At least six Fox News contributors have reportedly signed on to an open letter opposing the comprehensive immigration reform legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Fox News, which has admitted it is the "voice of opposition" on certain issues, has long ignored and even fostered such unethical behavior from its personalities.
According to Yahoo! News, conservative radio hosts, along with tea party and other conservative groups, have signed a letter opposing the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, a proposal from a bipartisan group of senators to reform immigration law. Among the "National Conservative Leaders" who have reportedly signed the letter are six current Fox News contributors:
However, their affiliation with Fox News was not mentioned in the letter.
Radio hosts Mark Levin and Lars Larson, who also signed the letter, are regular Fox News guests as well. Daily Beast editor and CNN contributor David Frum also signed the letter.
The letter expresses "serious concerns" with the bill and urges Senators to vote against it:
We oppose this bill and urge you to vote against it when it comes to the Senate floor. No matter how well intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable. Many of us support various parts of the legislation, but the overall package is so unsatisfactory that the Senate would do better to start over from scratch.
Reforming our immigration system is an important priority. But S.744 is such a defective measure that it would do more harm than good. We urge you to vote against it and against any cloture vote to bring up the bill. Only then can a constructive, measured debate take place on how to improve America's immigration policy.
The letter also repeats some common myths about immigration, including the debunked notion that granting undocumented immigrants legal status "[h]urts American job-seekers, especially those with less education." The letter also compares the Senate immigration bill to the health care law, calling it "bloated and unwieldy."
Fox News has been criticized for unethical behavior in the past and for operating like a political organization. In fact, Crowley crossed the ethical line during the 2012 presidential election when she spoke at an anti-Obama rally sponsored by the Koch-funded conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity.
Fox News has long styled itself as an anti-immigrant network even as it purports to reach out to Latino viewers. Rush Limbaugh, for example, stated in January that it's "up to me and Fox News" to defeat immigration reform. As Yahoo! News noted however, Limbaugh was "notably absent" from the list of signatories.
As of this writing, there is no indication that the IRS's inappropriate targeting of conservative political groups has any connection whatsoever to the White House. And some conservative talking heads are even acknowledging as much. But they're not letting that stop them from naming Barack Obama as the culpable party, arguing that the president is responsible due to his preternatural ability to bend the average bureaucrat to his maleficent will from afar.
It all started with RedState founder Erick Erickson, who wrote on May 15 that "Barack Obama never specifically asked that tea party groups and conservatives be targeted." But...
But by both his language and the "always campaigning" attitude of his White House, he certainly sent clear signals to Democrats with the power and ability to fight conservatives to engage as they could. Given his rhetoric against his political opponents, it is no wonder sympathetic Democrats in the Internal Revenue Service harassed and stymied conservative groups and, though little mentioned, pro-Israel Jewish groups and evangelical groups.
"President Obama did not have to tell the IRS specifically to harass conservative, evangelical, and Jewish groups who might oppose him," Erickson observed. "His rhetoric on the campaign trail and in the permanent campaign of the White House operations made clear what he wanted."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote a FoxNews.com piece on the Boston bombings that attacked Islam as a religion that "cannot ... peacefully coexist with other religions" and suggested "multiculturalism" helped lead to the bombings.
In his piece, Erickson wrote, "In the past decade we have seen that not all Muslims are terrorists, but just about every terrorist has been a Muslim." He also claimed that "contrary to the political correct," "[c]ompared to all other religions in the Twentieth and Twenty-first century, only Islam seems to generate people willing to kill for their religion."
Erickson suggested that societal emphasis on "multiculturalism" led the Boston bombing suspects to turn to radical Islam because immigrants aren't expected to "assimilate into American society." In a tweet linking to his piece, Erickson said:
Erickson has a long history of inflammatory remarks: he has endorsed white-men-only scholarships, defended Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments, and has said "violence" is "extremely common ... within much of Islam."
Conservatives in media gloated and launched political attacks in reaction to a coalition of largely Senate Republicans blocking a package of stronger gun laws, including compromise legislation on expanded background checks for gun sales -- a legislative proposal supported by roughly 90 percent of Americans.
Before, during, and after President Obama delivered a speech from the Rose Garden on April 17 vowing to continue the dialogue on gun laws, conservatives in media offered triumphal comments and launched vicious attacks on advocates for gun violence prevention, including family members of Newtown victims and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
As Politico noted, conservative bloggers "claimed victory ... saying that their ideology and principles were the keys to their success." The right-wing reaction, however, went beyond basic policy arguments:
In an op-ed for The Washington Times, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro opined that family members of Newtown victims -- many of whom advocated for the passage of stronger gun laws -- did not deserve to be heard because of his apparent belief that background checks infringe on the Second Amendment. Shapiro previously accused Obama of attempting to implement socialism in a piece for The New American, the magazine publication of the far-right John Birch Society. From Shapiro's April 18 op-ed:
I don't believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote.
It may sound harsh and uncaring, but even the greatest tragedies are not a valid reason to disregard the Supreme Court and the Constitution of the United States. If they were, our free speech and our rights against unreasonable search and seizure and against self-incrimination would have all been abolished long ago amid every crime wave in American history.
Five years ago, the Supreme Court settled the issue of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, making it clear that guns in "common use" were constitutionally protected. Nevertheless, President Obama recently flew several family members of Sandy Hook victims to Washington on Air Force One to pressure congressional legislators to enact new gun laws.
Conservatives have responded to the bipartisan Senate proposal to expand thebackground check system for firearms purchases with apocalyptic, conspiratorial, and absurd rhetoric.
On April 10, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced they had reached an agreement on an amendment that would require criminal and mental health background checks for those seeking to purchase firearms at gun shows and online. The proposal is likely to be added to legislation currently being debated in the Senate. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support requiring a background check for more gun buyers.
Right wing radio host Mark Levin compared the deal to policies that bring about "genocide," arguing that "the greatest inhumanities ever committed have been by centralized governments against their people."
From the April 10 edition of Cumulus Media's The Mark Levin Show:
I just want to remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that the greatest inhumanity -- the greatest inhumantity has been committed by centralized governments against their people. The greatest inhumanity ever committed has been by centralized government against their people. Whether we call it national socialism or communism or facsism, I just call it all statism to make it easy, borrowing from Aristotle to Reagan.
You and I can't commit genocide. You and I can't destroy a nation from within.
There are many sick people in this world. They're killers. They kill people. They'll be killing people today. They'll be killing people tonight. I wish it wasn't so, but it is so. There are many evil people on the face of this earth. The way we try to deal with them is through law enforcement. The way we try to deal with them is culling them out from the rest of society and punishing them.
But the more that we put down the law-abiding people, the more we herd and shepherd the law-abiding people, the more information we gather on the law-abiding people, put them in central government databases and all the rest, the more we're destroying our society.
We are free people. We are a good people. These politicians seek to define you and me, by the evil people. And so they project these images onto you and me, and then they try and pass laws to control us, and deny us of liberty.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson claimed in a series of tweets that the mental health provisions in the agreement would allow a doctor to say someone was "crazy for believing in resurrected Jesus" which would lead to "liberal docs" barring the faithful from gun ownership.
Fox News host Eric Bolling argued that the deal was "knocking on the door to a national registry." In fact, creating a national registry is already illegal and the proposal reaffirms that illegal status andincreases the penalty for creating a registry.
As the Huffington Post reported, "In addition to a potential jail sentence of 15 years, officials who create a gun registry or misuse federal records on gun sales or ownership would face a monetary fine."
Right-wing media are encouraging Republican senators to filibuster gun violence prevention legislation, continuing a long history of trying to influence GOP politics through recommended obstructionism.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson hyped the claim that legalizing same-sex marriage would pave the way for same-sex incestuous marriages, claiming that "many, many, many" marriage equality supporters will support incest and polygamy once "they can shift public opinion further."
In an April 5 blog post on RedState, Erickson echoed controversial comments made by actor Jeremy Irons, who criticized marriage equality by suggesting fathers would marry their sons in order to avoid paying estate taxes. Erickson agreed, arguing that "there is little moral difference" between loving, committed gay couples and incestuous relationships:
Seriously. Why not incest.
If love and commitment are the justification for marriage, why exempt this?
So why not fathers marrying sons and moms marrying daughters? Is it because of the "ick" factor? Why should that preclude it?
If life comes down to who you love and who loves you back, if a father and son love each other so much they want to get married, there is little moral difference between two people of the same sex getting married who are not related and want to be and two people of the same sex who already are related becoming closer.
The truth is, many, many, many of the same people who are now in support of gay marriage, but would oppose this or polygamy will, once the next step is advanced, support these things too. They just have to lie about it for now until they can shift public opinion further.
Erickson's argument is riddled with the same flaws that have always plagued the conservative slippery slope argument against marriage equality.
1. It's Empirically False - In the states and countries that have legalized same-sex marriage, there's been no evidence of a rush to legalize or destigmatize incest. In fact, most of the states that allow for marriages between first cousins are conservative-leaning states with explicit bans on same-sex marriage.
2. Incest Causes Real Harm To Children - Unlike in the case of same-sex marriage, there are persuasive reasons for banning incestuous marriages. Romantic relationships between parents and their children are typically exploitative and psychologically damaging. As Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wrote:
The problem with the slippery slope argument is that it depends on inexact, and sometimes hysterical, comparisons. Most of us can agree, for instance, that all the shriekings about gay marriage opening the door to incest with children and pedophilia are inapposite. These things are illegal because they cause irreversible harms.
There are plenty of compelling arguments for opposing marriages between parents and their children. "Gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry, either!" isn't one of them.
President Obama's reelection has prompted more than a few conservative pundits and journalists to look inward and contemplate the weaknesses of the right-wing media model that obsesses over partisan minutia, eagerly chases phantom scandals, nosedives down ideological rabbit holes, and excludes dissenting voices. It's an interesting discussion, but it's hampered by the fact that the same people calling for change are themselves backsliding into the behaviors they want to correct.
Commentary editor and columnist John Podhoretz offers a pure distillation of this recidivist phenomenon. "Time To Get Serious," writes Podhoretz for the April issue of Commentary, arguing that after 6 years of treating Obama as alternately a "lightweight" political incompetent and a power-mad would-be dictator, and with nothing but two electoral drubbings to show for it, conservatives have to "come to grips" with Obama's political skill:
It's not just the comforting delusion that he's a golf-mad dilettante, but also the reverse-negative image of that delusion--that Obama is a not-so-secret Marxist Kenyan with dictatorial ambitions and a nearly limitless appetite for power. That caricature makes it far too easy for Obama to laugh off the legitimate criticisms of the kind of political leader he really is: a conventional post-1960s left-liberal with limited interest in the private sector and the gut sense that government must and should do more, whatever "more" might mean at any given moment.
Podhoretz's very next paragraph, however, shows that he's not quite ready to take his own advice, as he casts the Obama presidency as a vehicle for "disaster" at home and "nihilistic chaos" globally -- precisely the sort of extremist caricature he says isn't helpful for conservatives:
The notion that Obama is a dangerous extremist helps him, because it makes him seem reasonable and his critics foolish. It also helps those who peddle it, because it makes them notorious and helps them sell their wares. But it has done perhaps irreparable harm to the central conservative cause of the present moment -- making the case that Obama's social-democratic statism is setting the United States on a course for disaster and that his anti-exceptionalist foreign policy is setting the world on a course for nihilistic chaos. Those are serious arguments, befitting a serious antagonist. They may not sell gold coins as quickly and as well as excessive alarmism, but they have the inestimable advantage of being true.
Daniel Larison of the American Conservative observes:
Of course, warning about global "nihilistic chaos" being unleashed by an "anti-exceptionalist foreign policy" is just another example of excessive alarmism that produces the same effects as the attacks Podhoretz wants conservatives to reject. No one outside the bubble of movement conservatives and hard-liners believes that Obama's foreign policy is "anti-exceptionalist" in any sense, much less in the tendentious way that it is being applied here.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson attempted to make the case that marriage equality poses a threat to religious freedom, but his only evidence was a list of examples irrelevant to same-sex marriage.
In a March 26 column for FoxNews.com, Erickson warned that "gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible," adding that marriage equality supporters aim to "punish and silence" those who disagree with them.
To support his claim, Erickson listed a number of examples meant to highlight the conflict between marriage equality and religious liberty. But none of his examples are actually about same-sex marriage. In fact, most of them come from states where same-sex marriage is still illegal, and almost all of the examples pertain to non-discrimination laws, not marriage laws:
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson weighed in on the debate over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), stating "you're not really loving your neighbor when you're cool with him staying on the road to hell."
On March 27, Erickson tweeted:
The Supreme Court heard arguments over DOMA's constitutionality earlier today.
Despite widespread recent criticism of the role conservative media outlets played in the 2012 election and its aftermath, most attendees at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference had a positive view of the current state of right-wing journalism.
The calls for reform of conservative media are unconvincing to journalists who have found that the current model has given them a large audience.
Mike Opelka, editor-at-large for Glenn Beck's The Blaze, said the popularity of conservative media proves that they are doing good work.
"Fox dominates the conservative cable media," he said. "We [The Blaze] are averaging 10 million uniques a month. I think it is on target for what we like. We are a center-right source and we think they like what we give them."
Dana Loesch, the conservative radio talk show host whose past work for the Breitbart family of conservative news websites helped generate appearances on CNN, Fox News and ABC News, also gave high marks to conservative outlets.
"I think they are doing a really good job," she said of her fellow right-wing media outlets. "It's a good market, I always think there is an appetite for conservative media because there are a lot of people, myself included, who think you don't get that perspective when you turn it on, CBS, NBC, the channels like that."
Their optimism comes at a time when numerous media voices, including several prominent conservatives, have raised questions about the state of conservative media following a 2012 election in which right-wing media outlets convinced their readers, viewers, and listeners that Mitt Romney was cruising towards a comfortable win over a villainous President Obama. Last week, American Conservative published an extensive piece critical of "groupthink" among "several conservative publications."
Similarly, in a February post at his influential Red State website, new Fox News contributor Erick Erickson criticized the conservative "echo chamber" for "trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial" at the expense of basic reporting.
But these concerns, alongside a recent flurry of embarrassments (like the Breitbart.com "Friends of Hamas" debacle), were not shared by most at CPAC, who were quick to paint a rosy picture of their work in interviews with Media Matters.
Fox News fearmongered over reports that suspected terrorist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will be tried in a Manhattan civilian court by downplaying the court's ability to convict terrorist suspects and baselessly advocated for a Guantanamo military trial.
On March 7, the Justice Department released an indictment charging Abu Ghaith with conspiring to kill Americans. Abu Ghaith, who previously served as a spokesman for Al Qaeda and is a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, will face trial at a U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson suggested that a civilian court trial could more likely result in Abu Ghaith's acquittal and possible release "back into our society" than if he were tried "at Gitmo." Co-host Steve Doocy echoed these concerns and cited a 2010 case in which a terrorist suspect faced 282 charges, but was acquitted on most of them, to stoke fears:
What happened? He was convicted. On one charge. And he was acquitted on 281 other counts, which boosts the suggestion and the argument that there's a completely different standard when you're talking about terrorists. They should be tried at Gitmo.
In a later segment on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Erick Erickson expanded on Doocy and Carlson's comments. Erickson suggested:
Now, in Gitmo they have been able to do it quite successfully. There are number of military trials down there and convictions. They've sent others home. There's no reason he couldn't go down there other than there is an ideological opposition to keeping Gitmo open rather than come here.
In their advocacy of military tribunals, Carlson, Doocy and Erickson failed to report the New York courts full record of dealing with terrorist suspects.
Doocy based his disregard of the federal court system on a case that resulted in conviction, which was only one of many convictions to come out of the Manhattan civilian court system. In his focus on the dropped charges, Doocy failed to note that the detainee received a life sentence without parole, "the same maximum sentence... that he would have faced had he been convicted on all counts," according to The New York Times. In fact, the New York court that will be handling the Abu Ghaith trial has a 100 percent conviction rate. CNN reported: "Of the 81 jihadist terrorism suspects who have gone to trial since 9/11 in cases involving an undercover agent or informant, every single one has either been convicted or pleaded guilty."
According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials have said that federal courts "are often a faster and surer way to try suspected terrorists." The Journal additionally noted:
An Obama administration official said national security officials--including those at the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Department of Justice--unanimously agreed that Mr. Abu Ghaith should be prosecuted in federal court.
In contrast, convictions at Guantanamo Bay are rare and have proven "vulnerable on appeal," the Los Angeles Times has reported. Of the thousands of detainees held since 2001, only seven convictions have come out of Guantanamo military tribunal, while "the vast majority have been sent back overseas, either for rehabilitation or continued detention and prosecution," according to an NPR report. Of the seven convictions, five were essentially nullified. The remaining two cases were both overturned by the court of appeals, one in October 2012 and the other in January 2013.
From the March 1 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News contributor Erick Erickson wrote that a Dollar General employee deserves "a medal" for reportedly responding to an eight-year-old child who threw a cookie at her by hitting the child with her belt dozens of times.
On February 4 Erickson tweeted:
The link in Erickson's tweet goes to an article on the website of Atlanta, GA's NBC affiliate, which states that the employee Erickson believes deserves a medal is being charged with aggravated assault after hitting a shopper's child with a belt "at least 25 times" after the child threw a cookie at her (emphasis added):
A Dollar General employee arrested in Wrightsville last week for hitting a child with a belt has now been charged with aggravated assault. The charges were upgraded from simple battery because store video showed the woman hitting the 8 year old at least 25 times. [...]
Wrightsville Police Chief Paul Sterling said Logan Ivey was running around in the store and got into a confrontation with 39-year-old store clerk Emilia Graciela Bell. Bell told investigators the boy threw a cookie at her and that's when she removed her belt, chased the boy down and spanked him behind the counter.
"It felt real real painful; nobody should have that kind of torture to them," Logan said. "It really hurts."
Erickson has a long history of using his Twitter feed to engage in inflammatory commentary. In September he apologized after facing widespread criticism for tweeting of the first night of the Democratic National Convention, "First night of the Vagina Monologues in Charlotte going as expected." Last week he announced that he was leaving CNN for Fox News.
Fox News political analyst Karl Rove and Erick Erickson, the network's newest contributor, are at war over the political direction of the Republican Party.
On Saturday The New York Times reported that Rove was backing the Conservative Victory Project, a new group supported by "the biggest donors in the Republican Party" and Rove's colleagues from his American Crossroads super PAC. According to the Times, the group was created with the explicit purpose of pushing back against efforts by Tea Party conservatives to force the party to the right through the support of far-right candidates:
The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party's efforts to win control of the Senate.
The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races.
The Times went on to report that the creation of the group demonstrates "the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election."
But Tea Party-affiliated conservative media figures aren't going quietly, and some of the fire at Rove is coming from inside the Fox News tent. Erickson, who has regularly supported right-wing primary candidates over less ideologically rigid Republican ones, writes today on his RedState blog that GOP candidates supported by Conservative Victory Project should be targeted for defeat. He also mocks the effectiveness of American Crossroads, writing, "Thank God they are behind this. In 2012, they spent hundreds of millions of rich donors' money and had jack to show for it."