This past week's edition of Fox News Watch demonstrated just how toxic Fox News' media reporting has become and just how big a mess newly hired media reporter Howard Kurtz is walking into. On July 3, there was a major development in the investigation into the British tabloid phone hacking scandal and the role of Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox (Fox News' newly reorganized parent company after a split from News Corp.). A recording of Murdoch was released in which he railed against the police inquiry into phone hacking and corruption at News Corp. tabloids, waved off the practice of bribing public officials for news tips as "part of the culture of Fleet Street," and promised to support journalists convicted as part of the investigation.
It was a major development in one of the biggest media stories of the past few years, and Fox News Watch -- ostensibly a media criticism program -- ignored it, just as it has ignored almost every aspect of the scandal that makes the guy signing the paychecks look bad. The show did, however, find time to cover Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes' brief suspension from Facebook.
On July 3, the UK's Channel 4 News broadcast a "secret recording" of Murdoch (obtained by the investigative news website ExaroNews) purportedly captured at a March 2013 meeting between Murdoch and journalists from The Sun, a News Corp. tabloid, who had been arrested as part of the hacking inquiry. On the tape, Murdoch bashes the investigating authorities as "totally incompetent" and says: "But why are the police behaving in this way? It's the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing." He promises "total support" to the journalists "even if you're convicted and get six months or whatever," and even suggests their jobs will be secure: "What happens if some of you are proven guilty? What afterwards? I'm not allowed to promise you -- I will promise you continued health support -- but your jobs. I've got to be careful what comes out -- but, frankly, I won't say it, but just trust me."
Fox News gave credence to debunked conspiracy theories surrounding the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, presenting outlandish fears about the treaty's potential effects on domestic gun policy as legitimate reason to oppose it.
Members of the United Nations are meeting this week to negotiate an international arms trade treaty, which would regulate the transnational transfer of weapons in an attempt to keep weapons from human rights abusers and war criminals.
America's Newsroom highlighted arguments for and against the U.S. joining the U.N. treaty, laying out how "critics" in the U.S. "fear that this new treaty will create international gun control, and that it will restrict American gun rights." Fox correspondent Eric Shawn uncritically explained how specific provisions in the treaty have caused some to fear it could create a gun registry and infringe upon the 2nd Amendment.
Fox then aired comments by an unidentified man furthering these conspiracies: "The treaty isn't clearly limited to the international arms trade. There are points in the draft treaty where it seems like it could apply to domestic arms sales and transfers inside the United States." Shawn noted how the National Rifle Association (NRA) also "strongly opposes" the treaty, believing it will restrict Americans' gun rights.
Rather than report on the merits of these conspiracy theories, Shawn explained that supporters of the treaty disagree with the NRA and argue the treaty is needed for various human rights reasons.
The treaty's actual language clearly explains that it does not dictate or impact nations' domestic affairs. The treaty's draft preamble says that a State party to this treaty "reaffirm[s] the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems."
After glossing over state Republicans' role in exacerbating long lines at the ballot box, three Fox hosts mocked the hours-long wait and multiple trips a 102-year-old woman endured in order to cast her vote in 2012.
On Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade and Fox's Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer laughed off the difficulties 102-year-old Desiline Victor endured in order to vote in the 2012 election. Victor, who was invited to the State of the Union address and whom President Obama applauded for enduring a long wait to vote, had to make two trips to the polls and wait in line for over three hours before she was able to cast her ballot. Discussing Victor, MacCallum wondered, "What's the big deal?" and said, "This is such a non-issue. Ridiculous." Hemmer added that at the State of the Union, "They held her up as a victim. What was she a victim of?"
But long lines at polling places are widely acknowledged as a major issue nationwide. In Victor's home state of Florida alone, at least 201,000 eligible voters reportedly did not cast ballots because they were discouraged by lengthy wait times.
Earlier, on MacCallum and Hemmer's show America's Newsroom, Fox correspondent Eric Shawn reported on proposals to extend early voting to ease the problem of long lines at the polls. Shawn noted that Florida had the longest polling place lines in 2012, and then played a clip of Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner addressing Florida's issues, stating that Detzner is "working on ways to fix the problems," including an extension of the state's early voting period in order to shorten voters' wait.
Shawn failed to reveal, however, that Detzner played a role in exacerbating this problem in Florida.
Fox News ignored critical facts on voter fraud while covering today's decision from a Pennsylvania judge to postpone enforcement of the state's new voter ID law until after the November election. In discussing the judge's decision, Fox News neglected to mention that the type of voter fraud Pennsylvania's law targets is so rare, it's almost nonexistent.
Fox's America Live guest host Alisyn Camerota introduced a segment on the decision by claiming it has upset conservatives who "are calling it, quote, a victory for voter fraud." Fox News contributor Eric Shawn reported on the ruling:
But Shawn failed to point out that voter fraud at the polls, the specific type of fraud that voter ID is intended to address, is almost nonexistent. In fact, as a result of lawsuits challenging the voter ID law, Pennsylvania was forced to acknowledge that it could not identify any cases of in-person voter fraud, nor could it point to any investigations or prosecutions of voter fraud:
1. There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have any personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states;
2. The parties are not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in person voter fraud elsewhere.
Shawn also failed to mention another reason why opponents to Pennsylvania's law were concerned about its implementation. In June, a PoliticsPA blog post quoted Pennsylvania's GOP House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, a strong proponent of the law, claiming that the voter ID law "is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania":
"Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done. First pro-life legislation - abortion facility regulations - in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."
The statement drew a loud round of applause from the audience. It also struck a nerve among critics, who called it an admission that they passed the bill to make it harder for Democrats to vote -- and not to prevent voter fraud as the legislators claimed.
Fox News touted anecdotal stories of vote-buying as evidence that voter fraud is a widespread problem. But the segment deflected from actual concerns that voter ID laws could prevent millions of eligible people from voting.
On the July 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade hosted Fox News correspondent Eric Shawn to discuss videos of people admitting they had bought votes in the past. Kilmeade introduced the segment by saying, "Here's one for all the politicians who tell you there's no such thing as voter fraud." Shawn then played clips of people admitting that they had paid eligible voters for their support:
But the debate over the existence of voter fraud has not centered on registered voters being paid to vote a certain way. Rather, it has focused on whether voter ID laws are a solution to preventing ineligible people from voting illegally, a problem that is largely non-existent. Recently, GOP-led state legislatures have been proposing and passing voter ID laws, which experts have said will disenfranchise millions for this largely non-existent problem.
Voter ID laws are the only remedy for fraud that the host Eric Shawn presents in the special, Fox News Reporting: Stealing Your Vote, which postulates that "voter fraud is still rampant" and ran on April 21 and 22. Shawn is Fox's point person for election fraud coverage, regularly appearing in segments over the last 18 months that conclude with the correspondent urging viewers to send tips to the network's voter fraud email hotline, email@example.com.
In promoting on the voter ID laws that Fox News has regularly hyped, Shawn finds only one supposed claim of in-person voter fraud that could have been prevented by such statutes: the allegation that nearly 1,000 "dead" people voted in South Carolina. Shawn reports:
SOUTH CAROLINA GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R): Let's be clear, I don't want dead people voting in the state of South Carolina.
SHAWN: And authorities say there is evidence that dead people voting is a real problem, according to a statewide investigation by South Carolina's Department of Motor Vehicles. In January, it found that 953 ballots were cast by voters who are deceased. But the state Election Commission director disputes those findings.
The state's Election Commission director didn't just "dispute those findings"; the commission investigated and debunked them. Reviewing the 207 contested votes from the 2010 election, the commission found that 106 were clerical errors by poll workers, 56 were errors by the DMV, 32 were cases of people being credited as voting when they hadn't, and three were absentee ballots cast by voters who died before Election Day. The commission said they had "insufficient information" regarding the final ten contested votes, but found no evidence of fraud.
During a segment about new rules regarding women in the military, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta attacked the Department of Defense for increasing spending on support programs for victims of sexual assault. Trotta also reacted to a Pentagon report showing a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults since 2006 by stating: "Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact."
Trotta began by claiming "we have women once more, the feminist, going, wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time" and later added that feminists "have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims' advocates, sexual response coordinators. ... you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much."
When Fox News anchor Eric Shawn said that "many would say that they need to be protected," Trotta replied: "That's funny, I thought the mission of the" armed forces "was to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war."
From the November 6 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
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From the February 26 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch:
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Fox News continues to omit evidence while advancing GOP activist J. Christian Adams' accusations that the Justice Department engaged in unprecedented and racially charged corruption by not pursuing additional charges of voter intimidation against members of the New Black Panther Party. In fact, no voters have said they were intimidated, and the Bush-era DOJ chose not to pursue charges in a similar case.
From the January 27 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:
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From the August 15 edition of Fox News Watch:
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On Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Eric Shawn falsely claimed that, during his interview on CBS' Face the Nation, "General [Wesley] Clark said that Mr. [John] McCain does [sic] not serve in a wartime squadron." In fact, after Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer stated that McCain "was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy," Clark said, "But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron," a reference not to McCain's wartime service in Vietnam, but rather to his time as commanding officer after the war.
Fox News dedicated its coverage of an interview of President Clinton by Chris Wallace to portraying Wallace as the victim, while depicting Clinton as having a "complete meltdown," an "angry explosion," a "volcanic reaction," and as going on a "tirade" during the interview.