Fox News figures and Republican 2016 hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) are slated to appear alongside Robert Spencer -- one of conservative media's favorite leaders in "Islam bashing" -- at a conference this week, amid cries from Muslim rights groups for Cruz to cancel the engagement.
The Young America's Foundation (YAF) will host the conservative New England Freedom Conference this week in New Hampshire. In addition to Fox Business host John Stossel, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and Cruz, the event will feature noted extremist Robert Spencer and promised, "If you are interested in public policy, free speech, less government, and a strong national defense, this conference is for you. Along with Senator Ted Cruz, you will hear from Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer about Islamic terrorism and jihad."
Spencer is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Extremist Files as "one of America's most prolific and vociferous anti-Muslim propagandists." He's a prominent figure with Jidhad Watch and Stop Islamization of America (SOIA) - two organizations deemed hate groups by SPLC.
Spencer was also described by the Center for American Progress (CAP) in a 2011 report on Islamophobia as one of their five top "misinformation experts." The CAP report highlighted some disturbing facts, including that he and Jihad Watch "were cited 162 times in the nearly 1,500-page manifesto of Anders Breivik, the confessed Norway terrorist who claimed responsibility for killing 76 people, mostly youths," and quotes former Nixon adviser and deputy director of the National Security Council Robert Crane in describing Spencer as "the principal leader... in the new academic field of Islam bashing."
His anti-Islamic rhetoric has solidified Spencer a place as a right-wing media darling, turned to by Fox News and conservative sites like National Review Online as a go-to expert on Islam despite his extreme leanings. Fox turned to Spencer as recently as January to spew Islamophobia during a discussion about the deadly attacks on satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Appearing on Hannity, Spencer cited the "much higher" birth rate of Muslim populations to fearmonger that "Sharia enclaves" will "inevitably grow and continue to grow until, finally, that's all there is."
It is for extremist rhetoric such as this that Muslim advocacy groups like The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have called on Cruz to cancel his upcoming appearance with Spencer at YAF. In a March 24 press release, the group pointed to the designation of Spencer's organizations as hate groups by the SPLC as one of the reasons why Cruz should step back from the event. "As the first Republican to declare his candidacy for president, CAIR recommends that Senator Cruz reach out to members of the American Muslim and other U.S. minority communities to better understand their issues and concerns, " explained CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw.
Fox News relied on claims from discredited gun researcher John Lott to falsely suggest that an FBI report inflated the occurrence of mass shootings, possibly for political reasons. In fact, the report in question covered only "active shooter situations" and explicitly noted in its introduction, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings."
In September 2014, the FBI released a report on 160 active shooter situations that occurred between 2000 and 2013. The report counted 1,043 total casualties and noted that over the 13-year period, the incidence of active shooter incidents rose. In its report, the FBI defined an active shooter situation as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."
Lott, who often manipulates statistics to push a pro-gun agenda and is the inventor of the discredited "more guns, less crime" hypothesis, attacked the report in The New York Post last year with the false claim that the "FBI study discusses 'mass shootings or killings.'" Based on this false premise, Lott wrote that several of the incidents in the FBI report don't meet accepted definitions of mass shootings and therefore the report was "bogus" and being "used to promote a political agenda."
Lott's falsehoods on the FBI report are now being promoted on Fox News. On the March 25 edition of Fox & Friends First, host Heather Childers reported the claim of Lott's group, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), that FBI data on mass shootings "may have been overstated for political purposes." While Childers spoke, onscreen text warned viewers of the supposedly "SHODY [sic] STATS":
CHILDERS: Are the number of mass shootings getting blown out of proportion by the government? Well the Crime Prevention Research Center says that FBI stats on mass shootings are inflated. The CPRC says because of errors and biases, the FBI data shows twice as many mass shootings than really occurred. The organization says that the stats may have been overstated for political purposes.
In his first TV interview outside Fox News since it emerged that he lied about his past reporting, Bill O'Reilly claimed his statements had been "accurate" and attempted to use his show's ratings as proof that he is a trusted reporter.
"So we had a controversy there," O'Reilly said on the March 24 edition of The Late Show with David Letterman, "and we put forth what my side was, they put forth what their side was, folks decided, and it worked out okay for me, and I got even more viewers." In the edited clip, released before the show airs, O'Reilly used his show's ratings to claim viewers trust him, saying, "I've been on the air 19 seasons, 15 years at number one, our ratings now are as high as they've ever been, so I think they do trust me and I'm glad they do."
Despite O'Reilly's claim that "what I said was accurate," the Fox News host has been mired in controversy since news emerged of his numerous fabrications about his past reporting. O'Reilly has claimed he was in a "combat situation" in the Falklands, which is disputed by reporters and historians. The Fox host also said that he personally heard the suicide of figure in the JFK assassination, when in fact he himself said in a phone call that he was not in Florida at the time. And after it was revealed that O'Reilly's claim to have witnessed the murder of nuns in El Salvador could not possibly be true because he arrived in the country after the murders occurred -- a claim denounced as "reprehensible" by a lawyer who represented the victim's families -- O'Reilly explained that he only meant he had seen pictures of the murder, not the event itself. O'Reilly used a similar defense when questions arose about his claim to have seen "Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs": a Fox spokesperson said that O'Reilly meant he was shown photos of such bombings by Belfast police.
As Rachel Maddow has pointed out, O'Reilly's defense "that it's okay if they lie on the air as long as it rates" is absurd, even if his show's ratings come close to those of popular TV shows like AMC's Walking Dead-based talk show "Talking Dead" and Discovery Channel's reality show about gold miners "Gold Rush."
From the March 24 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the March 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Conservative media are alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is attempting to "punish" governors who do not acknowledge climate change by "holding disaster funds hostage." In reality, FEMA is simply updating its requirements for state disaster mitigation plans to ensure that they include consideration of climate change impacts, which is essential to reduce risk from hazards that states will face as the climate continues to change.
Right-wing media has a long history of serving as Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) biggest cheerleaders, dating back to Cruz's 2012 Senate victory which he credited to Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck, showcasing the influence of conservative media in shaping election outcomes.
Following Cruz's announced bid for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, Media Matters looks back at some of right-wing media's most effusive praise of Cruz.
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Hannity featured the senator in an hour-long special on the March 23 of edition his Fox News show. Hannity highlighted Cruz's campaign announcement speech, and allowed Cruz to promote his platform.
Hannity has fantasized about a Cruz campaign for years before the official campaign launch. During Cruz's February 26 speech at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Hannity jumped on the main stage to proclaim that with Cruz, "we can fundamentally transform America" in 2016.
After Cruz announced the launch of his campaign, Rush Limbaugh praised Cruz, suggesting that he "might be the smartest man in Congress."
In July 2014, Rush predicted that if Ted Cruz continued his rise in "dominant influence," he would lead a nascent Republican "revival" that is "just awaiting leadership."
In September 2013, Limbaugh lashed out at Fox News' Brit Hume for alleging that Cruz was influenced by Limbaugh and other conservative media in his repeated efforts to defund Obama's health care law. Limbaugh defended Cruz, asserting that "Ted Cruz isn't afraid of anybody," and went on to praise the Republican senator, saying "Ted Cruz is fighting for freedom in the greatest tradition of American freedom fighters." Limbaugh added that in his efforts to defund the health care law, "Ted Cruz is attempting to  marshal the support of the American people ... in the greatest traditions of the American founding and the existence of the country."
Beck praised Ted Cruz after the launch of his campaign, championing Cruz's "long, long, impressive resume," saying "you can't pigeonhole him as stupid," adding "I can't wait to see him in a debate."
On his radio show in December 2013, Beck likened Cruz to Ronald Reagan saying, he "may be our Ronald Reagan because that guy does not take prisoners. That guy is a thousand times smarter than 99 percent of the politicians I have ever met."
After Cruz announced his candidacy, Laura Ingraham applauded him for "stand[ing] firm for the constitution," and claimed Cruz will be tough competition for Republicans because he represents "more of a traditionalist point of view" and a more "Reagan-esque" form of conservatism.
Levin railed against Fox News for "trashing" Ted Cruz after the senator launched his campaign, likening Cruz to Reagan, and asserting that like Cruz, Reagan would have been "trashed all over" Fox News.
In August 2013, Levin declared Cruz "one of the bright lights of the Republican Party" for "exciting the base" after he "demonstrated that he can beat the establishment as he did" during his 2012 Senate campaign. Levin defended Cruz from a "vicious, vile, poisonous attack by the establishment including Bush staffers."
In June 2014, Hugh Hewitt proclaimed that Cruz "may be the smartest senator," telling Joe Scarborough on his radio program, "he's just not gonna back down and we need some of that in our party." Hewitt went on to compare Cruz to Reagan, saying he has "the same demeanor" as Reagan, "the same kind of charisma, easy affability and smart, smart, smart."
From the March 24 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News host Neil Cavuto and the Heartland Institute's Jay Lehr denied that hydraulic fracturing has ever been "proven" to pollute water supplies, despite the hundreds of documented cases of leaky fracking wells causing groundwater contamination. Cavuto also dismissed the Bush administration's role in creating the so-called "Halliburton loophole," which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act's restrictions on injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.
From the March 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the March 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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On Tuesday, Bill O'Reilly will enter another network's studio for the first time since the wave of stories exposing his embellishments about his reporting background broke last month. According to O'Reilly's website, he will appear with David Letterman on CBS' The Late Show to promote the National Geographic Channel adaptation of his 2013 book, Killing Jesus.
O'Reilly has faced intense scrutiny over the past month as various outlets have uncovered discrepancies in stories the Fox News host has told about his work regarding the suicide of a figure linked to the investigation of John F. Kennedy's assassination and conflicts in El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Los Angeles, and Argentina.
O'Reilly has not been interviewed by a non-Fox journalist since the early days of the firestorm, instead issuing statements about aspects of it and referencing the controversy on his own show. There remain many lingering questions about O'Reilly's past statements.
National Geographic Channel is reportedly taking steps to ensure that tough questions about O'Reilly's embellishments don't interfere with the launch of their film. CNN reporter Tom Kludt -- who has reported extensively on the O'Reilly controversy -- said on Twitter this afternoon that the network had informed him that they had denied his credential to cover the program's premiere "out of respect" for the Fox host.
A broad coalition of 39 major Latino organizations has issued a letter to the heads of six major U.S. English-language broadcasters asking them to work towards better Hispanic guest inclusion on the Sunday morning political talk shows.
The letter, issued by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and addressed to the heads of ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, expresses the group's "deep frustration regarding the continued lack of Hispanic voices" on their agenda-setting Sunday political programs and urges them to "take immediate action to increase Hispanic guest bookings and broaden the scope of issues that include their voices."
Hector Sanchez, NHLA chairman and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, said in a statement that the lack of Hispanic inclusion on those programs "results in distorting the image of our community's contributions to the life of our nation." Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), added: "It is irresponsible to exclude the perspectives of 17 percent of the U.S. population from the airwaves."
Only seven percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows during the last eighteen weeks of 2014 were Latino, according to a Media Matters study. While the letter notes that this proves "an increase from the two percent representation found in a 2011 report by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts," these numbers remain significantly short of the 17 percent of Americans who identify as Hispanic.
In the letter, the NHLA encourages the network chiefs to take advantage of the "impressive list of Latino experts from across the country that specialize in issues ranging from education, health, immigration, public safety, the economy, civil rights, the media and beyond."
Right-wing media continue to push the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a "death panel" provision, and years after the birth of this smear, it continues to have an impact on public perception and find its way into Republican legislation.
When the House first introduced the health care bill that would eventually become the ACA in 2009, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed the bill would "require" end-of-life counseling for seniors to "tell them how to end their life sooner." The baseless claim was later amplified by Sarah Palin and the notion quickly gained steam as the right-wing media echo-chamber championed the idea.
Despite being conclusively debunked as Politifact's "lie of the year" in 2009, conservative media still persist in trumpeting the death panel lie. In 2014, Fox News' Eric Bolling compared the Veteran Affairs health care system to the ACA, citing them as examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system." He concluded, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is." Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Sean Hannity, and other conservative media outlets trotted out the death panel lie last year as well, in the midst of good news about enrollment and reductions in the nation's rate of uninsured people.
The death panel falsehood is still reflected in both the public's perception of the health care law as well as the Republican legislative agenda. As Sarah Kliff explained in a March 23 post for Vox, 26 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats still agree that "a government panel helps make decisions about patients' end-of-life care" is "part of the law."
The myth even continues to make its way into GOP legislation critical of the health care law. The Washington Post's Stephen Stromberg noted in a March 22 post that despite having been debunked, "the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has hold on the party" and was "written explicitly" into the House GOP's 2016 budget proposal:
Experts and professional fact-checkers have debunked the notion that the Affordable Care Act would empower a faceless government board to deny critical health-care procedures, the Obama-era equivalent of pushing inconvenient seniors onto ice floes. But the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has a hold on the party, its illogic written explicitly into the House's budget.
"This budget repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected, unaccountable board of 15 bureaucrats charged with making coverage decisions on Medicare," the document reads.
At the beginning of last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set in motion his plan to pressure Democrats to vote on the existing version of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act without changes: he'd hold hostage the vote to confirm Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
Legislators from both parties overwhelmingly support the trafficking bill. But Senate Democrats oppose a provision added to the trafficking bill by Republican Senator John Cornyn that would apply the Hyde Amendment -- a legislative rider that has been attached to appropriations bills for decades that prevents the use of certain taxpayer dollars for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother -- to a victim's fund established by the legislation. Because the victims' fund would be paid for with both private dollars and federal funds, the Cornyn provision would therefore expand the scope of the Hyde Amendment; for the first time it would make private funding streams subject to federal restrictions.
Having filibustered the bill three times and blocked a Cornyn proposal to funnel the victims' fund through the appropriations process (where the Hyde Amendment would automatically apply), democrats made it clear they were not budging. At the same time conservatives were losing the argument against allowing a vote on the Lynch nomination as even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined the calls to confirm her.
As you'd expect, while the right-wing media has long been opposed to Lynch, it shifted gears to focus on the trafficking legislation. Dog whistles sounded as not-altogether-accurate arguments worked to turn the once non-partisan human sex trafficking issue into a battle over abortion rights.
The emerging narrative falsely suggested that Democrats were trying to use taxpayer funds for abortion. The Federalist asserted democrats' filibuster was proof that the party is controlled by the "abortion lobby" saying, "the abortion lobby opposes this bill because it doesn't provide public funding for elective abortions." A report on Breitbart News blamed "abortion industry groups" for pressuring lawmakers to reject the legislation fearing that the legislation would put "the case for taxpayer funding of abortion at risk."
In their criticism of Democrats, some pretended that the abortion language was just an extension of "longstanding federal policy," while others noted the expansion of the Hyde Amendment to private funding streams, but downplayed the significance that shift could have in setting a new precedent.
Fox News' Dana Perino left out the expansion when she recently said that Democrats are "jerks" on the trafficking issue because Hyde language is even in the Affordable Care Act (which, unlike the victims' fund, is funded through the appropriations process). However, the Affordable Care Act is included in the appropriations process while the trafficking legislation is not.
In The Wall Street Journal, conservative commentator Kimberly Strassel noted the language expansion, but downplayed its significance in part because as Senate Republicans have said, the language had been in the bill all along and was approved on a bipartisan basis in committee. Democrats have said that at the time they were not aware of the change (the House version contained no such provision); regardless, while its unclear exactly when they knew, they now know in time to stop the bill from moving forward.
It's the men, women, and children who survive sex trafficking who have been largely absent in the conversation about why it matters if the Hyde Amendment is applied to the victims' fund in the trafficking bill. More than 100,000 American children and teens are victims of sex trafficking, according to a recent PBS report. Anti-trafficking advocates estimate the domestic number could be as high as 300,000, noting that there are 2.8 million kids (half are girls) who are living on the streets and are among the most vulnerable to sex traffickers. But it can happen to anyone, of any race or socio-economic background; rural, urban, or suburban.