Fox News reporter Todd Starnes claims to offer "culture war news," but several of his recent stories have turned out to be false or misleading.
From the April 24 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Fox News host Brian Kilmeade thinks he's found the explanation for how someone was able to set off bombs at the Boston Marathon: President Obama's supposed policy of "disengaging from the Middle East."
Kilmeade linked the alleged actions of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar to President Obama's foreign policy during his April 19 radio program. Kilmeade stated: "We had a guy in yesterday that worked with Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton and he's so disappointed that we're disengaging from the Middle East. But you talk to these radicals in the Middle East and they say, 'America, don't get involved, leave us alone.' So like it or not, this president has left them alone. And guess what happens? Now the IEDs are blowing up in our streets. So what are we supposed to learn from that?"
NBC News has reported that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was born in Kyrgyzstan and became a naturalized American citizen on Sept. 11, 2012, while his late older brother, Tamerlan, killed during a recent firefight with law enforcement, was born in Russia. They reportedly came to the United States in 2002 or 2003 with their family, which is of Chechen origin.
From the April 19 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
KILMEADE: Joe, how much are you shocked that a guy who came here when he was nine -- at nineteen, is out to blow up Americans?
CALLER: I'm not. I'm not shocked at all. I think it's -- I think it's a societal issue, I think that there's a -- that there's a definite view of America that's propagated by the political system that's going on now, and I'm not really shocked that people are disenchanted and have this view we have to, you know, get back at them. It's unfortunate, it shouldn't be that way, but you know, with an administration like we have now, and the propaganda that's going on, it just helps these people to further their psychosis.
KILMEADE: Yeah, it is two things going on. And it's got to be frustrating. We had a guy in yesterday that worked with Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton and he's so disappointed that we're disengaging from the Middle East. But you talk to these radicals in the Middle East and they say, "America, don't get involved, leave us alone." So like it or not, this president has left them alone. And guess what happens? Now the IEDs are blowing up in our streets. So what are we supposed to learn from that?
Kilmeade, who also co-hosts Fox News' Fox & Friends, is hardly an authority on foreign policy or national security issues. Kilmeade has misled his audience about Iraq war intelligence, claimed (repeatedly) that "all terrorists are Muslims," and once remarked that Sen. John McCain "should not be allowed to talk on torture" because "he was tortured."
Fox News figures are dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they're being used and exploited by Democrats, discounting the efforts they have made to encourage Congress to pass stronger gun laws.
On April 11, the Senate overcame a Republican-led filibuster that tried to block the beginning of debate on stronger gun laws with a 68-31 vote. The impetus for the new gun proposals was driven by the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 victims dead, most of them young children. President Obama had been urging Congress to act to strengthen guns laws in response to the shooting for some time.
According to several Fox News figures, Obama has been using the families of the Newtown shooting victims as props for a political agenda.
On April 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity called the effort to strengthen gun laws "naked exploitation of dead children and grieving families," while his guest Ann Coulter said that Democrats are "play[ing] with these victims." The previous night, Hannity stated that the president "is once again using families of tragedy as props for his agenda." Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on his April 11 radio show that Obama is "using the Newtown families to push for background checks." Fox News White House reporter Ed Henry similarly said on April 9 that "for the second straight day, the White House used the victims of the Newtown tragedy to make their case." On his April 9 radio show, Fox News host Mike Huckabee suggested that taking some of the relatives of the Newtown shooting victims to Washington, DC on Air Force One to make their case for stronger gun laws was "an exploitation of those parents."
Such an attitude does a disservice to the many Newtown families that want tougher gun laws in the wake of their tragedies. Several of the families appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes on April 7 to discuss what kind of gun violence prevention measures they would like to see signed into law, saying that universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines were important. After the vote that broke the GOP's threatened filibuster, more than 30 families of Newtown victims released a statement criticizing those who tried block an up-or-down vote on new gun legislation, saying that "[t]he senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy."
Right-wing media outlets are criticizing the Washington attorney general for enforcing non-discrimination laws against a florist who refused to offer her services for a same-sex wedding.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit on April 9 against Arlene's Flowers and Gifts, a florist that refused to supply flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple due to her religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the florist violated the state's Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Right-wing media outlets have jumped on the story, touting it as evidence of the gay community's hostility towards religious freedom.
American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer cited the incident as an example of "homofascism":
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes criticized an email from a U.S. Army officer condemning anti-gay hate speech, suggesting that the email was a sign of "the end of days" and warning his audience that "your military is being turned against you."
In an April 9 article for Fox News Radio, Starnes reported that an email from Lt. Col. Jack Rich instructed subordinates to be on the lookout for behaviors that are "inconsistent with Army Values," including showing support for a number of "hate groups" operating in the U.S.
The email included a list of anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) and American Family Association (AFA), stating:
The religious right in America has employed a variety of strategies in its efforts to beat back the increasingly confident gay rights movement. One of those has been defamation. Many of its leaders have engaged in the crudest type of name-calling, describing LGBT people as "perverts" with "filthy habits" who seek to snatch the children of straight parents and "convert" them to gay sex. They have disseminated disparaging "facts" about gays that are simply untrue assertions that are remarkably reminiscent of the way white intellectuals and scientists once wrote about the "bestial" black man and his supposedly threatening sexuality.
Rich's depiction of the hate speech stemming from the anti-gay movement is entirely accurate. Both FRC and AFA have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to their long histories of defaming LGBT people, including peddling the myth allowing for openly gay soldiers would cause a spike in sexual assaults and HIV infections in the military.
Starnes - who acts as Fox News' resident mouthpiece for anti-gay hate groups - chose to depict the email as an assault on Christianity, interviewing several employees of FRC who, not surprisingly, condemned the email:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News he was disturbed by the contents of the email.
"It's very disturbing to see where the Obama Administration is taking the military and using it as a laboratory for social experimentation -- and also as an instrument to fundamentally change the culture," he said. "The message is very clear - if you are a Christian who believes in the Bible, who believes in transcendent truth, there is no place for you in the military."
Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes is standing by his anti-gay attacks and his claim that acceptance of marriage equality could lead to legalized bestiality. When challenged by colleague Alan Colmes, Starnes also confirmed he "absolutely" believes that liberals want to "destroy the fabric of the American family," and linked marriage equality to the spread of venereal disease.
During a March 27 appearance on Fox News Radio's The Alan Colmes Show, Starnes doubled down on his anti-gay attacks. Colmes asked Starnes if he -- "a nice, mild mannered guy" -- really believes that "the left's ultimate agenda is to destroy the family." Starnes replied: "I really do believe that the agenda of the left is trying to destroy the fabric of the American family. I really do. ... I absolutely believe that."
From the March 13 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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Fox News aired a video of conservative attorney Jordan Sekulow claiming an imprisoned pastor's conversion to Christianity is the reason President Obama has "been silent" on the case, even after Sekulow praised statements from the White House and State Department in support of the pastor.
On Fox & Friends, Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes aired a video of Jordan Sekulow, a frequent Fox guest and Executive Director of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), discussing the case of pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran, reportedly due to his Christian faith. In the video, Sekulow interviews Abedini's wife who had not been contacted directly by President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.
After the interview, Sekulow declared: "I believe the government's been silent on this case with Pastor Saeed Abedini, the reason why the actual executive branch leaders have not spoken out [...] [is] because he converted from Islam to Christianity." The following voice-over claims that "the only public acknowledgement came in December, when the administration said they were aware of the case and called for his release." Starnes also highlighted the claims in a post on his blog titled "Obama Ignores American Christian Held By Iranians."
But Fox failed to note that both the White House and State Department have issued statements in support of Abedini's release, statements that Sekulow himself praised in a January 25 article on the ACLJ website: "we applaud both the State Department and the White House for these very strong statements. [...] Thanks to the State Department and White House for their statements today and involvement to secure Pastor Saeed's freedom."
From the March 6 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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After glossing over state Republicans' role in exacerbating long lines at the ballot box, three Fox hosts mocked the hours-long wait and multiple trips a 102-year-old woman endured in order to cast her vote in 2012.
On Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade and Fox's Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer laughed off the difficulties 102-year-old Desiline Victor endured in order to vote in the 2012 election. Victor, who was invited to the State of the Union address and whom President Obama applauded for enduring a long wait to vote, had to make two trips to the polls and wait in line for over three hours before she was able to cast her ballot. Discussing Victor, MacCallum wondered, "What's the big deal?" and said, "This is such a non-issue. Ridiculous." Hemmer added that at the State of the Union, "They held her up as a victim. What was she a victim of?"
But long lines at polling places are widely acknowledged as a major issue nationwide. In Victor's home state of Florida alone, at least 201,000 eligible voters reportedly did not cast ballots because they were discouraged by lengthy wait times.
Earlier, on MacCallum and Hemmer's show America's Newsroom, Fox correspondent Eric Shawn reported on proposals to extend early voting to ease the problem of long lines at the polls. Shawn noted that Florida had the longest polling place lines in 2012, and then played a clip of Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner addressing Florida's issues, stating that Detzner is "working on ways to fix the problems," including an extension of the state's early voting period in order to shorten voters' wait.
Shawn failed to reveal, however, that Detzner played a role in exacerbating this problem in Florida.
From the January 17 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:
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From the January 14 edition of American Family Radio's AFA Today:
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Following the announcement that Pastor Louie Giglio would no longer be performing the benediction at President Obama's second inauguration, Fox News reporter Todd Starnes rushed to blame "heterophobic bigots" for allegedly forcing the pastor to withdraw from the event.
On January 10, Georgia Pastor Louie Giglio announced that he had decided to withdraw from performing the benediction at President Obama's second inauguration. His decision came in the wake of criticism over a January 9 Think Progress report detailing a "vehemently anti-gay" sermon Giglio gave in the mid-1990s, during which he railed against the "homosexual lifestyle" and claimed that gay people could become straight through the power of Christianity.
The announcement sparked outrage from Fox News reporter Todd Starnes, who took to Twitter to condemn "anti-Christian bigots" for objecting to Giglio's anti-gay comments:
Starnes then published a Fox News Radio article suggesting that Giglio had been "forced out" of the inauguration by the Obama administration:
To support his baseless accusation - which plainly contradicts Giglio's own statement about his withdrawal - Starnes relied on comments from two of the country's most notorious anti-gay hate group leaders: Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins and American Family Association (AFA) spokesman Bryan Fischer:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News that he was shocked at the attacks from homosexual activists.
"What's becoming ever so clear to those who thought homosexual activists could be appeased is that their ultimate goal is to sanitize the public space of anyone who holds to a biblical view of morality," Perkins said. "It pulls back the curtain and shows us the true agenda here. It's not about tolerance. It's about forced acceptance."
Bryan Fischer, who hosts a popular national show on American Family Radio, said Giglio was banished in a "naked display of bigotry."
"It's clear from the statement from the inaugural committee that Giglio was bounced from the program. It clearly wasn't his idea," Fischer told Fox News. "The banishment of Giglio is a naked display of bigotry and hatred directed at the last safe target in America for angry intolerance: Americans who believe what the Scriptures teach about human sexuality. Truth about homosexuality has now become hate speech, and speaking the truth about homosexuality has now become a hate crime."
Fischer said the bottom line is that "bullies and bigots have won a major victory."
Neither Perkins - who has made a career of trying to link homosexuality to pedophilia - or Fischer - who has repeatedly blamed gays for the Holocaust - is a credible source when it comes to lecturing the administration about "bigotry."
But this is apparently what qualifies as journalism at Fox News: float a baseless accusation of anti-Christian bigotry, quote a few anti-gay hate group leaders who agree with your theory, and hit "publish."
As right-wing media figures compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin over his attempt to strengthen gun laws, Fox News figures stoked fears that his policies would lead to civil war and violence.
After reports that Vice President Joe Biden included possible executive action as part of an effort to stop gun violence like the tragic killings at Sandy Hook elementary,conservatives compared the president to Hitler and Stalin and invoked Nazi Germany to oppose his policies.At the same time, Fox News figures attacked Obama using violent rhetoric that warned of civil war, revolution, and insurrection if his policies on guns, spending and entitlement reform are implemented.
On his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly claimed that Obama could choose "to be a good president or whether he just wants to have blood in the streets," arguing that the president should cut spending on programs such as Medicare and Social Security.