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.
During a tease for Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox News hosts Alisyn Camerota and Clayton Morris perpetuated mischaracterizations of a Phoenix, AZ program designed to diversify the lifeguard ranks at city pools. Camerota falsely claimed that Phoenix would be hiring minority applicants as lifeguards, "even though they cannot swim" because the city must "meet quotas for diversity."
Camerota was echoing discredited myths about a lifeguard diversity program that right-wing websites like Fox Nation, Glenn Beck's The Blaze, and National Review Online have peddled in recent days. There is no evidence that a quota system is being used. In fact, the program she referred to is a scholarship that covers the cost of lifeguard-certification courses for minority students in order to encourage a more diverse field of applicants.
Despite Camerota's claim, all scholarship-sponsored applicants will still be required to pass a swim test before they are hired.
Will Fox News correct these mischaracterizations during their April 6 segment?
Fox & Friends Sunday hosted a small business owner to disparage the Affordable Care Act without disclosing his membership in the anti-health care reform group National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Co-hosts Clayton Morris and Tucker Carlson identified their guest David McArthur only as a "small business owner" while interviewing him about the impact the Affordable Care Act might have on his small bakery in St. Louis. Morris asked, "Do you feel that these plans, Obamacare specifically, limit growth in this country and [are] holding back the economy, because small business owners like yourself are afraid to hire and afraid to grow?" McArthur replied, "Well, certainly it does."
The NFIB was the lead plaintiff suing to overturn the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court. In a post titled "The Group Trying To Kill Obamacare," Salon.com's Alex Seitz-Wald reported that the group spent at least $2.9 million in 2010 alone working to overturn the law. The Huffington Post reported that the NFIB "received 10 donations totaling more than $10 million from anonymous donors" in 2010 and 2011, in addition to $3.7 million in funding from Karl Rove's Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. The Huffington Post also reported that the organization's "multimillion-dollar independent expenditures and campaign donations have benefited almost exclusively Republicans."
This is not the first time Fox has hosted undisclosed NFIB members to criticize the Affordable Care Act.
In July 2012, Fox & Friends hosted small business owner Mike Paine to attack the health care reform law without disclosing his membership in the organization. Prior to that, NFIB member and small business owner Joe Olivo appeared on Fox News and Fox Business at least six times to criticize the Affordable Care Act, without disclosure of his membership.
Fox broke from its usual narrative by reporting that over the last 43 years the net worth of the wealthy has "skyrocketed," pointing to this as a rationale for President Obama's call to allow past tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. Previously, Fox has manufactured the notion of a high tax burden on the wealthiest Americans, in order to attack Obama for wanting to let these cuts expire.
During a Fox & Friends Sunday segment co-host Clayton Morris attempted to use a study on household net worth to attack President Obama's plan to end the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy. But during the segment, co-host Alisyn Camerota, citing the study, reported that median net worth is the "lowest it has been in decades" but for "the top 1 percent, the net worth has skyrocketed" going up 71 percent during the period analyzed. Camerota noted that the discrepancy in net worth is one reason that Obama has proposed returning the top marginal tax rates for high-income earners to their previous level.
Indeed, a study by New York University economics professor Edward Wolff found that the net worth of American households has fallen to a 43-year low. CBS reported that Wolff found that while the median net worth of American households had fallen to $57,000 because "the lower and middle classes appear poorer and less stable," the "wealthiest 1 percent of American households increased their average wealth by 71 percent" during the same period.
Fox & Friends Saturday speculated that politics had motivated revisions to an early set of Obama administration talking points about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Yet a Fox correspondent reported Friday night that some lawmakers said the changes were made to protect classified information.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used the talking points during September 16 appearances on the Sunday news shows, and Fox News has since sought to scandalize those interviews and use them as ammunition in a campaign to prevent her from being nominated as secretary of state.
On Fox & Friends Saturday, the co-hosts discussed Friday's closed-door congressional testimony of former CIA director David Petraeus and the revelation that in talking points about the attack, language suggesting the perpetrators belonged to Al Qaeda affiliates had been changed to refer more generally to "extremists."
At the beginning of the segment, co-host Dave Briggs said, "[T]here are a lot of questions after what Petraeus told Congress. Because we still don't know why exactly the talking points were changed. He said on Friday that he knew it was terrorism from the very start." Later, the co-hosts speculated that the White House had edited the talking points for political reasons:
MORRIS: By the way, we'll be speaking to Peter King coming up a little later to try to find out who in the administration, then, got the intelligence information in their hands and said, "OK, here the intelligence community says 'Al Qaeda.' Now, let's get the eraser out. Let's change it to 'extremists,' because somehow now we don't want to classify it as Al Qaeda," when it was glaring to General Petraeus and these other intelligence officers?
BRIGGS: And there's also the question of why change it. If -- and I mean, look --
MORRIS: To keep with that narrative?
BRIGGS: It begs the question, did they want to keep that narrative that the war on terror was being won, that Al Qaeda had been crushed?
Yet on the Friday broadcast of The Five, homeland security correspondent Catherine Herridge reported that while Republicans said the talking points change was "an effort to downplay or minimize the role of terrorists in the Benghazi attack," Democrats say that "these changes were not driven by politics, they were simply made to protect classified information."
From the September 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:
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Fox News host Mike Huckabee argued today that creating jobs for teachers for the sake of boosting U.S. employment would be "nonsensical." In doing so, he ignored the sustained massive layoffs of teachers across the country since the end of the recession and the subsequent ramifications. In fact, there is every need to hire teachers during this recovery and not just because "you want to make some jobs," as Huckabee claimed.
Huckabee was responding to comments by President Obama calling on Republicans to pass his jobs plan, which Obama said "could create a million new jobs right now," including jobs for teachers and construction workers. Huckabee replied by saying:
HUCKABEE: The federal government doesn't hire teachers. Where do teachers get hired? Local school boards. Education is a local function not a federal function. It is not the job of the federal government to hire teachers.
And the other question is: Do you hire teachers 'cause you just want to make some jobs or do you hire teachers 'cause you actually need them 'cause you have more kids in the classroom than you had last year? That's a nonsensical kind of approach to job creation -- let's make some work, and let's just go into more debt to do it.
In fact, Obama was not asking the federal government to hire teachers; he was accurately noting the role government can play in staving off public sector job losses, which experts contend have played an especially detrimental role in swelling unemployment. From the Wall Street Journal:
The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn't been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.
Ceteris is rarely paribus, of course: If there were more government jobs now, for example, it's likely that not as many people would have left the labor force, and so the actual unemployment rate would be north of 7.1%.
According to the Hamilton Project, teachers accounted for 220,000 of these public sector job loses from 2009 to 2011, a decline of 5.6 percent.
The Economy Policy Institute estimated that had the Jobs Act been enacted, "[a]id to state governments for rehiring teachers and first responders would have boosted employment by an additional 210,000 jobs," and that "[i]n total, full passage of the American Jobs Act would have increased employment by more than 1.6 million jobs."
From the July 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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