Right-wing media are celebrating now that the conservative justices of the Supreme Court have issued their unprecedented ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, with the Court adopting a number of conservative myths in the decision that allows sex discrimination in the name of corporate religion.
On June 30, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court -- five men and no women -- held that "closely held" for-profit secular corporations like Hobby Lobby are exempt under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) from the "contraception mandate." This so-called mandate, a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), requires employer-sponsored health insurance to cover comprehensive preventive health care, including birth control. In so holding, the Court's decision in Hobby Lobby gave credence to some of the worst conservative myths that have been steadily advanced by right-wing media.
The fact that Hobby Lobby likely employs workers who have no moral or religious dispute with contraception didn't seem to be of much concern to outlets like The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, or Fox News. From the start, NRO framed the case as a David and Goliath-like scenario, with the Green family owners of Hobby Lobby as victims of the federal government -- despite the fact that Hobby Lobby is a massive corporation, owned by billionaires, with hundreds of stores across the country. Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck went so far as to call the contraception mandate evidence of the "moral decay" of the Obama administration's policies. For right-wing media, the religious beliefs of the owners took precedence over those of their female employees. Apparently, the Supreme Court agreed.
The Court attempted to limit its decision to "closely held" corporations like Hobby Lobby, but according to experts, more than 90 percent of corporations are considered to be "closely held." In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito downplayed the significance of the Hobby Lobby decision's expansion of the concept of corporate personhood, writing that "a corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends" and claiming there was nothing radical about extending rights "whether constitutional or statutory" to for-profit secular corporations. His opinion conflated these businesses with non-profits just as right-wing media had urged.
The religious rights of the employees, now held hostage by their employers' moral objections, did not appear to make much of an impact on the Court's conservative majority.
Moreover, wrote Alito, the birth control requirement was not "the least restrictive means" of achieving the "compelling governmental interest" of ensuring no-cost comprehensive preventive health care services for everyone. Instead, said the majority, the government should "assume the cost of providing the contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers' religious objections," thus shifting the employee-earned benefit of health insurance from a billion-dollar corporation to the general public.
It was enough for Alito that the Greens "sincerely believed" that the contraceptives at issue in the case are "abortifacients" -- echoing right-wing media's constant confusion of the two -- even though they really, really aren't.
Fox News is reviving accusations that NASA's peer-reviewed adjustments to temperature data are an attempt to "fak[e]" global warming, a claim that even a climate "skeptic" threw cold water on.
Tony Heller, a birther who criticizes climate science under the pseudonym "Steven Goddard," wrote a blog post that claimed "NASA cooled 1934 and warmed 1998, to make 1998 the hottest year in US history instead of 1934." After the Drudge Report promoted a report of this allegation by the conservative British newspaper The Telegraph, conservative media from Breitbart to The Washington Times claimed the data was "fabricated" or "faked." On June 24, Fox & Friends picked it up, claiming that "the U.S. has actually been cooling since the 1930s" but scientists had "faked the numbers":
However, the libertarian magazine Reason noted that even climate "skeptic" blogger Anthony Watts said that Goddard made "major errors in his analysis" and criticized the implication that "numbers are being plucked out of thin air in a nefarious way."
In fact, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and NASA, which both maintain temperature records that use slightly different methods but show close agreement, have publicly documented the peer-reviewed adjustments they make to raw data. NCDC states that the "most important bias in the U.S. temperature record occurred with the systematic change in observing times from the afternoon, when it is warm, to morning, when it is cooler," and so it must correct this cool bias as well as other biases that, for example, result from moving temperature stations.
NASA's data shows that the nation has not been "cooling" since the 1930s, with several years, including 2012, ranking hotter than 1934 in the continental United States, along with a long-term warming trend. And while The Sean Hannity Show claimed that this shows the "Earth has been cooling," the continental United States makes up less than 2 percent of the Earth's surface -- global surface temperatures have increased significantly.
Fox News attempted to legitimize its hosts' conspiracy theory that the timing of Ahmed Abu Khattala's capture was "curious" by pretending the speculation originated outside the network.
Ahmed Abu Khattala was taken into U.S. custody on June 17 for his role in helping lead the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Immediately, Fox anchors questioned the "curious timing" of Khattala's capture, speculating that it was intended to help President Obama in the polls or to give Hillary Clinton a good headline for an upcoming Fox News interview. After the breaking report on Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott pointed out that Khattala had given media interviews before his capture, and said the "obvious question" is "why now?" Minutes later on Outnumbered, the hosts called the arrest "too neat" and "too cute," speculating that it was timed to be "a great thing to announce" during Clinton's Fox interview.
On June 18, Fox hosts concealed that the speculation of "curious timing" began on their own network, noting that "some" people had made serious claims that the timing looked suspicious without identifying the origin. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy spouted:
It was yesterday that it was announced that we finally went in and got him. And to some, they said, 'Now isn't that curious timing? The same day that Hillary Clinton is showing up on Fox News, they are able to announce we got the bad guy.'
Fox News brushed aside the value of Environmental Protection Agency research grants for clean cooking and heating technologies, saying that the dangerous indoor pollution from dirty stoves is only "a mere contribution" to 4.3 million deaths, and fearmongered that the EPA would soon come after American stoves. However, even Fox News' "favorite" environmental pundit has said that the fact that millions are dying from dirty cooking stoves -- more deaths than from AIDS and malaria combined -- is an "immediate problem."
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Conservative media outlets jumped at the chance to revive the long-debunked myth of a "death panel" provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by exploiting the serious investigation into problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.
Having successfully goaded House Republicans into forming a select committee on Benghazi with smears and phony outrage, Fox News is now attempting to dictate the terms of Democratic cooperation with the new investigatory body.
On May 2, House Republicans finally caved to the Fox News pressure campaign encouraging them to establish a select committee to investigate the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox personalities have also pressured Democrats to get on board despite objections that the makeup of the committee is slanted to favor Republicans and is already ignoring evidence in pursuit of a forgone conclusion.
Fox host Andrea Tantaros warned that Democrats could face electoral repercussions if they "risk looking left out of it," Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade urged, "Democrats, put the five people up there. Stop with the rhetoric. Let's get started," and after listening to select committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) description of the committee, Fox host Chris Wallace decided: "Alright, I'm going to declare victory here and say that the Democrats are going to participate."
On May 16, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) volunteered to serve, and Fox was quick to reject the possibility of Grayson's involvement.
On the May 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed that the committee needed someone more on board with the committee's goals and described him as a "spoke in the wheel" to the select committee:
HASSELBECK: Now, if he's gonna prosecute and try to get in there and probe into someone, it should be why we haven't had any answers and why no one knew about this and why these Americans were left to die. But if his focus, then, if the center of the target happens to be Republicans, is that a good idea to have this guy in there?
DOOCY: Here's the thing. This all started out as a joke on Twitter and the blogs, and now essentially what they're saying is: 'let's go ahead and gum up the works, let's turn it into a kangaroo court, and have this particular guy.' MoveOn.org says, "Our interest is to have someone with great credibility and stature among Democrats and Republicans. Well you know what? With all due respect to the congressman, he's not the one. Republicans do not think he is a great statesman.
In an interview with Media Matters, Grayson criticized Fox for "calling the shots" on the Benghazi witch hunt.
Fox News promoted Colion Noir, the host of a new National Rifle Association web series that aims to promote guns to young people, with a fawning interview.
In a May 20 interview on Fox & Friends, Elisabeth Hasselbeck termed Noir "really passionate," asking him "where does this come for you, the passion for the Second Amendment?" She offered up softball questions such as "will they succeed in silencing you, your critics?" Hasselbeck concluded the interview by promising, "we will continue to check you out there and all that you have to say with regard to our constitutional rights."
Fox News regularly provides a platform for gun misinformation from the NRA and its supporters.
Right-wing media are cherry-picking newly released emails from Judicial Watch to allege that the Washington D.C. office of the IRS initiated the flagging of Tea Party groups, omitting the full email chain that reveals the Cincinnati IRS office first flagged Tea Party applicants for tax-exempt status for further review.
A look at how right-wing media ran with Fox contributor Karl Rove's speculation that Hillary Clinton suffered brain damage from a fall in 2012, laying the groundwork to establish the baseless smear as an issue for the 2016 presidential race.
Fox News has resurrected a debunked, six-year old smear against President Obama as part of its desperate attempt at damage control in the wake of network contributor Karl Rove's baseless accusation that Hillary Clinton is suffering from brain damage.
On May 14, Fox News aired a sound bite from a 2008 CNN interview with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and CNN's Wolf Blitzer in which Obama states: "And, so, for him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination." Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck used the clip to recycle an old, debunked talking point that Obama was suggesting Sen. John McCain was "off his rocker" because he "was getting older." Fox then used this clip to argue that attacks on a political opponent's mental health occurs on both sides of the aisle in an attempt to paint Rove's recent comments suggesting Hillary Clinton had brain damage as "not unusual":
HASSELBECK: In 2008 Obama suggested McCain lost his bearings because he was getting older in fact.
DOOCY: Okay so where's the press attacking then Senator Obama for suggesting that John McCain was off his rocker? There wasn't any because you know there's just a double standard when it comes the left and the right in the mainstream media.
This attack dates back to 2008 when conservative media first tried to twist Obama's interview to claim he was attacking McCain's age. But even then, Obama's spokesman insisted that the comment was taken out of context while pointing out that "clearly losing one's bearing has no relation to age."
The transcript of the interview reveals that Obama was responding to McCain's smear where he claimed "Obama is favored by Hamas." Obama addressed the comment in the interview by pointing out that McCain had previously promised not to "run that kind of politics" by leading a smear campaign, and that by engaging in this negative campaigning, McCain had violated his pledge.
Rove's suggestion that Hillary Clinton might have brain damage from a 2012 concussion was widely criticized, yet conservative media have continued to politicize her health. Fox's efforts to exhume the thoroughly-debunked lies surrounding the 2008 campaign in an effort to run defense for Rove shows just how far the network is willing to go to smear Hillary Clinton and score political points in the next presidential election.
Fox News isn't happy that former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner disagrees with their misinterpretation of excerpts from his new memoir.
On May 12, right-wing media's attempted to use Geithner's new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, to bolster its claims that the White House has a pattern of "playing politics with the American people" when it comes to issues like Benghazi. The narrative was rapidly debunked by a source close to Geithner and even one of Fox's own hosts.
Yet rather than correct their narrative the following day, Fox pivoted to attacking Geithner directly, calling it "outrageous" that "Geithner doesn't even believe his own book." The network later argued that there was no way Geithner could have misremembered the incident because, in Fox & Friends' Elisabeth Hasselbeck's words:
HASSELBECK: Anyone who knows, who has written a book, understands that there are many rounds of edits that go into providing text of your book. You look at that a few times before it hits the press, literally.
Hasselbeck's attack stretches credulity in order to obscure the most obvious explanation: that Fox was wrong.
When Geithner's memoir debuted, right-wing media were quick to latch on to his description of a prep session for the Sunday political shows in 2011. Then-communications director Dan Pfeiffer had asked Geithner to state that Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. Geithner wrote that he had objected to the phrasing, because "[i]t wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute." According to the right-wing noise machine, the anecdote revealed that the White House directed Geithner to lie to the public. Fox quickly tied the narrative to its favorite Benghazi myth -- that the White House had worked to deliberately mislead the American people.
This framing of Geithner's anecdote was almost immediately debunked when The Five's Dana Perino, a former White House Press Secretary and Fox host, explained that the way Geithner was asked to to discuss Social Security made sense "from a communications standpoint."
Geithner himself reportedly later clarified this point, noting 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.
From Geithner's book:
The Speaker and his staff kept insisting they needed a scalp for the right; at one point, he proposed we scrap Obamacare's individual mandate for health insurance, an obvious nonstarter.
We were getting a bit nervous about our side, too. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi had told the President they could support a grand bargain, but the outlines of the deal made the Democratic leaders uncomfortable. It would raise substantially less revenue than Simpson-Bowles or a draft proposal by a bipartisan Senate group known as the Gang of Six. And the entitlement reforms were going to be a tough vote for Democrats, especially with Republicans still insisting on some kind of Obamacare scalp.
I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer wanted me to say Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. It wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a "dog whistle" to the left, a phrase I had never heard before. He had to explain that the phrase was code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.
On July 21, Boehner, remarkably, stopped returning the President's calls. He soon announced he was abandoning the grand bargain. This time, his rationale was that the President had moved the goalposts by asking for an extra $ 400 billion in revenues. But that was just a pretext; the negotiations were fluid. We had raised the revenue target, and their drafts still were calling for unacceptable political scalps, but the President hadn't drawn a line in the sand. The problem was that most of Boehner's caucus was unwilling to accept any new revenues, and many had pledged never to vote to raise the debt ceiling; he once told us that he was more interested in doing big things than being Speaker, but ultimately he was unwilling to split his caucus and risk his job.
Fox News is worried about an NFL player who was disciplined for posting anti-gay tweets about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted.
On May 10, Sam made history by becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafted to the National Football League, when he was selected as the 249th draft pick by the St. Louis Rams. Sam, who had previously weathered a storm of right-wing criticism when he spoke out about his sexual orientation in February, was shown on television kissing his boyfriend after receiving news that he had been drafted.
The kiss sparked homophobic attacks online -- Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was disciplined for tweeting "omg" and "horrible" in response to Sam's celebration. Jones later apologized for his tweets after the team announced that he would be fined and temporarily excused from team activities.
Fox News appeared to side with Jones. The May 12 edition of Fox & Friends discussed Jones' tweet and compared the story to former NFL player Tim Tebow, suggesting Tebow was "mocked" for being a Christian while Michael Sam is "praised." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck worried that the NFL's attempts to curb anti-gay attacks on Sam could "offend" players like Jones and stoked fears that such efforts could lead to a slippery slope toward civility:
HASSELBECK: When you look at what the NFL is saying though, now, this is a strong message. They are going on the offense against any sort of offensive comments out there. But does it offend those with their free speech and their opinions to voice them? Certainly when it comes on the field. Will they then go after what is said in the huddle, in a tackle, on the bottom of a pile? Because if you have those times mic'd, you're going to be hearing a lot of comments which would be deemed offensive. Where does this go from here?
Later in the show, Fox regular Donald Trump said the footage of Sam celebrating with his boyfriend "looked pretty out there to me." Of Jones' punishment for mocking Sam, Trump claimed, "We've become so politically correct in this country that the country is going to hell."
Following the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by terrorist group Boko Haram, right-wing media are rushing to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not designating the group a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), insinuating that the kidnappings might have been prevented had the State Department issued the designation earlier. The baseless attack ignores the facts around FTO designations and foreign affairs.
Right-wing media have worked themselves into a tizzy over a controversy about a student reading his Bible in a Florida public school, but they aren't telling the whole story.
The CBS affiliate in Miami, FL, reported on May 5 that a fifth-grade boy at a public school in Broward County claimed he was banned from reading his Bible during "free-time reading" in his classroom:
A Broward County boy said he was banned from reading "The Good Book" during free-reading time in school. The boy and his father have hired an attorney, calling this a violation of the boy's Constitutional rights. Meanwhile, the Broward County School District says this is all a big misunderstanding.
The Miami Herald reported that Broward school officials "rejected the accusation" because the student was reading his Bible during a "classroom 'accelerated reading' program," not during a free-reading session. The Herald also noted that the boy's family is being represented by the Liberty Institute, a "conservative religious-rights group" that "targeted Broward County on Monday in an ongoing campaign contending that faith is under attack in America's elementary schools." (Indeed, the Liberty Institute has a "long history of hyperbolic assertions about the impending end of religious freedom.")
A statement from Broward County Public Schools on Monday, May 5, affirmed the county's commitment to religious freedom:
Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materials to school, including the Bible, and to read these items before school, after school or during any "free reading" time during the school day.
On right-wing media, however, it's a much different story.
Fox News' Fox & Friends discussed the story on May 6, leading with its "Trouble With Schools" chryon. Co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the boy's father had previously been in touch with the school principal about when the boy was allowed to read the Bible in school, which included before and after school, during lunch, and at free time, but that "the teacher didn't like it" when the boy began reading his Bible during "his free time." Doocy continued:
DOOCY: Well the teacher didn't like it, and the kid said, if you have a problem with this, you need to call my dad. Well the dad wasn't there to pick up the phone and instead, the teacher left this embarrassing voicemail.