Right-wing media are claiming that former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attikisson was "targeted" by the Obama administration because a Department of Justice press aide complained to CBS about an article Attkisson wrote about Operation Fast and Furious. In fact, the story DOJ was criticizing inaccurately accused Attorney General Eric Holder of lying to Congress.
On November 20, conservative website PJ Media first reported on October 2011 emails obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Judicial Watch. The emails contain a conversation between then-DOJ office of public affairs director Tracy Schmaler and White House communications aide Eric Schultz criticizing a CBSNews.com piece written by Attkisson.
Schmaler wrote that she was going to contact Attkisson's editor and CBS's Bob Schieffer and called Attkisson "out of control." In a later email, Schmaler wrote that the contention of Attkisson's article was "bullshit."
PJ Media characterized the exchange as a "bombshell" that "provides smoking gun proof that the Obama White House and the Eric Holder Justice Department colluded to get CBS News to block reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
Conservative blogs ran with PJ Media's article, which was eventually picked up by the Drudge Report. Attkisson reacted to PJ Media's article on Glenn Beck's radio show, saying, "If you dare to go after them, they will target you, try to assassinate your character, they'll call your bosses, they'll email. We know all of this is going on, but we now have emails that they've been withholding under executive privilege that refer to this."
The story also quickly made its way to Fox News, where America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer reported the development as "more bombshell emails revealing how the White House targeted former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson."
That the Obama administration would complain about Attkisson's reporting is unremarkable -- the central contention of the article they were complaining about was in fact inaccurate, as later confirmed by a 2012 independent investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.
The hosts of Fox & Friends were incensed that President Obama quoted scripture in a primetime address detailing his upcoming executive action on immigration, challenging him to a "scripture-showdown" and claiming it's "repugnant" for Obama to "lecture us on Christian faith." But just 48 hours earlier, the Fox hosts were lamenting that Obama doesn't make public expressions of his Christian faith often enough.
Obama quoted lines from the Bible in a November 20 address, explaining the nation's responsibility to reform unfair immigration enforcement policies. He declared, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too."
His use of scripture did not sit well with the hosts of Fox & Friends the next day. Co-host Tucker Carlson called it "repugnant" and argued, "For this guy specifically, the president who spent his career defending late-term abortion, among other things, lecturing us on Christian faith? That's too much. That is too much." Elisabeth Hasselbeck attempted to rebut the scripture Obama used with scripture of her own, quoting verses from Proverbs and saying she is "going to get into a scripture-showdown." According to Hasselbeck, Obama used the Bible to guilt people into supporting his executive action, and that's "not what the scholars behind the Bible would interpret as proper use, perhaps."
It was only 48 hours prior to their November 21 broadcast that Fox & Friends criticized Obama for not espousing Christian values often enough.
On November 19, the hosts promoted a "fiery" online op-ed penned by Chuck Norris, echoing his outrage that Obama had not publicly opposed a local school district's decision to remove references to religious holidays on the schools' calendars. The hosts then aired video of former President Ronald Reagan talking about Christmas and his Christian faith, saying, "Chuck Norris' point was, remember the time when American presidents weren't afraid to talk about traditional values, as Ronald Reagan did back in 1981." Hasselbeck remarked that Reagan's religious rhetoric gave her goosebumps.
From the November 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity recently attacked MIT economist Jonathan Gruber for referring to the "stupidity of the American voter," but both have repeatedly derided "low information voters," who they blamed for electing President Obama.
Media Matters conducted an analysis of education coverage on weeknight cable news programs so far in 2014 to determine how many of the shows' guests who discussed the topic were educators. The analysis found that across MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, educators made up only 9 percent of guests during education segments.
Right-wing media's outrage over President Obama's upcoming speech outlining plans to improve enforcement of the immigration system included accusations that Obama is engaging in "home-grown tyranny," calls for his impeachment, and even a Hitler comparison.
Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown, who lost his comeback bid to New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, is reportedly rejoining Fox News as a contributor. Fox's decision to rehire Brown comes after the network served as a launching pad for Brown's political return, and attempted to assist his failed New Hampshire campaign with fawning coverage.
The Boston Herald reported that Brown "is rejoining Fox News as a contributor" and "will make his first appearance Tuesday as the 'One Lucky Guy' on 'Outnumbered' (noon-1 p.m. weekdays), Fox News has confirmed."
The network spent significant time boosting Brown's only successful Senate run (in Massachusetts' 2010 race) -- during one segment, Fox hosts even played with a Scott Brown action figure. Fox first hired Brown after he lost his 2012 re-election bid.
Brown then used his Fox employment to collect a paycheck ($136,538) and position himself for another run for office, this time in New Hampshire. His Fox commentary sounded like campaign stump speeches, and he touted his ties to the state, claiming he had "long and strong ties to New Hampshire, you know, going back generations." Brown even credited his Fox employment for motivating him to run for office the third time, stating that "being on Fox ... really charged me up to get involved again."
When Brown finally became an official candidate in 2014 and formally left the network, Fox News still tried its hardest to bring him to victory. It aired an anti-Obamacare documentary that was so flattering to Brown that the campaign repeatedly screened it for voters. Fox hosts also parroted Brown campaign talking points, attacking his opponent Shaheen as "a rubber stamp for Barack Obama." One Fox host even got the talking points confused, praising Brown -- who was elected in 2010 -- as an independent who was "not a rubber stamp, an automatic rubber stamp for George Bush's policies."
Fox News has had no problem rehiring Republican contributors who left the network but failed in their political bids. Recent examples include Liz Cheney, who dropped out of her Wyoming Senate primary run; Angela McGlowan, who lost a Mississippi congressional primary; and Pete Snyder, who was unsuccessful in his primary bid for Virginia lieutenant governor.
Democratic New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is eligible for reelection in 2016 and may choose to run for the U.S. Senate, potentially setting up another round of Fox's ethically-challenged employment of Brown.
From the November 20 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Conservative media outlets are misleadingly promoting the report that a Washington state museum will return some firearms on display to their owners following the passage of a new background check initiative, while ignoring statements from law enforcement that there is no legal reason to remove the guns.
On November 4, a majority of Washington voters passed Initiative 594, a proposal to require a background check on nearly all gun sales in the state, with some exceptions for temporary transfers and transfers between family members.
In response to the new law, which takes effect December 4, the Lynden Pioneer Museum released a statement claiming, "we have to return some unique WW2 era firearms to their owners on Dec 3rd" because "as of Dec 4th, we would be in violation of the law if we had loaned firearms that had not undergone the background check procedure."
The museum is misreading I-594. The law is not retroactive, so the museum is not required to take any action when I-594 becomes law. Furthermore, the founder of the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum told the Associated Press that it was unlikely a museum returning a loaned firearm to its owner would require a background check either:
Seattle police officer James Ritter, who founded the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, said he doubted that returning a gun to its rightful owner would be considered a "transfer" under the law. Regardless, he said it was exceptionally unlikely that investigators would target museum exhibits for prosecution.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly undermined months of claims from her network peers when she admitted to guest Jennice Fuentes that President Obama's upcoming executive action does not constitute "amnesty." Kelly, who has herself used the "amnesty" label to discuss the president's coming order, acknowledged that the term is a dog whistle conservative media have exploited to stoke opposition to immigration reform.
Obama is set to announce a new set of executive actions that will allow as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for protection from deportation based on the time they have been in the U.S. and their family ties.
On the November 19 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly acknowledged that the president is not actually pursuing "amnesty," because "amnesty is citizenship and that's not what [Obama] is talking about." Kelly also explained how conservatives purposely misuse the word "amnesty" for political gain: "That's a hot-button term that the right uses to sort of get people upset."
Kelly has invoked amnesty to warn against the action, as recently as July. According to Nexis transcripts of the July 30 edition of The Kelly File, Kelly said that Obama may be preparing to "drop a bomb like amnesty for 5 million illegal immigrants."
KELLY: And we should tell the viewers that this Democratic push saying they're gonna impeach him, they're gonna impeach him is working. They pulled in two million dollars just over the past weekend by these blast e-mail alerts saying impeachment. But the question is, I mean, Boehner came out today and said we're not gonna impeach him. OK? So, just stop that. However, what's true today may not be true tomorrow. And there's a report over the weekend from the Associated Press suggesting the president may be getting ready to use an executive action to basically give amnesty or some sort of massive provision for up to 5 million illegal immigrants in this country. And what would that do?
KELLY: Joining us now with more is Andy McCarthy, author of Faithless Execution, Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment. And let me just start, I want to get to the book and the controversy over the word impeachment and how people circle this back to you in a minute. But the notion that the president would come out, sort of get people -- the Democrats would come out and get people saying, impeachment, that's crazy. What -- that's crazy. Impeachment, come on. And then drop a bomb like amnesty for 5 million illegal immigrants to set the Republicans up to then say, now that's impeachable, but they've already laid the foundation for how crazy the notion of impeachment is. I mean, if that's what's actually happening here, pretty sophisticated political strategy, is it not?
KELLY: So, if the president wants to go ahead, if he's confident now he's not gonna get impeached because of everything we've discussed, what do you think would happen if he granted amnesty for five million people?
For months, Fox has labeled the president's plan amnesty. On November 13, Fox host Bill O'Reilly said Obama's executive action "is essentially an amnesty for millions of people." Earlier in the month, Fox host Sean Hannity said that "immigration law does not allow for the amnesty that the president wants to grant." In early August, Fox co-host Jedediah Bila called Obama's plan "executive amnesty to millions of people."
One hundred and two weeks away from the 2016 presidential elections, Fox News anchor Jon Scott this week wondered out loud if the current controversy surrounding MIT economist Jonathan Gruber and his inapt comments that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) "was written in a tortured way" to appease "the stupidity of the American voter" would still be relevant in 2016. In fact, Scott wondered if Gruber and his comments would be a "fixture" in the next presidential campaign.
Correct. Scott wanted to know whether comments Gruber made in 2013 about a law signed in 2010 for which he provided data and a microsimulation model to the Obama administration in 2009 would play a crucial role in elections held in 2016. That's how committed Fox News is to the Gruber kerfuffle: Fox is projecting (fantasizing about?) the story's implications two years down the road.
Fox News has a long history of championing stories in a purely partisan manner and pushing any news events that might cause problems for the Obama administration. Watching Fox News, of course, is to often glimpse into an alternate universe where stories deemed unimportant by most news pros are blown up to be blockbuster events, and where conversely, embarrassing stories for conservatives are quietly set aside. (See rancher Cliven Bundy's racist meltdown in April. )
After the fourth or fifth day of incessant, breathless Gruber coverage on Fox, it became increasingly clear the channel had bigger plans for the story than simply using it to embarrass President Obama, or to whip up more right-wing anger over Obamacare.
Short answer: Fox is looking for another Benghazi. It's looking for another programming tent pole that the channel can build an audience around and can return to for weeks and months, and apparently for years, to undermine the president. Fox is searching for a themed forum where it can interview a cavalcade of Republicans who will dutifully engage in deeply enraged rhetoric about what a scandalous scandal Gruber's utterances were and how they confirm every deeply held suspicion about Obamacare.
Being outraged has served as a signature for the far-right movement for nearly six years. It also fuels Fox News' entire business model: Fox News makes a pile of profits each year overreacting to imagined Obama scandals, like the Gruber one.
Just as importantly, note that the Gruber production, like Fox's long-running Benghazi production, clearly overlaps with strategies being employed by the Republican Party. From a recent report in The Hill: "Republican lawmakers are doubling down on controversial comments from ObamaCare consultant Jonathan Gruber amid an explosion of interest from conservative media."
From the November 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Media figures are touting the Keystone XL pipeline as an "environmentally safe" alternative to truck and rail transportation, uncritically citing a State Department report on the environmental impact of building Keystone XL. But experts and subsequent studies have determined that the report is based on faulty conclusions and grossly underestimates greenhouse gas emissions caused by Keystone.
From the November 19 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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In early October, the GOP developed a plan to make the federal government's response to Ebola a central part of its midterm elections strategy. Television media played into Republicans' hands, helping to foment panic about the disease. Following the diagnosis of a handful of U.S. Ebola patients, the major broadcast networks ran nearly 1,000 segments about the virus in the four weeks leading up to the elections. Coverage of the disease plummeted in the two weeks following Election Day, with the same networks running fewer than 50 total segments.