Fox News figures are dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they're being used and exploited by Democrats, discounting the efforts they have made to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws.
On April 11, the Senate overcame a Republican-led filibuster that tried to block the beginning of debate on stronger gun laws with a 68-31 vote. The impetus for the new gun proposals was driven by the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 victims dead, most of them young children. President Obama had been urging Congress to act to strengthen guns laws in response to the shooting for some time.
According to several Fox News figures, Obama has been using the families of the Newtown shooting victims as props for a political agenda.
On April 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity called the effort to strengthen gun laws "naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families," while his guest Ann Coulter said that Democrats are "play[ing] with these victims." The previous night, Hannity stated that the president "is once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his April 11 radio show that Obama is "using the Newtown families to push for background checks." Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry similarly said on April 9 that "for the second straight day, the White House used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." On his April 9 radio show, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that taking some of the relatives of the Newtown shooting victims to Washington, DC on Air Force One to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
Such an attitude does a disservice to the many Newtown families that want tougher gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Several of the families appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes on April 7 to discuss what kind of gun violence prevention measures they would like to see signed into law, saying that universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines were important. After the vote that broke the GOP's threatened filibuster, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing those who tried block an up-or-down vote on new gun legislation, saying that "[t]he senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy."
Two reports on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier hid Republican support for the across-the-board automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, reinforcing the right-wing narrative that President Obama is the one responsible for these cuts. In reality, a majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate voted for the bill that included the sequester.
Indeed, Republican leaders at the time touted the law as "a victory" and "a positive step forward" for reducing the deficit.
In a press release shortly after the Senate passed the Budget Control Act in August 2011, House Speaker John Boehner celebrated the law as "a positive step forward that begins to rein in federal spending" while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor touted the law as a "significant move" and said it "will finally begin to change the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars."
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan declared the law a "victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy."
But in recent weeks, Fox News and other right-wing media outlets have been aggressively pushing myths about the sequester, including that President Obama is single-handedly responsible for the looming spending cuts.
On Wednesday's edition of Special Report, Fox News' chief White House correspondent Ed Henry framed a report on the sequester around the narrative that it was an Obama initiative and quoted Republican Congressman Randy Forbes blaming Obama for it. Though the report included Democratic Sen. Max Baucus saying that Congress shares the blame for the automatic cuts, Henry did not point out that Republicans not only actively supported the idea but overwhelmingly voted for the law.
In a later segment during the same show, Fox again covered up Republican support for the sequester. Discussing the consequences of the spending cuts, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron said, "President Obama, who first proposed the sequester, and his party, are trying to blame the GOP for dire economic consequences, in particularly to the military. But in 2009 he proposed spending $14 billion less than what the military is currently budgeted for should sequester happen." Cameron did not mention the Republican support.
Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry made a faulty comparison between Chicago and New York City in order to promote conservative opposition to President Obama's proposals to reduce gun violence. While previewing a speech to be delivered by Obama in Chicago, Henry misled by citing the larger number of crime guns seized this year in Chicago compared to New York City to give credence to "conservative critics" who say "gun control may not necessarily be the answer" to reducing gun violence.
HENRY: Now we've looked at the numbers, though, and more than 800 guns have been seized here in Chicago this year, that is nine times what's been seized in New York City and yet there's been 41 gun-related, shooting-related murders in the city. And that's leading conservative critics to say, well wait a second, gun control may not necessarily be the answer, there's a broader problem here.
New York City, the comparison point cited by Henry, has both strong gun laws and a gun homicide rate lower than the national average.*
Henry also ignored the large disparity between New York City and Chicago in terms of the number of illegal firearms annually trafficked into those cities.
Both Chicago and New York City have been effective in preventing a substantial number of firearms that originate in those cities from being used in crime. The city of Chicago does not have any gun stores, although numerous firearms stores operate in the suburbs. In New York City, more than 85 percent of firearms recovered at crime scenes originate from outside of New York state.
Instead, Chicago and New York City crime guns primarily originate from places with weaker gun laws including both intrastate jurisdictions with weaker gun laws and other states with lax gun regulation. New York City and Chicago, however, display significantly different firearms trafficking patterns. In 2011, the latest year of trace data released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF), firearms recovered in crimes were trafficked into Chicago at a per capita rate over four and a half times higher than in New York. In New York City, which has a population of 8.2 million, there were 3,980 recoveries, whereas Chicago with a population of 2.7 million had 6,023 recoveries.
Fox News correspondent Ed Henry concealed the fact that the debt ceiling battle last July damaged the economy. Economic experts agree that the Republicans' brinkmanship during the previous fight over the debt ceiling cost the economy significantly and that another fight over the borrowing limit could be even more costly.
In a segment on the House of Representatives' vote to choose a Speaker of the House, Henry reported that the president signaled he would not debate the debt ceiling because "he believes a year and a half ago when they had that last debate about lifting the nation's debt ceiling it was detrimental to the economy." Although Henry presented this as Obama's opinion, the Government Accountability Office estimated that "delays in raising the debt limit in 2011 led to an increase in Treasury's borrowing costs of about $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2011."
Henry went on to report that Republicans including Senator Mitch McConnell felt the debt ceiling was one of the only mechanisms the Republicans had to force more spending cuts without noting the economic damage the last debt ceiling debate actually caused.
Following the last debt ceiling fight, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S.'s credit rating and released a statement citing "political brinksmanship" and the threat of default as "political bargaining chips" among its reasons for the downgrade. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that "the ten-year cost to taxpayers caused by the delay in raising the debt limit will amount to $18.9 billion."
Moody's Analytics, another credit rating agency, warned last June that a downgrade was possible if the debt ceiling was not raised and Congress came close to default.
Not only was the previous debt ceiling fight costly and unnecessary, but economic experts say that a similar standoff would be even more costly. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote that "the damage from the U.S. government defaulting on its obligations, even briefly, would be serious and lasting." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein warned that by holding up an increase in the debt ceiling to exact spending cuts, the GOP is threatening a "congressionally induced global financial crisis."
Henry's report failed to note any of the real damage to the economy caused by the last walk to the brink of default. Fox News loudly supported the previous GOP attempt to use the debt ceiling to reap spending cuts, encouraging a default if necessary.
From the December 1 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Fox News has seized on what it believes is a new angle to continue making an issue of the Obama administration's response to the Libya terrorist attack. Discussing President Obama's news conference on Wednesday, Fox treated Obama's statement that the White House chose Ambassador Susan Rice to discuss the attack publicly as new and "significant," claiming Obama's admission is "one of the most important parts" of what he said during his press conference.
It's unclear why Fox believes Obama's statement is significant considering Rice's position as a top official in the Obama administration.
In her capacity as one of the United States' top diplomats -- she was nominated by President Obama as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in January 2009 -- Rice is a member of the Obama administration whose job is to speak for the White House on government decisions and policy.
Not only that, but the White House's reasons for why it specifically asked Rice to discuss the situation in Benghazi publicly have been known for at least a month. The Washington Post reported on October 15: "The White House has said that it turned to Rice to make the administration's case on the Benghazi attack because it made sense to have a top diplomat speak to the loss of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens."
On September 16, five days after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Rice appeared on the Sunday talk shows to talk about what the administration knew about the attack. In the interviews, Rice made clear that definitive conclusions would only follow from an administration investigation, which she stressed was under way.
OBAMA: [L]et me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace. As I've said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.
If Senator [John] McCain and Senator [Lindsay] Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.
Discussing his comments on Fox News' America Live, however, host Megyn Kelly and Fox contributor Kirsten Powers expressed surprise at Obama's statement that Rice's appearances on the Sunday talk shows were "at the request of the White House."
Powers claimed the admission was "probably one of the most important parts" of what Obama said, "which is admitting that the White House is the one who told her what to say and that this did come from the White House, which had been mostly been speculated upon."
From the November 7 edition of Fox News' America's Election Headquarters:
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Fox News furthered its efforts to protect Mitt Romney from fact checks, claiming today that moderator and CNN host Candy Crowley interrupted a "major moment" for Romney during the presidential debate when she corrected his lie that President Obama did not immediately characterize the September 11 attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
During the October 16 debate, Crowley stepped in to debunk Romney's claim that it took 14 days for Obama to characterize as terrorism the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. As she noted, Obama "did call it an act of terror" the day after the attack.
Addressing the nation on September 12 about the attack, Obama said: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America."
The next day in Colorado, Obama again referred to the Benghazi attack as an act of terror.
But during today's broadcast of Fox's America Live, host Megyn Kelly faulted Crowley rather than Romney, saying that Crowley "interrupted Governor Romney in the middle of an exchange with the president about the terror attack in Libya."
In the past month, Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly misrepresented and smeared women's health activist Sandra Fluke and falsely claimed that she has advocated for universal taxpayer-funded contraception. In fact, as she made clear in her testimony in front of a congressional panel in February, Fluke was voicing support for the health care mandate that requires private health insurance plans -- which women already pay for -- to cover women's preventive health services without a co-pay.
The mandate is intended only for private health insurance companies where premiums are paid by individuals, often through their employer -- not the taxpayer. Religious organizations are exempt from complying with this requirement.
O'Reilly has criticized and misrepresented Fluke's testimony five times in the last four weeks, most recently on September 18 during his interview with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart:
After Stewart described Fluke as speaking "about an issue close to her heart," O'Reilly interjected, "and her hand in my wallet at the same time." He then asked, "Do you want to pay for this woman's birth control?" adding, "She wants everybody['s contraception] to get paid for."
A Nexis search reveals that in addition to Tuesday night, O'Reilly has said:
In addition, O'Reilly has repeatedly attacked or facilitated attacks on Fluke on his show:
Rushing to claim Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick of Rep. Paul Ryan had immediately "altered" the White House race by making it seem "more consequential," as the New York Times framed it, reporters and pundits quickly coalesced around the claim that Ryan's presence would usher in a more "substantive" phase of the campaign.
Pointing to Ryan's work as the chairman of the House Budget Committee and his authorship of the Republicans' budget blueprint, which has become a rallying point for movement conservatives, the press generously insisted that not only is Ryan a serious player and important public policy wonk, but that his inclusion in the campaign would quickly elevate the level of the debate, as well as how the press covers the campaign.
The new narrative, which must have pleased Romney aides, was born nearly the moment word of the VP announcement was leaked Saturday morning. CNN's Wolf Blitzer quickly reported the race was about to get "much more substantive," while colleague Gloria Borger agreed, suggesting, "the debate is going to shift onto a very substantive ground."
Over at Fox News, Carl Cameron assured viewers the arrival of Ryan meant the debate "will be a more substantive one than a lot of back-biting and name calling that we've seen in the last few weeks."
And Fox's Ed Henry echoed the same point, stressing that the press would soon be able to shift gears in terms of its coverage:
HENRY: We've spent a lot over the last few days talking about some of these attack ads and who's been going after who on personal, negative attacks. This Ryan addition to the ticket might focus it in a bit more on some of those substantive policy issues that Mitt Romney's been saying he wants to focus on.
See, thanks to Ryan the press will finally be able to cover substance! This, from the same process-obsessed press corps that spent weeks treating as news the trumped-up claim that Obama had dissed business owners on the campaign trail?
Excuse me, but was anyone stopping the press from covering substantive issues prior to the Ryan pick? The whole premise that up until Saturday the 2012 presidential campaign had been void of substance and it's only the arrival of Ryan n that will rescue the race from triviality is absurd.
Special Report guest host Shannon Bream falsely claimed that the Obama campaign is suing to prevent military voters in Ohio from having extra time to cast their ballots. In reality, the lawsuit seeks to allow all voters in Ohio to cast their ballots during the window open to military personnel and their families. The lawsuit does not seek to restrict voting by military families in any way.
Correspondent Ed Henry followed with a misleading report that included a clip of Mitt Romney saying that it would be a disservice to members of the military to try to impede them from voting. But Henry did not cite any evidence that the lawsuit is intended to impede military voting.
As The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on July 18, "Now, only uniformed military personnel, their spouses and their voting-age dependents [in Ohio] can vote through Monday, the day before the Nov. 6 election. Everyone else must vote by the Friday before Election Day. The campaign says that means all Ohio voters aren't being treated fairly and that's a violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause" (via Nexis).
From the August 3 edition of Special Report:
People who watch Fox News closely are familiar with the fact that Fox has been misleading viewers with deceptively edited videos for years. On the June 26 edition of Special Report, Fox aired an edited clip of President Obama that is interesting because it is symbolic of the whole story Fox is trying to tell about the 2012 presidential election.
During a report about the campaign, correspondent Ed Henry noted that some Democrats are not planning to attend this summer's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Then, he aired an edited clip of President Obama's speech at a June 26 campaign event in Atlanta:
HENRY: [Sen. Claire] McCaskill is the ninth no-show so far among officeholders across the country, including Pennsylvania Congressman Mark Critz. Critz's office bluntly notes internal polls show in his district, the president is down double digits to presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
OBAMA: They'll say, you know, the economy is bad, and it's Obama's fault. [break] And because times are tough and because they're spending these ungodly sums, you know, it's going to be close.
HENRY: While the president did not complain about big money last time, when he enjoyed a massive edge over Republican John McCain, his campaign aides privately say Romney may raise $100 million this month alone, which is why the president today penned a fundraising letter warning supporters, "I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his re-election campaign." [emphasis added]
The White House transcript of the event in Atlanta reveals what Fox News didn't think was worthy of inclusion in its report (in bold):
OBAMA: [T]his is still going to be a close election because the economy is still tough and folks are still frustrated. And what that means is that you're going to have more money spent in this election than ever before by the other side on negative ads. And their message will be simple. They'll say, the economy is bad and it's Obama's fault. (Laughter.) They suffer a little bit of amnesia so they don't remember -- (applause) -- all the stuff that happened before I was sworn into office, but that's going to be their message.
And because times are tough, and because they're spending these ungodly sums, it's going to be close.
Fox is doing its best to sweep away this very fact: that the economy was in a time of historic trouble before Obama took office.
Following the Obama administration's announcement that it will grant certain undocumented immigrants the chance to be exempted from deportation, Fox News claimed President Obama had issued the decision as an executive order, implying he did so to circumvent Congress. In fact, the change is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that is consistent with the current law and has decades of precedent.
In recent interviews, President Clinton and former White House economic adviser Larry Summers agreed with President Obama that Congress should not extend the Bush tax cuts for wealthy households. But Fox News distorted their comments to falsely claim that Clinton and Summers are in favor of extending them for all households, and thus are "at odds" with Obama.
While numerous news outlets have already issued corrections for misrepresenting comments economist Larry Summers, a former Obama economic adviser, made about extending the Bush tax cuts, Fox News is still pretending that Summers said something he didn't.
During an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning, Summers warned that "we've got to make sure that we don't take the gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year," adding, "That's got to be the top priority. We've got to make sure that we keep providing energy to the economy."
The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and others took those comments to mean that Summers had endorsed extending the Bush tax cuts. In fact, as both outlets later admitted, Summers said no such thing.
In fact, the misrepresentation is particularly glaring considering that immediately after his comments about "making sure there's the energy to keep the economy growing," Summers specifically alluded to the fact that the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes. From the MSNBC interview:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Larry Summers, let's start with you. You heard Bill Clinton talking about the tax cuts. We had terrible unemployment numbers coming out last week. What would you advise the president to do at this point?
SUMMERS: Look, the real risk to this economy is on the side of slowdowns, certainly not on the side of overheating. And that means we've got to make sure that we don't take the gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year. That's got to be the top priority. We've got to make sure that we keep providing energy to the economy.
And the areas where we've done that, like manufacturing with the support for the automobile industry, we haven't had great results but we've had much better results. In the areas where we weren't able to do what we wanted to do, areas like preserving jobs for teachers, areas like construction and investment and maintenance of the country's infrastructure, you look at the employment report, and we've really got terrible results.
So the key priority has got to be, for the short run, making sure there's the energy to keep the economy growing 'cause we're not going to do anything about the deficit unless we do that.