Fox News spread fears that new military instructions that grant commanders the discretion to accommodate service members' religious practices and physical appearance will threaten the core military values and cohesion of the troops despite the fact that the Pentagon requires these accommodations be made on an individual basis in consideration to the health and safety needs of each unit.
On January 22, the Department of Defense released new instructions on accommodations for religious expression -- instructions which they believe will reduce discrimination "toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command." The Washington Post reports the new instructions will ensure "rights of religious-minority service members to display their beliefs outwardly -- such as wearing a turban, scarf or beard -- as long as the practices do not interfere with military discipline, order or readiness."
On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade turned to Fox's go-to anti-Muslim activist, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser who attacked the rule change as a threat to military readiness. Jasser argued that the rule change might be manipulated by "pseudo-civil rights groups that are really trying to weaken our unit cohesion, weaken mission readiness, and ultimately tee up the football for litigation Jihad or people like -- monsters like -- Nidal Hasan who want to wear a beard." Kilmeade agreed, adding "if your religion conflicts with what the rules are in the military, do something else."
Later in the show, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck invoked the story of former army officer, Nidal Hasan, convicted of killing 13 people on a military base in Fort Hood, Texas to stoke fears that the new policy might hurt safety and unit cohesion:
HASSELBECK: You can't help but think, I mean, people are harkening back to Nidal Hasan asking to maintain and grow a beard while a trial was going on. I think it definitely brings up concerns, both for safety, unified front, and just cohesion.
But the new instructions came after a long struggle on the part of religious minority groups like Sikh, Jewish, and Muslim Americans who have previously been barred from serving in the military due to the strict dress and personal appearance standards. The new instructions will allow military departments to accommodate individual religious expression, but each individual will still have to be granted permission from his or her unit to assure that physical appearances "do not interfere with good order and discipline."
The Washington Post further clarified that these new accommodations will not be allowed to affect safety or military readiness:
According to the Pentagon, requests for such religious accommodation will still be decided on an individual basis but will generally be denied only if the item impairs the safe use of military equipment; poses a health or safety hazard; interferes with wearing a uniform, a helmet or other military gear; or "impairs the accomplishment of the military mission."
Fox News thinks it's "heartbreaking" that a "one-sided" pro-fracking film was rejected from a film festival in Minnesota, questioning the right to "freedom of speech." But the screening was canceled simply because it did not live up to the festival's standards.
On January 23, Fox and Friends hosted Phelim McAleer, director of the pro-fracking film called FrackNation, to complain about the film's cancellation from the Frozen River Film Festival. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck lamented that the cancellation "has to just be heartbreaking," that Ireland-native McAleer came to America "to express [his] freedom of thought [and] expression." In McAleer's eyes, the festival organizers "don't want the people of Minnesota to be exposed to an alternative point of view." Co-host Steve Doocy ended the segment by asking, "Freedom of speech? You be the judge."
Doocy has previously answered his own question, acknowledging that "a private company can do anything they want" and it's "not [a] free speech [issue]."
A chyron during the segment stated that "MCALEER REJECTED INDUSTRY FINANCING FOR FILM." However, a review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that "scores of energy industry associates" donated to the film's Kickstarter campaign, which was promoted by several pro-industry lobbying groups. What's more, McAleer and his co-director Ann McElhinney previously produced two anti-environment films openly funded by the fossil fuel industry. They are both listed as "experts" on the Heartland Institute's website, an organization infamous for climate change denial. It's no wonder that the San Francisco Chronicle previously dubbed McAleer "climate denial's Michael Moore" for his misleading film portraying global warming as "junk science."
The festival organizers cited the film's industry ties as one reason that they decided to cancel it, following in the footsteps of the Sundance Film Festival and Telluride's Mountian Film Festival (Frozen River's partner festival).
While Fox News noted that the film was called "methodically researched" by the New York Times, other movie reviewers have panned it. A Los Angeles Times review called it a "one-sided attack piece" that "doesn't add much to the conversation." The New York Daily News gave it a whopping one-star review, and wrote, "the accuracy of this crowd-sourced documentary -- funded by small donations on Kickstarter -- seems as reliable as a Wikipedia entry."
A new right-wing media narrative is brandishing out-of-context statistics on inherited wealth to argue that lower-income Americans are disproportionately benefiting from inherited wealth transfers, unlike the wealthiest Americans who earn their wealth with hard work.
As a national dialogue heats up over the problem of global and domestic income inequality, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others are rushing to the defense of the wealthiest Americans by claiming that low-income Americans simply don't work as hard as their wealthy peers. As evidence, the conservative outlets are pointing to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study showing top income brackets inherit a smaller percentage of their wealth than do lower income Americans, a finding that, according to National Review's Kevin Williamson, proves that rich Americans "work more -- a lot more."
The January 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted Williamson to discuss his theory, and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced his segment by saying, "It's easy to assume that the rich inherit their money without earning it. But in reality, under 15 percent of top income earners inherit their wealth, while more than 40 percent of lower income earners inherit theirs." Fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade added, "So how does the rich really make their money? ... By hard work! That's the conclusion. Wealthy households tend to have four times the amount of full-time workers than poorer households."
Rush Limbaugh read from the National Review post on the January 21 edition of his radio show, stating that "The middle class and the poor, a greater percentage of their assets come from inheritance than from working, rich Americans. The country would be far better off if more people actually lived the way the top 20 percent do. If they actually worked like the top 20 percent do."
Ignoring the fact that Limbaugh, Friends, and National Review are attacking a straw man -- they never identify anyone who is arguing that wealthy Americans don't work hard -- their argument omits an important statistic from the BLS study they cite: The average value of "wealth transfers" (of which inheritances are a large percentage) to low-income Americans versus those to wealthier Americans.
BLS did indeed find that among the households in the highest income brackets, transfers accounted for only 12.6 percent of net worth. What Fox and the like omit is the fact that the average value of wealth transfers received by the top 1 percent of U.S. households was a whopping $1,045,200 in 2007. That's twenty-five times the average value of inheritances for households in the lowest income bracket, whose average inheritance was $42,000 the same year. For lower-income earners, 42 grand is a large chunk of their total wealth. But the average wealth of households in the top 1 percent isaround $16,439,400 -- so a million dollar inheritance is not as impactful.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration's reluctance to sidestep legal considerations that prevent the government from indiscriminately waging war without congressional approval and suggested that it was possible for the military to "just get the SOBs who killed our people."
On January 13, the House Armed Services Committee released a series of declassified transcripts of briefings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on an American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. The review debunked right-wing myths about the attack and further revealed that the administration has been hampered in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice because of the legal limits imposed by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorizes military action against al Qaeda and its "associated forces." According to the Senate report's transcript of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey's October 10, 2013 testimony, the attack's leaders do not fall under AUMF's authority:
DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, the individuals related in the Benghazi attack, those that we believe were either participants or leadership of it are not authorized use of military force. In other words, they don't fall under the AUMF authorized by the Congress of the United States. So we would not have the capability to simply find them and kill them, either with a remotely-piloted aircraft or with an assault on the ground. Therefore, they will have to be captured, and we would, when asked, provide capture options to do that.
Fox News reported on this revelation during the January 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends. Co-host Steve Doocy dismissed the legal constraints by claiming that the administration has "too many lawyers on the staff." Responding to co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck's complaints that the rules are "awfully wordy" and "disheartening," guest host Clayton Morris claimed that "it doesn't make any sense" suggesting that it could be "some sort of excuse [...] for not having any assets in the area."
During the January 17 edition of Fox & Friends Hasselbeck and Fox's Geraldo Rivera downplayed the need for the AUF restrictions and claimed that the Obama administration's adherence to them constituted a politicization of the attacks. Rivera suggested Obama put aside "politics" by ignoring AUMF and "go get the SOBs who killed our people." From the show (emphasis added):
HASSELBECK: When things are ever-evolving, in terms of al-Qaeda and the changes that take course, it seems as though it evolved, and therefore this should also evolve, right in terms of who is approved and authorized.
RIVERA: You're being much too logical, Elisabeth, because to say that Ansar al-Sharia is al-Qaeda is to say that the Benghazi tragedy where Ambassador Stevens and the others were killed was an al-Qaeda operation. The politics of this country is such that we are divided now. Was it an al-Qaeda operation, was it a spontaneous militia --activity that grew out of the reaction to this anti-Muslim film --
CO-HOST STEVE DOOCY: The Senate said last week it was al-Qaeda-related.
GERALDO: Well now we have to convey that to our military leaders, and say, listen, as Congressman Peter King is now suggesting, for the purposes of the Authorization of Military Force[s] Act, we believe now that the people that killed our ambassador in Benghazi and our other three heroes was an al-Qaeda operation. Just for that. No more politics. Put it aside. Let's just get the SOBs who killed our people, get them with the best force we have, and that's the SEAL teams and drone strikes.
But Fox's assertion that the administration's concerns are "political" and that AUMF standards could be stretched to apply to any foreign actors perceived as a threat fundamentally misunderstands the legal constraints placed on the president by congress.
As The New York Times explained, the language of the original AUMF is limited, focusing specifically on the actors that "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001":
It gives the president the power to attack "nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
In early 2013, The Washington Post reported that administration officials have become increasingly concerned about the legality of continuing to rely on the 2001 document in responding to an increasingly decentralized threat (emphasis added):
The authorization law has already been expanded by federal courts beyond its original scope to apply to "associated forces" of al-Qaeda. But officials said legal advisers at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are now weighing whether the law can be stretched to cover what one former official called "associates of associates."
The debate has been driven by the emergence of groups in North Africa and the Middle East that may embrace aspects of al-Qaeda's agenda but have no meaningful ties to its crumbling leadership base in Pakistan. Among them are the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Ansar al-Sharia, which was linked to the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. They could be exposed to drone strikes and kill-or-capture missions involving U.S. troops.
Officials said they have not ruled out seeking an updated authorization from Congress or relying on the president's constitutional powers to protect the country. But they said those are unappealing alternatives.
The authorization makes no mention of "associated forces," a term that emerged only in subsequent interpretations of the text. But even that elastic phrase has become increasingly difficult to employ.
In a speech last year at Yale University, Jeh Johnson, who served as general counsel at the Defense Department during Obama's first term, outlined the limits of the AUMF.
"An 'associated force' is not any terrorist group in the world that merely embraces the al-Qaeda ideology," Johnson said. Instead, it has to be both "an organized, armed group that has entered the fight alongside al-Qaeda" and a "co-belligerent with al-Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
Moreover, the Post report highlighted that administration officials and independent experts' shared concerns about the legality using the authorization to target Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. Harvard national security law expert Jack Goldsmith said that tying the AUMF to groups like Ansar al-Sharia would be "a major interpretive leap" and stated that the "[t]he AUMF is becoming increasingly obsolete because the groups that are threatening us are harder and harder to tie to the original A.Q. organization."
The lack of nuance in Fox's attacks are nothing new for the network. Fox consistently prefers overhyped misinformation to evidence-based findings. The network has previously denied the findings of a lengthy investigation by The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick, which definitively debunked the myth that al Qaeda played a central role in planning the attack.
Fox News misled viewers by claiming that new Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment statistics mean that the law will be unable to "balance the books" -- ignoring the many safeguards in the program designed to maintain cost stability and expert analysis that has found that the current number of young enrollees meets the bar for maintaining the program's sustainability.
From the January 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News praised Gov. Chris Christie's handling of the bridge scandal plaguing his administration as a "lesson in leadership" despite the many lingering questions surrounding his office's involvement in the story.
Gov. Christie held a nearly two-hour long press conference on January 9 amidst allegations that a four-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, NJ may have been orchestrated by his administration as political retribution. Christie has denied involvement for months, and the story exploded into a full-blown scandal on January 8 when emails and text messages published by a local paper suggested that Christie's deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and a Christie appointee at the Port Authority colluded to close access lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create massive gridlock.
On the January 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck praised Christie's press conference, saying it "really indicated to many what leadership looked like after facing a crisis."
The Fox hosts went on to argue that the Obama administration could learn a lot from Christie's "brilliant" response:
Not all media was as taken with Christie's performance. In contrast to Fox, The New York Times' editorial board wrote that Christie's press conference left "plenty of questions that Mr. Christie and his aides, current and former, need to answer." According to The Times, Christie's "version of reality simply does not add up" and that until "full and conclusive investigation can restore public trust" Christie "has zero credibility":
First, is it plausible that officials as high up as Ms. Kelly and Mr. Christie's top appointees at the Port Authority, which controls the bridge, would decide to seek revenge and create this traffic chaos on their own?
Did Mr. Christie know in December, when Mr. Baroni and Mr. Wildstein resigned, that these two members of his inner circle had taken part in the scheme? Did he ever ask them what happened?
The email documents released on Wednesday were heavily redacted. Why? And when will the full emails be made public?
Why did Mr. Christie insist that the traffic snarl was connected to a "traffic study," even after Port Authority officials denied there was any such study? Did he try to get the Port Authority to stop its own internal investigation of the problem?
NBC News had similar concerns, reporting that in the press conference Christie did not "resolve the mystery behind the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge in September" or why local officials working to investigate the jam "got no help," listing six "of the most pressing" questions that Christie left unanswered.
Right-wing media were quick to discount a report from The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick that debunked favored conservative claims, but the outlets offered scant evidence to contest Kirkpatrick's findings. Instead, they resorted to questioning the Times' actions during the attack, baselessly claiming that the paper "whitewash[ed]" Hillary Clinton's culpability, and scouring outdated reporting to hype a tenuous Al Qaeda connection.
Fox News downplayed the surge in health care enrollment numbers to stoke fears about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ignoring options to renew health plans, tax credits, and Medicaid enrollments while falsely claiming that 7 million enrollees were necessary for the law's success.
2013 was an epic year of right-wing media misinforming the public on the health care debate, particularly on women's health issues. Ignoring women's health experts, conservative media spent this year stoking fears about everything from birth control to maternity care, ignoring science, distorting state and federal regulations, and demonizing women's health care options in the process. These are the top six scare tactics from 2013.
Fox News attacked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney for accurately pointing out that the Affordable Care Act has led to millions in refunds for health insurance consumers, falsely claiming his statement was "Obamacare spin."
During a December 16 press briefing, Carney highlighted the refunds that health insurance consumers received because of a provision in the ACA that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium funds on health care services. Companies that spend more than 20 percent of the premium dollars they take in on administrative costs like salaries and marketing must reimburse consumers for the lost value.
Fox & Friends co-hosts attacked Carney's statements on December 17 while an on-screen graphic labelled Carney's comments "Obamacare Spin." Co-host Steve Doocy claimed that Carney had "tried to sell the line" that millions have already seen savings. Doocy and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck went on to ridicule Carney's point:
DOOCY: Don't you think if there was a line of people, they would be right behind him? 'I saved 300 bucks, I saved 900 bucks, Our deductible got lower.'
HASSELBECK: Right, with signs.
DOOCY: Where are those people?
HASSELBECK: Maybe make a t-shirt. You know, they would be there.
HASSELBECK: Well, you know who is on to that? Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said no, those people that you're talking about, Jim Carney, they don't exist. It's actually getting worse.
But the savings that Carney mentioned do exist. According Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services data, "the 77.8 million consumers in the three markets covered by this 80/20 rule saved $3.4 billion" in up-front medical costs in 2012 and a further "$500 million in rebates, with 8.5 million enrollees due to receive an average rebate of approximately $100 per family." As CMS noted, counsumers could receive these rebates as checks in the mail, a direct reimbursement to the account used to pay for the plan, a deduction from the following year's premium, or if coverage was employer-sponsored, the employer could receive the rebate directly -- but would be required to use the funds "for your benefit." These savings were an increase from 2011:
Fox News again acted as the communications arm of the GOP, promoting a health care plan from Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) that could leave millions without coverage, do nothing to constrain the rise of health costs, and allow insurers to discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions.
On the December 16 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck interviewed Price, presenting his proposal, the Empowering Patients First Act, as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that "could save this country trillions of dollars." While an on-air graphic described Price's plan as an "Obamacare alternative," Hasselbeck endorsed the proposal, saying, "[w]e have the support behind you on this in terms of what I've read so far."
But Fox's endorsement of Price's plan glossed over significant flaws with the bill, including the fact that Price's proposal has already failed twice in Congress and that plans like Price's have been tried, and failed, in the past. As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein reported in 2009, The Empower Patients First Act "won't work" as its "version of the health insurance exchanges will collapse pretty quickly." According to Klein, Price's plan fails to include an individual mandate that would ensure the coverage pool would include both healthy and sick consumers and does nothing to prevent insurers from cherrypicking enrollees. As Klein noted, "this looks much like the reforms that collapsed in Texas, and in California":
Price's bill has a couple of good ideas in it: Automatic enrollment, for one thing. And extending the employer tax deduction to individuals while capping it at "the average value of the national health exclusion for Employer Sponsored Insurance (family/singles) grown at inflation." This amounts to a huge tax increase, incidentally, although Price won't call it that.
But the plan won't work. In particular, its version of the health insurance exchanges will collapse pretty quickly. There's no individual mandate ensuring that the pool includes both healthy and sick individuals, no insurance market regulations stopping insurers from cherrypicking, and no risk adjustment rebalancing the scales when they do. In other words, this looks much like the reforms that collapsed in Texas, and in California. Price isn't learning from past policy mistakes, and so he means to repeat them.
Price also endorsed selling insurance across state lines, a proposal that the New America Foundation found would increase premiums for many consumers while decreasing the level of coverage:
The New America report, entitled, "Across State Lines Explained: Why Selling Health Insurance Across State Lines is Not the Answer," found that under across state lines proposals premiums would increase for many people, health insurance benefits would become less generous, and more Americans would likely become uninsured over time.
"Selling health insurance across state lines would have a devastating impact on the health insurance marketplace and will not work for many Americans. This approach fails to introduce the incentives necessary to move insurers to a 21st Century business model that prioritizes care coordination and high value care over marketing and underwriting," said Len M. Nichols, Director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation and coauthor of the report.
"In fact, selling health insurance across state lines represents a step backwards not only for the health insurance marketplace, but also and more importantly for the American people who struggle everyday to secure quality, affordable coverage," Nichols continued.
Fox's decision to highlight Price's proposal is just another example of the network's long history of work as the communications arm of the GOP. The information provided on the plan, including figures pushed by Holtz-Eakin, who served as CBO director under President George W. Bush and policy advisor to then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, comes directly from Price's own talking points.
A senior attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a far-right legal organization beloved by Fox News personalities, cheered India's Supreme Court for reinstating that country's ban on gay sex, calling the decision a model for the United States. ADF's support for the decision came a week after Fox host Bill O'Reilly praised the group on-air.
On December 11, India's Supreme Court restored a colonial-era law banning "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." The ruling overturned a 2009 ruling by the Delhi High Court finding the law unconstitutional. Under the 1861 statute, gay sex is punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
Benjamin Bull, executive director of ADF Global, gave a December 12 interview with the news service of the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association and applauded the decision. Bull contrasted the Indian ruling with the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling overturning anti-sodomy laws:
"When given the same choice the Supreme Court of the United States had in Lawrence vs. Texas, the Indian Court did the right thing," says Bull, which was choose to "protect society at large rather than give in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates."
The net effect is to protect the integrity of the family and by extension to protect traditional marriage.
In the Texas case, the state's high court struck down sodomy laws in a 6-3 decision that affected similar laws in other states.
The Texas case "laid the groundwork for the invalidation of traditional marriage by a number of courts subsequent to that," the attorney explains.
The Indian Supreme Court saw what had happened there "and was wise enough not to want to go down that road."
"America needs to take note that a country of 1.2 billion people has rejected the road towards same-sex marriage, and understood that these kinds of bad decisions in the long run will harm society," he adds.
The language of the Indian statute is identical to that found in many other current and former colonies of the British Empire, including Belize. In that country, ADF has supplied lawyers to defend the criminalization of gay sex.
Undisturbed by the group's rabidly anti-LGBT positions, Fox News has long maintained a cozy relationship with ADF. In an interview on his December 2 show, Bill O'Reilly effusively thanked ADF senior vice president Doug Napier for his group's efforts to combat the manufactured "War on Christmas." "God bless you, each and every one," O'Reilly gushed. Before O'Reilly's sycophantic interview, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson solicited donations for the group. Meanwhile, Fox reporters Shannon Bream, Megyn Kelly, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck have hosted ADF lawyers for one-sided interviews on the imagined dangers of anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people.
With the ADF giving its full-throated backing to the Indian court ruling and urging the U.S. to "take note" of the development, the organization has again demonstrated that its claims of "defending freedom" are little more than an Orwellian fraud. The question is whether Fox will continue to play along; and based on its track record, it seems the answer is yes.
Fox's Elisabeth Hasselbeck interviewed the owner of a Colorado bakery who was recently found to have violated the state's non-discrimination law by refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, asking if he believed his rights had been violated by efforts to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination.
During the December 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Hasselbeck invited Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, to discuss a recent ruling by a Colorado judge that found that Phillips had violated that state's law against discrimination when he refused to serve a same-sex couple. Phillips was joined by his attorney Nicolle Martin, who does volunteer work at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group notorious for pushing for the criminalization of homosexuality internationally.
During the segment - which featured a graphic declaring "The Death Of Free Enterprise" - Hasselbeck asked Phillips why he believed he shouldn't have to abandon his "personal religious beliefs just to make a buck":
Right-wing media are dismissing President Obama's and Congressional Democrats' work on filibuster reform, a diplomatic agreement with Iran, and immigration reform as merely attempts to distract from the Affordable Care Act.