"The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over," announced the World Health Organization on May 9, declaring a cautious end to the deadly wave that claimed 4,700 Liberian lives since last summer. That outbreak, of course, eventually sparked panic in the United States last September and October when a handful of Ebola cases were confirmed domestically. Ebola mania raged in the media for weeks and became one of the biggest news stories of 2014.
So how did the American media cover the latest, good-news Ebola story in the days following the WHO announcement? Very, very quietly.
By my count, ABC News devoted just brief mentions of the story on Good Morning America and its Sunday talk show, This Week. On NBC, only the Today show noted the development, while CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News set aside brief mentions. None of the network newscasts have given this Ebola story full segments, according to a transcript search via Nexis.
A scattering of mentions on cable news and a handful of stories including in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, among others, rounded out the remaining coverage in the past week.*
Pretty amazing, considering that late last year the U.S. news media were in the grips of self-induced Ebola hysteria. During one peak week, cable news channels mentioned "Ebola" over 4,000 times, while the Washington Post homepage one night featured at least 15 Ebola-related articles and columns, many of which focused on both the international crisis and the political dynamic, and the problems Ebola was supposedly causing President Obama.
That's not to say the tragic outbreak was not a big story worthy of any news coverage. It was, but American media went into overdrive hyping concerns that a deadly domestic outbreak was imminent -- only to rapidly forget.
The recent look-away coverage from Ebola shouldn't come as a surprise. The American media lost complete interest in the story right after Republicans lost interest in the story, which is to say right after last November's midterm elections, when they brandished Ebola as a partisan weapon.
That's no exaggeration. From Media Matters' research:
From the May 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the May 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the May 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News echoed an unfounded suggestion that a black female Miami police officer who followed military service guidelines by standing at attention during the Pledge of Allegiance might be "Muslim," and therefore disloyal to the United States.
On the April 27 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts reported on a controversy in Miami over a police officer, Assistant Chief Anita Najiy, who did not put her hand over her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. Co-host Steve Doocy noted that military guidelines require that military personnel "stand at attention, remain silent, and face the flag; and that's what she's doing." Nonetheless, the Fox & Friends hosts brought up a baseless accusation by Javier Ortiz, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, that the reason Najiy didn't put her hand over her heart is because she is "Muslim" and "has no respect for the flag or the United States":
DOOCY: The Fraternal Order of Police president suggests this could have been a religious decision. He has suggested that perhaps she is a Muslim. That is not known. But, nonetheless, a lot of waves being made about this video down in Miami.
BRIAN KILMEADE: By the way, if you're a Muslim, I hope it means you can still salute the flag, put your hand on your heart. What does that have to do with it?
ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Well, you know, that would be a great question to ask. And so is it our right to know why someone would opt out of that, how does that make you feel if that is indeed her district, would you want to know?
According to The Miami Herald, Ortiz demanded that Najiy be reprimanded for not covering her heart during the Pledge. The Fraternal Order president claimed that "Assistant Chief Najiy practices in the Muslim faith" and that "There are plenty of police officers in our department that practice the Muslim faith and pledge allegiance to our country and have a problem with her defiance towards the United States." Ortiz even accused Najiy of not being loyal to the U.S., asking, "what country is she loyal and shows allegiance to?"
But Miami Police Major Delrish Moss said it had "nothing to do with personal beliefs" and that Najiy was following military conduct guidelines, which "supercedes police code." And the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, which represents black police officers, blasted Ortiz claims as racist:
"Racism cloaked in patriotism is a huge insult to the American flag, the city of Miami police department," MCPBA President Ella Moore said in a letter she intends to hand personally to Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes.
Najiy, a 32-year veteran, is "the highest ranking black female in the Miami Police Department" and the first female appointed Assistant Chief of Police in the department.
From the April 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
From the April 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News has begun their campaign on behalf of Clinton Cash, an anti-Clinton book authored by a Republican activist and strategist whose history of reporting is marked by errors and retractions. The network reportedly has an "exclusive agreement" to report on the book, published by the network's corporate cousin. According to Fox, the book is "very damning" and will cause a "reverberation" that could "threaten" Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade defended Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after his Fox & Friends colleagues scandalized a Buzzfeed report about comments she made about her grandparents.
During a campaign stop in Iowa, Clinton described how her grandparents immigrated to the United States, and how her grandfather found a steady factory job in Scranton, Pennsylvania. "All my grandparents, you know, came over here," she said according to Buzzfeed, "And you know my grandfather went to work in lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65. He started there when he was a teenager and just kept going."
Buzzfeed subsequently reported that only one of Clinton's parents was born abroad -- Hugh Rodham Sr., who emigrated from the United Kingdom as a child. Buzzfeed noted that a Clinton spokesperson clarified her remarks:
"Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result she has always thought of them as immigrants," a Clinton spokesman told BuzzFeed News." As has been correctly pointed out, while her grandfather was an immigrant, it appears that Hillary's grandmother was born shortly after her parents and siblings arrived in the U.S. in the early 1880s.
But Fox News seized on the comments to attack Clinton as deliberately lying, with Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck saying, "Again we see someone misspeaking, misleading." Co-host Steve Doocy interjected, "She's trying to make a better story, but it's not true." Doocy went on to state that "the Clintons have had a problem with the truth in the past."
But Brian Kilmeade called out his colleagues for manufacturing outrage over such innocuous remarks, asking, "Is it that big a deal?" He defended Clinton's recollection of her family's immigrant heritage despite protests from the other hosts:
KILMEADE: I will defend her on this. I mean, the other day, when Heritage.com came in here, I did not know if my grandmother and grandfather were born here or not, because they came over on the boat....But they did have the immigrant experience.... If you've just come over as opposed to, you weren't over yet, is it that big a deal?
Clinton's retelling of her family's immigrant experience came during remarks she made about the current state of immigration in the United States, and how current policies turn away "people who really want to work" and who are "doing the best they can to try to make a good life for themselves and their families."
Fox News' latent Islamophobia manifested itself during two segments criticizing a Wisconsin high school for asking history students to write about Muslim Americans based on materials covered in class.
On April 2, according to emails initially obtained by right-wing talk radio host Vicki McKenna, world history students at Union Grove High School were asked to write a short essay about daily life for Muslims living in the United States. Students were asked to write five paragraphs in which they "pretend" to be Muslim and briefly outline their daily routine along with any potential "struggles" they might face.
Fox News expressed its concern about the assignment during two segments on the April 15 edition of Fox & Friends, in which co-hosts Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Brian Kilmeade wondered if it was appropriate for students to learn about Islam -- the world's second-largest religion -- in a world history class. At first, Doocy wondered if students wrote about "what Sharia law is," and how they were graded if they did, while Hasselbeck worried that students might not being learning enough about Christianity:
Doocy reiterated his alleged concerns about Sharia law during a later segment, in which he hyped common Islamophobic tropes about the religion being violent and intolerant:
DOOCY: I wonder if they actually, if they did study the religion in this world history class, if they wrote down things like, "If I criticize any part of the Quran, they will kill me," or, "If Muslims marry non-Muslims, they will be put to death," or, "If I'm caught stealing, they'll amputate my right hand." I wonder if they put that kind of stuff in, because that's all part of Sharia law.
After spending over a week denying that Indiana's "religious freedom" law could be used for anti-gay discrimination, Fox News is now contradicting itself by arguing that the law has been "gutted" by new language that prohibits business owners from using it to discriminate.
On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. The measure initially provided a legal defense for those who refused to serve gay customers on religious grounds and sparked a widespread and bipartisan backlash across the country. Criticism of the measure eventually forced Pence and Indiana Republicans to agree to change the law. On April 2, Indiana's RFRA was amended to prohibit its use for individuals and business owners who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Fox News did not respond happily to the change.
On the April 3 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Brian Kilmeade, and Tucker Carlson dedicated two segments to criticizing the law's amendment, decrying the lack of "moral courage" on the part of Pence and claiming the bill had been "gutted" by adding anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. Carlson stated that he couldn't "make any sense of [the amendment] at all, it seems like the law has been completely gutted. It says specifically you can't use this law in court as a defense against denying service on the basis of your religious faith. So like, what's the point of the law in the first place?"
Fox News has been at the forefront of defending Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law, falsely portraying the measure as harmless and whitewashing the anti-LGBT extremism that motivated the legislation.
On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) into law. The law -- which has been criticized by religious leaders, the business community, legal scholars, and even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis -- provides a legal defense for individuals and business owners who cite their religious beliefs while discriminating against LGBT people.
The law triggered a furious national backlash, with major companies, celebrities, and government leaders condemning the measure for potentially encouraging discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers. Pence and top Indiana Republicans eventually pledged to "clarify" the law by adding language that explicitly prohibits RFRA from being used as a defense for discrimination in court.
Throughout the controversy, a number of Fox News personalities whitewashed the law's discriminatory purpose and misleadingly compared Indiana's RFRA to other "religious freedom" laws -- a comparison that even a Fox News anchor acknowledged was inaccurate.
From the April 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
From the March 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News figures criticized President Obama for telling Vice News that the terror group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) grew out of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and falsely suggested that Obama was responsible for withdrawing troops from the region prematurely. President George W. Bush signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraq government in 2008 to withdraw troops from Iraq, and the Iraqi government refused to sign a new agreement.