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.
In recent months, conservative media figures have undermined efforts by labor groups to organize across the United States, demonizing labor unions in the process. These anti-union attacks are largely reliant on myths alleging negative side-effects of union participation.
Following criticism over insensitive comments about Facebook's new gender options, Fox News host Clayton Morris gave a heartfelt apology to the intersex community, stating that he regretted his "stupid" remarks.
During the February 14 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Clayton Morris joined a number of his Fox News colleagues in mocking Facebook's decision to offer its users a variety of new terms to identify their gender, including "transgender" and "cisgender."
Following a brief mention of Facebook's announcement, Morris joked that he had changed his gender identification to "intersex," describing people who are born with a physical anatomy that does not appear to fit typical definitions of male or female:
During the March 1 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Morris and his fellow co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Mike Jerrick discussed a high school considering making all of its graduation gowns one color in order to be inclusive of all students. Though the segment was framed by a chyron that asked "Over-Sensitive Society?", Morris quickly shifted gears to make an impassioned plea for understanding of transgender and intersex people (emphasis added):
MORRIS: There are millions of Americans and children who are born with the sexual organs who are not there or are not fully developed and therefore don't define themselves by a particular gender. I mean, that's a fact. It's not as black and white as we would like to make it. Just pick whatever color gown you want. Imagine being a parent and your daughter is born a specific way where her sexual organs are not developed. Then as a parent you have to be sensitive to the fact that your daughter doesn't identify with a particular gender.
KOOIMAN: And we've done news stories too about bathrooms and some schools, middle schools and high schools, considering having unisex bathrooms, so that these people who fit into this category won't have to pick the boys or the girls. But then you think about these young teenagers who are going through puberty, if you're a mom or a dad, do you want your daughter in the bathroom with a boy, potentially?
JERRICK: My goodness, are we overthinking this? It's just the color of a garment.
MORRIS: Just put yourself in the shoes of those children, though, who have to deal with that. Look, I made a pretty ignorant statement a few weeks ago, we were talking about the Facebook story where they added the bunch of different gender-identifying things. And I made sort of an offhanded comment and I regretted it later because now, 'Wait a second. There are people who are actually dealing with this and I'm an idiot for saying something stupid like that.' So before you open your mouth, just think about it a little bit.
Morris' comments are extremely uncharacteristic for Fox News, which has never missed an opportunity to mock and demean people with different gender identities. Morris demonstrated a degree of empathy and willingness to accept criticism rarely seen on his network. He deserves to be commended, and his colleagues who have yet to apologize could do a lot of good by following his lead.
Fox News' misleading attempt to downplay the involvement of right-wing groups in the prominence of anti-Obamacare advertisements fell apart after a later segment on Fox revealed the heavy involvement of conservative special interest groups in promoting the campaign ads.
On the February 27 edition of Fox's Fox and Friends, co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Clayton Morris, and Brian Kilmeade attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for pointing to conservative special interest groups as the origin of Obamacare attack ads. Hasselback asked viewers to "actually look at the facts" before running a graphic to show that political donations from the Koch brothers came in at 59th in overall political donations:
Fox's narrative that conservative groups are not heavily involved in the political process was debunked a short time later on Fox News itself. On America's Newsroom, Peter Doocy admitted that the Obamacare horror story advertisements heavily promoted on the network have, in fact, been funded by right-leaning organizations, calling groups like Americans for Prosperity "very involved" in pushing campaign ads:
MACALLUM: Peter, how involved are these outside groups really in the early ad campaigns we're seeing?
DOOCY: Very involved, Martha. Especially the right-leaning Americans for Prosperity who has already spent to $30 million since late summer to introduce America to people they say are victims of obamacare.
Reid was correct in tying these advertisements to right-leaning groups. The Washington Post's Fact Checker notes that the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity "has run about 50 anti-Obamacare ads since July."
Another Washington Post article quotes Tim Phillips, the president of American for Prosperity, saying that the health care law "has been the predominant focus of both our grass roots and our advertising efforts." This is evidenced by the $30 million the group has put forth on attack advertisements, 95% of which has gone towards ads that specifically target the Affordable Care Act. The article also noted that Americans for Prosperity is not the only conservative group creating these ads:
In Senate races, where control of the chamber is on the line, all but $240,000 of the $21.2 million that super PACs are spending on television advertising has gone into attacks centered on the health-care law, said Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The exceptions were ad buys in three states that criticized Democratic senators for supporting President Obama's judicial nominees.
Fox News distorted comments by Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink about the need for immigration reform, completely misinterpreting the meaning of her remarks to cast them as outrageous and beyond the pale. In fact, as the Miami Herald noted, Republican lawmakers have made similar comments in the past without the hint of the conservative outrage Sink's comments have received. Moreover, the comments broadcast by Fox were not Sink's full remarks on the topic.
During a candidate forum in Florida hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Sink addressed the need for immigration reform by stressing the fact that coastal communities rely heavily on immigrant labor and that without reform, employers are put "in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers":
SINK: Immigration reform is important in our country. It's one of the main agenda items of the beaches' Chamber Of Commerce for obvious reasons. Because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? And we don't need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.
Discussing those comments on Fox & Friends, guest host Clayton Morris twisted the meaning of those words, claiming what Sink really said was "we need immigration reform so we can have illegal immigrants doing landscaping and cleaning hotels." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck added: "Because what would we do without that, she's saying." Morris continued: "How would our hotels be cleaned?"
Co-host Brian Kilmeade also stated: "She was winning by 2 points prior to those remarks. I don't know if this is going to send her numbers south."
In fact, Sink was making the opposite point: We need immigration reform so that employers, particularly those in high-growth areas like coastal communities, don't resort to hiring unauthorized labor. For a network that has been stridently opposed to immigration reform because of the impact such labor has on the workforce, Sink's comments should have been greeted favorably.
When it comes to public education, Fox News loves to demonize the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards for K-12 students crafted by governors and state school officials across the country. The network has falsely characterized the standards as everything from too difficult to partisan brainwashing, and given credence to the lie that Common Core is a federally mandated program.
On February 26, while discussing Obamacare enrollment numbers, Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert invoked Common Core, saying, "I think they're doing Common Core math down in Washington. It doesn't all add up. You just throw some numbers together."
Nauert's misleading comparison is just the latest in a string of attacks on Common Core from Fox News, making it apparent that the network fails to understand how the standards work.
Fox distorted a call from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) to limit the amount of secret money in campaigns to claim he was pushing for the IRS to target conservative organizations.
On the February 14 edition of Fox & Friends, the co-hosts suggested that Democrats supported using the IRS to "shut your enemies down in the middle of a presidential campaign. During the segment, co-host Clayton Morris quoted Pryor, adding that the senator had said to "go after conservative groups":
MORRIS: Senator Mark Pryor, who has a tough battle ahead of reelection campaign in arkansas, wants more targeting of conservative groups, he told the hill newspaper, there are two things you don't want in political money in fundraising world and expenditure. No secret money and unlimited money and that's what we have now. So go after conservative groups. The IRS should be more belligerent in targeting them
Morris' characterization of Pryor's statement is misleading and dishonest. The quotation that Morris is distorting appeared in a February 13 article in The Hill, and mentions the role of money in politics but does not promote the targeting of any groups in any way whatsoever:
Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, said the IRS has jurisdiction over 501(c)(4) groups, as well as charities, which fall under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code and sometimes engage in quasi-political activity.
"That whole 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) [issue], those are IRS numbers. It is inherently an internal revenue matter," he said. "There are two things you don't want in political money, in the fundraising world and expenditure world. You don't want secret money, and you don't want unlimited money, and that's what we have now."
In fact, the article goes on point out that, while some Democrats are pushing for regulations on money from outside groups influencing campaigns, they "are careful to say that the IRS should treat conservative and liberal groups equally."
A man accused of violating Washington, D.C.'s gun laws is conservative media's latest dubious "hero" in its ongoing effort to attack stronger gun laws.
Right-wing media are defending a Washington, D.C. man on trial for possessing unregistered ammunition by making a flawed comparison between his situation and NBC News host David Gregory's display of a high-capacity ammunition magazine on Meet the Press following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Conservative media's complaint that Washington, D.C. financial advisor Mark Witaschek faces trial while Gregory faced no criminal charges ignores that those two situations rest upon entirely different circumstances.
On the December 23, 2012, edition of Meet the Press, Gregory showed, for demonstration purposes, a 30-round high-capacity ammunition magazine like the one used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives nine days earlier. In Washington, it is illegal to own a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds. NBC apparently ran the segment after a miscommunication with law enforcement. Gregory's display of the magazine angered conservative media including Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller who wrote that Gregory "should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." In January 2013, Washington prosecutors announced that Gregory would not be charged with a crime in a letter that explained, "Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States."
Witaschek's legal problems began in the summer of 2012. Following alarming allegations that Witaschek threatened his "estranged wife" with a gun, police visited his home on two occasions. During both visits, police found unregistered ammunition in Witaschek's home. In Washington, D.C., only individuals who have registered firearms may possess ammunition. Witaschek was charged with violating Washington's gun laws. The charge from the first police visit was thrown out because even though Witaschek consented to a search, the visit was conducted without a warrant. Witaschek was offered a plea deal that included no jail time and a $500 fine to resolve the charge from the second police visit, which was performed with a warrant. Witaschek rejected the offer and plans to go to trial on the remaining charge.
Economists are encouraged by reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase job flexibility by allowing workers to maintain health coverage outside employment, calling the impact good for workers and the economy. But to Fox News, increased flexibility just means increased laziness.
Over a period of several days, Fox News hosts and contributors demanded that Rev. Al Sharpton condemn a series of "knockout" attacks that have occurred in several cities. Sharpton condemned the attacks in a speech on Saturday, but Fox has so far failed to report on the condemnation.
The so-called "knockout game" involves young men attacking random people on the street. The violent, unprovoked attacks have sometimes resulted in death. Fox News has intensely covered these attacks, reporting on them largely as racially motivated crime committed by black youths against white victims.
Fox News cherry-picked data to falsely claim that New York City's stop-and-frisk policies reduced crime, when in fact many cities without the policy saw larger declines in violent crime and the drop in violence in New York was part of a trend that preceded widespread use of the controversial policy.
From the August 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News criticized State Department spending on public engagement through Facebook, though experts say that social media is a key component of public diplomacy in the 21st century and the State Department's Facebook presence has produced a level of engagement that exceeds industry standards.
Fox cited a May 2013 Inspector General (IG) report on the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) in order to criticize the bureau for spending $630,000 on two advertising campaigns to increase the bureau's Facebook audience. According to the IG report, the campaigns succeeded in raising the number of followers of the bureau's English Facebook pages from around 100,000 per page to over 2 million for per page. The IIP is tasked with developing a social media community as part of its mission to provide and support "the places, content, and infrastructure needed for sustained conversations with foreign audiences to build America's reputation abroad."
During the June 3 Fox & Friends, guest co-host Clayton Morris suggested that the State Department's spending on "Facebook likes" was a not useful. Co-host Brian Kilmeade added, "Do you know how many White House tours they could have had with that?"
In fact, experts contend that social media outreach is an important part of modern diplomacy. American University professor Craig Hayden noted in a Fall 2012 Global Media Journal article that "social media technologies are increasingly inextricable from strategic formulations about US foreign policy, its methods, and objectives," and that "it is increasingly evident that such claims are more than unsubstantiated valorization of technology." Similarly, a February 2013 American Security Project report asserted that social media has a role in public diplomacy and advised that "these tools should be components of an integrated strategy" [emphasis original]. And a 2013 Aspen Institute report cited two former US ambassadors who urged the State Department to utilize social media "as a means to strengthen public diplomacy."
Moreover, a 2010 Pew Internet poll found that a majority of Americans do not think that that government engagement through social media "is a waste of government money." 79 percent of Americans also agreed that social media "helps people be more informed about what the government is doing," while 74 percent said it "makes government agencies and officials more accessible".
Though the IG report on the State Department's Facebook outreach noted that "just over 2 percent" of the bureau's followers like, share, or comment on the bureau's Facebook posts per week, according to research by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, two percent exceeds industry standards for the level of engagement that most brands can expect when seeking increased publicity on Facebook: "Only 1.3% of 'fans' actually engage with the brands they 'like'."
Fox News and the Drudge Report are ignoring years of Republicans obstructing the implementation of health care reform to accuse the Obama administration of delaying the law for political gain, in the process dismissing the fact that businesses are praising the administration's move.
The Treasury Department announced on June 2 that the Obama administration elected to delay the deadline for large businesses, which employ 50 people or more, to offer health insurance to their employees from January 2014 to January 2015. Treasury explained that its decision was made in part following consultations with businesses, who had expressed concerns about the deadline and requested more time to implement the new requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
Fox News and the Drudge Report reacted to the announcement by baselessly claiming that the administration's decision was politically motivated and was linked to the approaching 2014 midterm elections. During the June 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity, guest host Tucker Carlson claimed he did not believe the delay until 2015 was an accident, saying to his guests "It seems to me they have been mindful of the political calendar, Joe, from day one ... You can't look, either of you, look at me straight in the eye and say that political considerations played no role in the implementation of the less popular parts of this incredibly complex law."
On the June 3 Fox & Friends, guest co-host Clayton Morris similarly suggested that the decision to push back the deadline was political, asking "The real question is, is it political? Because of course you have the 2014 midterm elections and you have mass layoffs," while co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed it was purposefully delayed "until after the election." Later in the show, on-screen test read "Political Ploy?"
The Drudge Report also alleged that the decision was political:
In fact, as the Washington Post reported, the delay is due to years of legal and political challenges to the law from conservatives (emphasis added):
The decision comes as a result of years of bumps and setbacks for the overhaul, including legal challenges and political opposition that have hampered its implementation. Last summer, the Supreme Court upheld the law but struck down a mandatory expansion of Medicaid. State officials and businesses held off changing their policies through the 2012 presidential campaign because Obama's GOP opponent, Mitt Romney, had promised to repeal the law.
Some populous states, including Florida and Texas, have decided not to set up exchanges, putting a far bigger burden on federal health officials to serve Americans. The exchanges are being designed to offer a variety of insurance plans; the federal insurance exchange is set to begin in less than three months.
The Wall Street Journal similarly reported that "legal and political challenges" from the right meant businesses did not have enough time to implement the new requirements:
Some companies had bet the law was going to be overturned by the Supreme Court last year, or by a new presidential administration after the 2012 election. After it withstood those legal and political challenges, some firms said there was too little time remaining before the provision was due to kick in.
Business groups -- including the conservative Chamber of Commerce -- are praising the decision, for it allows businesses time to adapt to the new rules. The New York Times reported:
Employer groups were quick to applaud the delay. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has strongly opposed the law, Randy Johnson, senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits, said in a statement, "The administration has finally recognized the obvious -- employers need more time and clarification of the rules of the road before implementing the employer mandate.
E. Neil Trautwein, a vice president of the National Retail Federation, said the delay "will provide employers and businesses more time to update their health care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment."
Right-wing media are falsely claiming that a State Department Inspector General review is linked to dubious allegations that State ignored "whistleblowers" during an independent review of attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, the routine investigation was planned before the State Department's Accountability Review Board released its findings, has nothing to do with "whistleblower" allegations, and will investigate decades of State actions.