The Wall Street Journal recently joined Fox News in attempting to rewrite a radical and unprecedented federal appellate court opinion to fit their caricature of a "lawless" President Obama. But even as a WSJ editorial picks up Fox News' misrepresentation of the appellate court's sweeping decision on the constitutional legitimacy of presidential recess appointments as a narrow swipe at Obama, the Fox-fueled version is starting to unravel.
On January 29, the WSJ published an editorial that claimed "the latest disdain for the Constitution's checks and balances" was the Obama administration's response to a recent outlier opinion of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. This decision broke with centuries of practice and case law by holding presidents can only make recess appointments when both a vacancy and appointment occur in-between congressional sessions. Specifically, the WSJ was offended that the National Labor Relations Board accurately pointed out the opinion was technically limited to the party that brought the case - despite its serious implications for all other similarly situated plaintiffs - and not only was it not currently in effect, it might be overturned on appeal. From the WSJ editorial, which accused the NLRB of planning to "ignore" the opinion:
So, let's see. First, President Obama bypasses the Senate's advice and consent power by making "recess" appointments while the Senate was in pro-forma session specifically to prevent recess appointments. Then when a federal court rules the recess appointments illegal, the NLRB declares that it will keep doing business as if nothing happened.
Without Mr. Obama's illegal appointments, the board would have been without a quorum and unable to decide a single case. That lawless behavior means more than 200 of the NLRB's rulings in the past year are in limbo. It's bad enough to force those 200 litigants to appeal rulings that are sure to be overturned. But the board wants to keep issuing new rulings though it now knows that a unanimous appeals court has declared them illegal, pending a Supreme Court review that may never happen.
From the January 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News attacked President Obama's signature health care reform, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), by seizing on a Pennsylvania hospital's decision to stop delivering babies. But the hospital's decision was primarily based on a financial situation that changed after four doctors decided to leave the obstetrics department.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade reported on a Pennsylvania hospital that has decided to stop delivering babies, claiming the hospital is "blaming cutbacks on the president's new health care law" and asking if other hospitals will follow this trend. Kilmeade used the story to attack the ACA, asking Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) "what is your greatest fear since you can look at it from the doctor's level, as Obamacare comes to fruition and the bill that no one read is now law?"
But while Kilmeade used the story to attack the ACA, officials at Windber Medical Center pointed to a variety of causes for the decision, the primary one being the departure of four Ob-gyn physicians:
As right-wing media figures compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin over his attempt to strengthen gun laws, Fox News figures stoked fears that his policies would lead to civil war and violence.
After reports that Vice President Joe Biden included possible executive action as part of an effort to stop gun violence like the tragic killings at Sandy Hook elementary,conservatives compared the president to Hitler and Stalin and invoked Nazi Germany to oppose his policies.At the same time, Fox News figures attacked Obama using violent rhetoric that warned of civil war, revolution, and insurrection if his policies on guns, spending and entitlement reform are implemented.
On his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly claimed that Obama could choose "to be a good president or whether he just wants to have blood in the streets," arguing that the president should cut spending on programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
Right-wing media outlets are feverishly spinning a remark by Vice President Joe Biden that the administration is considering executive action as well as other options for curbing gun violence in order to suggest that the Obama administration plans to gut the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Though Biden did not specify what executive action the administration is considering, the Justice Department has offered possible executive actions that could be taken, none of which involve restrictions on weapons that law-abiding Americans may purchase.
After meeting with gun violence prevention advocates on Wednesday, Biden -- who is leading a White House task force on gun violence prevention following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre -- said that the administration is "reaching out to all parties on whatever side of this debate you fall." He promised that "the president is going to act" and added: "There is executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet."
The right-wing media responded to Biden's comments by comparing President Obama to Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler and suggesting that Obama is planning to confiscate guns and gut the Second Amendment:
But these claims are baseless at best. Biden said the administration has not decided what executive action to take, but the Justice Department has reportedly considered executive action to ensure that more records of mental illness are included in the FBI's background check system, in addition to similar measures. The New York Times reported that the Justice Department "did not focus on new restrictions on the kinds of weapons that most law-abiding Americans may purchase."
Furthermore, there is ample precedent for presidents to take executive action for the purpose of gun violence prevention. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 and simultaneously signed an executive order, which regulated arms imports into the United States. President George H.W. Bush used his authority under the Gun Control Act of 1968 to permanently ban the import of 43 types of weapons, including versions of the AK-47 and the Uzi. President Clinton also took executive action to ban more than 50 types of assault weapons in 1998
Fox News misrepresented how Darden Restaurants and Denny's are responding to the Affordable Care Act in order to suggest that the Affordable Care Act is harming workers and driving up prices.
An owner of a number of Wendy's restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska announced that the franchise would cut employees' hours to avoid providing health care for many of its workers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney dishonestly argued that the decision by this one Wendy's franchise owner was part of larger trend, citing moves by Darden Restaurants and Denny's to bolster his claim.
But Varney's reference to Darden Restaurants and Denny's is wrong. Darden, the owner of the Olive Garden, announced in October that the company would scale back employee hours to avoid having to provide health insurance. Darden subsequently backed off and confirmed it would not move full-time employees to part-time status.
In the case of Denny's, John Metz, the owner of dozens of Denny's restaurants, announced a plan to institute a five percent surcharge to all his customers' checks but later did not go through with his plan. After Metz announced his plan, Denny's chief executive John Miller contacted him to express that the surcharge was "inconsistent with our values." Miller told the Huffington Post in an email that he was disappointed "that [Metz's] comments have been interpreted as the company's position." Miller added:
"Unfortunately, the comments of this franchisee, who represents less than 1 percent of our system and who owns restaurants in other concepts, has been portrayed as reflective of the entire Denny's brand," Miller said. "I am confident his perspective is not shared by the company or hundreds of franchisees/small business owners who make up the majority of the Denny's community. Specifically, his comments suggesting that guests might reduce the customary tip provided to their server as an offset to his proposed surcharge are inconsistent with our values and approach to business throughout our brand."
Metz did not go through with the 5 percent surcharge.
These fast food restaurants have rescinded their plans to cut hours or increase prices, in part as a result of strong negative public reaction. In addition, a study conducted by the Urban Institute found that the health care law would have a "negligible impact" on most business' costs and could save money for small businesses employing 100 or fewer workers.
From the January 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the January 2 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Conservative media are calling on teachers to be armed in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, even as law enforcement experts, educators, and others argue that bringing guns into schools would make classrooms more dangerous. This advice comes on the heels of legislation being considered by Republicans in at least six states that would allow or require teachers and staff to carry guns.
On December 14, a lone gunman killed 26 people, among them 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, before shooting and killing himself.
During a segment on the tragedy, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed arguments for gun control, saying that he favors "hardening the target and maybe arming the teachers" as a way to avert such massacres in the future. He also advocated for the hiring of retired law enforcement and military to police school halls.
Co-host Steve Doocy pointed to a school in Harrold, Texas, whose teachers carry concealed weapons to suggest that such a program would work well at other schools.
When co-host Gretchen Carlson dissented, saying she worries about what the consequences would be for children to grow up in a culture in which people are armed, Kilmeade stated: "They're in that culture." He added: "The reality is there's school shootings and I want my kid to get out alive."
CNN contributor Bill Bennett also supports arming teachers. In a CNN.com opinion piece, he wrote: "Suppose the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary who was killed lunging at the gunman was instead holding a firearm and was well trained to use it. Would the result have been different? Or suppose you had been in that school when the killer entered, would you have preferred to be armed?" He concluded: "Evidence and common sense suggest yes."
However, former law enforcement officers argue against arming teachers, citing the lack of necessary training and experience.
From the December 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that higher taxes on millionaires caused wealthy residents to flee from California and Maryland, leading to lower tax revenues for those states. However, studies show that very few affluent citizens migrate after "millionaire taxes" are imposed, and that the recession is to blame for the decline of millionaires in Maryland.
From the December 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News portrayed the dismissal of British politician Christopher Monckton from the UN climate conference in Qatar as evidence that there was legitimate "dissent" against climate change being quashed. In fact, Monckton, who is known for incendiary antics and remarks, was expelled for violating the conference's code of conduct, and protesters on the other side of the issue were also expelled for similar violations.
Monckton was removed from the 2012 UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, after impersonating a delegate from Myanmar in order to misleadingly claim that there has been "no global warming at all" for 16 years, obscuring the clear warming trend. He was subsequently barred from all future UN climate conferences.
The following morning, Fox & Friends seized on the episode to paint "Lord Monckton" as a martyr of climate "dissent" and bemoan a lack of "debate" on the issue. Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed somewhat dubiously that "Everyone took notes and they learned from that, and global warming is indeed now wrong." Gretchen Carlson declared that the conference "was supposed to be a debate apparently at this convention, but a debate usually involves two different points of view. I guess this time they're just going to have one point of view." Steve Doocy conceded that Monckton had spoken out of turn in Doha, but concluded of his dismissal, "There goes for dissent."
But Monckton wasn't being singled out. A group of activists was also expelled from Doha for "unfurling an unauthorized banner calling for the Qatari hosts to lead the negotiations to a strong conclusion," according to Greenwire (subscription required). And contrary to Carlson's suggestion, the purpose of the Doha conference is not to "debate" the widely-accepted and extensively documented science behind manmade climate change. Rather, it is to "speed up global action towards a low-emission future where everyone has the chance of a sustainable life."
More significantly, Monckton, who has no formal scientific training, is a notorious and prolific peddler of climate myths, and he wasn't being punished for "dissent" -- he was expelled for "impersonating a Party" and violating the conference's code of conduct.
So it seems that Karl Rove and Dick Morris are on the outs at Fox News. New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that Roger Ailes wants the two pundits off the air, for the time being, and that Fox News producers "must get permission before booking Rove or Morris." The reasons for their benching? "Morris's Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line" within the network, and "Ailes was angry at Rove's election-night tantrum when he disputed the network's call for Obama."
At last we're getting a clearer picture of what it takes to face a reckoning at Fox News. Glaring conflicts of interest, grossly unethical behavior, and naked GOP boosterism adorned with a journalistic fig leaf are just fine. To reap the Ailes whirlwind, you have to become such a transcendent embarrassment that the network has no choice but to treat you as a liability.
It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but there exists some precedent. The most prominent example is, of course, Glenn Beck, whose short-lived Fox News tenure was an ongoing exercise in damage control. Beck managed to stay in Ailes good graces owing to high ratings and ad revenue, but as he grew increasingly unhinged (caliphate, anyone?) and big-name advertisers fled en masse, they had a falling out and Beck was shown the door. "Half of the headlines say he's been canceled. The other half say he quit. We're pretty happy with both of them," Ailes told the Associated Press.
And then there's E.D. Hill, the Fox News anchor who in 2008 memorably characterized a fist bump between Barack and Michelle Obama as "a terrorist fist jab," generating howls of outrage from all corners. Her program was canceled within two weeks, and later that year the network declined to renew her contract.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Fox News personalities who have very publicly disgraced themselves and the network and who remain secure in their jobs. Look no further than the cast of Fox & Friends. Their 2008 stunt in which they smeared two New York Times reporters by Photoshopping yellow teeth, big noses, and receding hairlines into their publicity photos should have sent heads rolling. And yet, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade are still on the air. Eric Bolling declared himself a birther on his Fox Business Network show: "There is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States." He's since moved up to the big leagues and now co-hosts The Five on Fox News.
All this to say that, despite Morris' and Rove's benching -- which has every appearance of being temporary -- there is still no real culture of accountability at Fox News. The only way to get in trouble is to make such a spectacle of yourself that the network brass are forced to act (sagging ratings seem to be a precondition as well). And even then, there's a good chance you won't face any consequences whatsoever.
You might even get promoted.
Fox falsely claimed that a deficit reduction proposal by House Republicans mirrored a proposal made by former co-chair of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Erskine Bowles -- after Bowles denied such a comparison.
In a letter detailing a Republican proposal to avert approaching tax cut expirations and spending cuts, House speaker John Boehner claimed that the proposal was based on former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles' proposal in 2011, with "fair middle ground that allows us to avert the fiscal cliff without hurting our economy and destroying jobs."
In response, Bowles released a statement saying the "the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan." He continued, explaining that in a November 2011 statement made before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, he outlined the sort of deal that could be struck given the public proposals that existed at the time, and did not propose the combination of tax and spending cuts proposed by Boehner.
Despite Bowles' outright rejection of Boehner's claim, Fox echoed his false claim. On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said the Republican plan was "the type of offer you negotiate off of" and that "the one thing Republicans have going for them is they are leaning on Erskine Bowles' portion of the Bowles-Simpson reform plan."