With the nation's attention turned toward the growing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, media figures have called on President Obama to speak out more forcefully on the situation and race relations in America. But Obama's past statements on race have been met with attacks from conservative commentators, blasting Obama for "promoting racial division" and "exacerbating racial tensions."
Voices currently urging the nation's first black president to say more on race ignore the marked history of conservative media figures' accusations of race-baiting in response to Obama's previous remarks:
From the August 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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In The Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) disavowed the offensive narrative pushed by conservative media which labels needy Americans as "takers" versus more economically-prosperous "makers." However, Ryan's proposed anti-poverty policies still rely on the right-wing media myth that blames poverty on poor individuals' personal life choices.
From the August 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Yes or no? Up or down?
It's been a confusing week for professional Obama critics. Suddenly confronted with the topic of impeachment and busy issuing not-quite-believable denials that trying to drive the Democratic president from office has ever been a serious pursuit of the Republican Party or its most aggressive boosters, many members of the far-right press seemed caught off guard by recent developments.
Angered by the fact the White House is highlighting the GOP's ongoing embrace of impeachment and suggesting Republicans might act on the idea if they win control of the U.S. Senate, conservatives have tried to quiet their own crowd, apparently concerned about optics.
But the fever swamp has never been about optics. It's about whipping as many people as possible into a state of narrow-minded outrage on a daily basis. And if that means dipping into the impeachment pool, then so be it.
Now press partisans are caught in no-man's land. Seeing the fundraising success Democrats have had off impeachment, conservative critics angrily deny that Republicans have any interest in impeachment. Yet at the same time they're part of a media movement that thinks Obama should be impeached. (He's a lawless tyrant, in case you hadn't heard.) The contradiction has led to a week of confusion and missteps as the conservative media struggle with how transparent they should be in their loathing of the president, especially if there are indications Democrats are using that rage to their advantage, both politically and financially.
So almost overnight there's been a movement to hush the most strident critics; to urge everyone to take it down a notch because it just doesn't look good.
On Fox News, The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld dismissed impeachment as a "stunt" that's "tossed out by people addicted to [the] splash those stunts make." What kind of people? "Bloggers" and "talking heads," he said. Co-host Andrea Tantaros agreed, bemoaning the fact "There's a movement in talk radio and on the right to profiteer from these wild ideas." (Note that Tantaros still thinks Obama might do something "worthy of impeachment" just to bait Republicans into it.") And colleague Eric Bolling insisted even talk radio hosts had "backed off" the topic because they realized it "sounded a little bit crazy."
But nobody puts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin in the corner, so the angry talkers haven't backed down from the impeachment charge. (Levin: "Here's the dead truth -- Obama should be impeached.") And that leaves damage control agents like Tantaros looking a bit foolish: How can impeachment deniers claim the topic's not being treated seriously when two of the most popular radio hosts in right-wing America are doing just that, and demanding their millions of listeners do the same? (For a cheat sheet of Republican politicians who also have also pushed impeachment, see here.)
And that's been the confusing part: The claim nobody on the right's been promoting impeachment (it's all a liberal conspiracy), vs. the acknowledgement that okay, some people have but they're really misguided and irresponsible.
From the July 31 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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On June 15, the United States apprehended the individual suspected of leading the terrorist attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, transferred him to a U.S. naval ship, and ultimately arraigned him in federal court in Washington, D.C. on June 28. Since his capture, right-wing media have repeatedly complained that the suspect was not entitled to Miranda warnings or due process.
From the June 30 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Right-wing media personalities took victory laps following the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Court ruled that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide health coverage for employees that includes contraception if the employer has a religious objection.
The Washington Post debunked a right-wing conspiracy theory promoted by Fox News tying the crash of former IRS official Lois Lerner's computer to a letter the IRS received from the House Ways and Means committee 10 days earlier. The Post pointed out that the letter addressed a different subject than the controversy linked to Lerner.
Conservatives are trying to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her work in 1975 as a court-appointed attorney for an indigent defendant alleged to have raped a 12-year-old girl, a case she detailed in her memoir a decade ago. As Republican lawyers and the American Bar Association have previously noted, such criticisms undermine the American system of justice.
From the June 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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"Good news there, I guess." Fox News anchor Jon Scott, June 17.
Word that U.S. Special Operations forces had captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected leader of the terror attack on the United States diplomatic facilities in Benghazi two years ago, provided good news for those seeking justice for the four Americans killed in the 2012 raid. The reports however, provided very bad news for people who have been playing politics with the terror attack for the last 21 months.
Indeed, the Benghazi revelation and the instantly negative and mocking reaction it received on Fox News and across the right-wing media landscape, provided a telling glimpse into the propaganda campaign conducted by professional conservative talkers who long ago stopped pursuing the facts of the investigation. Instead, they've tried to turn "Benghazi" into a brand; a self-sustaining scandal machine reminiscent of the one they built to distract Bill Clinton in the 1990s. The goal of these types of blind pursuits doesn't revolve around the truth or facts, but around the ability to attack, attack, attack, regardless of good-news revelations.
So instead of toasting Khattala's capture in Libya as a key breakthrough, the news quickly became reason to add more layers to the impenetrable Benghazi conspiracy. (Either that or to feign indifference.) The claim this time? The timing of the arrest looked fake and phony. Specifically, the Benghazi capture was timed to help Hillary Clinton's book tour 5,000 miles away in America.
"What a great thing to announce on an interview tonight at Fox News, that the perpetrators have been bought to justice," said Fox contributor Pete Hegseth. "It's all too neat and it's too cute." Added Fox host Kennedy: "You have a former secretary of state, who is in the middle of a really high profile book tour, I think this is convenient for her to shift the talking points from some of the things she has been discussing."
Rush Limbaugh mocked the timing as "a beautiful thing."
This kind of contemptuous, dismissive tone is exactly the opposite of what Obama's fevered critics had been demanding since September, 2012.
"May 2014, and you still haven't brought anyone to justice!" Judge Jeanine Pirro complained on her Fox News program just last month. Fox's Eric Bolling, denouncing the lack of detained Benghazi suspects on The Five, July 31, 2013: "Nice job, President O, no suspects, no interviews, no leads, and no answers." And Fox contributor Allen West signed on to a letter bemoaning the fact that "not a single terrorist in this well-planned and executed military attack by radical Islamists has been apprehended."
So it was Fox News, then: Bring suspects to justice!
And Fox News, today: Why now?
On May 29, Duck Dynasty star turned GOP darling Phil Robertson gave a keynote speech at the Republican Leadership Conference (RLC). His speech, which focused on religion and encouraged Republicans to "get godly," is the latest milestone in the controversial reality TV star's meteoric and unexpected rise in national conservative politics.
Robertson's presence at the RLC perplexed Fox News' Juan Williams, who questioned why the GOP had embraced a figure who gained national notoriety after making a number of homophobic and racist statements in an interview with GQ. During a May 31 appearance on Fox's Cashin' In, Williams asked what Robertson's rise in conservative politics said about the GOP:
BOLLING: I don't know, I don't know Juan, what about it? I think he's big business, and I think it's probably good for the GOP. No?
WILLIAMS: No, are you kidding me? What does it say, Eric, that GOP makes a hero out of a guy that says black were happy with slavery and segregation, and gays are to be damned. Is he the chief of outreach for the GOP, or is he the chief of internal self-satisfaction?
But Williams' own network is at least partly responsible for the GOP's fawning relationship with Robertson, having worked for months to whitewash his offensive comments and prop up the reality star as a beacon of American Christianity.
Fox's fascination with the Duck Dynasty family predates Robertson's GQ interview. But when A&E announced in Decemberthat they had placed Robertson on a hiatus over his comments, the network went into damage control mode; Fox's Sean Hannity described the comments as "old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values," while Fox reported Todd Starnes claimed Robertson was just reflecting "the teachings of the Bible." Even Megyn Kelly came to Robertson's defense, calling him a "Christian guy" and criticizing LGBT activists for trying to "shut down the debate."
After A&E reinstated Robertson, Fox News snatched the first 'exclusive' interview with the Robertson family as part of the network's "All American New Year." Since then, Fox has continued to whitewash Robertson's rhetoric by repeatedly depicting him and the Robertson family as besieged Christian heroes.
Fox News personalities attacked the father of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for looking "like a Muslim" and addressing his son in Pashto, going so far as to say his appearance is "insulting" and suggesting he might be an "Islamist sympathizer."
The network has a long and well-documented history of pushing Islamophobic rhetoric and propagating the belief that Islam is a violent religion, and its pundits didn't hold back in tapping into anti-Islamic sentiment to identify "something wrong" with Bergdahl's release. Fox host Bill O'Reilly said he was "insulted" by the"conduct" of the soldier's father, Bob Bergdahl, during his May 31 Rose Garden appearance with President Obama, because "[h]e has learned to speak the language of the Taliban and looks like a Muslim, actually thanking Allah right in front of the president." Fox contributor Laura Ingraham later hyped and escalated O'Reilly's "revelations," saying on her radio show, "If he wasn't so light-skinned, he actually looks like the terrorists."
Other Fox hosts have suggested that Bergdahl's beard, reportedly grown out of solidarity with his son, is something to be "skeptical" of and something that he grew out of "sympathy with the Taliban." The current suspicion of Bergdahl's facial hair comes in stark contrast to the network's previous support of the famously bearded stars of A&E's Duck Dynasty.