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."
Conservative media are calling the Environmental Protection Agency's clarification of the Clean Water Act an "unprecedented land grab" that will regulate "nearly every drop of water." However, the proposed revision, which will help protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans, will not add any new categories of waters but will clarify that upstream sources will be protected from pollution.
Fox News host Steve Doocy argued that the decision to try accused Benghazi terrorist Ahmed Abu Khatalla in a civilian court will allow terror networks access to U.S. intelligence, but the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) gives the government and courts broad authority to prevent such disclosures.
Right-wing media are celebrating now that the conservative justices of the Supreme Court have issued their unprecedented ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, with the Court adopting a number of conservative myths in the decision that allows sex discrimination in the name of corporate religion.
On June 30, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court -- five men and no women -- held that "closely held" for-profit secular corporations like Hobby Lobby are exempt under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) from the "contraception mandate." This so-called mandate, a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), requires employer-sponsored health insurance to cover comprehensive preventive health care, including birth control. In so holding, the Court's decision in Hobby Lobby gave credence to some of the worst conservative myths that have been steadily advanced by right-wing media.
The fact that Hobby Lobby likely employs workers who have no moral or religious dispute with contraception didn't seem to be of much concern to outlets like The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, or Fox News. From the start, NRO framed the case as a David and Goliath-like scenario, with the Green family owners of Hobby Lobby as victims of the federal government -- despite the fact that Hobby Lobby is a massive corporation, owned by billionaires, with hundreds of stores across the country. Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck went so far as to call the contraception mandate evidence of the "moral decay" of the Obama administration's policies. For right-wing media, the religious beliefs of the owners took precedence over those of their female employees. Apparently, the Supreme Court agreed.
The Court attempted to limit its decision to "closely held" corporations like Hobby Lobby, but according to experts, more than 90 percent of corporations are considered to be "closely held." In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito downplayed the significance of the Hobby Lobby decision's expansion of the concept of corporate personhood, writing that "a corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends" and claiming there was nothing radical about extending rights "whether constitutional or statutory" to for-profit secular corporations. His opinion conflated these businesses with non-profits just as right-wing media had urged.
The religious rights of the employees, now held hostage by their employers' moral objections, did not appear to make much of an impact on the Court's conservative majority.
Moreover, wrote Alito, the birth control requirement was not "the least restrictive means" of achieving the "compelling governmental interest" of ensuring no-cost comprehensive preventive health care services for everyone. Instead, said the majority, the government should "assume the cost of providing the contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers' religious objections," thus shifting the employee-earned benefit of health insurance from a billion-dollar corporation to the general public.
It was enough for Alito that the Greens "sincerely believed" that the contraceptives at issue in the case are "abortifacients" -- echoing right-wing media's constant confusion of the two -- even though they really, really aren't.
A misleading Associated Press (AP) headline sparked a storm of right-wing media accusations that former IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for audit, though records only show that Lerner asked an expert a legal question about an event invitation sent to Grassley and the subject of her inquiry was unclear.
Right-wing media jumped to parrot a June 25 AP headline that claimed newly released emails show "IRS Official Sought Audit of GOP Senator." The Drudge Report linked to the AP story with the claim "IRS Lerner Targeted GOP Senator," the Daily Caller argued that newly discovered emails from Lerner show "the former IRS Exempt Organizations director's attempt to audit GOP Sen. Chuck," and The Washington Times claimed that Lerner "tried to get her agency to conduct an audit" of Grassley. On the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Steve Doocy said Lerner decided "I've got to target that guy, even though she didn't have any of the facts."
But as the actual AP article pointed out, the email exchange between Lerner and Giuliano does not support the claims forwarded in its own headline and by right-wing media. Lerner initially asked if an event organizer's offer to pay for Grassley's wife to attend an event warranted examination. Lerner mentioned the possibility that the offer was inappropriate but did not specify whether she was suggesting that Grassley should be examined:
Is this the one where we got the copy to Grassley? Did he get one to me? Looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to Exam?
Giuliano was similarly focused on the event host. He noted that that the invitation from the group was not enough to warrant sending the issue to the IRS Exam Department, because Grassley had not yet accepted the invitation, and said the issue would only warrant further investigation if Grassley later failed to report the offer as income. In her response, Lerner didn't indicate interest in pursuing the issue further.
MSNBC's Steve Benen summarized the exchange:
Behold, yesterday's blockbuster that set the right's hair on fire. Lerner questioned whether a group had done something wrong, talked to a colleague, and then dropped the whole thing.
Right-wing media have dishonestly portrayed recent reports of children fleeing across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape violence in Central America, even portraying the immigrants as dangerous disease-carriers, terrorists, and cartel members.