In the wake of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner crash, Fox News has rushed to conveniently rewrite history to disparage President Obama by drawing false comparisons to former President Ronald Reagan's response to a 1983 attack on a Korean airliner. The reactions of many Fox figures praising Reagan stood in stark contrast with that of Fox's Chris Wallace, who accurately noted Reagan's apparent reluctance to cut short his vacation in order to address the issue.
A Malaysia Airlines jetliner exploded and crashed on July 17, carrying 298 people. The New York Times reported the plane was allegedly shot down by what "American officials described as a Russian-made antiaircraft missile," adding that the crash elevated tensions between Ukraine and Russia over the insurgency in eastern Ukraine "into a new international crisis." Obama addressed the event on July 18, calling the deaths of innocent people an "outrage of unspeakable proportions."
On the heels of the plane explosion, Fox News has rushed to disparage Obama for continuing his planned fundraising trip in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, drawing comparisons to Reagan's initial response to a Korean Air passenger jet downed by the Soviet Union in 1983.
In fact, Reagan initially sent aides to respond to the attack on the airliner, waiting four days before delivering the speech condemning the Soviet Union that is now being lauded by many pundits at Fox News.
Fox's Wallace pushed back against his network peers, noting that "sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on." He continued, noting that Reagan had to be persuaded to leave his ranch and return to Washington for a speech that came four days after the attack (emphasis added):
WALLACE: I know there's like an immediate reaction, that you want to say he should have run back to Washington and gone back to the Situation Room. I know that a lot of folks at Fox here are saying that. As somebody who covered the White House and saw for six years Ronald Reagan in various situations, sometimes the best thing presidents can do is nothing, to continue on. If he had gone back to Washington and gone to the situation room -- first of all, there's not much he can do, we're not in control of the situation. And it would have dialed it up.
WALLACE: I was covering Ronald Reagan at that time. He was in Santa Barbara at his ranch when that happened, and quite frankly he didn't want to leave. And his advisers realized how terrible this looked, and eventually persuaded him he had to fly back to Washington and had to give this speech to the nation, but it did take him four days.
Nevertheless, his colleagues praised Reagan's response as an example of ideal leadership in contrast with Obama's. On the July 17 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly connected the July 17 tragedy to the 1983 Korean airliner crash, highlighting Reagan's speech in response and noting in comparison that Obama has "been accused of 'leading from behind.' " Fox contributor Chris Stirewalt compared Reagan's response to Obama's, saying Reagan's response made Americans feel "reassured and resolute," and Kelly echoed that Obama's response "makes him look unconnected and makes a lot of Americans feel unrepresented."
From the July 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the July 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News figures have repeatedly claimed a surge of National Guard troops to the U.S. - Mexico border would stem the tide of people seeking refugee status in the United States, but National Guardsmen cannot apprehend people at the border or turn them away.
On the July 13 Fox News Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) said he is requesting troops on the border because "what you have to have is this clear presence on the border, where people understand that you no longer can just freely go and walk across the Rio Grande and stay in America from now on." In response, guest host Brit Hume said to Perry, "I get that that's the message governor. What I don't quite understand is how it is with the law being the way it is, the presence of more troops or forces on the border who are not legally able to apprehend these immigrants, these border crossers, is going to change anything without the law being changed first."
Perry returned to his demand for an increased National Guard presence, arguing that "you bring boots on the ground to send that message clearly, both visually and otherwise."
Right-wing media labeled the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to garnish the wages of polluters who have failed to pay their fines a "power grab," even though the agency is acting with authority granted to it by decades-old federal law that is already used by 30 other federal agencies.
On July 2, the EPA announced that it would implement a provision of the Debt Collection Improvement Act that would allow the agency to collect delinquent debts from polluters by garnishing their wages without first obtaining a court order. This law, which was approved by an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress and signed into law in 1996, is applicable not just to the EPA but all federal agencies. According to the text of the law and Department of the Treasury guidelines, all federal agencies who collect delinquent debts can "collect money from a debtor's disposable pay by means of administrative wage garnishment to satisfy delinquent nontax debt" without going to the courts first.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Times were quick to accuse the EPA of "flexing its regulatory muscle under President Obama" to "unilaterally garnish the paychecks of those accused of violating its rules," because the EPA's proposed rule would no longer require the agency to "obtain a court judgment before garnishing non-Federal wages." The Times framed the announcement as an EPA "power grab," even though the report later pointed out that "every federal agency has the authority to conduct administrative wage garnishment." Fox News was similarly outraged over the EPA's announcement, with Townhall.com news editor Katie Pavlich appearing on The Kelly File to claim that "the EPA now is acting as judge, jury, and executioner" by attempting to adopt the wage garnishment rule.
But Fox's senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, took it even further on the July 10 edition of Fox & Friends. Napolitano complained that the EPA did not have the authority to garnish wages without a court order because "Congress never authorized it. Congress couldn't authorize it. It blatantly violates the Constitution." Napolitano went on to claim that the EPA's proposed plan was "not legal" because the rule didn't protect debtors' "right to a hearing," and that it was "the president's people" who were behind the rule change:
Fox News suggested HGTV ran afoul of the First Amendment when it canceled an upcoming reality show following reports of the hosts' extreme anti-gay and Islamophobic activism.
HGTV cancelled its forthcoming reality show Flip It Forward following revelations that the hosts, Jason and David Benham, had an extensive history of anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Muslim activism. Examples of the brothers' reported hate speech include David Benham likening the fight against gay marriage to that against Nazi Germany, and participation in protests against "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation." Benham has publicly highlighted Leviticus' punishment of death for gay sex and protested in front of mosques shouting "Jesus Hates Muslims."
After rushing to defend the brothers by claiming they were being punished for their Christian views, Fox News is now suggesting HGTV's decision to cancel the show violated the Benhams' First Amendment right to free speech.
On July 10, Fox News host Steve Doocy interviewed Jason and David Benham while an on-screen graphic declared they had been "fired for faith." Doocy argued, "You were fired for having an opinion. I mean, there's this thing called the First Amendment where people are entitled to their opinion and their Christian beliefs as well."
But the First Amendment does not protect individuals from being fired by private employers, as it does not limit the actions that private employers may take based on employees' speech. The First Amendment Center explained:
The First Amendment does not limit private employers. The Bill of Rights -- and the First Amendment -- limit only government actors, not private actors. This means that private employers can restrict employee speech in the workplace without running afoul of the First Amendment.
HGTV did not violate the First Amendment rights of the Benhams by dropping their show. As Columbia Law's Suzanne Goldberg pointed out in an interview with CNN, it was most likely a decision to protect the business' brand following widespread outcry against the Benhams' comments. Even David Benham told CNN that he does not hold a grudge against the network, telling Erin Burnett, "It was too much for them to bear and they had to make a business decision."
Fox & Friends continued its bizarre attack on Illinois State University for designating gender-neutral restrooms, but even a group of "Fox fans" didn't seem fazed by the school's attempt to accommodate LGBT students.
Illinois State University recently announced that it would be relabeling several of its single-stall "family" restrooms on campus as "all-gender" restrooms. Though the decision won't alter the functionality of any of the restrooms, the move is meant to accommodate transgender and gender-variant students, who often face harassment and even violence in public restrooms. All-gender restrooms will be identified by a new sign that "will include a symbol of a half of a man and half of a woman."
On July 9, the cast of Fox & Friends mocked the decision, calling the new sign confusing and blaming the change on the "P.C. police."
On July 10, Fox & Friends continued its criticism of the university's decision. Co-host Steve Doocy produced a massive mock-up of an "all-gender" sign and asked a group of "Fox fans" outside the studio what they thought the sign meant.
But none of the fans, including a young boy, seemed to share Doocy's confusion or outrage over the sign:
Here we go again.
Within hours of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) selectively leaking emails from one of his investigations, the right-wing media is dutifully claiming that he had offered evidence of a cover-up in the controversy over IRS scrutiny of nonprofit groups.
The question now is whether legitimate media outlets will again let Issa and Fox manipulate them with selective leaks.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed on July 9 that the emails that Issa released were "hard evidence" that embattled former IRS official Lois Lerner was engaged in a cover up.
In reality, the email shows nothing more than a manager issuing guidance that email communication could be subpoenaed by Congress, underscoring the "need to be cautious about what we say in emails," and confirming that instant messages were not archived but should be treated with the same caution as email.
Absent any additional information about the context of Lerner's initial guidance, it's impossible to draw any conclusions whatsoever, let alone O'Reilly's sweeping claim of a cover-up.
O'Reilly's interpretation of Lerner's email is perfectly in line with Darrell Issa's spin, which he floated in a July 9 Twitter post arguing that Lerner was engaged in a conspiracy to hide information from Congress.
And the media is already adopting Issa's spin, a troubling development given the media's lengthy history of being manipulated by Issa's deceptive leaks.
The hosts of Fox & Friends mocked Illinois State University's decision to accommodate LGBT students by designating certain campus restrooms as gender-neutral.
During the July 9 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox's Heather Nauert reported on Illinois State University's decision to re-label a number of single stall restrooms on campus, designating them "all-gender" restrooms rather than "family" restrooms. The change is expected to affect approximately 10 restrooms and won't affect the functionality of any of the facilities. Designating gender-neutral restrooms on campus is a common practice aimed at accommodating growing populations of transgender and gender-variant students, who often face harassment and even violence in public restrooms.
Nauert, who incorrectly identified the university as Indiana State University, attributed the decision to the "P.C. police." Members of the Fox & Friends crew could be heard laughing throughout the segment, and Nauert concluded by stating "we're all a little confused by it":
Fox & Friends has a habit of ridiculing gender-neutral accommodations as ridiculous or unnecessary. The show has mocked gender-neutral passports, passport applications, college housing policies, student financial aid forms, and marriage licenses. In all of these cases, the changes were minor adjustments made to acknowledge members of the LGBT community. And in all of these cases, Fox & Friends jumped at the opportunity to turn gender-neutral accommodations into an early morning punch lines.
Less than a minute after noting that the Obama administration requested increased funding for border security, Fox & Friends attacked the Obama administration for failing to request funding for border security.
In a July 9 report, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy described President Obama's request to Congress for $3.7 billion in supplemental funding to deal with the recent increase in border crossings by unaccompanied minors from Central America. As Doocy noted, the request explicitly included $433 million for border protection and "$1.1 billion for homeland security to step up enforcement and to deter border crossings." An on-air graphic underlined the point.
These facts disappeared from Fox's coverage less than a minute later. Co-host Steve Doocy responded to the report by criticizing the White House for allegedly failing to request funds to boost border protection:
DOOCY: Where's the money to stop people from coming in? That's the problem. We need a secure border. You know -- one side says we need it. The other side said 'oh, we have it.' But you've got eight-year-olds just walking across. We need a secure border.
A White House fact sheet outlined how Obama's funding request would be allocated to boost security at the border:
The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - $1.1 billion
This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Of this total:
$116 million would pay for transportation costs associated with the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children;
$109 million would provide for immigration and customs enforcement efforts, including expanding the Border Enforcement Security Task Force program, doubling the size of vetted units in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and expanding investigatory activities by ICE Homeland Security Investigations; and
$879 million would pay for detention and removal of apprehended undocumented adults traveling with children, expansion of alternatives to detention programs for these individuals, and additional prosecution capacity for adults with children who cross the border unlawfully.
The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection - $433 million
This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $433 million for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Of this total:
$364 million would pay for operational costs of responding to the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families, including overtime and temporary duty costs for Border Patrol agents, contract services and facility costs to care for children while in CBP custody, and medical and transportation service arrangements;
$29 million for CBP to expand its role in Border Enforcement Security Task Force programs, increasing information-sharing and collaboration among the participating law enforcement agencies combatting transnational crime; and
$39.4 million to increase air surveillance capabilities that would support 16,526 additional flight hours for border surveillance and 16 additional crews for unmanned aerial systems to improve detection and interdiction of illegal activity.
From the July 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing and even mainstream media have eagerly pushed the suggestion that the recent increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is "Obama's Katrina" -- an inane comparison that repeatedly surfaces inside the conservative media echo chamber.
From the July 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News claimed that a move to protect an endangered jumping mouse from ranchers who graze cattle on public lands is "going to run [them] out of business" for a mouse they "can't even find," but the mouse is a critical part of the food chain that can be protected if ranchers simply don't let their cattle trample on its habitat.
In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized protection for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, which is at risk of extinction chiefly due to excessive cattle grazing. On July 7, Fox News' Fox and Friends hosted rancher Mike Lucero to lash out against the potential that fences will be erected to further protect the local streams that form the mouse's habitat from his cattle. Co-host Steve Doocy suggested that because Lucero has not seen the jumping mouse, it may not even exist anymore, calling it "crazy" that "they're doing all this to protect a mouse that might not even be there":
The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is generally nocturnal and hibernates for about nine months a year. It's also "precariously" endangered with only 29 "small" surviving populations, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. So it's not that surprising that Lucero has not seen one of these mice, which are critical because their extinction could disrupt the entire food chain. Jay Lininger of the Center for Biological Diversity explained in a Tech Times article: "They're a highly sought-after food source for a variety of snakes, foxes, and birds like redtail hawks. The entire food chain suffers if the jumping mouse blinks out." The jumping mouse is a "bellwether species" for the Southwestern stream habitats critical to their survival, according to Brian Byrd of WildEarth Guardians. The mouse's stream habitat, critical to preserve clean water in the region, has been degraded primarily due to damaging livestock practices.
While Lucero claimed that protection of the mice's stream habitats will force him "out of business," ranchers can simply pipe water from the river to their cattle rather than letting them go to the river in order to more responsibly graze, according to Lininger. Details such as this have been left out of local media coverage, including an article by New Mexico's largest newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, titled "Endangered mouse may cost NM ranchers their livelihood" and from the right-wing Franklin Center's New Mexico Watchdog.org.
Fox News is minimizing the radical nature of the Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby, framing it as narrowly-tailored and claiming that the federal government "will end up paying" for the four contraceptives that the chain store objected to. However, Fox is ignoring the fact that companies are challenging all 20 contraceptives covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and that one way the conservative majority suggested the government could bridge the gap in coverage -- providing the same opt-out accommodation to for-profits that it provides to religiously-affiliated non-profits -- is already being challenged in the lower courts.
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, holding that for-profit, secular corporations are exempt from a provision in the ACA that requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover comprehensive preventive health services, including contraception. The religious owners of Hobby Lobby objected to providing coverage for certain forms of birth control, including emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, because they erroneously believe that these medications cause abortions. For the all-male conservative majority on the Court, it was enough that the owners "sincerely believed" this scientifically inaccurate information.
Right-wing media immediately celebrated the Hobby Lobby decision, which adopted many of their favorite myths about religious freedom and contraception. Fox News in particular was supportive of the Court's supposedly "narrow ruling," with contributor Laura Ingraham claiming that women who worked at companies "like Hobby Lobby" who were upset about the decision were overreacting and "had really bad cases of the vapors over this case." A panel discussion on the June 30 edition of Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren also downplayed the significance of the case, with Weekly Standard senior writer Stephen Hayes stating that he didn't think the case would "have a huge impact" because "the Court very carefully narrowed this case to apply basically to the facts presented." A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, agreed with Hayes and claimed that the case was "narrowly-tailored," arguing that "the government will end up paying for these [forms of contraception] anyway." Fox News host Megyn Kelly went the furthest on The O'Reilly Factor, claiming reproductive rights advocate Sandra Fluke -- who warned the decision could apply to all contraception -- "doesn't know what she is talking about."