Right-wing media rushed to exploit the deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. But this is just the latest in right-wing media's long history of politicizing tragedy to push political objectives.
From the December 15 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News hosts rushed to minimize the severity of interrogation methods used by the CIA during the Bush administration in the wake of a Senate report outlining the agency's brutal techniques. Here are some of the network's worst attempts to trivialize torture.
From the November 24 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News hosts cherry-picked quotations from President Obama's 2006 autobiography, The Audacity Of Hope, claiming that the President's sympathizing with Americans concerned about illegal immigration conflicts with his current plans to take executive action to prevent deportations. But Obama's autobiography clearly explained that those concerns are no reason to deny immigrants the "rights and opportunities" that Americans enjoy.
Obama recently announced a plan to issue executive actions to protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The New York Times reported that the president's actions would likely "allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away."
The co-hosts of The Five painted Obama as a hypocrite on the November 17 edition of the show, highlighting selected quotes from Obama's autobiography in which he expresses that he understands Americans' concerns about illegal immigration. Co-host Eric Bolling asked whether "those comments that he just spoke in Audacity Of Hope ... conflict with what he's saying now?"
From the October 29 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News hosts are lashing out at Media Matters amid widespread condemnation after its hosts argued that young women were too ignorant to vote or serve on jury duty.
Host Kimberly Guilfoyle came under fire after arguing that the reason young women don't vote for conservatives is "the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea -- they don't get it," adding that she would automatically exclude them from being on a jury so they can "go back on Tinder or Match.com."
As Huffington Post's Catherine Taibi pointed out, not only is Guilfoyle's argument a "terrible -- and illogical -- idea to convince young people not to vote," but it's also categorically incorrect. Salon's Jenny Kutner wrote that while young women may "be healthy and hot, and possibly even running around, it's doubtful they're all without a care in the world" as Guilfoyle suggested.
From the October 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the October 17 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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The hosts of Fox News' The Five distorted the history behind the rationale for the U.S. war in Iraq by reshaping an investigative report by the New York Times.
Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Dana Perino are giving speeches "sponsored by" major fracking companies while pushing for fracking on Fox.
The conservative commentators spoke at the Shale Insight 2014 conference on September 24-25. The two-day event was organized by the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), an industry lobbying group that advocates for the "development of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale geological formations." MSC members include Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy. The group spent over $900,000 on lobbying in Pennsylvania during the first quarter of this year.
MSC announced at the conference that it's launching an advertising campaign to combat negative connotations about fracking, the controversial method used to extract natural gas from shale rocks. MSC president David J. Spigelmyer said at the conference that "Folks have tried to hijack that word and paint it as something negative ... It's our effort to take that word back."
Both Perino and Hannity's speeches were sponsored by major energy companies.
At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air.
The controversial conservative brothers founded the 501(c)(4) group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and its 501(c)(3) sister group the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in 2004. David Koch has called AFP the group he feels "most closely attached to and most proud of" and chairs AFPF's board. (The Washington Post notes of the IRS code distinction: "A 501(c)(4) is allowed to do considerably more issue advocacy work than a 501(C)(3), however. Neither group has to disclose the identity of its donors or the amounts of money those contributors have given.")
Politico's Ken Vogel reported that AFP "intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group." The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP "may be America's third-biggest political party." In 2012, "More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds."
AFP and AFPF are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post's Paul Blumenthal noted, "It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors' identities -- plus the vast sums of money they move -- that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts."
AFP states that it "mobilizes citizens to effectively make their voices heard in public policy issue campaigns" and "educates citizens about where their elected officials stand on our issues." AFP campaigns have included false attacks about health care reform, clean energy, economic issues, and elected Democrats like President Obama.
Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers' affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.
The Koch/Fox News events are aimed at rallying attendees to support conservative causes and fight progressive initiatives. For example, an invitation for a May event featuring Tucker Carlson stated the rally will "send a message to the Left that we know the truth and support free market solutions." Information for a November 2013 rally with Monica Crowley said participants will "learn how you can fight back against government restrictions, taxes, and out-of-control spending." And an October 2012 event with John Stossel was a "Hands Off My Health Care Rally" which sought "to fully repeal Obama's deeply flawed health care bill."
Media Matters previously documented how numerous Fox News personalities campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
From the June 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox's Dana Perino debunked the right-wing media's attempt to manufacture a scandal around former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's new memoir by claiming that the book reveals that the Obama administration had asked him to lie to the American public.
On May 12 Geithner debuted his new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, detailing his time as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as Treasury Secretary under the Obama administration during the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The book's excerpts promptly became fodder for right-wing media outlets, which latched onto two specific anecdotes to declare that the White House had directed Geithner to lie during appearances on the Sunday political talk shows.
At issue is Geithner's description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011 in which then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer asked him to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote how he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute."
Because of these anecdotes, Geithner's book represents a "new bombshell," according to Fox News, one that may show "the White House playing politics with the American people, perhaps." America's Newsroom anchor Martha MacCallum claimed:
MacCALLUM: Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has a book. In it -- the excerpts have been released today -- he says that the White House asked him to go a Sunday show and say something that was not completely true, because it worked better for them politically. That is what is being suggested here.
But later the same day, on The Five, co-host Dana Perino, who previously served as press secretary under President George W. Bush, responded to allegations from her co-hosts that the White House had asked Geithner to lie. Perino explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint":
PERINO: I can actually understand the Geithner thing. It's like saying, "Hey, can you not try to say this point about Social Security?" I don't think that is asking Geithner to specifically lie. I can understand from a communications standpoint you're asking the principle and the policy person, "How far can you go to say X,Y, or Z?"
Fox News also quoted from "a source close to Geithner" who pointed out that he "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows":
After the anecdote began to generate attention on Monday, a source close to Geithner clarified to Fox News that the former secretary "does not believe he was encouraged to go out and mislead the public on the Sunday shows."
The source said all the former secretary was trying to get across was that Pfeiffer wanted him to "send a signal" to liberals about the president's commitment to not allowing major cuts to Social Security.
Fox News' Dana Perino demonstrated her network's habit of using any story to invoke Benghazi by daring meteorologists who are scheduled to meet with President Obama to ask him about the attack.
On the final segment of The Five, Perino discussed an upcoming event in which national and local TV meteorologists will speak with Obama about climate change issues after the release of the 2014 National Climate Assessment. Perino used the opportunity to reference the Benghazi attacks, saying: "Tomorrow, President Obama is going to do interviews with meteorologists all across the country about a new climate change report. ... I hope they ask him about Benghazi. Like the weatherman from Montana should ask him about Benghazi, that would be great. I dare you."
Perino's line underscores the one common thread behind all of Fox's recent news coverage: invoking Benghazi at every opportunity. After Fox anchors Jon Scott and Jenna Lee cut away from a White House press briefing, promising to return only if Benghazi was being discussed, MSNBC's Steve Benen summed up the network's coverage by pointing out that "Fox has deemed all current events unworthy" unless it pertains to Benghazi:
This is getting a little weird.
By Fox's reasoning, there is only One True News Story. If current events distract from the One True News Story, then current events must be ignored ... while we wait for something to happen with the One True News Story.
That the One True News Story actually happened 20 months ago - it can no longer be accurately characterized as a current event - is a minor detail that should apparently be ignored by real Americans.
Scott added, "Talking about energy efficiency, of all things, right now. But if they get to some questions about this House select committee, how it will work, we will take you back there live."
First, "of all things" is a hilarious phrase in this context. It's as if the Fox host is offended that the White House is addressing an issue that's not the 20-month-old One True News Story - how dare administration officials take energy policy seriously right now, when Fox has deemed all current events unworthy.
On May 2, a Fox host said "we'll go back" to a news conference with Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel only if a reporter asked a question about Benghazi. That day, the network got the formation of the special Benghazi committee it had spent months agitating for. After a Fox correspondent bragged about the role the network played in spurring Republicans to form the committee, the network spent the day pushing Benghazi falsehoods both old and new, and aired a special investigative report about Benghazi.
UPDATE: On the May 6 edition of The Five, Perino responded to coverage of her comment that meteorologists should ask President Obama about Benghazi:
PERINO: When I suggested that the weathermen ask the president about Benghazi, I was joking. So all of you people who have called me the most horrific words today on the left, you can just relax. It was a joke.