Last week, Fox News invited discredited conspiracy theorist Kathleen Willey on air to smear Hillary Clinton. Willey has for years spread outlandish conspiracies about the Clintons, including suggesting that they may have been behind the death of her husband and former White House aide Vince Foster.
During the interview Fox host Megyn Kelly pointed out that "detractors" say Willey is a "dishonest person," and that "there's no direct evidence tying the Clintons" to some of Willey's more outrageous allegations. But the fact that Willey is dishonest and lacks evidence for her smears merely highlights the folly of giving her a platform in the first place.
Fox News has had similar lapses in judgment when hosting other conspiracy theorists and smear artists in the past. Among others, Fox has hosted a person who thinks the Obama administration may have "orchestrated" the Benghazi attacks; a guest that believes the president and Osama bin Laden are literally the same person; a blogger that thinks Obama's father isn't Obama's father; a contributor that once wrote a column arguing Rep. Gary Condit had Chandra Levy killed by a gay Caribbean motorcycle gang; and someone who thinks the president "bears traits that resemble the Antichrist."
Below is an admittedly incomplete list of the least credible guests the network has ever hosted. People that just missed the cut include a self-proclaimed prophet who warned that the Antichrist "will employ precisely the same methods" as President Obama and the author of the birther tomes Where's The Birth Certificate? and Where's The Real Birth Certificate?
On a rainy morning in October, Fox News reporter Doug McKelway sat in the passenger seat of a car cruising around the Washington, D.C., Beltway, delivering a live update to Fox & Friends.
McKelway was there to report on the arrival of what was supposed to be thousands of truckers protesting the Obama administration, an event that Fox and other conservative outlets had already given a significant publicity boost.
"What are you seeing there? Are there truckers all over the place, Doug?" asked Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Struggling against a janky satellite connection, McKelway explained, somewhat awkwardly, "We had expected to see literally dozens if not hundreds of trucks preparing for this protest. Instead, we saw maybe two, maybe three."
"So far, it's a light turnout ... but you never know. It could surge," co-host Brian Kilmeade reassured viewers.
It never did.
While the failed "Truckers Ride for the Constitution" was portrayed by conservative outlets like Fox as a gathering of Americans with reasoned objections to the Obama administration, it was actually co-organized by a fringe conspiracy theorist who apparently believes, among other things, that President Obama and Osama bin Laden are literally the same person.
That the rally had become mainstream news in the first place despite the outlandish views of its organizers -- to the extent that Fox News had a reporter driving around attempting to offer live reports on it -- was emblematic of the way fringe figures and conspiracy theories permeated the media in 2013.
Conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, was a frequent legal authority for Fox News until he announced that he was part of a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that the Supreme Court recently struck down.
In the past two months, Fox News has repeatedly turned to the legal expertise of Sensenbrenner, former Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on issues ranging from the investigation of national security leaks by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) under the Patriot Act.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, in particular, has expressed his admiration for Sensenbrenner's stature, hosting him on the June 17 edition of his show and informing the long-time congressman that "you're one of the guys that has always been on principle, which I admire and I know you have been there a while, fighting the good fight every day."
Indeed, Hannity appears to have specifically invited Sensenbrenner onto his show that day so the congressman could defend him from Media Matters' observation that the Fox News host was wildly hypocritical in his criticism of the NSA's current surveillance practices. Hannity subsequently praised Sensenbrenner's defense of the Fox News host and his legal explanation of the Patriot Act - legislation the congressman ushered through the House as Judiciary Committee chair - as "enlightening, edifying."
Sensenbrenner is also well-known for leading the effort to pass another overwhelmingly supported bipartisan bill signed into law by Bush: the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA, which the Supreme Court just infamously gutted in Shelby County v. Holder.
Because Congress accumulated extensive evidence to update and justify the VRA's selection of jurisdictions whose election changes remain subject to federal review due to their inability to stop suppressing the vote on the basis of race, Sensenbrenner has repeatedly defended Congress' reauthorization work. Sensenbrenner even filed an amicus brief for the Supreme Court in strong support of the VRA against the right-wing challenge in Shelby County, which the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court ignored.
Now, although Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), current chair of the Judiciary Committee and another Republican who voted to reauthorize the VRA in 2006, is conspicuously silent, Sensenbrenner is helping lead the bipartisan effort to once again pass the VRA provision that was struck down in Shelby County. As reported by The Hill:
A House Republican who led the last push to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act exhorted lawmakers Wednesday to join him in bringing the law back to life.
The day after the Supreme Court quashed the anti-discrimination statute, Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) urged lawmakers to cast aside their differences and restore the rejected provisions for the sake of voter protection.
"The Voting Rights Act is vital to America's commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in the electoral process," Sensenbrenner, the second-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday in a statement.
"This is going to take time, and will require members from both sides of the aisle to put partisan politics aside and ensure Americans' most sacred right is protected."
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
Loading the player reg...
Conservative columnist Erik Rush thinks President Obama or his administration "orchestrated" the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
In a column for conspiracy website WND, Rush writes that he has "always leaned in the direction of the administration having orchestrated the attack for reasons of its own" because of the president's supposed connections "to the Muslim Brotherhood and legendary understanding of all things Islamic."
As Right Wing Watch points out, Rush cites the "unresolved Trinity United murders" as evidence that Obama could be capable of planning such an attack. This is the outlandish conservative conspiracy that President Obama or his associates murdered members of Obama's old Chicago church in order to conceal his supposed hidden homosexuality.
From Rush's May 8 column:
I suppose that depends on two things: One, what is revealed in the hearings, and two, whom one asks. I have always leaned in the direction of the administration having orchestrated the attack for reasons of its own - given his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and legendary understanding of all things Islamic, it is possible that President Obama could even have arranged for the assault on the compound without the foreknowledge of his Cabinet.
A bold charge, to be sure, but I am operating with such questions as the unresolved Trinity United murders before me. Then there are the possibilities that the tragedy came about as the result of less grave criminal action or a series of irresponsible and craven decisions.
The burning question at present (and which may remain so for some time) is why efforts were not made to rescue the beleaguered staff at the facility and whether or not a stand-down order was given to military personnel in the area. If the latter becomes the case, then obviously we want to know who issued the order. Depending on the outcome, measures might be as severe as charges filed against Cabinet officials or the impeachment of Obama himself. While this president reasonably deserves to be occupying a cell in some federal penitentiary anyway, impeachment presents many troublesome aspects.
After lashing out at critics for highlighting his "sarcastic" tweet that all Muslims should be killed following the Boston Marathon bombings, frequent Fox News guest Erik Rush doubled down on his anti-Muslim rhetoric, calling Islam "wholly incompatible with Western society" and saying America is at war with the religion.
In the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, Rush tweeted, "Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let's bring more Saudis in without screening them! C'mon!" After another Twitter user criticized Rush for blaming Muslims, Rush responded, "Yes, they're evil. Let's kill them all." Rush later claimed that the now-deleted tweet was "sarcasm," but in his weekly WorldNetDaily column, Rush lashed out by calling his critics "dhimmis" and smearing Islam as "wholly incompatible with Western society." Rush went on to claim that America is at war with Islam and that "While killing people is definitely undesireable, that is what war tends to be about":
It is important that we know the extent to which many of our fellow citizens have been indoctrinated into this suicidal worldview. Despite the interpretations of my words and liberals' tiresome claims that the right is prone to violence, we know that with very few exceptions, violence is the way of the left (as well as Islamists). This also gives rise to curiosity as to what evil deeds large numbers of these dhimmis might be willing to do if properly motivated. As we have seen relative to the Occupy movement, violence -- whether throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails, or engaging in recreational rape -- is a natural progression.
In the end, of course, this is just another case of the words of someone on our side (as it were) being manipulated to malign and discredit, whereas our enemies and those on the left - whether in the press, politics, entertainment, or elsewhere - are allowed to say whatever dangerous, irresponsible, malicious, slanderous things they like with impunity.
For the record, I still maintain that Islam is, by its nature, wholly incompatible with Western society. I analogize liberalism, which is promoting this dhimmitude, to Stage 3 cancer in America's body politic. For the record: While killing people is definitely undesirable, that is what war tends to be about.
And we are at war -- just study the history of Islam, or ask any Islamist.
As the nation mourned the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, media figures used the attacks to offer conspiracy theories, make Islamophobic comments, and push petty political and personal attacks.
Conspiracy Radio Host Alex Jones: U.S. Gov't Is "Prime Suspect" In Attack
Radio host and noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones responded to the bombings by suggesting that they may have been a "false flag" operation staged by the government:
In a special webcast on April 15, Jones expanded on the conspiracy, saying"You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
WND Columnist Erik Rush's Attempt At "Sarcasm": Kill All Muslims In Response To Attack
Shortly following the bombings, WND columnist and occasional Fox News guest Erik Rush tweeted:
Rush lashed out at critics of his tweet and claimed it was "sarcasm" intended to show that liberals' "precious Islamists say the same about us EVERY DAY."
Fox News is reporting that gun owners are rushing to buy firearms in light of President Obama's reelection at the same time it promotes the very conspiracies about the president's gun policies triggering those sales.
A December 6 FoxNews.com article on the firearms "buying spree" reports that to gun owners, "Obama's re-election, and the apocalypse -- amount to the same thing" while also credulously quoting the unfounded claim of NRA president David Keene that, "Obama is coming right at us" and his second term will be "an all-out assault on the Second Amendment."
The simultaneous reporting of an uptick in gun sales and promotion of wild-eyed conspiracy theories about Obama's gun policies is commonplace at Fox News, despite the fact that President Obama expanded, rather than restricted, where a gun can be carried during his first term.
On the December 3 edition of Hannity on Fox News, WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush discussed the murder-suicide involving NFL player Jovan Belcher, alleging, "Whenever there is a high-profile gun crime the fearmongering begins, the histrionics begin, and all of this stuff really has its genesis in the political left, and particularly the big government political leftists, who want to disarm the public."
From the July 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
WorldNetDaily founder and editor Joseph Farah reportedly wrote in a recent email exchange with Salon's Justin Elliott, "Admittedly, we publish some misinformation by columnists." Indeed, Farah is right: WorldNetDaily columnists -- and reporters -- have published numerous falsehoods and smears as well as some of the most absurd anti-Obama conspiracy theories and falsehoods.
Birther Central WorldNetDaily is home to several of the most unhinged writers in online conservative media. As just one example, columnist Erik Rush has been peddling his nonsensical brand of fearmongering for years. He has:
Being a WND writer, Rush is always quick to concoct outlandish conspiracy theories. As documented by Media Matters' Terry Krepel at his ConWebWatch blog, while the tragic events unfolded in Tucson on Saturday, Rush suggested that the shooting may have been "orchestrated" to justify tighter security for Congress:
Two things: "cynical" is not the right word to describe this thought.
And perhaps Fox News should think twice before they host someone like Rush in the future. Despite the fact that he has revealed himself to be completely untethered from reality, Rush has appeared as a guest on both Fox & Friends and Hannity (several times). While the network is apparently unperturbed by his anti-Obama screeds, Rush's suggestion that the government orchestrated Saturday's shootings should (hopefully) give them pause before they give him a platform in the future.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
From Erik Rush's April 1 WorldNetDaily column:
Although he wasn't of the raggedy variety, Barack Obama's black nationalist-cum-Marxist worldview and his overview of America was the same as those urban communists I encountered in my youth, those of the same stripe as Van Jones and William Ayers. They -- like countless other uber-leftists who were insinuating themselves into the power structure at that time -- despised more or less everything about America, save for the opportunities it presented them personally. Obama, like his academic mentors and peers, pursued his education with an eye on power, taking advantage of metastasizing liberal ideals and newly initiated preferential policies.
In the "perfect storm" of a press saturated with insipid leftists, popular disgust with a politically enfeebled, free-spending Republican president, and a benefactor with almost bottomless pockets (in financier George Soros), this nebbish was able to capture the presidency. Surreal, but true.
I have previously discussed the phenomenon of the left having advanced a distorted vision of black Americans -- what I refer to as negrophilia -- which contributed to Obama's election to no mean degree. Add to this the depth of ignorance in which black Americans continue to be mired, wherein they continue to believe that opportunists like Sharpton and Obama are their benefactors, while conservatives and Republicans are demons from the foulest depths of hell. Millions remain unaware that one of the platforms upon which the Republican Party was formed and first ran was the abolition of slavery, and that the GOP also promoted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which the Democrats filibustered. After its passage, segregationists in the Democratic Party co-opted the civil rights agenda and enrolled black Americans in the culture of dependency, ostensibly as "restitution" for their suffering.
When the left insinuated itself into the Democratic Party, they had a perfect model for the entitlement culture already in place, which they have attempted to expand to as many Americans as possible. Since the Civil Rights Movement, Democrats have propagandized and hampered black Americans, plying their leaders with a seat at the table, while they keep blacks stretched over a barrel with their cheeks spread.
One might say that the slave owners hijacked the Underground Railroad.
Now, black Americans are prepared to protect their oppressors and fight all comers in their defense, tooth and nail, blissfully unaware that their friends are their enemies, and their enemies would be their friends.
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
From Erik Rush's March 25 WorldNetDaily column:
So, America, have you deduced that the current occupant of the White House, his underlings and congressional leaders are manifestly evil -- or are you going to wait until they're gunning us down in the streets?
On March 22, WND reprinted remarks made by President Barack Obama on March 21, after the House passed the much-contested health-care reform bill.
Many of you (those over 35) recall hearing Soviet leaders deliver speeches just like Obama's. Do you remember chuckling sardonically, knowing their words were lies and that their people were essentially nothing but slave labor, toiling to maintain a cyclopean, hideously ineffective mega-bureaucracy and a pitiless, criminal privileged class?
How far across the line do our elected officials have to traverse before we come to the conclusion we've come to as regards history's infamous tyrannical oppressors - that they are of low character, possess malign intent, and that is why they crave this degree of power? Will we have to see Americans executed in stadiums by former ACORN workers before we believe? Will we allow ourselves to be shepherded into a position where we are truly powerless to stop those who will do because they can?
I don't know how many Americans are really so dim -- as opposed to advocating this abomination -- that they haven't a hint yet that abject tyranny is halfway through the door. But I, like others, believe that if enough people in their right minds become engaged, we still may be able to stem the tide until we can dispose of the Democratic majority in Congress and Barack Hussein Obama. We will have to be equally vigilant, however, that we replace them with nationalistic, conservative Americans, rather than smiling RINO whores; people who know who our enemies are and who won't play nice with those enemies.
While we are doing that, for the next hundred years - at least - we must vigorously and relentlessly beat the drum of progressivism being as great an evil as any historical atrocity.