. One portion of the transcripts detailed Marine Corps Colonel George Bristol, commander of an Africa-based task force during the Benghazi attacks, testifying that at the time of the assault in Benghazi, the military considered the assault to be an attack.
That evening's Special Report presented Bristol's words as groundbreaking, suggesting they indicted both the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes, a Fox contributor called it "a pretty significant development" because "[f]or the president and his advisers to go out and for two weeks pretend that that wasn't the case is quite extraordinary." And NPR's Mara Liasson, also a Fox contributor, took the claims even further, wondering if Clinton "might be tied in some way to ... deciding not to call it a terrorist attack."
On September 11, 2012, terrorists killed four Americans during attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Conservatives immediately sought to use those tragic killings for political benefit.
By January 1, with conservatives having failed to prevent President Obama's re-election, but succeeding in using the issue to torpedo Susan Rice's bid for Secretary of State, Media Matters had some reason to hope that this effort would subside.
We were wrong.
Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media doubled down, spending much of the year trying to turn Benghazi into Obama's Watergate (or Iran-Contra, or both) and try to end any potential presidential run by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before it can begin. And some mainstream outlets, more eager to win over a conservative audience than to check their facts, ran their own misleading, sketchily-sourced Benghazi exposés.
Much of the discussion has centered around two "unanswered questions" that in reality were answered long ago.
Right-wing media outlets (and mainstream outlets seeking to attract their audience) have been obsessed with asking why the Obama administration initially linked the attacks with an anti-Islam YouTube video that spurred violent protests across the Middle East in mid-September, even after it became clear that the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis had believed there was a connection between the two.
They've also taken every opportunity to question why help wasn't sent to aid U.S. diplomats in Benghazi. Reporters have continued asking this "lingering question" even as a long line of national security experts, from both inside and outside of the administration, have explained that while the Defense Department quickly deployed Special Forces teams to the region, due to logistical issues they were unable to reach the scene until long after the attacks had concluded.
To comprehensively debunk these claims and many more about the attacks, in October 2013 Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt released the ebook The Benghazi Hoax.
Here are seven of the worst media reports and conspiracies from the last year on the Benghazi hoax:
Fox News' special "Behind the Obama Breakdown" prominently featured the Koch brothers-funded organization Generation Opportunity, an anti-health care reform group seeking to deter young people from signing up for Obamacare coverage, without ever acknowledging the political bias behind the organization.
On December 13, Fox aired a special report hosted by Bret Baier called "Behind the Obama Breakdown." The report opened and closed with segments on Generation Opportunity, an organization that travels to colleges around the country to encourage millenials to opt out of signing up for coverage on the Affordable Care Act's exchanges. Baier described the group as "young, political activists mobilizing against the president's signature legislation" and "community organizer[s]," airing footage of Gen Opp rallies, headquarters, and interviews with Evan Feinberg, the organization's president. Feinberg's remarks often drove the special's narratives, placed between new topics to introduce a new theme to viewers.
The hour-long report featured Feinberg and Generation Opportunity multiple times throughout it, totaling more than six minutes of coverage to the group. Baier allowed Feinberg to repeatedly push his anti-health care agenda, encouraging young people not to sign up for health insurance on the ACA.
Neither Baier nor Feinberg ever acknowledged that the organization is financed by the Koch brothers. The group received $5.04 million from "Freedom Partners," a conservative lobbying group funded by the Koch brothers. The funding is responsible for a series of anti-Obamacare ads featuring a "Creepy Uncle Sam" -- who also made appearances in Fox's special -- to provoke fear about the government and deter young people from signing up for the ACA.
Narrating over shots of a Generation Opportunity tailgate, Baier said of the group's mission: "This is more than a pregame tailgate bash. It sounds a lot like a call to civil disobedience." What Baier characterizes as "civil disobedience" -- opting out of the ACA -- may have dangerous consequences for young adults. Without insurance, young people will be responsible for the full costs of any injuries, illness, or preventive care. And when the average cost to treat even a broken leg without health insurance is over $10,000, footing the bill is unlikely to be affordable for young people.
Fox has hidden the people behind Generation Opportunity before, and its repeated spotlight on the organization fits with the network's continuing efforts to discourage millennials from signing up for health insurance, a campaign which ignores the fact that many young adults are eager to buy health insurance under the new ACA provisions.